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there's a place I'd like to be (the place I'd be happy)

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It’s an accident, of course. Billy only finds things out by accident anymore. Max and Steve are always worried about him, and all things considered, it’s totally justified.

 

But just because it’s justified doesn’t mean he has to like that they’re so worried that they constantly tiptoe around him. He isn’t fucking breakable, damn it. 

 

Or he doesn’t think he is, anyway. 

 

Besides, it’s Steve’s fault he finds out at all. When Billy stays the night, he doesn’t like to wake up until at least noon because the only time he’s able to properly sleep anymore is with Steve. The problem is, of course, that Steve himself is a pretty fitful sleeper. He sleeps better when Billy’s around, but it’s rarely without dreams, and even more rarely without nightmares. Steve has medication to help him sleep, of course, but he doesn’t like to take them. 

 

“If something happens, I have to be ready,” he’d explained to Billy once, “How can I be ready if I can’t even wake up?”

 

Billy wasn’t sure how Steve planned to be coherent without ever sleeping again, but he hadn’t had it in him to argue at the time. He probably should have, though, because Steve’s looking a little worse for wear these days and it’s starting to even make Henderson worry, and if Billy knows one thing about that kid, it’s that he’s fucking oblivious on a good day.

 

Anyway. The point is, it’s Steve’s fault. If he’d just been in bed with Billy, where he belonged, none of this would’ve happened. 

 

It’s definitely not noon when Billy wakes up. He’s gotten pretty good at guessing the time by the amount of sunlight streaming in through Harrington’s stupidly expensive windows, and the faint golden light coming through the silk curtains is barely enough for him to stumble his way to the door. Billy hates waking up without Steve; it’s too cold, too dark, and way too fucking lonely for him to feel as if the shadows aren’t needling their way back under his skin. He can’t stay in the dark for more than a few minutes alone before his throat starts constricting and his chest feels as if it’s about to cave in on itself; he pulls the giant comforter tighter around him and makes a mad dash for the door, the bedspread billowing behind him as he ducks around the corner. His chest is heaving and his hands are shaking, but his grip on his blanket shield has yet to loosen. The face of the obnoxious antique Grandfather clock tells him it’s barely seven in the morning. It’s too fucking early for him to be awake right now, Harrington, Christ.

 

Find Steve find Steve find Steve find Steve find—

 

Even in his sleep-addled brain, he manages to follow the trail of lamps he knows Steve always leaves his wake—he’s afraid of the dark, not that he’ll ever admit it—and makes it halfway down the stairs before he stops. He can hear Steve speaking to someone, but he’s wracking his brain wondering who in the actual hell  is up this early besides Steve and Billy himself — none of Steve’s brats get up much earlier than Billy does if they can help it, so that really only leaves one person. Billy sinks down onto the steps and lets out a silent yawn before cocooning himself in the blanket once again. He doesn’t want to interrupt, even if Steve did disturb his sleep. 

 

“Yes, Rob, I will be at work today. Yes, I will bring you the weird cheese my parents keep sending me from France. No, I will not ask Billy to make us spaghetti bolognese for dinner when you can literally ask him yourself, you know where we live.”

 

Billy rolls his eyes, but he can’t help but smile. Trust Steve to make Robin ask him for something when Billy knows it’s his favorite too. Guess he’s making dinner tonight for his two friends who aren’t children. Except Max will probably hear about it somehow, and she’ll tell El and… Fuck, he’s going to be making dinner for all of their fucking kids, isn’t he? Christ.

 

He wants to be annoyed, and maybe he is a bit, but at the same time there’s a distinct warmth in his chest that he knows is because of those gremlins, particularly Max, El, and Will. They’re all still so gentle with him, even though he doesn’t think he deserves their kindness, they give it to him freely anyway. Besides, what’s a couple of dinners for the people that saved you from an inter-dimensional hellbeast, anyway? 

 

“No, Robin, I am not going to the shitty employee Christmas party. None of those assholes like me, anyway. They all think I’m stupid.” From Billy’s vantage point on the stairs above him, he can see Steve fiddling with a loose thread on his sweatpants, twisting it around and around his index finger until it turns purple. Billy’s hand itches to cover Steve’s, to anchor him like he’s been doing for him for months. 

 

“Doesn’t matter if there’s alcohol or not,” Steve mumbles, “can’t drink it anyway, you know that.” His ears perk up at that; Billy hadn’t heard anything about Steve not being able to drink. Usually Steve tells him everything health related, because Billy is the only one who can actually remember shit, and Steve can honestly barely take care of himself; truthfully, it’s amazing he’s survived this long without intervention. 

 

“What do you mean why?” Steve continues, pulling his legs up and wrapping his arms around them as Billy unconsciously leans forward and peers owlishly through the gaps in the railing, “because of the baby, Rob. Obviously.

 

Billy isn’t sure if his heart stops or if it just falls out of his ass, but either way, it’s not working anymore and he thinks he might be on the verge of a stroke. 

 

Because of the baby. 

 

Steve had definitely said baby and Billy is really fucking confused because he’s been inside of Steve and has had his dick in his mouth; he’s pretty fucking sure that babies need to grow inside wombs and they come out of vaginas, and last time he checked, Steve didn’t have either  of those. Not that it would really matter to Billy if he did, but he doesn’t, so the words coming out of Steve’s mouth aren’t making any sense because nobody mentioned anything about this in Sex Ed, even back in California, and they’re supposed to be progressive. The only thing progressive here is how he’s getting progressively greener at the thought of what the fuck this could possibly mean for him and Steve.

 

It’s not the weirdest thing to happen in this bumfuck town, that’s for sure. A dude having a baby certainly ranks significantly lower on the ever growing list of concerns Billy’s had since last summer; right after being possessed and a literal portal to hell, but directly before small girls with telekinetic powers. 

 

I thought fuckin’ Venice was eclectic, and here I am trying to justify why it’s more likely Steve is pregnant than not. I need to go back to bed. I’m fuckin’ losing it. 

 

He crawls back up the stairs on all fours, somehow still evading Steve’s notice, and presses his back to the wall. His therapist had told him whenever he gets like this, feeling as if his heart is about to explode out of his chest and fly around the room, he needs to find something to ground himself with. 

 

Touch: his back is against the cold wall, hands pressed against the prickly carpeting on the second floor. 

 

Smell: the overwhelming scent of apples that still lingers in the hallway long after Steve has snuffed out the flame. 

 

Sight: there’s a photo of Steve as a kid, stuffed into an uncomfortable suit. His smile is missing teeth and even so young, it looks forced. The adults behind him are sullen, proper. 

 

Sound: Steve is moving about the kitchen now, the pans are clanging together even despite his attempts to be quiet, and the bubbling sounds of the coffee-pot are calling to him from downstairs. 

 

Taste: there’s blood in his mouth from how hard he’s biting his lip; it tastes like pennies.

 

A hand rests on his shoulder and he jerks away so forcefully he slams his head against the wall. 

Shit, Billy, are you okay?” Steve asks, and it’s his gentle voice and Christ, the last thing Billy wants right now is Steve to mother him. But he gets like this sometimes, his thoughts straying into the abyss, and the only one who can pull him back is Steve. Of course, the difference this time is that his problem is Steve and him talking about a baby and holy shit, he needs to go the fuck back to sleep because he is not dealing with this bullshit right now.

 

Come back down, Billy.

 

He gives a quick nod and wraps the blanket around himself tighter; maybe it can protect him from this, whatever the fuck this is. Steve doesn’t say anything else, but he does sit down beside Billy, their knees touching and his back is pressing against the wall. Steve’s so warm; every cell in his entire body is absolutely buzzing at Steve’s proximity, as if they’ve just found the North Star that will lead them home. 

 

Already home, he thinks, Steve is home.  

 

“Made you coffee,” Steve murmurs, pressing a warm mug into his shaking hands and holding them steady with his own. He doesn’t say anything, but brings the mug to his lips and takes a sip. Steve’s hands hover around Billy’s, and the coffee burns all the way down. 

 

“Was about to come back up,” he says, a little sheepishly, “I had to see what time I’m supposed to work today, so I called Robin. She’s going to come over for dinner later, if that’s okay?” Steve chews at the nail of his thumb and Billy’s struck by how impossibly young Steve looks sitting beside him, head cocked at Billy curiously. His hair is soft and messy, cheeks rosy with life, and he’s wearing the glasses that he’d refused to wear in front of Billy only months ago.

 

God, he’s beautiful.

 

“Yeah,” Billy says, his voice rough to his own ears, “you don’t have to ask for permission to have people over to your  house, Harrington.”

 

Steve gives him a bashful smile and bumps his shoulder, “Just making sure you don’t mind visitors, Hargrove.”

 

“There’s not much I mind when you’re involved, Pretty Boy,” Billy says, bringing the coffee back to his lips as color rises to his own cheeks, “but I do mind waking up at ass o’clock and seeing you’ve disappeared.”

 

“Aw,” Steve teases, “did you miss me?” He’s sitting on his knees now, leaning into Billy and pressing his face to his cheek — Billy can feel him smiling against his jaw. 

 

“Don’t like being alone,” Billy says, the corners of his mouth quirking up, “Probably shouldn’t feel too special, though. I’d just as easily have taken Henderson’s company.” 

 

Steve snorts and leans back on his heels, and he’s smiling at Billy like he’s the most brilliant person he’s ever seen; not even the heavy summer heat of Hawkins can compare to the warmth he feels when Steve looks at him. 

 

“Can’t fool me, asshole, I know  you like Dustin. The only one of the brats you don’t actually like is Mike, and I mean, you know, fair. Neither does anyone else,” Steve stands, reaching for Billy’s hand and pulls him to his feet, “Come back to bed. Dick.”

 

Billy grins, allowing Steve to lead them back into his room and clumsily pull them down onto the bed. They’re face to face, so close their noses almost touching, and Steve’s eyes are sparkling in the barely existent daylight. The way the glow from outside caresses his face, how his mouth quirks up in a way that is so kind and knowing as if Steve is the only one in the world who was genuinely born to smile — it’s a smile to rule the world, after all. And God, does Steve rule his fucking world. 

 

Steve inches closer, his mouth ghosting against Billy’s, and just as Billy is closing his eyes, Steve yanks at the bedspread Billy still has wrapped around himself. It’s unexpected and Billy can’t help but huff out a laugh as Steve ducks under the blanket with him. When he looks up at Billy, the toothy grin on his face is so bright and childlike that he feels as if he’s looking into the fucking sun.

 

Maybe this is what Icarus felt like, maybe the sun was too enticing to stay away.

 

That, Billy can understand. He doesn’t think he could stay away from Steve if he tried, though; even if it burns him in the end. 

 

Steve reaches out to tuck a stray curl behind Billy’s ear and promptly tucks his chin into the dip of his collarbone. His cheek is pressing against his pulse point and Billy’s teased him about it before, how Steve reminds him of a small puppy being comforted by the steady thud of a heartbeat. There’s a leg thrown unceremoniously over his own, ankle hooking around his, and Billy reaches up to comb his fingers through Steve’s hair. His free hand grazes down Steve’s side before resting on the jut of his hip bone, fingers teasing at the hem of his shirt. Billy’s hand ghosts under his shirt to rest on his belly, skin soft and welcoming and warm like he’s meant to be there. Steve hums at the contact and the sound vibrates against Billy’s throat. 

 

Would this change? Billy wonders, thumb stroking gently over the delicate skin of Steve’s belly, imagines it swelling under his palm. Steve, soft and warm, tummy rounded with a baby that Billy put there; beautiful and his. 

 

Do I want things to change? Would it be my fault if they did? Because of that fucking… thing, that was inside me? Is it my fault this happened to Steve?

 

He’d never forgive himself if it was his fault this happened because he was too stupid to take into consideration that being possessed by a monster might have fucked up his own biology, not to mention Steve’s by sheer association. There’s not a lot of places in the world he feels safe for many reasons, angry fathers and inter-dimensional shadow monsters to name a few, but wrapped up in Steve, the mere hints of day streaming in from the windows, he can’t really think of another place he’d rather be. He’d never forgive himself if he ruined this, if he ruined Steve just because he’s a total fucking dumbass.

 

Never really thought of myself as the family type, then you come along, Pretty Boy, and turn my whole world upside down. But maybe I could be, for you, maybe I could be someone for a kid to be proud of – stranger things have happened in Hawkins, after all. It could just be a miracle, couldn’t it? Doesn’t have to be a monster… maybe just an unexpected surprise. For both of us. 

 

As Billy sleeps, he dreams; dreams of a little girl with blonde hair and doe eyes, of a little boy with dark hair and eyes the color of the ocean. Dreams about families, of going home, and belonging. Of California and his mom.

 

But mostly, he dreams about Steve.

 

♣♣♣♣

 

Billy isn’t sure when he became a father of six, but it’s getting old real fucking fast. Not only had the kids invited themselves over for dinner, which, he’d expected as much because apparently he and Steve are the only ones who can cook a decent meal in this town the way the brats come traipsing into Steve’s house for every meal, but the only ones who’d even offered to help him clean up after are Will, El, and his sister. Normally he wouldn’t really mind they’re the only ones helping, since they’re really the only ones he likes, but they aren’t the ones eating Steve out of house and home, so he doesn’t really think it’s their job, but whatever.

 

Steve had come home not only with Robin, but with all of his little ducklings trailing behind him. Dustin had made a beeline for the extensive collection of movies the Harringtons owned, jerking his chin up in greeting to Billy as he pushed past him. Steve had only shrugged helplessly when Billy had turned to him for an explanation. 

 

Harrington’s lucky he’s pretty.

 

“Billy!” Max had yelled, launching herself at him and nearly tackling them both to the ground. 

 

“Hey, Mad Max,” he says, ruffling her hair affectionately where’s she’s attached himself around his middle, and then there’s another girl smiling shyly up at him, arms snaking around his waist, and he reasons that, yeah, okay, they can stay. Will’s the last one to wander inside, heads straight for Billy after the girls have released him and it’s Billy that pulls the youngest Byers in for a hug. 

 

“Thanks for having us over,” Will says quietly, voice muffled by the fabric of Billy’s t-shirt, “I know we weren’t invited, but—”

 

You are always invited, Byers,” Billy interrupts, “it’s the rest of these assholes I’m trying to keep out.” Will had grinned up at him, all big eyes just like El, filling Billy with an intense feeling of protectiveness. Paternal, almost. 

 

Christ, this whole baby bullshit is fucking me up.

 

Luckily though, the brats had monopolized the conversation so he at least didn’t have to pretend to give a shit about Mike’s continuous whining regarding whatever the fuck he’s bitching about this week. Honestly, he doesn’t know how El puts up with him, the kid never fucking shuts up

 

Dinner had gone easily enough. Henderson had eaten probably an entire loaf of garlic bread while Buckley had taken to tasting every type of cheese Steve’s parents keep in the house, all imported from Europe, thank you very much, then Sinclair had accidentally elbowed the pot of noodles onto the floor and promptly made a run for the living room as if Billy was about to throttle him. Which, he wasn’t, okay, but the little shit could’ve at least helped clean up the mess he made. 

 

The radio Steve’s parents had bought to keep in the kitchen so their son "wouldn’t get lonely when they’re away" is what’s helping Billy avoid dealing with the whole baby thing. Instead, he’s mindlessly scrubbing at the dishes that the brats hadn’t even bothered to rinse before dumping them in the sink, and wow, fourteen year olds are the fucking worst.

 

It’s Will who appears at his side first, shyly asking if he can help. Billy tries to wave him off, but Will patiently waits at his side until he sighs and instructs the kid to rinse after he washes. El and Max trickle in afterwards, just as adamant about helping, and the girls are put in charge of drying and putting away.   

 

Max, however, is the first one to start singing when the opening bars of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”  begins drifting through the kitchen.

 

“Tonight I'm gonna have myself a real good time

I feel alive

And the world, I'll turn it inside out, yeah...

I'm floating around in ecstasy, so (Don't stop me now)

(Don't stop me) 'Cause I'm havin' a good time, havin' a good time…”

 

Billy only rolls his eyes at her fondly before joining in with his sister, El clambering onto the counter and settling herself back to watch the two of them as she continues drying. 

 

“I'm a shooting star leaping through the sky

Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity

I'm a racing car passing by like Lady Godiva

I'm gonna go, go, go, there's no stopping me…”

 

Max is dancing through the kitchen, her shoulders moving up and down with the beat, as Will bursts in with the next verse, surprising all three of them with a powerful and hypnotic pitch. 

 

“I'm burning through the sky, yeah

Two hundred degrees, that's why they call me Mister Fahrenheit

I'm travelling at the speed of light

I wanna make a supersonic man outta you…”

 

El is clapping her hands together in delight, dishes momentarily forgotten, and Billy is twirling both Max and Will around the island as they all obnoxiously yell the words to the chorus, and yeah, maybe, he’s getting suds everywhere but they’re having fun, so fuck it, he’ll worry about it later.

 

“(Don't stop me now)

I'm having such a good time, I'm having a ball

(Don't stop me now)

If you wanna have a good time, just give me a call (Ooh, alright)

(Don't stop me now) 'Cause I'm having a good time (Yeah, yeah)

(Don't stop me now) Yes, I'm having a good time

I don't wanna stop at all…”

 

Max’s hair is whipping back and forth as she sings louder and louder, her hand on Will’s shoulder as she encourages him to sway to the beat with her. He easily follows her lead and manages to twirl her himself as Billy stands on the kitchen counter with a soup ladle and belts out the next verse.

 

“I'm a rocket ship on my way to Mars on a collision course

I am a satellite, I'm out of control

I'm a sex machine ready to reload

Like an atom bomb about to, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, explode!”

 

That’s the only invitation Max needs to climb up beside him, pulling Will with her and Billy offers her his makeshift microphone, which she gratefully accepts. She points at El and sings as her brother and Will act as her backup dancers, Will blushing furiously but laughing as he follows Billy’s lead anyway.

 

“I'm burning through the sky, yeah

Two hundred degrees, that's why they call me Mister Fahrenheit

I'm travelling at the speed of light

I wanna make a supersonic woman of you…”

 

El grins widely, eyes sparkling and hands clasped, totally captivated by the performance taking place in the Harrington kitchen seemingly just for her. She levitates a freshly washed wooden spoon from beside her and uses it to knock against the myriad of pots hanging from the rack above the stove. El might not know the words, but she can follow a beat. Billy and Max seem downright giddy by the makeshift drums, and they jointly sing into the ladle in Max’s hand.

 

“(Don't stop me, don't stop me, don't stop me) Hey, hey, hey

(Don't stop me, don't stop me, ooh, ooh, ooh) I like it

(Don't stop me, don't stop me) Have a good time, good time

(Don't stop me, don't stop me) Woah

Let loose, honey, all right…”

 

Max and Billy jump down from the counter, perfectly in sync, and Billy immediately picks her up and spins her around. Will is still standing above them, dramatically playing air guitar during the solo as Max shrieks with joy, long hair fanning out behind her as Billy keeps twirling the two of them about. El keeps up with Will, tapping the spoon against all the pots until he dramatically leaps from the counter to strike the final chord. Max, El, and Billy all cheer for him as the song slowly fades out, and Will blushes harder than any of them have ever seen. Billy once again feels a paternal instinct rising up in his chest, wants to tell Will how proud of him he is and all of that dad type of shit, but he pushes the feeling down as El and Max crowd around Will to do it for him instead. 

 

Maybe stop being such a pussy and just tell people you appreciate them, he thinks, don’t want the potential spawn to inherit your emotional volatility, asshole.

 

There’s a hand on his wrist then, fingers painted with chipped iridescent green polish he recognizes from one of the many times Max and El had dragged him into Claire’s and conned him into buying them shit after they’d spent their last few bucks on ice cream. 

 

“Billy?” Max asks, wide blue eyes filled with concern, “What’s going on?”

 

“Shouldn’t you be doing something? Like, I don’t know, minding your business?” he mutters, but there’s no real malice behind it. 

 

“You’re being weird,” she says, and she’s frowning, “Why’re you being weird?”

 

“Not being weird,”  he huffs, “Just because I don’t talk at dinner, suddenly I’m acting weird—”

 

Max crosses her arms over her chest, clearly unamused, “Because you talk all the time, asshole, it’s weird when you finally shut up. And anyway, I never said anything about dinner.” Billy sighs.

 

Walked right into that one, didn’t you, dickhead?

 

He rubs a hand down his face before giving in, shooting a glare at his sister.

 

“Fine. Fine.”

 

Max grins triumphantly, “I knew it. It’s about Steve, isn’t it?”

 

“No,” he responds automatically, “Why would it be about Steve?” He glances nervously over at El and Will, but they’re engrossed in another conversation entirely; El looks annoyed and Billy knows instantly they’re talking about Wheeler, because her expression is one he knows she reserves solely for her lanky ass boyfriend. 

 

Fuck Wheeler, he thinks, right as Max is waving a hand in his face.

 

“Earth to Billy,” she says, “Are you listening to me?”

 

“No,” he answers, because he’s not and they don’t lie. Not to each other. 

 

“I asked if it’s about Steve,” Max bumps her hip against his, “Which, it obviously is, by the way. Otherwise you would’ve already been bitching about whatever it is.”

 

“If you know everything already, then why are you asking?”

 

“Because, asshole, I want you to tell me. No bullshit. We promised,” she says, pointedly holding up her wrist, “no more secrets. That means both of us, not just me.” 

 

He rolls his eyes, failing to hide his grin as he pulls up his sleeve to show her the bracelet he wears that matches her own. Cheap orange, yellow, and blue yarn braided together that represents the mended relationship with his sister; besides his mother’s necklace, it’s the only thing he refuses to take off. 

 

“So hold up your end of the bargain,” She wraps her arms around his waist and looks up at him, “And tell me what’s wrong with you and Steve. He didn’t seem upset earlier, and usually Steve is very…” 

 

“You can say dramatic, you know. It’s not like it’s a secret.”

 

“I was going to say vocal,” Max says, pulling away from him and giving a dismissive wave, “but if we’re being honest—”

 

“Shut up,” he interrupts, “You seriously wanna know? Like no bullshit?”

 

“Isn’t that what I said?” She flicks his bracelet, “Tell me.”

 

“Freaking out,” he mutters, “About dumb shit.”

 

Max gives him a knowing smile, “So about Steve.”

 

“Not really about Steve, or like. Not completely.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“I just…” he leans against the counter, the cold granite pressing into the small of his back, “Woke up early this morning, when it was still dark, and Max, you know I—I don’t like—whatever. You know. Steve wasn’t there, so I got up to find out where he went, and I heard him talking to Buckley on the phone about some, like. Employee Christmas party?” 

 

“You’re upset… about a work Christmas party?” she asks slowly, “At Family Video. You know Keith works there, right? I don’t think you have anything to worry about—”

 

“Can I finish?” He glared at her, “Anyway, he was talking about that and I just… God, this is gonna sound so bitch—"

 

Excuse me?” 

 

“Sorry, I’m sorry, okay?” He smooths her hair back gently before continuing, “but like, he was just talking about dumb shit, like nothing important, you know? And I was just sitting there, waiting for him to be done so we could go the fuck back to sleep, listening to him talk about literally nothing at all, and well. I realized something, I guess.”

 

“And that would be?” He can practically hear the shit-eating grin in her voice because she knows. Max knows fucking everything. 

 

“I care about him,” is what Billy ends up saying, looking down at his hands, “Like more than I think I’ve cared about anyone before. And I just… really don’t want to fuck this up. Harrington, he… he means a lot to me, Max.”

 

“Yeah, no shit,” Max says, elbowing him in the side, “But you mean a lot to him, too, asshole. Anyone with eyes could tell you that.”

 

“You think so? No bullshit?” he asks, and there’s a slight waver to his voice that he hates. 

 

Max’s tiny hand slips into his and squeezes, “No bullshit. Promise.”

 

“Truth is, shitbird, the whole Christmas party thing just got me thinking. About the future, I guess.”

 

“Like in general? Or with Steve?” 

 

“Both, but mostly, yeah,” he answers, looking down at the tile floor, “With Steve.” 

 

“Billy,” Max says softly, “It’s okay, you know. To be scared.”

 

“I’m not scared, Maxine—” 

 

“Not saying you are. I’m just saying that if you were, it would be okay. Like,” she gestures wildly, “when Lucas and I went on our first real date. By ourselves.”

 

“You were scared of Sinclair?"  Billy asks, smile tugging at his lips, and Max groans.

 

“No, asshole. I like him a lot, and if anything, he’s scared of me,  but… With dating, there’s way more expectations and shit, you know? Like magazines and shit tell you how to flirt and how to kiss but… They don’t tell you what to do when your boyfriend is black and your step-dad’s a total dickhole. There’s no fun quiz for that.” She tugs her hand out of his and wraps her arms around herself. 

 

“I used to be jealous of Mike and El,” she says, not meeting his gaze, “Can you believe that? For the dumbest reason, too.” 

 

“I bet it wasn’t dumb,” he says quietly, and she gives him a sad smile.

 

“It was pretty stupid,” she hugs herself tighter, “Remember Valentine’s Day? How I called you and asked you to pick me up?” He nods.

 

You were crying so hard I could barely understand you.

 

“We were supposed to have a date,” she says, looking down at her feet, “but we couldn’t because Neil and my mom, they were going out. And we couldn’t risk him seeing us, obviously. Or really anyone else seeing us alone and telling him. I was just… So excited, you know? Like to be that girl who actually has a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, to get some boring roses and a corny card. It’s all such bullshit, I know, but God. I wanted it so bad anyway. He offered to make it up to me. He could tell I was super upset, because I was. All I could think about was how Mike and El didn’t have to worry about shit like this, sneaking around just because of how they look.”

 

“He made it up to you,” Billy says then, “I remember that part. He roped me into it.” She grins.

 

“He did. He bought me sunflowers because you told him they were my favorite, and a book I actually wanted. There was still a corny card, because it’s Lucas and he wants to be romantic, or whatever. But we got dinner after and went to the arcade,” she beams, “And I totally kicked his ass.” 

 

“Proud of you, Mad Max,” he says, ruffling her hair affectionately.

 

“As surprising as it is, I’m not the best at expressing my feelings," she says dryly, "But we still talked about why I was upset, because nothing was going to get better if he didn’t know what was bothering me. Which is my point, by the way. Steve cares about you, Billy. So talk to him. He’s probably scared, too.”

 

And yeah, Billy hadn’t really considered that. 

 

“All I’m saying is, once you talk shit out, it’s a lot easier to handle because you don’t have to shove it all down just to pretend things are okay when they aren’t. Like when you were still in the hospital and asked me to stay even before you really apologized, and I did. Because that’s what you do when you love somebody, isn’t it? At the end of the day, both of you are just trying your best for each other and doing what you can to make shit work,” she looks at him for affirmation, “Right?” 

 

He’s saved by the bell, or rather, Steve, who comes in with another dish towel thrown over his shoulder, which doesn’t even make sense, considering he hasn’t touched a single fucking dish. Steve crosses his arms over his chest and Billy runs his tongue over his teeth.

 

Harrington is such a fucking mom and I am so fucking into it, why am I so fucking into it?

 

“What’s going on here?” he asks, eyes flitting suspiciously from Max to El to Will before finally landing on Billy. 

 

Billy smirks, “Wouldn’t you like to know, Pretty Boy?”

 

“That’s usually why a person asks a question, isn’t it?” Oh, he’s annoyed. Billy ponders what he possibly could’ve done today, but he’s falling short. Ah, well. Steve will tell him, he’s sure of that.

 

“We were just helping Billy with the dishes,” Will says, tugging on his sleeve a little nervously, “he made us all dinner so we didn’t think he should have to clean up everything, too.”

 

Billy places what he hopes is a comforting hand on Will’s shoulder, and gives Steve a sharp look; it’s a look Steve knows well, because usually he’s the one shooting it at Billy as a warning to ease up, Billy, they didn’t mean to do it. 

 

Steve sighs, pinches the bridge of his nose before he says, “Sorry, guys, I just… My head is fucking killing me. I was just wondering what was taking so long, the assholes in the living room are ready to start the movie.” 

 

“What are we watching?” Max asks easily, moving to stand almost protectively beside Will, their shoulders pressing together. 

 

“I don’t know, you’ll have to ask Henderson. Says it’s a surprise or some shit,” Steve answers with an exasperated wave of his hand. 

 

“Come on, I want the good couch,” Max says, pulling both Will and El out of the room with her as she calls to Billy over her shoulder, “I’ll save you a seat!”

 

They stand there staring at each other for a minute before Steve speaks. 

 

“Something’s wrong.” 

 

Billy furrows his brow, “What?”

 

“Something’s wrong,” Steve repeats, “you’re acting weird. Ignored me at dinner. What’s going on?”

 

Shit, I didn’t think he noticed.

 

Billy turns, finishes putting away the last couple of plates that the kids had forgotten as he answers. He briefly marvels at the familiar Blue Willow China pattern as he tucks them into the cabinets. 

 

Just like Mom had. Huh. 

 

“I didn’t ignore you, we were at opposite ends of the table.” It’s a weak excuse, but he’d honestly been so wrapped up in his own thoughts he’d barely spoken at all. 

 

“Never stopped you before,” Steve says, and Billy can practically hear his jaw clenching. He could just ask Steve about it, but that’s too easy, and Billy’s nothing if not an expert in avoiding his problems. 

 

“You’re testy tonight.”

 

“Can you look at me when we’re talking?” Steve asks, and Billy winces, because yeah, Steve’s mentioned that before, how Billy avoids eye contact when he really doesn’t want to talk about something important. Billy is telling on himself, but he’ll be damned if he’s about to bare his soul in the kitchen when the brats are less than five feet away.

 

“I wasn’t,” Billy says, turning to look Steve in the eye, “ignoring you. Just thinking about stuff.”

 

“About what?” Steve asks, eyes gentle and understanding. That’s the problem with Steve, though; he’s so understanding that Billy rarely has to be, so when Billy tries, he’s absolute shit at the whole being supportive thing. 

 

Babies. You. Home. Everything. Nothing. 

 

Instead he says, “Just stuff. That okay with you?” It’s prickly and also totally fucking unfair because Steve is so patient with him, has been since everything happened, yet here Billy is, treating him like the enemy. 

 

Just talk to him, he screams at himself internally, just talk to him like a normal fucking person.

 

But he doesn’t, of course, because he’s Billy. He ignores the flash of hurt across Steve’s face as he shoulders past him and into the living room, maneuvering himself between Byers and his sister. Steve follows him out a few moments later, pointedly not looking at him as he settles into the space Henderson had saved for him specifically. 

 

You’re such an asshole, Hargrove, what the fuck is wrong with you? He just wants to help; that’s all he ever wants, and all you do is use it against him. You don’t fucking deserve him.

 

His thoughts are interrupted when Henderson pulls out a flashlight right as the movie starts, holding it under his chin so it casts strange shadows across his face and says, “Ladies and dickheads, I present to you: Alien.”  The announcement is met with cheers, mostly from Robin, but Billy stiffens, the blood in his veins turning to ice. 

 

For the second time today, Billy swears he feels his heart stop. 

 

♣♣♣♣

 

This was a terrible fucking idea and the only reason Billy hasn’t made a run for it is because Byers has a hand fisted in Billy’s shirt and is shaking like a leaf. Half of him is screaming hide while the other half is yelling protect, but his head feels cloudy and he thinks he might be going under. 

 

Close your eyes, deep breath in, count to ten, out through your mouth. 

 

He can hear Steve’s voice murmuring in his head, you’re okay, Billy, I’ve got you, you’re okay, and opens his eyes again just as he thinks he actually might be. But the moment they open, he’s met with the sight of the facehugger launching itself into John Hurt’s helmet and that’s what finally sends him barreling out of the room, pulling Byers with him.

 

I can’t, I can’t, holy shit, I can’t.

 

Billy isn’t really sure where he’s going, all he knows is he can’t be in here, he can’t relive that right now, not in books or movies or anything. Monsters are real and he’s had one  inside him and it had forcefully shoved itself down his throat just like the thing in the movie — something that isn’t even supposed to be real, but had still fucking happened to him all the same. 

 

He’s shivering, only vaguely aware that he’s gone outside and pulled poor little Byers with him, who is looking up at him with very large eyes filled with concern. 

 

There’s snowflakes sticking to his eyelashes.

 

“Billy,” the kid’s voice floats by his head, “it’s too cold out here for you. Let’s go back inside.” 

 

He can’t really hear him though, not when he’s stumbling over to Mrs. Harrington’s rose bushes and retching, acid burning a path back up his throat at the thought of that thing and how it had fused itself to his own face. Billy had tried to get it off, he had, until his nails were jagged and bloody, but it hadn’t stopped, he’d had no choice but to let it take. Take and take and take until he was empty and something else had crawled inside his husk. There’s a tiny hand on his back, and the gentle gesture is enough to have tears pricking at his eyes; Byers had touched him, had found the tether to jerk him back to the ground. The chill of the wind is seeping into his clothes now, slicing straight through his healed over scars and burrowing into his bones. 

 

Steve’s gonna kill me, he thinks dazedly, I ruined the goddamn roses. 

 

“Billy,” Will says again, “let’s go inside. We’ll stay in the kitchen, but we can’t stay out here. You’ll freeze to death.” Billy’s feet stay planted where he’s leaning against the wall of the house, the snow burning his bare feet, but the kid is surprisingly strong for someone so small. He manages to pull Billy inside, even with him dragging his feet and attempting to shake Will free; Billy collapses on the floor, trembling, just as the kid manages to lock the door behind him. 

 

Will looks up for a second, and Billy thinks he’s going to leave him shivering on the floor alone while he returns to the rest of the brats, but instead he goes rummaging through the cabinets. Billy is wrapping his arms around his legs, chin resting on his knees when a hand shoves a glass of water in his face. 

 

“Here. Drink,” Will says firmly. Billy looks up at him, vision slightly hazy, but even still the kid’s expression is assertive enough that Billy takes the glass and raises it to his lips. He can feel the water quench the fire still in his throat, and then as it falls lower, lower, lower into the well of his stomach. 

 

Come down, Billy, come back down.

 

“My mom,” little Byers says, pulling at a loose thread on his jeans, “she always brings me water when I’m upset. Says you can’t cry and drink at the same time.” 

 

Am I crying?  He reaches up to touch his face, can feel the sticky trails of tears drying on his cheeks, I am. I’m crying.

 

Billy doesn’t respond though, not with words, just continues sipping slowly, and Will takes this as an opportunity to leave the kitchen. He returns moments later, wrapping a thick blanket around Billy’s shoulders, and sitting down on the floor beside him.

 

They’re quiet for a few moments, before Billy manages a raspy,  “Thanks, Byers.”

 

“You’re welcome,” he answers, and then says, “it’s okay to ask for help, you know. Even if it’s hard… all of us just want to help.” He isn’t looking at Billy, but his jaw is set and Billy is struck by the realization that the kid wants to help him. A warmth floods his chest and he’s tearing up again. Fuck.

 

“I know,” Billy says, eyes focusing on the subtle ripples in his glass, “it’s hard though, when you’ve been through shit that makes dying look like the easy part. Don’t really feel like I’m worth the trouble, kid. Don’t really wanna waste everyone’s time with my bullshit.”

 

“It’s not bullshit,” Will says fiercely, “if you’re hurting, it matters.  Nobody in this house right now has everything figured out. We’re all broken in different ways, and maybe our pieces don’t fit together by themselves anymore, but when you put all of our broken parts together, we all connect in a way that makes something. Maybe it isn’t exactly pretty, but it still means something — that even the things we think are destroyed can come together and make something better.”

 

Billy reaches over them, pulls Will against his chest and just holds him there, chin resting on the top of his head.

 

“I thought I was never going to get better either,” Will whispers, voice slightly muffled, “and it’s still really hard, but having people close… They make it easier, when you let them help. But you have to let them help you, Billy. This isn’t something you can fight alone. And you don’t have to.”

 

Nobody on the planet deserves better than Will Byers, he thinks and squeezes the kid tighter.

 

“Thanks, Will,” Billy says softly, and Will pulls away enough to smile up at him.

 

“Families stick together,” he says, “even when some of them are shitty sometimes. Or most of the time, I guess, in your case.” Billy huffs out a laugh and cuffs the kid on the back of the head. 

 

“Good to know,” he says, using his free hand to wipe at his face, “but you can get back to your fan club, I’ll be okay. I think I’m going to go to bed.”

 

“You sure?” Will asks, voice uncertain. Billy nods.

 

“Yeah, little Byers. I can make it up the stairs by myself, I think. Go enjoy your sleepover.” 

 

The kid stands up before turning to offer Billy his hands, pulling him to his feet. He starts walking back towards the living room before he turns back around to look at Billy.

 

Go, Byers,” Billy says, but it’s gentle and fond, “I’ll see you in the morning. Odds are I’ll be making breakfast because nobody else here can cook for shit.” Will snorts before nodding and heading back into the living room. 

 

“You know where to find me,” the kid calls over his shoulder as he disappears around the corner.

 

I do, Billy thinks as he’s trudging up the stairs towards Steve’s room, just wish I knew where to find myself.

 

♣♣♣♣

 

Predictably, he does not go to bed. Instead, he rummages around a box of his belongings he’d shoved into Harrington’s closet months ago until he finds what he’s looking for; a well-loved copy of Pride & Prejudice.  He sits at the foot of the bed, flipping through the pages to trace the familiar handwriting of old annotations. His mom had loved all of Jane Austen’s heroines, but stubborn Lizzy Bennet had always been her favorite; he’d be lying if he said she wasn’t his, too. Cocooned within a mountain of blankets and warmed by nostalgia, he begins to read. 

 

Billy’s not sure if it’s been hours or mere minutes since the incident downstairs with Byers, when he looks up to find Steve leaning against the door frame, watching him. 

 

Waiting.  

 

“You coming in, or what?” he asks, but Steve doesn’t move.

 

“Wasn’t sure I was allowed.” 

 

“It’s your room, isn’t it? You’re always allowed. That’s how rooms work.” 

 

Stop being an asshole! It’s not his fault you’re fucked up. 

 

“Can we just fucking talk?  Instead of you having to turn everything into a joke? We were fine this morning,” Steve pauses, before correcting himself, “better than fine, even. At least, I thought we were. I just… I can’t make shit better if I don’t even know what I did.

 

He gives an exasperated wave before looking down at his hands, and Billy knows he’s going to start biting his nails if he doesn’t stop being such an ass for absolutely no goddamn reason. 

 

“Wasn’t you, not really. Just took it out on you because you asked, and I didn’t feel like talking,” he looks over at Steve, sticks one of his hands out of the blankets and offers it to him, “I’m sorry, though. For the record.”

 

Steve moves closer to the bed, places his hand into Billy’s outstretched palm, “For what? Being an asshole?” There’s a beat of silence before Steve is being yanked down beside Billy on the bed and then they’re both laughing. 

 

“I’m always an asshole, Harrington,” Billy says, pulling Steve against him, their noses almost touching, “It’s what I’m good at. Trying not to be, that’s the hard part.”

 

“I know,” Steve says, his voice quiet, “And I appreciate it. You trying, I mean. I know it’s not easy, but. You trying means a lot. To me.” 

 

You mean a lot to me,” Billy replies, running his fingers through Steve’s hair, “probably doesn’t seem like it sometimes, but. You do.”

 

“I know,” Steve says softly, “I know. Robin said not everything needs to be said in words and I—Yeah, I know.” 

 

“Well, she is the smart one.” 

 

“Fuck you, too, asshole.”

 

Billy gives him a wolfish grin, “That an offer?”

 

Steve’s hand is suddenly on his chest and pushing him away, “You’re so fucking nasty, Billy, the kids are downstairs. Jesus.” 

 

“Well, if someone,”  Billy gives him a pointed look, “knew how to be quiet, we’d be fine.” 

 

“There are six children in our living room,”  Steve hisses, “it’s not happening. Besides, we were talking.

 

“You know we could do both, right? Like at the same time?”

 

Billy!”  

 

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding,”  he says, and he’s laughing, pulling Steve close again, “Wouldn’t want to scar the children.”

 

“You’re a dick,” Steve tells him, but he’s smiling, “Can I ask you something?”

 

He hums his agreement. 

 

“Why were you crying?” Steve asks, voice soft and quiet, “Can see the tears on your face, you know. And you always come up here to read after. Usually, it’s—” 

 

He plucks the worn book from behind Billy and smiles triumphantly, “Pride & Prejudice.” 

 

“Am I getting too predictable for you, Harrington?” 

 

“I care about you, asshole,” Steve says, thumb grazing his cheek, “Just wanna make sure you’re okay.”

 

He’s giving you an opening, dickhead, take it.

 

“Um,” he says, swallowing audibly, “The movie… it just… reminded me of last summer. Felt like I was reliving it all over. Just panicked, I guess.”

 

Realization dawns on Steve then, “Shit, Billy, I didn’t even fucking realize—

 

“Isn’t your fault, I just… It’s hard, still. I wonder if it’ll ever not be hard, you know?” 

 

“It doesn’t go away, if that’s what you’re asking,” Steve answers honestly, “at least, I don’t think it does. Not completely. But it does get easier. For all of us. We’re just… surviving together. And that’s easier than doing it alone.” 

 

“Even if the only people who know what you’ve been through are children?” Billy asks, the corners of his mouth quirking up. 

 

“Each one of those children are individually smarter than the entire basketball team combined,” Steve says dryly, and Billy snorts, “so yeah, I’ll take my chances with them.” 

 

He thinks about his own chances then, the ones that had brought him to this exact place beside Steve. El had taken a chance by reminding him of his mother when he’d been drowning in the darkness; she had reached into his chest, pulled out his humanity, and yanked him screaming back into his body. Then he’d taken a chance on her, resigned himself to die protecting this little girl who had found something inside of him worth saving. And then there was Steve. Steve Harrington, who’d wielded a bat against demodogs and had been tortured by Russians to protect his kid best friend — who had taken a chance and saved Billy’s life. 

 

Even now, Billy doesn’t understand. 

 

“You know,” he says, more to his pillow than Steve, “When everything happened last summer, I couldn’t even get out of bed by myself. The nurses thought I was the biggest asshole because I bitched all the time, but, if I was talking, I could forget about the pain for a few minutes. I was alone so much of that time, when I was first admitted. I don’t know if you knew that. But. It was so fucking lonely, Steve. Nobody visited me besides Max, when she could sneak in. And even when she could, I know I was shit company. But as long as someone was there, it hurt a little less. I didn’t feel as if I had been ripped apart and stapled back together. Because as much as being torn apart hurt—and it fucking hurt, Harrington—you know what hurt more? Being left alone with nothing but my thoughts and memories, knowing that even before I was possessed, I was still a fucking monster.”

 

Billy—

 

“So, as I’m sure you can probably imagine, I did a lot of thinking. Not that I wanted to, but because I didn’t have shit else to do. And there’s one thing that I still haven’t been able to really figure out, and it bothers the fucking hell out of me.” A warm hand reaches up to cup his cheek, and the gentle touch scorches his skin like fire.

 

“That night,” Billy says, voice barely above a whisper, “What did you see when you looked at me? What did you see that made you think I was worth saving? After everything I did to you… you still saved me, Steve. And I don’t understand why.”

 

“Because even assholes deserve second chances,” Steve says, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world, “and I was that asshole once. A pathetic, lonely asshole who had everything that didn’t matter and had zero concept of anything outside of high school bullshit. And now, yeah, I’m friends with a bunch of children, but I have a real family who gives a shit about me, instead of a bunch of people pretending that they do. I took a chance on you, sure, but it’s been over a year and you haven’t made me regret it yet, so.” 

 

“Yet, huh?”

 

“Never too late to disappoint me, Hargrove,” Steve says, grinning widely, “but at this point, I think you’d really have to get creative, considering I think the shitheads are rather fond of you now. Against my better judgement, of course.”

 

“Of course,” Billy nods solemnly, “We should probably stay together then, you know, for the kids and all.”

 

And maybe for our actual child, I guess? Fuck.

 

His hands are shaking and he feels himself going under once more.

 

I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.

 

“Hey,” Steve says, reaching up to cup Billy’s jaw, “Come back to me. I’m here. We’re both here. We’re okay.”

 

Are we? Are you sure?

 

Steve takes Billy’s hand and places it on his chest; the steady thud thud thud of Steve’s heart beating against his palm.

 

Focus on him, he’s right here, just focus on him and he’ll bring you back down. 

 

He counts the moles scattered across Steve’s face, marvels how they form constellations down his throat and disappear under his collar. Billy inhales deeply, rewarded by the aroma of cinnamon, apple scented candles, and the imported laundry detergent the Harringtons insist upon; everything about Steve smells like home. Billy looks up at him, expecting disappointment or annoyance or even anger because he ruins every moment like this, panics until he’s unable to function at all. But as usual, Steve’s eyes offer him nothing but patience and warmth. 

 

We’re safe. He breathes a sigh of relief. He’s here. Right beside me.

 

“Hi,” Steve says, bumping Billy’s nose with his own, and Billy gives him a tired smile.

 

“Hi.”

 

“Today’s a bad day, isn’t it?” 

 

“Not bad, just… not good, either.”

 

“Well, we’re here for you, whenever you wanna talk, you know? If you ever wanna talk, of course—”

 

He leans forward then, and kisses Steve gently; he tastes sweet, like hot chocolate and gingerbreadBilly realizes then that he loves him.

 

And because a year ago he was a monster, moments away from dying on a dirty mall floor, he tells him; because he almost lost this chance and he never wants to lose another one. Not with Steve.

 

“I love you,” Billy says, so softly that Steve isn’t sure he’s even hearing him correctly, “God, I really do.”

 

“You love me?” His eyes are wide, as if he’d never expected this revelation from the person he’d shared a bed with for over a year now.

 

“I love you,” Billy repeats, “It’s like… I’ve had this fire going inside of me for the longest fucking time, and people have thrown a log in sometimes to stoke it, you know, and they stop to warm themselves up, but. They don’t stay. So the fire goes out and it doesn’t matter because they didn’t stick around long enough to worry about what comes after, but like—you. You did. And I don’t really know why? But you did. And you’re still fucking here for some reason that I don’t understand and I’m fucking terrified I’m gonna wake up one day to see that you left, too. Because if you leave, I think that’s it, Steve. I think the fire’s out for good.”

 

“I love you, too, asshole,” Steve says, voice catching, “everything about you, even the bad parts. Because I know you’re working on them and you’re trying so fucking hard. I love you so much it makes me crazy. Because nothing was easy in the beginning but you’ve never stopped trying. Told you in the hospital I wasn’t going anywhere, and I meant it. Nobody’s going anywhere.”

 

“Not even…?” Billy trails off, his hand sliding down to rest protectively on Steve’s belly, “You’re gonna keep it?”

 

“Keep what?” Steve’s forehead creases in confusion, “What are you talking about?” 

 

“The baby?” Billy answers, giving Steve a strange look.

 

“What baby?” 

 

“The one you’re having.” Billy’s fingers tap softly against his stomach.

 

“I—What?”  Steve squawks, “I am not having a baby, holy shit.

 

“You were talking about it with Buckley this morning!” Billy reaches up to nervously tug at his hair, “I heard you, Steve.”

 

“You thought I was pregnant?  Sorry, I just. Hold on,” Steve places a gentle hand on Billy’s chest, “Um. I don’t really know what to say here other than, like. No? I’m not?” 

 

“You literally told Buckley on the phone you couldn’t drink because of the baby!  What else was I supposed to think?” 

 

“Oh, I don’t fucking know, maybe just like… Literally anything else? I think anything else you could have possibly thought would’ve made more sense than you getting me pregnant, asshole.” 

 

“Well, it sounded like it was a secret, so I thought you didn’t want me to know. Like you were gonna take care of it or something,” Billy gives a half-hearted wave of his hand, “It’s not like weirder shit hasn’t happened in this town already, Harrington. I was possessed by a monster last summer. You got your ass kicked by the Russians. There were flesh monsters and a girl downstairs has psychokinetic powers. You getting pregnant is hardly the strangest thing Hawkins has ever seen.”

 

Steve considers his words for a minute before he starts laughing; Billy looks personally affronted. 

 

“Not laughing at you,” he wheezes out, getting progressively louder, “but like, Christ, our lives are so fucking bizarre. Yeah, you’re right, okay, I admit it. It isn’t the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard.” 

 

But,"  he continues, covering the hand Billy still has on his belly with his own, “I can assure you, I am not pregnant. At least, not to my knowledge. If anything changes though, you’ll be the first to know. Besides me, I guess.”

 

They’re both quiet for a few minutes before Billy speaks.

 

“Not that we don’t have enough shit to deal with already, because obviously we do, but,” he gestures with his free hand, “If it had to happen with anyone, I’d want it to be you. And I can’t lie, I’m a little disappointed I won’t get to see you swell up all pretty with my baby, baby.”

 

“You,” Steve says, squirming out of Billy’s grip, “are so fucking gross, Billy, I swear—

 

Billy throws his head back and laughs as he pulls Steve back into his arms, “I can’t help it, Harrington. I am what I am.” Billy’s mouth ghosts over the nape of Steve’s neck as Steve squeezes his fingers. 

 

“But, like. Do you really mean it?” Steve asks, voice impossibly small, “Like you’d actually want that? With me?”

 

“Didn’t you hear what I said earlier? I don’t want anybody else,” Billy says, making a face at Steve, “But maybe we can wait until the rest leave the nest, you know? I’m thinking, like, ten years or so.” Steve snorts. 

 

“Okay, that’s fair.”

 

“You gonna tell me what the hell you meant on the phone with Buckley if you didn’t mean an actual baby, then?” Steve rolls his eyes. 

 

“It’s an inside joke. I’m the baby. I can’t drink because of my new anxiety meds, do you not remember that? I’ll have like hallucinations and shit. Gives me the worst headaches, too, like earlier in the kitchen, my head was fucking killing me. That’s all. If you’d just asked, I would’ve told you that this morning,” Steve presses his mouth softly against Billy’s before whispering, “You’re an idiot, Billy Hargrove.”

 

“You’re beautiful, Steve Harrington.” 

 

Steve blushes, the color rising to his cheeks only exaggerating the bright pink of his mouth. He’s biting his lip in an attempt to hide his grin and Billy is struck once again by just how fucking pretty he is. 

 

“Read to me? Just ‘til I fall asleep,” Steve asks, pulled flush against Billy’s body and tucked under his arm, “Please?” 

 

His eyes are getting heavy when Billy hums in agreement, grabbing the book from behind him. As he reads, Billy’s hand slips back under the soft material of Steve’s t-shirt, his thumb stroking the delicate skin under his navel. 

 

“There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil—a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.”

“And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody.”

 

“Sounds like somebody I know,” Steve murmurs. Billy rolls his eyes, but fondly presses his lips to Steve’s temple.

 

“Can it, Harrington,” he says, Steve’s hair tickling his nose, “Can’t you see I’m reading?” Steve merely hums as Billy continues on.

 

“And yours,” he replied with a smile, “is willfully to misunderstand them.”

 

He reads for a while longer, until he hears Steve’s steady breathing lapse into quiet snores. Billy pauses, allowing his eyes to drink in the enigma that is Steve Harrington. From his fluttering eyelashes to the rosy pink tinge of his cheeks, Billy is convinced that there’s a literal goddamn angel sleeping beside him. That chose him, even.

 

He picked me. For some reason I’ll never fucking understand, he picked me.

 

He sets the book aside before sliding down the bed, propping himself up on his elbows when he’s finally eye-level with Steve’s belly. In the hazy glow of the lamplight, Billy listens to the quiet, breathy sounds Steve makes as he slips his hands under his shirt, fingertips dancing across the other boy’s downy skin. His palms press flat against Steve’s stomach, smile tugging at his lips when he thinks about earlier, how certain he’d been Steve was actually pregnant. 

 

I’m a fucking idiot. I’m an idiot and he wants me anyway. 

 

Despite his utter confusion, Steve had still smiled at Billy when he’d suggested them doing that together someday. Had asked if Billy wanted that with him, as if Steve isn’t the most amazing person he’s ever fucking met, as if the mere prospect of a future with Steve doesn’t make Billy’s heart soar

 

Because that’s all he needs, really. 

 

There’s six children downstairs, a beautiful boy beside him, a moody lesbian in the guest room, and across town, their frazzled pseudo-parents are finally having a night off; it’s the weirdest goddamn family Billy has ever seen, but it’s fucking his. It’s his and he belongs and that’s all that really matters. 

 

Just as the first hints of dawn are peeking around the curtains, he leans over and presses his lips to the spot above Steve’s navel. Billy lingers there for a moment, face nuzzling against Steve’s middle and he can’t help but grin because he finally fucking gets it. 

 

He crawls back up the bed then, nestles himself behind Steve and buries his face into his hair, hand settling protectively on Steve’s belly. Tangled together in the still morning, the steady rise and fall of Steve’s chest against him is what finally lulls Billy to sleep. 

 

One day. Just not today.