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keep your heart open (i'll keep mine open too)

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The first time that Steve comes home bruised across the face, his mother calls the cops. When they get to his house they ask him a whole lot of questions. First, they start out with the easy ones. Things like: “Who hit you?” and “Where were you when this happened?” and “Do you remember what they looked like?”

When that doesn’t work, they ask other questions, like if his dad ever drinks too much, or if his mom yells a lot. If they ever leave him home alone. If they’ve ever hurt him and then told him to lie about it to other adults.

Steve is eight years old and all he wants to do is go play outside with his friends like he was supposed to. It doesn’t matter how many times he tries to insist that nobody hit him, or that it doesn’t hurt, really, nobody believes him.

His dad comes home from work early so they can go have a sit down with his teachers. He can hear yelling from inside the room, as he sits outside the classroom door, scuffing his sneakers against the linoleum to make them squeak. When the door opens, his mother is red-faced, his father looks embarrassed, and the principal just looks tired.

The bruise takes two weeks to fade, going from livid purple to a sickly green and yellow. His mother fusses and makes him ice it every night, and still doesn’t believe him when he tells her that it doesn’t hurt.

Three weeks after that, they’re sitting down at the table having dinner when his parents get to watch it happen.

Steve is twirling spaghetti around his plate, listening to his father talk to his mother about boring work stuff when they suddenly go quiet. He blinks and looks up from his plate only to find that they’re both staring at him, undisguised horror on their faces.

“What?” he asks. He wonders if he has sauce on his face, and licks his lips just to make sure.

“Sweetie,” his mother says, and gingerly, reaches out to touch his face.

Her hand is cold, and it smells strongly of garlic and onions. She strokes his cheek with her thumb, painted lips turned down. There’s a little crinkle between her brows as she prods his face in different spots.

“Does that hurt?” she keeps asking.

“No,” he answers every time, because it doesn’t. His face feels fine.

His mother looks across the table at his father, and they share a look that he can’t make sense of. They both push back from the table, taking their plates and dumping them into the sink, even though they’re both more than half full.

When he tries to get up too, his mother turns to smile at him. It’s a wobbly sort of smile that makes it look a little like she’s grimacing.

“Finish your spaghetti, sweetie,” she tells him, and they both disappear down the hall.

 

He’s in therapy a week later.

 

When Steve is ten or eleven, the bruises start appearing with greater frequency, but in less obvious places. He’ll notice new ones when he’s getting undressed at night or when he’s taking a bath. Some of the bruises are small, finger-shaped bruises like a bracelet around his wrist or little blotches of purple dotting up and down his arms. Then there are the bigger bruises, great swathes of color up his rib cage, a red shoe-shaped mark across the gut.

He starts wearing long-sleeved shirts all the time, even during the summer. His mother worries less that way. Without the damning bruises on his face, it’s easier to lie to her, and tell her that everything is fine now.

The first time he bleeds, he’s standing in the kitchen drinking a glass of milk. There’s no warning, no build up. One minute he’s drinking, the next the glass is already heading towards the floor. It shatters, shards of glass flinging themselves under the stove and fetching up against the kitchen cabinets, milk a wash of cold against his bare feet and ankles.

Steve breathes in and out slowly, his heart pounding. He holds very still, trembling, one hand clutching his cheek. Because for the first time, it hurts.

When he pulls his hand wincingly away moments later, his fingertips are red with blood.

Later that night, once he’s cleaned up the glass and mopped away the last of the milk, he barricades himself in the bathroom and takes a close look at himself in the mirror. Across his body is a landscape of colors, bruises and burns of all colors and shapes - some old, some new. His body is a canvas, and he can’t do a damn thing to stop it.

Across his cheek is a jagged gash. It isn’t a nice clean cut, so he knows that whatever did it wasn’t glass. The skin around the cut is angry and red, and there’s a nice bruise welling up around it. Steve stares at it for awhile, feeling lost and angry and fucking sick. When he prods at the mark, he can still feel the pain.

He snorts, and climbs into the bathtub. He runs the water hot as he can stand it, then draws his knees up to his chin and waits for the tub to fill. The cut stings, even when he isn’t touching it, a physical reminder that makes him want to keep touching it.

When the tub is full, he lays back and sucks in a deep breath before he lets himself sink beneath the surface.

When the water touches it, the mark burns.

He keeps himself still, eyes closed, the water muffling the silence of the house around him. He stays under for as long as he can, until his chest aches for breath, so sharply that it feels as if it’ll pop. When he resurfaces, he starts to laugh, softly at first and then louder, until he’s shaking with it - until it isn’t funny anymore, and then he begins to sob, his hand darting up to cradle his face.

He’s known it for awhile, what was happening. At first, the children’s psychologist that his mom had set him up with had tried to soothe the hurt. Kids were clumsy, he said. Maybe it wasn’t- well. Maybe it wasn’t that.

But Steve knows. He’s known since the second hit, the third. Maybe he’s known all along.

This time though, there’s no pretending. This wasn’t some playground accident or a kid who crashed their bike. This wasn’t an accident. There’s a simple fucking truth, no ignoring it. This time, somebody got sloppy and forgot to take off their rings before they laid their hands on Steve’s soulmate.

 

The first time that Billy gets a mark on him that isn’t his, he’s seventeen years old. He’s cruising the boardwalk, walkman at his hip, big headphones over his ears, when he feels something hit him. He flinches, staggering sideways into a girl walking her dog. She says something sharp and scathing, but he can’t hear her, because the pain comes again, and again.

He stumbles into the brick wall of some mom and pop surf shop, and holds himself there, tucks himself close to the gritty brick and hunches in, making himself a smaller target. His eyes are open - they’re fucking open - so he knows that no one’s there.

But he feels it.

He can feel his nose split open, then his cheekbone, and then - then it stops.

He stands there for a minute, shaking. The breeze is cool against his face, bringing with it smells from inside the shop, wax and coconut oil, maybe a little bit of something like patchouli. It’s making him queasy. He goes to swipe a hand across his face and it comes away wet with sweat and blood, which is proof that at least he isn’t losing his entire fucking mind.

“You okay, kid?”

He glances up through wet lashes to find an older lady standing at the door. She’s deeply tanned, the sun having worn grooves into her face over the years, and she’s frowning at him like she actually gives a shit. There’s a threadbare rag in one of her hands. It’s blue.

He blinks at her.

“Yeah,” he tries to tell her, wavering on his feet. “I’m fine.”

And then he throws up on her sidewalk.

 

Technically speaking, everyone knows about soulmates. It’s not the sort of thing that the world lets people forget about. It saturates the market, from hallmark cards to movies to stupid fucking trinkets that supposedly helps you find them. The trinkets don’t work. Everyone knows that they don’t work, but people buy them anyways, because they want to be special.

Soulmates are rare. More often than not people tend to need to go about finding their special someone like everyone else. But every once in awhile, there are the special pairs. The ones that god or fate or what the fuck ever have decided need a little extra help.

Maybe those pairs are just super special. Maybe they’re dumb as hell and that’s why the world decided they needed a hand up over the rest of the population. Maybe they really are fated or destined. No one knows. Nobody knows why soulmates exist, just that they do.

It manifests differently in everybody. Some kids share a telepathic link. Others have names or marks etched somewhere on their body. And some, not many, but some - feel each other’s pain. They wear the marks around on their own body, as if it were theirs.

The lady who owns the surf shop’s name is Martha. She and her wife have been together for forty-six years. They aren’t soulmates.

Martha lets him use a bag of peas on his face, and sits him down across from her wife in the back room, and tells him to stay put until his face is good and properly numb. So he stays put, fingers idly picking at the threads of the old couch she’d installed him on and lets Ruth tut over him.

She gives him tea and cookies, and then she tells him about her sister.

“It don’t hurt, usually,” she tells him apologetically as she sips her tea. “It’s got to be a big hurt to make it all the way from them to you, see. You get skinned knees on a kid who can’t feel em or a bruise on a little girl who never took a tumble. That’s how you tell.”

Billy touches his cheek. “So they’re hurt?”

Ruth winces.

“‘Fraid so. But from the looks of you they ain’t hurt too bad. Got into a scuffle, I’d say.” She squints at him, rheumy eyes narrowed in her old weathered face. “This the first time you got bruises you couldn’t explain?”

Billy swallows, and sets his tea on the table. Can’t tell her that there would have been no way of knowing which bruises were his and which were theirs.

He touches a patch on his rib - an old bruise, not something that showed up today - and wonders if they felt that. Wonders if that was a big hurt, or if they just got the updated color palette.

He’s shaking.

“I think I’m going to be sick again,” he murmurs, and Ruth wordlessly passes him a bucket.

She toddles over and holds his hair back while he pukes, and when he’s done, she rubs his back until the shaking stops.

“You gonna be okay, kid?” she asks him before he goes. Martha’s watching them both over the edge of a magazine from the behind the counter, her eyes narrowed and shrewd.

He gives them both a jerky shrug and thanks them for the peas. And then, like an afterthought, apologizes for the vomit.

Martha’s lips creak upwards into a smile as Ruth pulls him into a quick hug. She’s the one who smells of patchouli, just a little bit too strongly, and she squeezes him so hard that he could swear he feels a rib crack.

“You take after that kid when you find ‘em, you hear me?” Ruth calls as Billy walks out the door. “Don’t let ‘em get into no more scuffles. Face like that’s too pretty to be all black and blue.”

 

A month later, they’re skipping town because Billy’s dad landed him in the hospital again. Billy face isn’t black or blue - it’s red and swollen and fucking ugly, so beat up that he can barely see through his right eye.

His dad tells everyone - his new little family included - that Billy got into some shit he couldn’t handle down by the docks, but Billy can tell from the way that the nurses eye him that they can spot the warning signs.

And what’s more, his dad knows too.

His dad pulls him out of the hospital before he’s ready, and cites the cost when Susan tuts over him. Billy can feel his ribs ache with the strain as he walks down the street, hunched over like an old man. He hurts - hurts so fucking much - and can’t stand that somewhere in the world, someone else is hurting with him.

A week later, just after the first social worker leaves a cryptic message on their voicemail, they’re on the road.

 

Two months into his senior year of high school, Steve Harrington meets Billy Hargrove. There doesn’t appear to be anything particularly special about him at first glance, other than the fact that he apparently beat Steve’s keg stand record during his first week in Hawkins.

Tommy likes to latch onto people, likes to attach himself to whoever he thinks is going to be the next big deal around school, so it’s not exactly unexpected when Steve’s not even two steps through the door when Tommy is calling him over, crowing about the new kid.

Billy Hargrove is… something. Bare-chested and faintly damp with sweat, hair teased into stiff curls, eyes a searing shade of blue. Steve stares him down, unblinking, and when Billy swipes his tongue across his lips, Steve mirrors him without thinking.

His cheeks flare red, but he doesn’t let himself break eye contact - doesn’t let himself show any type of weakness, even as Billy’s lips creep upwards into a wicked, knowing smirk. Nancy calls something from across the room, and the strange tension snaps. Steve blinks, and goes to her, tearing himself away from Billy’s heated gaze.

He still feels it on his back as he walks away. Feels it throughout the party that night, and then later, he feels it weighing heavy between his shoulder blades at school - hallway, gym, classrooms, like Billy’s been with him since he left that party, wedging himself under Steve’s skin.

They see each other a lot, mostly during classes and basketball practice, but sometimes other places. He’ll catch a glimpse of Billy out of the corner of his eye at the supermarket, or a flash of his hair outside of the bookstore, or that camaro of his disappearing out of sight on a dark road. That’s the trouble about small towns. It feels like everyone is living right on top of each other, threads all getting tangled together.

One day in early November, Steve wakes up with a new bruise across his ribs, and doesn’t think much of it until Billy eyes it strangely in the locker room after practice. Most of the guys on the team know Steve’s story - that he’s got some poor soulmate out there who’s probably part of a fucking gang, and that he’s occasionally got a little extra color under his clothes.

Nobody says anything about it. You don’t talk about shit like that.

But Billy does.

“You got a little love bite there, Harrington,” he jeers while Steve is pulling his shirt over his head.

Steve turns and looks at him, thumbing the mark through the fabric. He presses down on it, hard, but this one isn’t the type to hurt. This one is just a little touch of color. Just another reminder that somewhere out there, Steve’s soulmate is getting the shit kicked out of them on a regular basis.

“It’s not a love bite,” he says drily, and turns back to his locker.

He can feel Billy lurking behind him, the heat of him catching. “Then what is it? Played a little too rough with Wheeler last night?”

Steve sighs, and turns, nearly flinching back when he finds Billy closer than he expected - too close, caging him in with his entire stupid body. Steve narrows his eyes, his back thumping up against the locker as Billy leans in close. He lifts Steve’s shirt up with the tip of a finger, blue eyes curious as he peers down to get a better look.

He whistles low between his teeth and glances up at Steve from between his lashes. “What the hell did you do to yourself, Harrington? I know I didn’t get this rough with you today.”

Steve opens his mouth just as Billy reaches out and touches - his skin warm, fingertips splayed out against the curve of his belly. For a moment, Steve just stares, shocked stupid. Billy’s palm covers the entire mark, only the very edges of discolored skin peeking out from behind his curved fingers.

It looks good there, Steve thinks wildly, and then jerks like he’s been electrocuted.

Don’t fucking touch me,” he hisses, and shoves Billy back so hard that he hits the bench behind him - nearly goes over it before he rights himself. Billy glares at him and somewhere, Steve’s pretty sure that the few guys still left in here are probably starting to perk up and take notice. They can always smell a fight coming on.

Billy’s mouth twists, curls, goes mean around the edges. He sneers.

“Don’t worry your pretty little head, Harrington,” he tells Steve, getting to his feet carefully. He tugs a corner of his shirt down, and Steve’s eyes jump to it, drawn to that familiar little motion, but there’s nothing there for Steve to see. No skin on display. Just Billy’s hands balled into fists at his sides.

He shoulder checks Steve hard when he goes to push past him, and slams the locker room door behind him.

Steve stands there for another minute, then swings his book bag onto one shoulder, and follows Billy out.

 

Hawkins is a piece of shit town in the middle of nowhere Indiana. It’s too small, like a fucking cage closing in tight, and all the little people in it never seem to deviate from their pre-written script. There are corn fields, dark creepy woods, and a school with ceilings that drip on his textbooks when it rains.

Billy spends a lot of time drinking himself stupid in those first few weeks. Spends a lot of time thinking about running, about running in circles and never getting free.

He feels a little bit like he’s coming unraveled from the inside out. He’s sick with anger every fucking day, and nothing fucking helps. He drives too fast on slippery streets, staggers drunkenly through creepy woods, follows strange people into dark alleys, and always, always feels like he’s on top of the world afterwards, a shock of adrenaline to his core. Something that screams: you’re alive, you’re alive, you’re alive.

And yet, Billy always, always walks a fine line around his dad.

It doesn’t help. Something always tips him over the line. But Billy tries.

So he drinks, and smokes, and one night he drops all of the acid he brought with him from California in one go. He goes a little bit out of his mind that night, and the next morning he wakes up in the middle of a field thirteen miles over the town line. He’s naked except for his boots, and gets to spend half the morning hiking nude along the side of the freeway before the police chief picks him up.

“Ah, jeez, kid,” he sighs, scrubbing a hand across his face. He looks weary as he shrugs out of his jacket and passes it to Billy.

Billy, who’s been blue for a good hour or two, takes it, shivering so hard that his bones ache. When he tries to put it on, he finds that his limbs are too fucking stiff, he can’t move them right, can’t bend them far enough to get in the sleeves and he starts to panic for a minute before the chief - Hopper, apparently - reaches over to help him into it.

They’re quiet on the ride back into town, the heat blowing full force against Billy’s bare thighs as Hopper chain smokes out the window. He’s just starting to be able to feel his legs when Hopper shifts next to him, clearing his throat pointedly.

“I don’t want to know what you were doing in that field last night,” is what he starts out by saying. “I honestly don’t. But kid, did you really get all of those bruises last night?”

Billy flinches, tugging the coat tighter around him, as if that’ll do any good now that the damage is done. He licks his lips and stares out the window as the trees flash by.

“What can I say,” he says, deadpan. “I’m a clumsy kid.”

He can feel Hopper staring at him, his gaze boring a hole into the side of his skull. When they reach the town line, there’s Billy’s camaro, parked right at the edge of it. Billy wonders if he walked all that way, if he stumbled around in the dark with his fucking dick out like a crazy person, or if he has one of the coolest kids in Hawkins to thank for the near-hypothermia.

Hopper pulls over to the side of the road, just behind Billy’s camaro, and turns to look at him.

“Look,” he says. “Don’t bullshit me, Hargrove.”

“Who’s bullshitting, chief?” Billy asks him with a sickly sweet smile. His temples are fucking throbbing and he still feels strangely disconnected from his body, like it isn’t really his. Like he stepped out of it for awhile and when he came back it was only to find out that it fit all wrong.

Hopper stares at him for a while longer, then shakes his head, and sighs.

“All right, kid,” he says, and passes Billy a post-it. Hopper’s scribbled his name and number on it, circling the number three times. He hesitates as Billy takes it, and then adds, “Just- promise me you’ll call if it gets too bad. We’ve got a kid in Hawkins who- well, let’s just say he’s been wearing his soulmate’s bruises around since he was a kid. Makes the whole damn town uneasy, to see a kid grow up with something like that.”

Billy licks his lips, his eyes wide. He thinks back to Steve Harrington, covering up his bruises in a locker room, bruises that looked a whole lot like Billy’s.

He shakes the thought from his head and makes himself smile at Hopper. It feels cold and brittle, easily broken.

“I’ll think about it,” he says, and starts shrugging out of the coat.

Hopper snorts.

“Kid, keep the damn coat. If I have to arrest you for public indecency it’ll ruin my whole day.”

Billy pops the door open and hops out onto the road, wincing at the chill wind that immediately assaults his legs. He tugs the coat tighter around him and salutes Hopper as he pulls away. Then he gets into his camaro. It takes a long time before he’s ready to drive.

Three days later, he swings a plate at Steve Harrington’s face and staggers back when he feels it shatter against his own.

“Oh,” he says, blood trickling down his forehead as he stares down at his soulmate splayed out between his legs. He staggers, and has to catch himself against the kitchen sink. “Well, shit.”

Steve is staring up at him, his face beaten to hell and back, and Billy knows that his own mirrors Steve’s exactly.

There was a moment, a week or so back where he’d thought- and then again, in Hopper’s truck.

But no. He’d touched that bruise on Steve’s ribs, the one that looked exactly like the one across his, and hadn’t felt any different. Steve’s skin had been warm, velvety soft against his palm, and while Billy might have entertained some pretty explicit ideas about taking that hand and sliding it a little bit further down- he hadn’t felt any different on a cosmic scale.

He always thought that it would have felt somehow different.

But it was just Steve. Just skin.

“Oh, shit,” Steve breathes, and Billy gets to see him process it, the way his eyes widen, how he goes so very fucking still, like he’s not even fucking breathing. Billy licks his lips, and he doesn’t- he doesn’t know what the fuck to say. He just hit his soulmate over the head with a goddamn plate.

When Max leaps onto his back and sticks a needle in his neck, it almost feels like a blessing.

 

Billy is subdued in school the next week. They haven’t talked about it - haven’t had a chance to really. Steve can still feel Billy’s eyes on him when he’s not looking, in hallways and at lunch from across the cafeteria, but whenever Steve turns to look, Billy’s always looking away.

It’s strange, knowing.

He doesn’t know how to broach the topic, not until he wakes up one morning with a fresh bruise laid out over the fading ones on his jaw. This one is purple and angry, so new that it must have just happened.

“We need to fucking talk,” Steve tells Billy at school that day.

They’re in the cafeteria, standing in the lunchline. Billy eyes him warily. There are bruises on his face, and every single one of them matches Steve’s perfectly, even the fresh one. People are starting to notice.

“Right now?” he asks, casting a look over his shoulder at the food. “They have pudding today.”

Steve grits his teeth. “I will buy you some fucking pudding. Just come with me. Please.”

Billy sighs, then shoves his way out of the line.

Steve leads Billy out of the building and around to the back of the lot, where Billy’s camaro sits. Billy blinks down at it.

“Well,” Steve hisses. “You gonna get in?”

Billy’s eyes narrow. “Were you planning on waiting for an invitation?”

“No.”

Billy sneers at him, but obligingly unlocks the camaro with a little mocking bow. “Anything for King Steve.”

Steve rolls his eyes and slides into the passenger’s seat. Billy joins him a moment later, slamming the car door shut behind him and cranking down the window so he can light up a smoke. Steve watches him light up - the flare of orange reflecting in his eyes, that first plume of white smoke sneaking through his fingers. Billy inhales deeply and the tip flares to life between them.

“Well?” Billy murmurs into the silence. “Sounded like you had something on your mind.”

Steve leans over and plucks the cigarette from between Billy’s fingers. He takes a quick drag, feels the smoke curl over his tongue, and lets it out slowly, fogging the air around them.

“Could have just asked for one,” Billy tells him.

Steve takes one more drag before he hands it back, Billy’s fingers brushing quickly over his. He grins at him, and asks, “You have a problem with sharing?”

“What exactly is on your mind, Harrington? Not that I don’t love your scintillating company, but-”

“I want you to take us to the station,” Steve tells him, quick, like yanking off a bandaid. “I want you to drive us to the station, and I want you to tell Hopper what that dickhead has been doing for the last goddamn decade.”

Billy’s eyes go dark. “You have no-”

Steve laughs, a sharp bark of a sound. It tastes bitter in his throat.

“I have no right? Is that what you were going to say?” he asks, hooking a hand around the hem of his shirt and hiking it up, all the way to his armpits. With a shaking hand, he indicates the patchwork of old and new bruises marring his torso.

Then he leans in across the center console, gets his fingers around Billy’s stupid button up, and yanks.

They’re all there. Every single bruise, matching Steve’s color for color.

His mouth dry, Steve drops the shirt back down, smoothing it carefully back into place.

Billy is holding very still.

Steve stares at him.

“I have every fucking right,” he says, quietly.

Billy swallows and for a moment, he looks a little bit lost, his eyes skating over the folds of Steve’s shirt, like he’s trying to see right through it. As Steve watches, he licks his lips and shifts uncomfortably in his seat. “Did you have to feel them all?”

“No,” Steve sighs, and wordlessly, Billy passes the cigarette back to him. Steve takes another drag, this one deeper, until he can feel the smoke licking at his lungs. “I only felt some of them.”

“This summer?” Billy asks quietly. “Did you feel it this summer?”

“This summer,” Steve tells him, “my mother had to take me to the emergency room because she was afraid that if you died, I would, too. Trust me, I felt it.”

Billy blinks. “What would-”

“I probably wouldn’t.” Steve takes another drag and passes it back to Billy, who finishes it off and tosses it out the window. “I guess there have been some cases where- well, where the other half did die, but all the doctors there were quick to assure us that it was due to shock rather than the injuries themselves. They seemed pretty confident that not meeting you yet gave me some kind of advantage.” He quirks a humorless little smirk in Billy’s direction. “Not that it would help me much now.”

They sit in silence for a long minute, the radio a quiet drone of static around them. Billy’s car smells like smoke, and weed, and whatever cologne he’s always wearing. Steve shifts a little in the seat, staring bleakly out towards the school. He can feel Billy looking at him.

“Look,” Steve says, right as Billy says, “I won’t-”

They both stop and look at each other. As Steve watches, Billy licks his lips. It’s a nervous gesture this time, he thinks, not sexual or challenging like before. Those had felt pointed, like Billy wanted Steve to respond somehow. This gesture feels authentic.

“You go first,” Billy tells him.

Steve tips his head back against the headrest and lets out an explosive sigh. “You don’t- you don’t have to go to the station if you don’t want to. Not right now. I’m not going to make you, because you’re right, it isn’t totally my place.”

Billy snorts, and gives Steve’s ribcage a pointed look.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got more of a say in this than anyone else, but it isn’t actually my life that’s going to get turned upside down if you go through with this. I might have gotten all of these second-hand, but you lived them. You do get the final say, no matter what. Just,” he pauses, drumming his fingers against his knee. He licks his lips. “Promise me that if it gets bad, you’ll come to me.”

“Why?” Billy asks with a sneer, eyes bright as they lock onto Steve. His mouth has gone mean around the edges again, teeth bared. “Because you’re my soulmate?”

Steve narrows his eyes. God, he doesn’t know why he even fucking bothered.

“Sure, Billy. Come to me because I’m your soulmate,” he says with a scoff, reaching blindly for the door handle. Once he’s out of the car he can breathe a little bit better, the air cool and crisp. He takes a fortifying breath, then ducks his head back down to peer at Billy. “And as your soulmate, I would like to stop wearing your fucking bruises around town.”

Steve slams the camaro’s door behind him and doesn’t stop walking until he’s inside the school, hidden from Billy’s piercing gaze. His heart is hammering against his ribcage and there’s something sharp and acrid in the back of his throat that tastes of bile.

He hisses to himself, fists clenching and unclenching at his side. He can see his reflection in the glass, the bruise on his jaw, the pallor of his cheeks.

The glass doesn’t shatter when he punches it the first time, so he hits it again, and again, until his knuckles feel scraped raw and there’s a jagged crack bisecting the door.

Steve’s knuckles are wet. They ache when he touches them, like maybe there’s something broken there. Any other day he might feel bad about that. Might rationalize that his soulmate doesn’t deserve more hurt. But today, his soulmate is Billy fucking Hargrove and Steve doesn’t have it in him to feel anything about it at all.

 

Billy drinks that night. He tags along with Tommy to some college chick’s party after school instead of taking Max home, and like. Logically he fucking knows that it’s a dumb move. But right now, he needs the numbness more than he needs to tiptoe around his dad all fucking night. He’ll deal with the consequences later.

The party is one of those that starts slow and awkward, so the chick hosting has the bright idea to treat the early birds to something a little bit special.

Which is how he ends up snorting cocaine off of some girl’s tits on a tuesday night.

Billy likes coke - likes the way it sets his heart on edge, how everything is just a little bit faster, a little bit brighter. He throws back every drink that Tommy hands him, until he’s stumbling, until he doesn’t know which way is up. Until the whole fucking world makes him want to laugh.

He dances with some chick who’s got a crucifix around her neck and smells like lilies of the valley. Her neck tastes like perfume when he gets his mouth on her, harsh and bitter, astringent against his tongue. She laughs and touches his hips with bright red nails while they’re dancing, grazing those talons up along his belly, pressing them up under his shirt.

She peers up at him from under thick black eyelashes, and asks him if he wants to go upstairs.

He does.

She’s pretty enough. Long dark hair, pretty neck, narrow waist, pert tits with dusky dark nipples that fit perfectly in his mouth.

He bends her over the bed and fucks her from behind, sinks his cock in deep and palms her pretty tits. He’s too fucked up to really make it good, knows that it’s too hard, too fast, maybe a touch too mean as he digs bruises into her hips, but Harrington is behind his eyelids, and it’s all too easy to fill in the fucking blanks and imagine Harrington under him just like this, so fucking pretty and spread out like he was made for Billy.

God, like he was fucking made for Billy.

When Billy blows his load inside her he turns her over and eats her out slow and messy, then he lets her drag him back out into the thick of the party, where he drinks a little bit more.

He leaves the party near two in the morning, and doesn’t know how he gets his camaro to Harrington’s place, just that when he blinks next, the house is swelling up in front of him, quiet and almost completely dark, save for one light.

It’s been a while since Billy’s scaled a roof, and he’s never really done it this fucked up, but he’s on feeling a little bit daring, a little bit indestructible, and the idea of breaking his ass next to Mrs. Harrington’s hydrangeas doesn’t even occur to him until he’s halfway up the side of the house, fingers scrabbling at brick.

His heart is pounding in his chest by the time he knocks at Steve’s window, and he feels hot all over, like he’s burning up.

Steve’s face appears in the window, and Billy’s pleased as punch to see the way they go shocked round and wide when he catches a glimpse of Billy. His mouth moves, shaping words that are perfectly inaudible from behind the glass but probably filthy judging by the fire in his eyes, and then he’s scrabbling at the base of the window for a latch. A moment later he’s sticking his head out the window.

“Are you fucking crazy?” he hisses. His hair is a fucking mess, standing on end like he’s been running his hands through it all night. Billy kind of wants to make it messier.

He grins, swaying on the spot until Steve reaches out and steadies him.

“Maybe,” he tells him.

“Jesus fucking-” Steve says, and then, “Get in already, fuck.”

Billy staggers against Steve when he makes it through the window, foot catching against the frame. It sends them both sprawling and Billy laughs, high and delighted, as he lands squarely on top of Steve, his face pressed into the curve of his neck.

“Jesus,” Steve says again, and shoves until Billy’s off of him. He sits up, and Billy stares at him, entranced again by all that messy fucking hair. Steve’s face is flushed, and he’s wearing this threadbare sweatshirt that’s ridden all the way up his hips and Billy just- he wants.

Steve’s got a trail of dark hair low on his belly that starts just below his navel and disappears under the waistband of his basketball shorts. Billy wants to lick it, wants to map it out with his mouth and tongue.

“Holy shit, Hargrove,” Steve says, and Billy’s stuck, still half sprawled across Steve’s thighs, so he just looks up at him. “Did you drink an entire liquor store? You fucking reek.”

Billy snorts and licks his lips. They feel weird - sort of numb and tingly. He can’t decide if he likes it or not.

“Not too fucked up. Got here, didn’t I?” Billy says, voice thick and strange in his mouth. Steve is warm where they’re pressed together and his bare thighs are horribly distracting. Billy lays a hand on one, with some idea of using it as leverage to push himself up, but then he just… stops.

“Billy,” Steve says, and Billy looks up, away from the sight of his hand around Steve Harrington’s thigh.

“Yes?”

Steve stares him down, his eyes dark. “Maybe you should let go of my leg.”

“Probably,” Billy agrees, and after a moment, makes himself let go.

Steve helps him up carefully, one arm slung around Billy’s waist. They make it to the bed, and when Steve drops him there, Billy goes sprawling boneless across it. He feels warm and sort of happy, at peace, so he grins up at Steve, and pats the spot next to him.

Steve eyes it warily, then, slow as molasses, lowers himself down next to Billy. His hands are twisting in his lap, and he’s chewing on his bottom lip, like he’s fucking nervous. “Why are you here, Billy?”

“Wanted to see you,” Billy murmurs honestly with a short shrug. “Did you know that I didn’t even know that I had a soulmate until sometime last year?”

Steve blinks. “You didn’t?”

Billy snorts and folds his arms behind his head. “Nope. But then- then, a fucking jumped up ghost kicked the shit out of me on the boardwalk and I had to have some old lady tell me what was up.” He barks out a short laugh, rolls his eyes. “So fucking stupid.”

“Oh,” Steve says. “That.”

“Yeah, that,” Billy says wryly. “What the fuck happened?”

Steve shrugs, looking uncomfortable. “Picked a fight with Jonathan Byers. He won.”

“Damn,” Billy murmurs, shaking his head. He feels dizzy, like he hasn’t stopped spinning since that chick slid off his dick. Maybe since before that, since he took a swing at Steve's head. “Felt that shit for days.”

“Sorry about that,” Steve says, and then they’re both quiet for awhile, because they can’t talk about that shit. Not right now, not when Billy’s hand feels broken because Steve’s is bandaged, not when Steve’s got a dozen fading bruises on his body because of Billy. Billy swallows thickly and sits up, sways a little as he crawls his way across the bed, and into Steve’s lap.

Steve’s hands land on his hips, steadying him even as he says, “What the fuck, Billy?”

And Billy? He’s drunk as hell, still running on a dwindling high, so it seems like a great time to put his mouth on Steve’s throat. Steve tastes like sweat. Nice, clean sweat. He doesn’t taste like perfume, doesn’t smell like flowers, he’s just… fucking perfect. Made for Billy.

He’s made for Billy.

“Did you even like me before you found out I was your soulmate?” Billy murmurs as he kisses a line down Steve’s throat. It bobs a little under his lips as Steve swallows, and Billy can feel Steve’s fingers digging into his hips, but he isn’t pushing Billy away.

“I don’t even like you now,” he says, but it’s a little too breathless, a little too much of a lie. Billy looks at him, and presses a careful kiss to the bruise on Steve’s jaw.

Steve’s eyes are dark, and he isn’t pushing Billy away.

Billy bites down on Steve’s ear, murmurs into it, “Liar.”

Steve shudders, his entire body rippling under Billy’s, and Billy is. He’s trying, okay. He’s fucked up, but he’s been coming down since he left the party, and his dick is starting to take notice of the way that Steve’s hips are shifting restlessly under him, and he wants.

“Kiss me,” he murmurs through his teeth, and watches Steve’s head come up, slow and lazy. Watches his eyes darken, how they lock on Billy’s lips and stay there, calculating and sure.

“You’re drunk,” Steve says.

Billy shrugs. “Was drunker earlier.”

“Did you even like me before you found out I was your soulmate?” Steve asks, turning Billy’s own question around on him and he- fuck.

Yes,” Billy hisses, and draws Steve’s mouth down to meet his.

It’s not exactly a good kiss. It’s too hard, too wet, a little too mean, and their teeth knock together in a way that’s more awkward than anything, but it feels good.

It feels good when Steve groans into Billy’s mouth, when he slides his hands into Billy’s hair and shifts his weight just enough-

It feels good when Billy shoves Steve back so that he’s spread out under him, his hands coming up to frame Billy’s ass, and squeezes-

When Billy leans down to kiss him again, Steve bares his teeth, bites down on Billy’s lower lip hard, and then growls around it even as he bucks up into the cradle of Billy’s hips. He’s shuddering under Billy, cheeks red, mouth wet, breathless as he hisses, “Get your fucking clothes off, jackass.”

Billy laughs at him, and just to be a dick, doesn’t take anything off at all, just unzips his pants and pulls his dick out, rubs the head of it against Steve’s belly, smearing pre-come into all that soft, pretty skin.

He grins down at Steve, laughs at his affronted look and shoves the basketball shorts down Steve’s thighs.

Steve gasps when Billy gets a fistful of his dick, his lips parting around that silent sound, his hips twitching up. Billy wants to fuck him, wants to crawl inside and never come out, wants Steve tight around his cock.

He might say something to that effect because Steve goes a little bit boneless between kisses, and breathes, “Top drawer.”

So Billy checks, because fuck it, and his eyes fucking light up at what he finds.

“King Steve’s got lube?” Billy crows, delighted, as he scoops the tube up and squeezes a generous helping out into his palm. He rubs it between two fingers, then presses them between Steve’s thighs, nudging up against his hole.

Steve shivers, his thighs splaying open wider, and doesn’t say anything, just lets Billy press two fingers inside of him, his fingers twisting in the sheets, knuckles white around the fabric.

Oh,” Billy breathes, twisting his fingers inside of Steve. “You’ve done this before.”

Steve whines a little when Billy adds another finger, and bites down hard on his lip, so hard that Billy feels the sting.

“Anyone that I know?” Billy asks, and adds a fourth, just to be a dick, just to be mean.

“No,” Steve gasps, and then he’s glaring up at Billy, pupils blown so wide that his eyes look fucking black. “Now mind your fucking business and stick your dick in me.”

Billy chuckles. Ignores the simmering jealousy and gives Steve a mocking little bow before he obliges.

“Anything for you, baby,” he breathes, and lines himself up.

When he presses in deep, Steve’s thighs catch and hold tight around Billy’s waist. His face is red, mouth caught open as he works himself back onto Billy’s cock. He looks so fucking pretty, too fucking pretty, all sweaty and wrecked before Billy’s even fucked him properly.

“Please,” he says, and Billy smiles.

This time, he makes it good. The high’s worn off enough that it’s just a heavy buzz in the back of his head, making everything a little bit sweeter. So he draws it out, fucks Steve stupid, until he’s squirming and panting, until marks in the shape of Billy’s fingers are blooming dark across his own ribs.

“Oh,” Steve says, near the end, when he’s gone tight as a vice around Billy’s dick.

Then he says it again when Billy presses deep once, twice more, and comes all over his stomach.

And that- it’s so good. So fucking good, Steve squeezing tight around him, his head thrown back against the sheets, and Billy’s gone, so fucking gone that it only takes another thrust or two before he’s coming too, pressed snug and deep.

“Oh fuck,” Steve breathes when Billy rolls off of him. “I just had sex with you.”

Billy snorts, and rolls towards Steve, kicking a leg across Steve’s thigh and wrapping himself around him. “Sure did. Seemed to like it, too.”

“I did,” Steve agrees, and it sounds- not quite agreeable enough to Billy, so he squints his eyes open and peers up at Steve.

“You did, right?” he asks, and prods Steve’s torso, looking for new marks. There’s a hickey two inches to the right of his nipple and another bite mark near his hip, but nothing bad that Billy can see. “You had fun?”

Steve scoffs, and eyes Billy incredulously.

Obviously.”

Billy blinks, then settles back down, head on Steve’s shoulder.

“Okay, good,” he murmurs, wrapping his palm around one of Steve’s hips - the one with the bite mark on it. “Just checking.”

“We’re going to talk about this shit in the morning,” Steve warns, but he’s already relaxing into Billy’s hold on him, his whole body going a little more pliant.

“Right,” Billy murmurs, already half out. He might be drooling on Steve’s shoulder a little.

“I mean it.”

Billy sighs, and tugs Steve even closer, so he can bury his nose in all that messy hair.

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he murmurs, and closes his eyes.