Mumbling under her breath about shithead boyfriends, Max slammed her locker shut way harder than necessary after shouldering her bag. All day long she had been on edge, annoyed with the boys because of their latest schemes. However, most of her rage was focused at Lucas due to his stupid mouth saying stupid bullshit.
Now, their argument happened earlier in the day before lunch. It ended with Max storming off, but not before she told Lucas they were over.
The crest fallen expression on Lucas' face had almost been enough to ease the pain he'd caused her with his own words.
Grabbing her skateboard, Max headed out of the school quickly so she wouldn't run into the boys. She hoped Billy would already be at the car waiting for her so they could go home.
Of course, with her luck going the way it was, the second she stepped out the front doors of the school and started towards the parking lot, she saw the shitheads she'd been avoiding all day.
The boys were crowded around Steve's car arguing over who would sit where while Harrington stood off to the side with Billy, smoking.
Growling under breath, Max stomped over to the camaro without a single glance at her so-called friends, ignoring the odd looks Steve and Billy were giving her. Throwing open the passenger door, she shoved her bag in the back and climbed in, slamming the door shut. It was obvious enough that she wasn't in the mood to hang around and wanted to go home, now if only Billy would hurry the Hell up so they could do just that!
Outside the car, Max heard Steve questioning the boys, asking them what they did to her. Dustin, sweet, sarcastic Dustin, piped up and told them that Lucas pissed her off really good this time and she dumped his ass, again!
Damn right she did.
Max knew it was childish that the argument between her and Lucas had escalated so quickly, but if there was one thing she couldn't stand it was having someone call her stupid. The worst part was that Lucas knew that and had called her stupid anyway! So, fuck Lucas, she didn't deserve to be treated like an outsider anymore. The boys still left her out sometimes and as much as Max hated to admit it, it hurt her feelings to be left out of the loop. It shouldn't even be a big deal either. The whole reason behind their argument seemed childish and silly.
Come on, who gets into a fight with their boyfriend over a board game?
'You, obviously.' she thought to herself.
The whole thing had started when Max heard the boys making plans to have another D&D campaign over the weekend, since it was Friday, and they were all super excited. What bothered her was that this was normal for them. They would sit together over lunch or at recess and make all these plan to get together and play D&D, all while leaving Max on the sidelines to listen and be left out. They would always pull that shit right in front of her.
Max had asked Lucas multiple times if she could play with them but every time it was like talking to a wall. The guys claimed that D&D was their thing, that it was sacred or some bullshit.
Basically, she wasn't invited.
Today, Max had tried once again to ask if she could join them on their campaign. Mike had immediately piped up that they were full of characters and she didn't have a players design. Max had said she could be their Zoomer as a joke, knowing Mike would understand, but Lucas had stared at her confused and said, Zoomer isn't a character, don't be stupid.
The second the words left his mouth they all went quiet.
Will and Dustin tried to fix it by offering to have a teacher-student weekend for learning the game, they could all teach Max the ropes so she could become a full-time character and join them, but Max had heard enough.
If they didn't want her around to mess up their dumb game then fine, she wouldn't ask again. She's stared at Lucas silently for a minute before telling him off and leaving them all in stunned silence. Will had softly tried to call her back and apologize but Max had had enough. She went to hide in the library after that, sitting in the back isle to cry.
And that's how her day went...
Besides the concerned looks from Will and a few from Dustin all day, Max had kept her distance from the Party to cool off. It wasn't their fault that Lucas was an idiot, but she was still upset with them for leaving her out all the time.
She didn't want to talk to any of them.
She didn't want half-assed apologies.
She just wanted to go home.
A tap at the window made her look over to see her shithead ex-boyfriend trying to get her attention. Lucas was giving her the sad eyes, probably hoping she would forgive him just because he thought he was cute.
Glaring at him, Max was clearly in no mood to hear his apologies or whatever it was he wanted to say. She flipped him off and watched him step back, a scared look crossing his face when Billy walked in front of the camaro to the driver side, glaring at Lucas before getting in. The boys were all still giving Max sad looks, even Mike, but she wouldn't cave in for them.
They hurt her so they could hurt for awhile too.
Max ignored the look Billy threw her, keeping her gaze out the window. She didn't want to hear any lectures or small talk and she sure as Hell didn't want to talk about it like her mom always wanted her to.
A moment later, the camaro roared to life and they tore out of the school parking lot.
Max reached over and turned the radio on, rock n' roll spilling out the speakers, making it obvious she didn't want to chit-chat.
Billy seemed to get the message and didn't bother her, merely tapping along to the music as they flew down the highway, ignoring the speed limit as always.
Less than a block later, Max sniffed and laid down across the seat, her hair falling across her face to hide her wet eyes.
If she heard Billy lower the radio to a soft hum, she didn't mention it.
If Billy felt fresh tears soak through the denim of his thigh, he didn't say anything.
Just as she said she would, Max spent the weekend with her walkie shoved in her closet under a pile of clothes so she wouldn't have to listen to Lucas' voice begging her to answer. She spent Friday night locked in her room with her Pink Floyd album playing loudly, pretending she wasn't crying like a little girl after being hurt by her friends.
The only major upside of the weekend was the absence of Neil and her mom, something about a business trip and that they wouldn't be home until the following week.
Max knew if her mom had been home, she would have tried to force Max into telling her what was wrong, and honestly, that was the last thing Max wanted to do.
Sometimes, talking about it only made things worse.
Unlike Susan, Billy knew when to leave things alone. He didn't pester her about it and ordered them enough pizza to last the entire weekend, giving Max an entire box of her favorite to squirrel away in her room. She'd softly thanked him for the rare sign of affection, spending most of the night listening to her albums and gorging herself of double cheese pizza, complete with extra mushrooms.
When Sunday evening rolled around, Billy knocked on Max's door to tell her he was headed to a party across town, but he'd be back before morning.
Max just told him to have fun but didn't unlock the door.
Billy didn't know what happened between Max and her little boyfriend, but he did know one thing for certain; he was gonna kill Sinclair.
After watching Max ignore her friends at school and hearing Harrington's kid say something about Lucas getting dumped by Max, he'd figured his sister was just pissed off at the boys. It was during the drive home when Max laid down on his leg and he felt her tears soak into his jeans that he'd felt his fury rise.
Max did not cry.
More so, Max did not cry over petty break-up's. She'd kicked Sinclair's ass to the curb so many times already, Billy knew that Max usually just brushed it off until Lucas came crawling back.
So, when they came home to an empty house Friday and saw they would be alone for awhile, Billy had ordered them pizza and got Max a full box to herself. He knew she would more than likely hide away in her room all weekend after fighting with her friends.
He'd been right...
Over the weekend, Billy had only seen or heard Max leave her room a handful of times. The whole reason he got her an extra large pizza for herself was because he was familiar with her. If Max was upset she would hide away until she felt better, choosing isolation over anything else. Susan couldn't ever understand why her daughter acted so cut-off during those times, always trying to get Max to open up to her even when the kid clearly didn't want to. It was why Billy always left her alone, he knew she hated being coddled or pitied.
He just wished he knew what the little shits said to hurt Max.
It was Sunday evening when Billy happened to remember the party Tina was throwing at her house, same chick that hosted the Halloween parties and shit. He figured he could swing in and have a few drinks, play some pong, do some shots, score a lay, smoke some weed, maybe track down Harrington and grill his ass on what those little shitheads did to piss off Maxine.
Yeah, that sounded like a good plan.
So, Billy told Max he was headed out and did the usual routine; don't leave the house, don't burn it down, don't die, ext.
Max just told him to have fun.
Billy's gut had twisted uncomfortably.
Max never told him to have fun or have a good time at a party, which meant she just wanted him to leave the house and leave her alone. A part of him was tempted to stay just out of spite but he figured he would give her a pass. More than likely, she just wanted him gone so she could cry in peace, being that their walls were really thin.
Giving one last glance to the closed bedroom door, Billy just shook his head and grabbed his jacket.
He would definitely be tracking Harrington down.
The party was already in full swing.
Someone had set up a keg outside. Tommy and his meathead goons were cheering on some underclassmen, chanting out chug chug chug as the kid spurt beer everywhere.
Ain't no one gonna beat Billy's score as Keg King.
Girls were gathered around the front steps giggling drunkenly with each other, gossiping loudly about this and that, typical high school drama. Cars were lined up and down the street, some even parked haphazardly on the lawn. Music could be heard blaring from inside, loud enough to shake the windows.
A few girls waved to Billy as he passed them, flirting brazenly while sipping from their cups. Most of them were swaying to the music, or grinding on each other, calling over to Billy to come dance with them.
Billy just threw them a lavish wink to keep them on their toes. He really wasn't in the mood to dally with sloshed cheerleaders, much less the gaggle of senior cows who only got more unappealing when tipsy.
More like completely blitzed.
Call him an asshole but the fine folks of Hawkins couldn't hold their liquor for shit. If there was one thing that turned him off faster than a clingy chick, it was a drunk chick.
Maybe gettin' laid wasn't on the menu that night after all.
Billy weaved his way through the crowd of dancing bodies, smirking at a couple girls that shook their asses for him as he passed, making his way to the kitchen. If he had to endure this blowout then he needed something stronger than beer.
Tequila come to Daddy.
Slipping into the kitchen, having to side-step a couple making out in the doorway, Billy didn't find Steve like he'd hoped but he did see the other idiots.
Nancy and Jonathan were leaning up against the counter whispering to each other. Even from across the room, Billy could see that Wheeler was smashed and her boyfriend didn't look any better, in fact Billy would have guessed that Jonathan was toasted by the redness of his eyes.
Whistling to gain their attention, Billy sauntered over with a fake smile plastered on.
"Byers. Wheeler. Fancy meeting you here."
"Hargrove," Jonathan mumbled, blinking sluggishly a few times.
Nancy just covered her mouth and started giggling at them.
'Yep, she's wasted.' Billy thought, wondering just how much Nancy had had to drink. Jonathan seemed to be the only thing holding Nancy up, keeping the giggling girl close to his side so she didn't slide to the floor.
Looking at the counter behind them, Billy poked through the bottles and snagged a half bottle of tequila. Taking a drag from the bottle, he sighed from the burn in his throat. Next to him, he heard Nancy start giggling loudly again.
"He forgot the lime!" she laughed, leaning against Jonathan and snorting behind her hand.
Jesus, he didn't have time to deal with these two.
"Look, either a' you two seen Harrington?" he grumbled, snapping his fingers to get their attention.
Nancy looked at him blankly for a second before laughing again, unable to even form words anymore. If Billy were to guess he'd say she done a little more than just drink.
"Steve drove us here. I think he might be outside," Jonathan said and pointed to the back door, blinking heavily again.
Yep, he's high.
Billy grabbed two empty cups from the counter and a couple large bottles of water, shoving them at Jonathan.
"Make sure she drinks that," he ordered, glancing at Nancy who was now staring up at the ceiling and murmuring about how pretty the lights were.
Scratch that, she's fuckin' high as kite...
Casting a brief wave to the two partiers, Billy had his bottle of booze in hand as he headed for the back door. People were crowded around the doorway and the stairs but it was mostly couples necking each other. Taking a quick glance around, Billy figured Steve was most likely hanging around by the cars.
Worth a shot.
A few more people greeted him as he walked the back yard, throwing waves or high-fives his way, some egging him on to join them for whatever drinking games they were playing. If he were in the mood he'd wipe the floor with the competition, but he had more important things to focus on.
Eventually, he found Steve leaned up against his car with a solo cup in his hand. The guy appeared to be sober, surprisingly, and waved to Billy as he walked over.
Billy joined Harrington on the hood of the car, taking a swig of his tequila before offering the bottle to Steve. To his surprise, Steve accepted the booze and took a large swallow, grimacing at the taste. While Steve grumbled at the burn of the alcohol, Billy took out his cigs and lighter, taking a deep drag of poison smoke as Steve handed him the bottle back.
"Shocked you ain't over at the kegger gainin' your title back," Billy teased, offering his cigarette. "Or has King Steve given up his reign?"
Steve rolled his eyes and took a drag of smoke before passing it back, coughing suddenly at the strength.
Billy smirked and took another deep drag, "Don't be a bitch, Pretty boy."
"Fuck you, I haven't smoked in awhile." Steve continued to cough quietly, silently cursing Billy for not smoking menthols. They sat in silence for a few minutes, listening to the raunchy circus of high schools back at the house party. A few cars away there was some serious rockin' goin' on, followed by some loud moans. People were starting to get dirty the more they drank. It wasn't even midnight and there were already bodies passed out on the lawn.
Billy and Steve continued to pass the tequila back and forth, killing another third of the bottle. After about ten minutes of companionable silence, Steve finally spoke up.
"I'm guessin' you wanna know what the brats did to Max?"
"How'd you guess?" Billy replied sarcastically, smirking as Steve stole the remainder of his cigarette.
"I wish I could give you some answers but they didn't tell me shit either. Dustin was pretty adamant that whatever happened was solely on Lucas, though." Steve took a smaller drag, letting the smoke fill his lungs before puffing out a smoke ring like a show-off.
"Could have guessed that, Harrington."
"Sorry," Steve shrugged helplessly, wishing he could give Billy the answers he wanted.
The kids had all been pretty solemn over the weekend when Steve saw them, claiming they were supposed to be playing their weird nerd game but had cancelled. It didn't take a genius to figure out why.
"Did Max say anything to you?" he asked, reaching for the tequila.
"She's barely said two words to me since we got home Friday," Billy rumbled. "Been holed up in her room all weekend."
Steve seemed shocked at that, mumbling, "That doesn't sound like Max at all."
Billy tried to not take offence at Steve's assumptions, but a part of him wanted to tell the other teen off for thinking he knew shit about Max. No one knew Max, not like Billy did. He hated it when other people made presumptions about his baby sister simply because they all thought they knew what kind of person she was, he didn't tolerate it very well.
They didn't know jack shit.
He reeled in any anger he suddenly felt and tried to just let it go. He knew Steve didn't mean anything by it, just stating a fact he thought was true. For anyone who only got the MadMax persona, they would probably be surprised at how sensitive she actually was.
Not many people ever got to see that side of Max though.
"I'm sorry," Steve suddenly said softly, his gaze apologetic. "You just got this murderous look in your eyes for a second when I said that, I didn't mean to intrude or anything. You obviously know Max better than any of us...sorry if that sounded invasive, or whatever."
For the first time in long time, Billy was speechless. Very few people could read him, much less apologize for offending him when they realize they did.
Pretty boy, you never cease to amaze.
Shrugging, Billy grabbed the bottle back and took another swallow. He wasn't much for talking feelings or any of that heart-to-heart shit.
At least the brief surge of annoyance had calmed down after Harrington apologized.
They continued to share the bottle of booze, smoking away half of Billy's carton of smokes and humming along to some of the music blaring from the house. Harrington wasn't a bad guy to hang with. For one, they seemed to understand each other and after coming to a silent mutual agreement, they made a pretty good team both on and off the court. Tommy had taken some offense when Billy suddenly started liking the old king of Hawkins High, claiming that Steve had turned bitch after Wheeler finished with him.
Between the two, Billy would take Steve over Tommy any day.
He didn't mind holding the title of King now, but dealing with the lackeys constantly at his heels begging for scraps of attention was annoying. He could deal with girls hanging off him and spreading rumors about him, both good and bad, he did have a reputation to uphold after all, but what he couldn't hardly take was the guys on the team thinking they were hot shit just because they hung around the King.
It got old.
He understood why Harrington didn't give a shit about the title anymore.
Steve had been chatting about something the nerd squad had done, something about a new radio at the school that Dustin had gone on about non-stop. That damn AV Club that Max talked about sometimes. Billy hadn't really understood it but figured if it made Max happy then what did he care.
Course, that may not be in the cards now.
"What're you thinkin' about?" Steve asked, catching the far off look on Billy's face.
If only you knew...
Billy pretended his hands weren't shaking as he took another long swallow of tequila, biting back the menacing words he had in store for Lucas and his friends.
"She cried..." he whispered, clenching his teeth just thinking about it. "I hate it when she cries..."
Steve looked at him crestfallen. "You think Max will forgive them this time?" he asked quietly, leaning back on the hood with a downhearted sigh. He was clearly disappointed in the boys.
Billy thought about the question of whether or not Max would forgive her nerds or not, having wondered the same thing.
Honestly...he wasn't sure.
Those shitheads had really hurt Max with whatever it was they had said, more like whatever it was Lucas had said. It had been bad enough to make Max cry, something Billy wanted to rip them apart for.
And he would.
All he needed was for Max to give the word and they were dead. He may be an asshole and give Max shit all the time, but she was his baby sister and it was his job to look out for her. That included threatening any boyfriends she had.
The only reason Sinclair was still alive was because Max seemed to really like the kid.
Steve's voice broke him from his thoughts, suddenly realizing his hands were shaking. Fumbling for his lighter again, he took his last cigarette and lit it up.
"I don't know. But if they don't do something to fix it then they're gonna be dealing with me, Harrington," he growled, the threat clear in his voice. He wouldn't let the brats just leave Max in the dust when they were the one's in the wrong.
"Don't threaten my kids, man," Steve chided, not appreciating the blatant warning.
"They hurt mine."
Steve stopped short at that and yielded, holding up his hands in surrender, "Touché..."
They sat in silence after that, just watching the other kids around them enjoy the party. They had killed the bottle, both of them a little more than tipsy by the time 11:30 rolled around, each off in their own heads.
"You wanna get outta' here?" Billy asked abruptly, sliding off the hood of the car.
Steve glanced at him for a moment before shrugging and following suit, stumbling when his feet touched the ground.
"Do you have to be home tonight?" he asked, fumbling with the keys in his pocket. In a matter of seconds they were both in the car with radio turned up.
"Promised Max I'd be back home before morning, but mornin' is a long ways off, pretty boy."
"Know somethin', I like the way you think, Hargrove."
"Course you do. Between the two of us, I'm the only one with any sense."
"Ask me nicely."
The weekend came and went. When Monday rolled around, the boys all hoped to apologize to their zoomer and get things back to normal.
They were all at a loss when their attempts at talking to Max went right down the drain before, during and after school.
Lucas was a mess.
After he'd gone and opened his big mouth and said something really stupid, it left him with no girlfriend and the strong desire to take back his words. Max had had every right to be angry with him. He knew how she felt about being called names, but he also knew she hated the word stupid more than anything because of childhood trauma she went through. He had always tried to respect that, and he honestly had just had a slip of the tongue the day Max dumped him.
It wasn't until afterwards that Mike explained the inside joke to him about what a zoomer was. He'd felt like a complete and total idiot. After all the talk of doing a new campaign, this one with Will leading as Dungeon Master, he'd gotten so wrapped up in it that he'd thought Max was mocking the game rather than just joking around.
He should have known she wouldn't do something so mean, she knew how much he and the guys loved D&D.
To make matters even worse, after thinking about it, Lucas felt like an asshole because he couldn't count how many times Max had asked him if she could join them for a campaign. It said a lot about her that she was willing to try and learn something so intricate just to fit in with them, to please them, only to be turned down each time.
Yeah, they all felt bad about that after he brought it up.
Mike seemed to feel the worst besides Lucas, knowing he hadn't done enough to make Max feel like she was one of them. A lot of his aggression towards Max had been because of his heartache with El, feeling like the party was trying to replace her with another girl. He felt like a moron when Dustin had just calmly asked him why they couldn't have two girls.
The boys had been so off-put after hurting Max's feelings that they had cancelled the campaign in favor of helping Lucas find a way back into Max's good graces.
They missed their MadMax.
"Guys, we need a plan!" Dustin cried as he paced back and forth.
They had all gathered in Mike's basement to try and figure out a way to get back on Max's good side. It was now Monday evening and all day long at school, Max had given all four of them the cold shoulder. She hadn't even looked at any of them once. When they all tried to catch her in the parking lot, Max had hidden behind Billy and none of them were brave enough to get close. Billy had glanced down at Max before giving them all a deadly look, one that had them scurrying off to Steve's car with their tails between their legs.
The whole ride home, Steve had lectured them on how they couldn't accept Max into their Party and not include her in all their activities, it wasn't fair nor was it acceptable behavior.
None of them had realized just how much they'd hurt Max's feelings until Steve put it into perspective for them.
Needless to say, they all felt like jerks after that. They knew they all needed to apologize to Max when she spoke to them again, but they all knew that her anger was mostly focused on Lucas, and he admitted that he was to blame for this mess.
So, they decided to try and come up with a plan. Every other idea they'd had before to get Max and Lucas back together had either been thrown out or hadn't worked.
Lucas had explained all his normal plans he had in place for Max dumping him. Most involved buying her something, or taking her to the arcade, but they all knew that would only come off as bribery.
"How many times has Max dumped you exactly?" Will asked hesitantly, wondering how Lucas had so many back-up plans at the ready.
"Too many to count, but I've never given up on her. I've matched back into battle every single time and won her back," Lucas said with a victorious grin.
"You marching back into battle clearly isn't gonna work this time!" Mike yelled, fed up with all the lame ideas they'd come up with so far.
"Mike's right, we're gonna need some serious help on this one," Dustin claimed. He had already suggested asking Nancy for advice, or maybe Steve, but that idea was shot down. For one, Nancy and Max were very different types of people and Steve wouldn't help them out anyway.
Apparently they needed to learn from their mistakes.
Problem was that they had learned! Now they needed a goddamn solution!
"What if we offer to teach her to play Dungeons and Dragons with us?" Will asked, gesturing to the game sitting on the table. He had wanted Max to join in before but didn't know if she'd even be interested.
"We're already going to do that but we need a plan to get Lucas and Max together again," Mike groaned and flopped on the couch.
Girls were hard.
"Come on guys, think. Who would know the answers to the mystery that is MadMax?" Dustin exclaimed, flopping down beside Mike.
They all stopped and shared a look.
Lucas groaned heavily and knew exactly what they were all thinking.
"You're not seriously going to ask that psycho for help, are you?" Mike asked suddenly, like the idea was unthinkable or completely out of the question.
"What other choice to I have?" Lucas asked wearied, tired of coming up empty.
They had no other options.
"There are lots of other choices! Ones that don't involve suicide!" Mike cried, appalled that Lucas would seriously think about going to Billy for help. They all knew exactly how Billy felt about Lucas and it wasn't pleasant.
Dustin nodded solemnly, "He's right, dude. Billy will kill you if you show up asking for his help."
"If he kills me then at least I can say that I tried every last option."
"Actually, you wouldn't be saying anything...because you'll be dead."
Lucas rolled his eyes and started gathering his stuff. He needed to get going if he wanted to make it to Max's house before dark and hopefully talk to Billy.
That is, if Billy even listens to a word he has to say.
They all followed Lucas upstairs and out the front door, watching him grab his bike.
Dustin handed him his backpack with a sigh, "This is a terrible idea."
"You said that already."
"It seemed worth repeating."
"Just shut up and wish me luck, asshole."
"I can't do both."
Lucas rolled his eyes and snatched his bag. He hopped on his bike and headed out into the street. It was getting late and he wanted to get to Max's before sundown.
Throwing one last salute to the guys, he headed off to his impending doom.
"He's gonna die," Mike crossed his arms as they watched Lucas peddle off.
Dustin nodded, "Well...we had a good run."
"What kind of flowers should we get for the funeral?"
"I'm thinking geraniums."
"He'll be missed."
"I miss him already."
"You two are the worst," Will groaned at them, heading back inside.
Dustin moaned dramatically, "So young...so beautiful."
Billy was right in the middle of his evening work-out. He'd already finished his usual bench press routine and had moved on to curls, his biceps straining with each heave up to his chest.
Normally, he went with a solid 50 pounds for his arm bar, but after today and his growing frustration with Max's shithead friends, he'd gone with even more weight just to work off some of his irritation.
In the school parking lot, while waiting for Max, Billy had been bullshitting with Harrington over a few smokes while he waited for the brats. A flash of red hair and raised voices had been the only warning he got before Max came rushing at him, sliding behind him to wedge herself between his back and the camaro and gripping the back of denim jacket. Not a moment later, all four boys came up to the car as well, but one deadly glare from Billy and they all backed off.
Steve had looked at them in disappointment, telling them firmly to get in his car so he could drive them home. None of the brats argued with him, filing into the BMW like obedient ducklings.
Billy had turned his glare on Steve and gave him a look that screamed, do something about this!
"I'll talk to them," Steve assured him, following the boys into the car and headed off. It wasn't until after the red beamer left the parking lot that Max shuffled out from her hiding place.
Billy didn't want to admit it, but he was bothered by Max's reluctance to even speak to her friends. He didn't want her to lose the friendship she had with them, even if they were a bunch of weirdos, because they may drive him crazy sometimes, but they made Maxine so happy. She'd never had a group of companions like her nerd squad before.
He didn't want her to give that up.
The last thing he wanted was for Max to go back to being the lonely girl, always keeping her so-called friends at a distance because they were too scared to get close to the weird girl with the scary big brother. There had been too many people like that back in California. Max had been alienated way too many times, for her looks, her love of comic books, skateboarding, because she wasn't girly enough.
All that negativism had left a mark.
So, Billy hoped that the brats would pull their heads out of their asses and fix whatever it was they did. Or, at least, they'd better come up with a damn good apology.
The sound of the doorbell ringing broke Billy from his concentration.
Growling at the interruption, he tossed his weight bar back onto the rack and headed towards the front door, wondering who would be showing up so late. He was only dressed in his long sweats, having forgone his shirt when he got home earlier.
For a second, he thought it would be Mrs. Garner from next door, the elderly woman that made baked goods and way too many casseroles for them when she saw Neil and Susan were gone. Not that Billy or Max complained much considering they got to gorge themselves on home cooked goodies.
Best oatmeal cookies ever!
Great, now he wanted something sweet.
Flipping the lock, Billy pulled the door open and was shocked to see who was standing nervously on the other side.
You've got to be kidding me...
Lucas Sinclair stood on the front steps with his bike leaned up against the porch behind him, beads of sweat dripping across his brow. The kid was huffing slightly and kept his eyes down.
Billy couldn't believe the guts of this kid.
"Tell me you're not that stupid," he growled, watching Lucas cower under his stormy gaze.
"You'd be surprised," Lucas mumbled as a joke, trying to break some of the tension.
Billy rolled his eyes and grabbed the half pack of smokes sitting on the fireplace by the door, already feeling his blood pressure rising.
"You'd better have a damn good reason for coming here, Sinclair."
He lit up a cigarette quickly and tried to control his ire towards the kid, knowing there wasn't much he could do anyway with Max in the house. Lucas was on thin ice already but if he said or did anything to test Billy's wrath then the kid was gone.
Lucas licked his lips anxiously, clearly uncomfortable. "I was wondering if I could talk to you...about Max?" he asked timidly, preparing himself for Billy's automatic no. "But let me explain what happened, before you say no, please?"
Billy crossed his arms and leaned against the door frame, knowing he made an imposing picture with his thick arms and strong chest, billowing smoke from his nostrils like an angry bull. There was no question how intimidating he could be, but that was the whole point.
He wanted to frighten the kid.
A part of him wanted to tell Lucas to get lost and to never go near his sister again...but a larger part of him knew that that wasn't what Max needed.
For whatever reason, Maxine cared about Lucas deeply.
"You've got 5 minutes. If you can't persuade me, you're gone...understand?"
Lucas sighed with relief and took the reprieve, immediately jumping into his explanation. He hardly took a breath as he explained how he messed up badly when Max had asked to join in on their Dungeons and Dragons campaign, how he'd accidentally misread the situation and hurt Max's feelings. The whole thing had been a build up over the last few months, something none of the boys had seemed to realize every time they rejected Max, and the argument on Friday had been the breaking point. They'd all messed up, none more so than Lucas, but he was more than willing to try and fix his mistake. He just didn't know how.
After Lucas finished explaining everything, he stood there silently waiting for Billy to make up his mind. He prayed the older teen wouldn't kill him.
Billy stared at Lucas silently, continuing to smoke as he thought about the kids story. Now understood why Max had been so heartbroken.
She'd tried to be a part of something the brats obviously loved and they'd ostracised her. Unknowingly shunning her at each attempt she'd made. He was honestly shocked Max had tolerated it for as long as she had.
She really did care about the little idiots.
Taking a deep inhale, he quelled his annoyance and figured he would give Sinclair a chance, the kid obviously cared about Max a lot given how many times he'd come crawling back.
The boy was either extremely stupid or hopelessly in love.
Still, he had to be absolutely sure.
"Let me get this straight..." he began. "You and the other nerds want Max in your party, which clearly means something important to you, yet you think it's okay to shut her out of this game you kids spend so much time on, just cast her off?"
"No! That's not---!"
"Didn't you say that every member of the party is an equal? Isn't that what you said. How does blackballing Max sound equal to you? Or are you just stringing her along by pretending she's one of you so you can keep her around, 'cause that's what it sounds like."
"Max is one of us, I swear!"
"You treat each other like that? Do you exile each other, or was it just her?"
"We didn't mean to hurt her, Billy. We were idiots, I get that now, I promise you that I get that. I know that we messed up and made Max feel like she wasn't part of the group, but I promise you, I promise you that she means a lot to us!"
Billy continued to glare at him, cigarette hanging loosely from his lips as he shook his head.
"Why should I believe you..."
Lucas faltered at that, closing his mouth and looking utterly forlorn. He didn't know how to answer that. He didn't know what else he could say to make Billy understand, much less help him try and earn Max's forgiveness.
He didn't know what else to do.
"I can't make you believe me..." he whispered, closing his eyes while fighting back the tears trying to fall. One managed to escape, trailing down his cheek before he could catch it. He quickly wiped his eyes to hide them.
Billy saw it anyway.
Seeing the kid lose himself over the possibility of loosing Max was enough to convince Billy of Lucas' sincerity. The boy genuinely cared about Maxine.
That was enough for Billy.
"I want you to understand something," he stated lowly, flicking ash to the ground, waiting for Lucas to look up at him.
He'd make it simple.
"You, and your little pals, might think I'm the biggest asshole on the face of the Earth, and you'd be right...I am. I am the way that I am because of people I couldn't be saved from...and it made me cruel...I will never let Max go through the same shit I did, because it's my job to keep her safe. Anything that happens to her falls back on me. You know nothing about me, Sinclair, but know this...Max is the only thing I care about in this world."
He leaned forward and blew smoke right at Lucas.
"You think I'm a monster, but let me make one thing perfectly clear," he rumbled. "You ever make my baby sister cry again...and you'll learn just how monstrous I can be."
Lucas nodded quickly, letting the threat sink in. He knew Billy was serious, hearing the unwavering truth in his threats. If he didn't believe Billy was overprotective of Max before, he definitely did now.
He never wanted to get on Billy Hargrove's bad side.
Billy took another drag of smoke before speaking again, "If you say you'll make things right, and mean it, then I'll help you. But this is your one, and only, chance to fix this shit," he warned.
"I will, I swear I will!" Lucas cried, on the verge of pleading again if it meant Billy would help him. "Just tell me what to do."
"That's simple," Billy smirked. "Ask her to teach you how to skateboard."
Lucas looked confused, not following. He didn't even know how to skate on roller blades, much less have enough balance to use a skateboard.
"Don't overthink it, kid. It doesn't matter if you don't want to learn. Max will jump at the chance to teach you something she loves doing and skating means the world to her," Billy explained with a mischievous grin.
"Plus, she'll get a kick outta watching you eat shit. You'll be bruised to Hell by the time it's over, but it'll be worth it."
After a minute or so of thinking it over, Lucas had to admit that it did sound like a good plan. He knew Max had a little bit of a spiteful streak in her. Watching him fall on his ass over and over may be the perfect way to earn her forgiveness, no matter how messed up it sounded.
Now, he just had to get her to talk to him.
"Don't move," Billy suddenly demanded, closing the door just enough to block Lucas from view. Turning back into the house he called out for Max.
"Max! Come 'ere for a second!"
Rolling his eyes at her attitude, he yelled back with more command in his voice. "Just get in here, shitbird!"
A few seconds later, Max stomped into the living room with an annoyed look on her face, wondering what the Hell he wanted.
Billy nodded towards the door so she'd come closer, pushing it open to reveal Lucas standing sheepishly outside. When she sees Lucas standing on the front steps she turns to Billy with a look of betrayal. Before she could say anything though, he gave her a indicative look.
"3 minutes. If you still wanna kill 'em after that then I'll hold him down and you can kick him."
That seemed to be enough to make Max ease up a little, turning to look back at Lucas with a resigned sigh, willing to listen to him. She crossed her arms and allowed Lucas his 3 minutes to explain himself.
Hopefully the kid wouldn't waste a second of it.
Billy went to leave them alone, giving Lucas one last hard look before shutting the door on them. Lucas couldn't help but feel gratitude towards the older boy. Billy didn't have to help him, he could have just tossed Lucas to the curb or threatened him to leave, instead he'd listened and offered what advice he could.
Maybe Billy wasn't so bad after all.
"I'm sorry, I can't even begin to tell you how sorry I am...how sorry we all are. We never meant to make you feel left out, Max."
Lucas stepped forward and gently reached out to grasp Max's hands. He wanted to be as open and honest as possible.
"I didn't think you were ever serious about wanting to join in on the game, and that's totally on me, I was an idiot and I know that now. I never should have assumed you weren't sincere about that."
"Why would you think that in the first place?" Max asked confused, still hurt over how he treated her.
Lucas bit his lip before continuing, trying to find the right words. "Max, we've never met a girl like you. You're amazing! You skateboard, you rock video games and hold the highest score on over half the arcade!"
"We just--we never thought girls could be as awesome as you, MadMax. It's always just been the four of us, me, Mike, Dustin and Will playing D&D. It's important to us and we can be a little protective over it. I just...I just wasn't thinking about your feelings every time you asked to join us, and that was so wrong of me, I just thought about how much things would change if we let someone else in...and for that I'm sorry...I'm so, so sorry, Max..."
Max stared at him quietly, taking in everything he'd said and thinking it over. She was still upset with them, but she was willing to give them another chance.
She missed her friends.
"If there's any chance at all that you'd come play with us, we'd all be really stoked to teach you. We could have a campaign on the weekend, a-and you could watch and learn the ropes, create a character, whatever you want!" Lucas exclaimed. "But umm...I was wondering if maybe, you could, teach me something too?"
"Teach you what?"
He rubbed the back of his neck, already fretting over the black and blue bruises he would be sporting later on.
"Could you teach me how to skateboard?"
Max looked taken aback at that, obviously not prepared for him to ask her that of all things. She smirked, knowing her brother probably had something to do with that suggestion.
"You want me to teach you how to skate?"
Lucas nodded, trying to look excited about it but really he just looked terrified.
Max smiled, a real smile, and leaned over to kiss him on the cheek softly. It was her way of showing forgiveness. After dealing with her cold shoulder for days as well as Billy, she figured Lucas deserved a bit of a break.
"Be right back," she said and walked back inside, leaving her boyfriend a gooey mess. She walked back towards her room to grab her board, feeling giddy. If Lucas wanted to make her happy by falling off her skateboard over and over then that was fine with her, she'd enjoy the show.
After snagging her board from her room, she stopped beside Billy who was back on the bench press. She smiled at him and gave him a hip check.
"I'll be outside with Lucas. Apparently he wants to learn to skateboard. Funny how he'd never seemed interested before now, huh?" she teased softly, watching Billy smirk.
"Guess he had a change of heart," he said with a shrug, sitting up. "Go show him how it's done, tiger."
Max handed him a towel from the table as she walked over to the door. She paused as she grabbed the handle, "Billy..."
Billy looked over to her and watched her smile softly, a fond look in her eyes.
"You mean the world to me too," she stated quietly, slipping outside and closing the door behind her before he could say anything.
Sitting there slightly astounded, Billy couldn't help but smile.
Of course, little shit had heard the whole fucking talk with Sinclair.
Looking out the window to the street where Max and Lucas were talking with each other happily, Max drifting around on her skateboard showing her boy the ropes, Billy knew that the two would be okay.
So long as Lucas kept his promise to treat Max right and love her, then everything would be fine. Lucas wasn't a bad kid, and the amount of affection he already felt for Maxine at such a young age was admirable.
Leaning against the window pane, Billy watched the two young lovers with a softness in his eyes he'd never allow anyone else to witness, sighing quietly.
I hope you love that girl as much as I do, kid.