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The Camaro sits outside of the General Store every day from ten to eleven for a solid week, with the massive dent in the front quarter panel and scorch marks licking the glass—and every time Steve sees it, his heart sinks, a sudden, unbearable dread making a home in his chest. The last he knew—or the last he looked, rather—it had been sitting in the junkyard about five miles outside of Hawkins, set to be torn apart for scrap for a few prospective clients. And now, it’s just… sitting in a parking space. No owner in sight, no one paying it any mind.

As much as he wants to investigate, Steve fights off the urge and busies himself in the aisles of the Family Video, sweet-talking just about everyone that comes in to buy or rent more items than strictly necessary. And like every day, by the time he remembers to look out of the storefront’s glass façade, the Camaro is gone, in its place someone else’s nondescript vehicle, either brown or black or white or some other shade he can’t really remember.

All he knows, is that the Camaro is out of hiding for the first time in a year, driving around like Steve didn’t plow through it trying to save Nancy’s life. As far as he knows—and he knows—Billy is nowhere in sight, but neither is the current owner. Whoever brought it out of the junkyard apparently never intends to fix it up, or even acknowledge the damage.

“Do you ever think about it?” Steve asks Robin during their lunch break. Sitting on the bench, they watch Hawkin’s residents wander Mulberry Street and pop in and out of shops, chatting amongst themselves. The Camaro gleams under the early autumn sun, dead leaves littering the back window. “Y’know, the whole… I mean, just look at it, sitting there.”

“You’re thinking too much about it,” Robin says through a yawn, then rests her arms on the back of the bench. “Someone probably bought it. It’s not like he just crawled out of the grave and he’s walking around town.” Steve shoots her a look, but ultimately looks down at his feet. Consolingly, she strokes up and down his back before patting his shoulder. “We were there, Steve. We saw it happen. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“I know.” Sighing, he brushes the hair from his face, sweeping it behind his ear. “But it just makes me think. I mean, we’ve seen monsters from God knows where all across this town, but zombies aren’t real?”

Robin scoffs, her smile both incredulous and adorable. “Really, Steve? Zombies? What, like, Billy decided that he’d just walk out of his grave and steal his car back?”

“I’m just saying!” Steve holds his hands up, entirely serious. Robin just laughs, slapping her knee. “Come on, humor me a little.”

“I am, you’re funny.” She pats his thigh and stands. “Come on, shift starts back in five minutes.”

“God,” Steve huffs, head thrown back. “I should’ve gone to Harvard.”

Again, Robin laughs and shoves his shoulder. “Don’t get too ahead of yourself there.”

-+-

Another week passes, and the Camaro stops its daily visits to the General Store. Oddly, Steve misses it, and finds himself looking out into the street whenever he finds a long-enough break, waiting to catch a glimpse of the blue behemoth and just who’s behind the wheel. Instead, he finds nothing, and tries to ignore the welling disappointment.

Hours pass dreadfully slow, the last of summer’s stragglers now back to school and no longer haunting the aisles and sidewalks. Now, he entertains the locals and the occasional lost motorist, and Robin, whenever she doesn’t have her nose buried in a paperback from the shop next door.

Rain falls one September afternoon. Which one, Steve doesn’t particularly know, or care. The bell above the door tinkles, barely audible from where he stands in the back room, unboxing the latest releases and stacking them into piles. Whoever it is, Robin can take care of it, at least while he gathers up the VHS tapes and the scant selection of CDs his boss insists on selling, despite what the name of the store suggests. Why anyone would want to be out in this weather, Steve can only guess.

Arms full, Steve backs his way out of the Employee’s Only door and spins, setting the stacks of tapes down on the front desk—and nearly topples them over at the sight of blonde curls peeking out from above the stacks. So far as he can tell, Robin is nowhere in sight—probably next door again—and his boss is off for the third day this week for who knows what reason, leaving him alone with a head of hair he hasn’t seen in what feels like a decade.

For all Steve knows, it could just be an older lady, or someone with a perm. Still, his heart races, and he tries to ignore the presence by grabbing up a stack of tapes and hiding in an aisle. The complete opposite aisle than where he needs to be, but he lingers there, careful to not look too suspicious when he hears footsteps or the rustle of jeans, quiet breaths that he normally wouldn’t hear if he weren’t paying attention. The hairs stand on the back of his neck, and his hands shake, like the threat of death is lingering just behind him, waiting to break his eye socket for a third time, among other things.

Nothing, though. Blissful silence, accompanied by the soft patter of rain in the street. Glancing over his shoulder, he no longer sees the head of curls, and breathes a sigh of relief—before finding them just out of the corner of his eye. Spinning around, he drops the tapes and finds himself face to face with a ghost—or, what should be a ghost.

Because here, surrounded by scattered bits of plastic and mylar, stands Billy Hargrove, decked out in denim and hair in desperate need of a wash, looking like he just walked out of a cave. Dark circles mar the pale skin around his eyes, his freckles no longer shining through like they once did. Blue eyes watch Steve, hazy but alive, and he blinks like he hasn't in years, like he’s just now seeing the world again.

Pressing a hand to his chest, Steve desperately tries to catch his breath, or to at least look like he isn’t having a massive panic attack. “You—” he sputters, swallowing around the sudden lump in his throat. “You’re—Oh god, I’m dreaming, right? This is just all some—Am I dead? Is this—”

“Were you always this chatty?” Billy taunts, but his smile doesn’t reach his eyes. Hands in his pockets, he looks down to the tapes Steve dropped and picks one up, along with the plastic case it popped out of. “Hiding, are we?”

“I’m—Shit man.” Steve runs his hands through his hair, mussing up an hour’s work in mere seconds. “You’re not supposed to be here. You’re—I saw you die. I saw you, Billy. Shit, I went to your funeral, and you’re—”

“Did you look inside the casket?” Billy asks, and—granted, no, he didn't. The funeral home informed them that there would be no open casket service, leaving the few who attended to just imagine what he must’ve looked like inside, and whether or not they dressed him up for the occasion. Shrugging, Billy replaces the tape and hands it back to Steve, then shoves his hands back in his pockets. “Looks like I’m back for good.”

Steve’s brain sputters, cogs grinding to a proverbial halt. Billy is alive—Billy is here, standing about two feet from him, and he’s not trying to break Steve’s face. And, to his shock, he has most of his clothes on, no longer bare-chested and the picture of masculinity personified. “I saw…” He stops, gains control of his tongue. “Where have you been, man?”

Billy doesn’t answer, aside from a sigh Steve feels deep in his chest. “Can’t a guy come by and see his only friend?” he jests, aiming for cocky.

Steve doesn’t buy it. “We weren’t friends before,” he says, soft. Billy’s expression falters just the slightest, but he keeps smiling, if only for appearance’s sake. “You think you can just… waltz in here and think everything’s gonna be okay? Have you even—Does anyone know you’re…” Alive?

“See, here’s the thing.” He slides an arm around Steve’s shoulder, dragging him close enough for Steve to smell that familiar cologne-scent of him, along with something that reminds him of the pumpkin patches in the fall: earthy, with a hint of soil and sunbaked earth. “I’d like to lay low for a while, and that means no blabbing about how I’m here, or where I’ve been, that clear, Harrington?”

“Crystal,” Steve nods. Billy lets him go with a familiar shove and crosses the room, hips swaying as he walks. Still, Steve notices the hitch in his gait, the way he pulls one leg harder than the other. He waves as he exits, the bell jingling once again.

Alone with just his thoughts, Steve sinks to the floor and looks at the scattered tapes, then back to his knees; his work blazer smells like Billy, and his warmth still bleeds through, keeping the chill of the rain at bay. This is fine, he thinks, frantically gathering up the dropped merchandise. Billy is alive, and this is fine. Like he wasn’t murdered last year by an interdimensional alien, like nothing changed between them.

Just when Steve was getting used to the idea of Billy being his adversary in school, of being a teammate on the court, he was ripped away—and now he’s back. Hands full, Steve looks up to the ceiling, just as Robin makes her way back inside. “What am I supposed to do now?” he asks no one. What am I gonna do?

-+-

The rain continues into the night, long after Robin has gone to bed in their tiny two-bedroom home, and long after the sun has gone down, bathing Hawkins in darkness. Windows open and curtains fluttering in the breeze, Steve lies on his side and watches the branches outside, listening to the soft sounds of nature, almost gentle enough to lull him to sleep.

His mind won’t rest, though, no matter how hard he tries to think of anything else. Counting sheep, white noise, the weather itself—nothing works. All of his thoughts center around Billy, his return just as shocking as the first time, but now, so different, with less swagger and more… Nothing, he guesses. Behind those blue eyes, Steve found the soul of a broken man, a dying man, consigned to live in his own personal hell for the rest of his life.

Whatever his past is, Steve has no clue, aside from the occasional conversations with Max after the funeral, while they helped her grieve through her loss. He and Max and Eleven were the only ones of their group to attend the funeral; the rest opted to stay as far away as they could, and honestly, Steve didn’t blame them. Given his and Billy’s rocky relationship, Steve would’ve stayed home as well, but he felt compelled to see this through. Knowing that this time would be the last time he saw Billy, even if it was in a pine box from the back of a church.

But now, he’s back, and Steve grapples with what that means. Shivering, he pulls the sheets up tighter and closes his eyes, concentrating on the softness of his breathing, clearing his mind. Rain raps on the roof, the wind rustles the branches—something climbs in through his window with a grunt, and Steve flings himself across the bed, nearly toppling onto the floor.

Burglar, murderer, monster—No, just Billy, soaked from the storm and dressed in nothing but a white tank-top and jeans. He stumbles over the dresser and lands, just loud enough that briefly, Steve wonders if Robin heard. Sitting up, he listens for any sign of movement, and finds nothing other than Billy stripping out of his shirt and shoes. His hands go for his belt—“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Steve hushes, jerking the sheets around his waist. “Dude, what are you—”

“I’m fucking wet, Harrington, get a grip,” Billy shoots back, stripping out of his pants. Jeans flop to the floor in a thud. In the dark, Steve watches him duck into the adjoining bathroom to grab a towel, wiping himself down; his hair, he saves for last, mopping the wetness from his curls, no longer sticking to his forehead. He leaves the towel on the floor and saunters back into the room, wearing only his briefs and a faked smile, one Steve is slowly growing to hate. “Fancy seeing you here.”

“Yeah, fancy that,” Steve huffs. He softens his grip on the sheets just the slightest, his nerves still firing despite Billy not… doing much of anything. Just standing at the side of the bed, clearly waiting for some sort of invitation. What kind of invitation, Steve has no clue. “What?”

“What?” Billy echoes. He places a knee on the mattress, promptly sending Steve’s heart into his throat. “Something on your mind?”

“Yeah?” Sitting up straighter, Steve crosses his arms, suddenly hyper-aware of his partial nudity, and Billy’s—well, everything. “How’d you find out where I live, for one?”

“Saw your car in the driveway,” Billy shrugs. He slides onto the mattress without invitation and… lies down, like Steve’s mattress can fit two men; as it is, Steve almost falls off it every night, and with someone else? And uninvited, at that. “Probably the only guy in town that’d drive a piece of shit that ugly.”

“Hey,” Steve retorts, jabbing Billy’s shoulder. He really is alive, he thinks, fighting off the urge to touch him again. “I worked hard for that piece of shit, you know that? Not like what you’re driving is any better.”

Billy’s grin shifts from flirtatious to menacing within a moment flat; in the next second, Steve finds himself flat on the bed, with Billy towering over him, both hands planted square beside his head and a knee between his thighs. Blonde curls drip down, even longer than they were the last time Steve saw him. Without thinking, Steve reaches up to touch them, and this time, Billy doesn’t fight it. “Take that back,” Billy taunts, voice a low rumble in his throat. “Or so help me.”

Steve quirks a brow. “Or what? ‘Cause I can keep going.”

“You’re the reason she’s like she is in the first place,” Billy reminds him. Their foreheads touch; Steve’s heart skips. “I may not remember a whole lot, but there’s one thing I do know, and it’s that you fucking t-boned my car.”

“You were trying to—” Steve starts, then sighs through his nose. No use rehashing the past. Even if he explained it, Billy wouldn’t really believe him. Though, that begs the question—what exactly does Billy remember? “Look… Why’re you here? Don’t tell me you’ve been sleeping out of your car since you got back in town.”

To that, Billy shakes his head. In exhaustion, he flops back onto the opposite side of the mattress and grabs for the blankets, yanking them over his waist; Steve fights for them, eventually ending up with most of them, and Billy pressed in close, practically the little spoon. Which—Billy doesn’t fight. Huh. “I don’t have to explain myself to you,” Billy huffs and turns onto his side, facing the window.

Groaning, Steve just falls back onto his pillow and stares up at the ceiling. “If you wanna sleep here, I don’t care,” he decides, albeit begrudgingly. “But if you try anything—”

“Stop clutching your pearls,” Billy says, his eye roll sentient. “You’re not gonna wake up with my hand down your pants, trust me. That’s not the way I roll.”

Good. That’s great, even. Not that Steve hasn’t shared the bed with other guys before, but this is Billy. Billy Hargrove, who lettered in basketball and raised hell throughout Hawkins High their entire senior year, who once broke Steve’s cheek so badly he still doesn't have full feeling. Billy Hargrove, who fought off the fucking Mind Flayer and died in the process. Supposedly. Allegedly.

“Are you gonna tell me how you’re here?” Steve asks, to Billy’s annoyed sigh.

He does answer, though. Steve never expected him to even bother. “Are you working tomorrow?”

“It’s my day off,” Steve replies. “Thursdays and Fridays.”

In the dark, Billy nods. “We’ll go to my place, then. Tell you everything you wanna know.”

Good. “Okay,” Steve decides. Tomorrow, then—Is this a date?

-+-

Steve wakes to a still-warm bed the following morning, and the sound of the shower running. One eye open, he listens to Billy singing some song off-tune, and briefly he considers falling back asleep—until last night catches up to him, in full detail. Frantically, he sits up and takes stock of his remaining limbs and clothing, finding everything to be in order; Billy’s clothes still lay in a pile on the floor, drier now than when he arrived. He’s still here. Yesterday wasn’t a dream after all.

The shower shuts off, and the curtain draws open. Steve drops back onto the mattress and feigns sleep, heart still hammering in his chest while he listens to Billy finish his song and brush his teeth simultaneously; it takes another minute, but the door opens, and Steve keeps his eyes closed, acutely aware of Billy’s footsteps and his weight in bed, sliding back into the spot he left behind. Fingertips dance across Steve’s cheek, curling behind his ear—

“Why are you really here?” Steve asks and opens his eyes, only to find Billy looking at him, exhaustion sagging his expression. Still, he smiles, not lecherously but… genuine. Like he’s happy he snuck in last night, that he got to share a bed with his high school nemesis. Hell, he might be, for all Steve knows. “You’re starting to freak me out here.”

Billy pulls his hand away, exhaling long and hard through his nose. “Get dressed,” he instructs, pulling his body out of bed, and—holy shit.

No wonder Billy wore a shirt yesterday. In the early morning light, Steve sits up and looks at him, at the scars destroying his skin, purpled at the edges and silvering in spots. What look like grafts salvage some of the skin, and aside from some discoloration, the casual observer might consider him normal. Steve, though—Steve saw the damage firsthand.

Before Billy can pull away, Steve reaches out and places his palm flat to Billy’s back, over the worst of the scars; Billy stops, his muscles tensing. “I didn’t—I didn’t think it’d be that bad,” he says, almost a whisper. His gut sours at the sight of him, everything about it just… wrong. This isn’t the Billy he knew, all tanned skin and hair, without a blemish on his body. Now, he wears his wounds with… “Are you okay?”

He expects Billy to turn to him with disgust, to push him away. Instead, he allows Steve into his space, face turned away as he strokes over the scars, the incision down his sternum where they pieced him back together. “Chicks dig scars,” Billy says, his earnestness clouded. “Always thought it’d be cool, if I had one on my eye or something. Makes me mysterious, like I’ve seen some shit.”

“Can’t really lie there,” Steve says. Billy smiles, just barely. “Where’s your place?”

Billy looks at him, eyes hooded, and extends a hand. “It’s a ways.”

-+-

Billy lives about five miles outside of Hawkins in a single wide trailer, with a porch large enough to fit two people and a rusted out truck in the front yard. Wheat fields surround the home, stalks about waist high and still growing. Steve sits in the front seat of Billy’s Camaro for a short while, just looking around, trying to determine whether or not someone will find his body if this is all a practical joke. That last week had been a whirlwind between the Russians and the Mind Flayer, and the last year gave him enough time to get over the trauma of it all, and the brain damage.

Yet, looking at Billy here, this isn’t the same man that tried to run Nancy down. In fact, he doesn’t even seem like the same man he was when he first arrived in Hawkins, itching for the first fight to come his way. Now, he doesn’t even live in town, apparently enjoying a quiet existence outside of the city limits, away from everyone he hurt in the past, including his family and what remained of his friendships. Including me, a part of Steve thinks, because at one point, he genuinely liked Billy, considered him a rival, even.

Now, Steve barely recognizes the man sitting next to him.

 Billy shuts off the engine and rips the key from the ignition, leaving Steve inside the car. Steve follows before he can start to panic, and meets Billy by the front door, following him inside. There, he finds a sleeper sofa pushed into the corner, along with a desk currently being occupied by unsorted bags from the General Store. The kitchen is clean save for a few plates in the sink, and the bathroom door sits open, light shut off. The autumn breeze flows through the windows, mid-morning air forcing a shiver down Steve’s spine.

“They found a heartbeat in the ambulance,” Billy says, shrugging off his shirt once again and tossing it in the direction of the full hamper. That’s what he must be doing when he’s in town—visiting the laundromat. Flopping onto the mattress, he props himself up with his arms, looking in Steve’s direction. No trace of amusement, no cocky leers. “Figured out what was wrong and put me back together, but they sent me to the psych ward for God knows how long. I stopped counting after a while, because there’s only so many times you can say you’re not crazy before they pump you full of drugs.” He stops, pointing a finger at his head. “Pretty sure they knocked my ass out for three months.”

“Billy,” Steve sighs—

And Billy holds up a hand. “Not done, princess. ‘Cause when they finally let me breathe for two damn seconds? I got poked and prodded and questioned by every state and federal agency I’ve ever heard of, and some I haven’t, all to figure out how the fuck I’m alive, and how I didn’t just die back there like I should’ve. Their words.” His eyes meet Steve’s, frown deepening. “I had a lot of time to think, while I was there. About how much of a fuck-up I am, how everyone I’ve ever met, I’ve fucked over. I tried to kill my own sister, you get that?”

Steve nods, crossing his arms. “I get—”

“No, I don’t think you do.” Standing, Billy crosses the trailer before Steve can even react, backing him up against the kitchen sink. Freckled hands box him in, and Billy takes the time to glance between Steve’s eyes and his lips; Steve’s face heats, knuckles white where he grabs the edge of the cabinet door. “I’ve done shit I can’t be redeemed for. I’ve said things, I’ve… I’ve got blood on my hands. And despite all that, you’re still talking to me, and I can’t understand why. What’s got you so fucked up that you’d wanna give me a chance?”

What is the answer to that, really? Why on earth would Steve Harrington care about the guy who terrorized him during his last year of high school, threatened his friends, tried to kill him, worst of all? “Because I’m fucked up,” Steve says, simple, like it explains everything. “Because for some fucked up reason, I actually like you, and sometimes I wondered what you would’ve been doing if you weren’t—weren’t—”

“Dead?” Billy asks, to Steve’s sigh. “Sometimes, I wish I was. Because I look back at everything I did, everyone I hurt, and I…” He backs away for a brief second, running both hands through his hair before he spins around, crowding Steve even closer. A thigh presses between his own, and their chests touch, to where Steve can almost feel his heart beating. “Why?” Billy asks. “Why’d it have to be you?”

Steve blinks. “Why’d what have to be me?”

He doesn’t get an answer to that question—Billy kisses him instead, both hands to Steve’s cheeks, bodies pressed as close as possible. Startled, Steve clutches at Billy’s back, fingers slipping on ridged skin, searching for leverage. He gets it now, maybe, the sexual tension during matches, the snide comments in the halls, heated glares after school hours—that might as well have all been foreplay leading up to the inevitability Steve always ignored. Not that he didn't mind the attention—in fact, he thought about it more often in the past than he was willing to admit—but engaging with Billy could only end in disaster, one he didn't know if he could ever recover from.

Saving the world was one thing—Billy could very well end him for everyone else.

“You’re supposed to kiss me back,” Billy accuses, eyes narrowed.

Right—Right, this wasn’t a one-way street, after all. “Warn a guy first,” Steve retorts, afterward breaking into a laugh. This time when their lips meet, it’s a bit more chaste, with less teeth and more tongue. This time, Steve loses his fingers in Billy’s hair, tugging at the strands while Billy strokes down his back, sneaking his hands beneath Steve’s shirt.

For a while, they just stand there, exchanging kisses and gentle grinds of hips while the brisk air pours in through the windows. Billy keeps him warm with just his presence, and all at once, Steve understands why girls tripped over themselves for him at one point. He tastes like mint and coffee from the fast food place on the way out of town, and his tongue does wonders for Steve’s nerves, lulling him into a sense of security he hasn’t felt in a long, long while.

Billy breaks away, much to Steve’s lament, but kisses up his neck in the interim, laving wet marks up his jaw, below his ear, to his pulse point. “You wanna fuck me?” Billy asks, sincere enough to make Steve’s brain sputter to a halt.

Sex—is that why he’s here? And why does it sound like the best idea ever? “Really?” he asks, caught in a moan when Billy sucks a mark to his collar. “Is that why you dragged me here?”

“You wanted an explanation, and I gave it to you.” Billy lets go, taking Steve’s hands in his and tugging. “Now, are you coming with me or not?”

Steve swallows, nods. “Yeah, yeah, just… Give me a second to breathe, will you?”

-+-

If Steve thought Billy’s kisses were hot, then the rest of him is divine. Slow, teasingly, Billy rides him, never relinquishing contact with Steve’s skin, one hand always in his hair, tugging at the strands just hard enough to sting. And Steve holds on just as tightly, alternating between petting through Billy’s curls and pulling, earning harsh moans and stuttered thrusts.

“You’re so hot,” Steve mentions at one point, and Billy nearly comes across his chest, his orgasm held at bay by his own hand. “Seriously, man.”

“Not so bad yourself,” Billy muses and smothers another moan in a kiss. Steve gains enough leverage to shut him up, thrusting up hard enough to make Billy shout, swearing a string of curses afterward. “Gonna fucking kill me, Harrington,” he says into the sweating skin of Steve’s neck.

Slipping his hand down Billy’s back, Steve grabs his hip and dips his thumb into the jut of bone, nails digging into his ass. “Close,” he pants, gritting his teeth. In reply, Billy releases Steve’s hair and grips the bedding, grinding down harder, faster, until all Steve can hear is their mingled breathing and the wet slap of skin against skin—and he comes, eyes pinched shut and back arched, all while Billy sucks a dark mark along his throat, probably bright enough that Robin’s foundation wouldn’t even help.

“That’s it,” Billy says, nipping Steve’s earlobe. Shuddering, Steve holds on, moaning into Billy’s neck. “That’s it, that’s all you got? Couldn’t even get me off?”

“Shut up,” Steve slurs, and pats Billy’s face for good measure. “Get off me, I’ll suck you off.”

Billy huffs a laugh, but complies, rolling onto his side while Steve rips off the condom and tosses it—somewhere. At least Billy finds it amusing. “Seriously, you gotta tell me where shit is,” he says, catching the heated look in Billy’s eyes. Slowly, Steve crawls his way between his legs and drops a kiss to the base of Billy’s cock, never once breaking their gaze.

“You ever sucked a cock before?” Billy asks, sucking in a breath.

Admittedly, Steve hasn’t, but he’s been on the receiving end enough times—it can’t be that difficult, right? “I think I can manage,” he says before propping one of Billy’s legs open, sliding his fingers through the mess of lube still painting his skin. “You can pull my hair if you want.”

To that, Billy smirks, and does just that.

-+-

The sun goes down earlier in September than Steve would like, and with it comes the chill of winter creeping in, inch by inch, day by day. Lying on the hood of the abandoned truck, Steve watches the stars with Billy at his side, sharing a cigarette between them. Empty beer bottles sit on the bumper, and two more lean against the windshield, occasionally rolling between their heads.

Clouds of smoke escape into the air. “Were you just not gonna tell me?” Steve asks, taking a long drag and blowing it out, afterward passing the cigarette over to Billy. “’Cause, I gotta tell you, I always wondered if we had a—thing, or whatever. Or maybe I imagined it.”

Billy shrugs and blows a ring, flicking it with his finger. “You could call it a thing,” he says, tapping ash over the side of the hood. “Before the whole… whatever the fuck it was, what’d you call it?”

“The Mind Flayer,” Steve offers.

“Mind Flayer, whatever. Before all that, I thought about it. Wasn’t really my place, though. This isn’t… exactly that kinda town.”

Steve nods, folding his hands on his stomach. He’s kept Robin’s secret for this long—he can keep Billy’s too, and apparently his own. “I’m not gonna snitch or anything,” he says, turning his head to look at Billy. In the moonlight, his curls gleam, and his eyes glow silver, almost ethereal. Steve might like him, just a little. Maybe a lot. “About this, or about you coming back. Speaking of that,” and he sits up, the hood popping with the absence of his weight, “are you gonna tell Max?”

“That I’m not as dead as she thought?” Billy sighs, smoke billowing from his nose. “Give me a few minutes will you? Jesus.”

Scrubbing his face, Steve closes his eyes. Breathes. “I’m not saying now. Just… at some point. She deserves to know.”

Billy’s jaw tenses, but he doesn’t bother to answer for a long few minutes. “I’ve got shit to work through,” he concedes, thumping his head back against the windshield. “And Max and… all of them are on my list. Figured I’d start with you, though.” His looks to Steve appraisingly, dragging another cigarette from the box and placing it, unlit, between his lips. “Since I like you so much, and all.”

Unbidden, Steve blushes and looks to the stars once again. “Keep saying that, and I might start liking you back,” he laughs, and pats Billy’s thigh. Billy covers it with his own before Steve can pull away, and holds it like the lifeline he may have always needed. “Don’t get sappy on me now, Hargrove.”

Billy laughs—and it might as well be the most beautiful sound in the world.