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Weak Hands, Weak Lungs, Strong Heart

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Billy Hargrove has been in the hospital for thirty-seven days. He spent the first fifteen of those days in a coma and the other twenty-two in a medically induced coma, but now he was awake. And honestly, he’d prefer the coma.

His body was extremely weak; who could have guessed that having a creature from another dimension or whatever take over your body against your will kind of fucks everything up. He was exhausted mentally too, from dealing with all the shit it made him do and then learning about all of the other shit involved with it.

It had been a few days after he was out of the coma for good, and he was finally coherent enough, that Chief Hopper (who apparently had been hurt during the whole mall thing too, but had been released from the hospital a week ago) and a couple of people he was told were from the government came and filled him in on the whole “Upside Down” thing. He’s been trying not to think about it too much, but his mind wandered there during the boredom.

That was the thing that was bothering him the most. He could deal with the pain, he was used to pain, pain and Billy Hargrove went way back, but the boredom was unbearable. His hands were wrapped up so much it looked like he was wearing mittens made of gauze so there wasn’t anything he could do that involved using them. He couldn’t even flip through one of those horrible and old magazines hospitals keep piled up in the waiting rooms.

There was also the fucking tube down his throat. The MindFlayer fucked up his lungs pretty bad and they weren’t working right on their own. How wonderful.

So, yeah. Here he was. Stuck in a hospital bed. Hands unusable. Unable to move because he was so weak and because of a damn tube shoved down his throat. The only thing he could do was watch the TV mounted up in the corner of the room. He couldn’t even use the remote to change the channel because of his fucking gauze mittens.

Not to mention the catheter in his dick and the feeding tube sticking out of his stomach.

It was all driving. Him. Crazy.

The one bright spot was when Max visited. She was the only one who visited him, which isn’t surprising. Before all this shit went down him and Max had been working on being better to each other, and while they weren’t best friends or anything, they had definitely made progress. And he knew better than to expect his dad or Susan to visit. He didn’t want them to anyway. He also didn’t really have any friends that he was close enough with to expect them to come see him wasting away in a hospital bed slowly losing his mind from boredom.

~~~

It had been kind of surprising when Max had shown up for the first time. Harrington had been trailing behind her. The guy hadn’t come in the room, just said something to Max, looked up at Billy, and then walked back down the hall. Billy was guessing he was going to wait somewhere for Max to come find him when she was done.

That first visit had been rough. Max spent the whole time crying and touching Billy carefully on his arm above where the bandages ended, afraid to hurt him but needing to know that he was really there. Really alive. If there were a couple of tears that escaped his eyes and slid down his face, she was kind enough not to say anything.

Other than that first visit, Max’s visits weren’t exactly eventful. Since he couldn’t talk with the tube in, he just had to sit and listen as she went on about how things were at home (never mentioning Neil; smart girl) and what her and her friends had been up to. Maybe it was a good thing he couldn’t talk when she started talking about Dungeons and Dragons, Billy would have teased her mercilessly. In a friendly way. Probably.

The painkillers made it hard for him to stay awake for too long, so more often than not he’d fall asleep while she was there and he’d wake up to an empty room. He hated when that happened.

Max would visit two or three times a week. Always with Harrington as her chaperone. And Harrington would always follow her to the room and then head off without coming in.

Billy really wished he’d come in.

~~~

That had been the routine for a few weeks until one day, while Billy was watching some stupid soap opera because he couldn’t change the damn channel, the door to his room opened and he looked over to see Harrington standing there.

Billy expected Max to be there with him, which would be weird since she was just there yesterday and she never came two days in a row, but not as weird as Harrington being alone.

Which he was.

No Max in sight.

He was confused, and slightly worried, and a little excited, when Steve came further into the room. Billy watched as Steve shut the door behind him, and then walked and sat in the chair next to Billy’s bed that, until now, only Max had sat in.

“Hey,” Steve finally said after a minute or so of awkward silence.

Billy raised his eyebrow as if to say, “I’d say hey back but I kinda can’t fucking talk, pretty boy.”

Steve looked away and shifted in his seat, clearly uncomfortable with the situation.

“I just wanted to thank you. For saving El. And everyone, really.”

Now it was Billy’s turn to look away awkwardly. He wasn’t used to people thanking him for things, especially someone who gave him fucking butterflies in his stomach like Steve Harrington did.

“I know you probably don’t want to talk about it. Or, uh, I guess hear about it,” he added, “Or even think about it. But I just had to say it.”

Billy glanced back over at Steve who was staring down at his hands, fiddling with them. Billy took the opportunity to really look him over.

Steve was thinner and paler than the last time Billy saw him. He also had purple bags under his eyes and Billy got the feeling Steve hadn’t been sleeping very well.

“So now that the mall is gone,” Steve starts, finally making eye contact with Billy and making an effort to look like this was a totally normal situation, the two of them talking like they were friends (God, Billy wished they were friends,) “I lost my job at Scoops Ahoy. My friend, Robin, and I got new jobs at the Family Video and-”

Billy laid in bed, watching and listening to Steve talk about insignificant things. But Billy drank up every bit of information he could, thirsty for anything he could learn about the boy he couldn’t stop thinking about since that Halloween night less than a year ago. Had it really been less than a year? It felt like ages ago.

He fought off sleep for as long as he could, unwilling to miss out on any moment he had with Steve, but he must have lost his battle at some point because the next thing he knew he was blinking awake and the sun was setting outside. He squeezed his eyes shut and mentally cursed at himself for not being able to hold off until Steve left.

But after opening his eyes and looking over, he was shocked to see Steve still there.

The other boy was slumped over in the chair; head down on his folded arms that were on the bed right next to Billy’s hip. He was facing away from him, but Billy could tell from the deep, even breaths that Steve was sound asleep.

Billy had been angry and frustrated at his bandaged hands countless times since waking up from his coma, but never so much as this moment. God, he wanted nothing more in the entire world right now than to be able to run his hand through Steve’s hair. And he couldn’t. This was likely the only opportunity he would ever get (where he didn’t have to be afraid of Steve’s reaction, where he didn’t have to hide the longing in his eyes, where he didn’t have to worry about anything, it could be his own private moment) and he couldn’t even fucking do it.

He probably laid there for over an hour just watching Steve sleep as the room grew darker. Trying valiantly to ignore the burning in his eyes of tears, of frustration and regret, threatening to spill over.

But sleep must have taken him again and when he woke up next, the sun was shining and Steve was gone.

Steve never fell asleep again during his visits, but the bags under his eyes slowly started disappearing.

~~~

It was the day after Steve’s first visit that Billy finally got the bandages off of his hands. They did not look great. They were wrinkly from sweating in all that gauze for so long, but that would clear up quickly.

What wouldn’t clear up quickly, or at all, was all the scaring. He now had white spider web like scars covering his palms and creeping around the back of his hand and up his fingers. While they were taking out the pins that had been keeping the shattered bones in place while they healed, and the final remaining stitches, the doctor told him how nicely it seemed to be healing.

Billy thought he was fucking joking.

It was the day after that, that the physical therapy for his hands started. He hated it, but his physical therapist had told him he would. He was also told that if he wanted mobility back in his hands he’d have to suck it up, so he tried to keep his (nonverbal) bitching to a minimum.

Little by little Billy’s hands started to work again. A week and a half of physical therapy every day and Billy could weakly grip things in his hands which meant he could finally, fucking finally, use the remote to the TV and change the fucking channel.

During that time Max came in a couple of times and, to Billy’s surprise, Steve came on most of the days Max didn’t.

When Max saw his bandage-free hands for the first time, she quickly hid the look of horror when she took in the battered state they were in and instead tried to make a joke about how badass the scars would look.

The next day when Steve had looked down at his hands, he had looked upset and angry, but he didn’t say anything about them, instead choosing to talk about a weird customer that he had to deal with at work the night before.

Billy was thankful.

~~~

After physical therapy was wrapping up one day, Billy noticed Steve hanging out in the doorway. He didn’t know how long he had been there, but Steve smiled and gave Billy a nod when he saw him looking.

Billy was brought back to his physical therapist’s attention when the man put down some paper and jumbo crayons on the tray hovering over Billy’s bed.

“Aren’t those the crayons they give to toddlers who don’t have any motor skills yet?” he thought bitterly.

“Like I said, Billy,” his physical therapist interrupted his thoughts. “You’re making great progress. I’d just like you to get in a bit more time in-between sessions. I think drawing or practicing writing again would be a great way to do that.”

Billy rolled his eyes and his physical therapist, used to his attitude, chuckled and then headed out.

Steve took that as his sign to finally enter.

Billy watched as Steve stopped by the side of his bed and seemed to debate with himself. He was about to wave his hand in front of Steve to get his attention, but before he could Steve apparently came to a decision.

The brunette sat on the side of the bed by Billy’s hip (Billy tried very hard not to blush at the proximity) and grabbed a piece of paper and a crayon.

Billy raised an eyebrow as Steve put the items on the tray in front of him, and then did the same for Billy.

“You know how I was telling you about that weird old lady that comes in every week and only rents Splash?” Steve picked up the blue crayon in front of him and started to draw random shapes on his paper. “Well today when she came in, Robin bet me a pack of M&Ms that I couldn’t get her to rent something else,” without pausing in what he was saying, Steve nudged the red crayon he had put in front of Billy.

With an eye roll Billy picked up the crayon and, with difficulty, started drawing squiggles on the paper. It was frustrating not being able to hold a fucking crayon properly.

“So I was trying to think of what to suggest. Like, do I go with something similar to Splash or do I go totally different like Gremlins or Indiana Jones?” Steve continued.

~~~

The next time Steve came to visit he brought a pack of cards and sat on the bed next to Billy’s hip so they could both use the tray hovering over his bed again.

They were in the middle of a game of Go Fish and Steve was winning. A fact that he wasn’t letting Billy forget.

“Wow, Hargrove, looks like I’m the King of Go Fish. Who knew you would be so bad at a game mostly played by kids in elementary school?” Steve teased him, a big smile on his face. “Do you have any sevens, Billy? Something tells me you do.”

Billy really liked when Steve used his first name. And when he smiled at him.

Instead of handing over the card Billy held up his middle finger.

~~~

It went on like that for a while; Steve coming to visit and bringing something along that Billy had to use his hands to do. He’s pretty sure Steve thought he was being sneaky by doing that, which was just pathetic. And cute. So damn cute.

Billy knew it was extremely stupid to be thankful for this situation, but he kind of was. He knew that if he weren’t stuck in some stupid hospital bed he would have fled if Steve tried to have an actual conversation with him. He also knew that if he didn’t have this tube down his throat he would say something horrible and mess everything up. So, yeah, maybe he was thankful, in a weird way. Because it turned out Steve was funny and kind and so much better than just a pretty face, gorgeous hair, and a biteable ass.

And he was pretty sure Steve was starting to like him too. In a friendly way, of course. Billy was still sure Steve Harrington was straight. Even if he did catch Steve looking at him a certain way every now and then. But that was probably Billy wishful thinking. So he would take anything he could get. If friendship was all he could get, he’d gladly accept it.

They had developed their own little language of looks and hand gestures from Billy and they had been having not-totally-one-sided conversations for a while. Every time Billy managed to get Steve to laugh he swore the whole room lit up.

~~~

The day the tube came out was a relief. He had started to worry that he’d be stuck with the damn thing for the rest of his life. So when the doctor told him it was time for it to come out and to cough, Billy happily did as he was told.

His throat was sore but the nurses made sure he always had some crushed ice to suck on and he made sure to whisper a soft thank you when they would refill his cup. He knew Steve would like that.

It was a few hours after the tube came out that the door to his room opened, and he figured it was a nurse bringing him more ice, but instead it was Steve standing there.

The door shut behind him with a click but Steve didn’t move. Just stood there staring at Billy.

“Hey there, pretty boy,” came Billy’s weak, crackling voice.

Billy’s smile grew, unobstructed by that fucking tube, as Steve’s eyes grew wide and a bright grin appeared on his own face.