“You okay, babe?”
That’s all Billy asks at the front door and Steve just brushes past him tiredly and stomps up the stairs. It makes his chest churn with sadness and longing.
They were fine before. They would kiss and smile at each other and just… love each other unconditionally.
But then Steve got busy because of college, and Billy could convince him to cuddle at first but now he barely gets so much as a held hand when they’re having dinner anymore.
He loves him, though. So incredibly much. Nobody else really knows, they just assume they’re roommates, only Robin, Will, and Dustin really know the truth.
So he won’t give up, even if it hurts so fucking much to get pushed aside when he just wants to be there for his boyfriend. Who can blame him for wanting to steal even a kiss?
With bags under his eyes, Billy prepares some hot coffee for Steve. He hasn’t been sleeping lately, they’ve been on opposite sides of the bed and haven’t been meeting in the middle anymore. Steve slides under the blankets late, turns off the lights, and curls up. Billy wants to reach out, he’s just so scared to.
He doesn’t know why. Maybe it has something to do with how Steve pushed him away the first and last time he tried on his most stressful day.
Once the coffee’s all stirred with everything Steve likes, Billy gently picks up the mug and glides thoughtlessly up the stairs. Maybe he’ll get somewhere today.
Even despite their distance the last few weeks to near months, Steve still leaves the door open for Billy. He still makes Billy breakfast in the mornings right before he’s off to go work, and when Billy’s sitting alone in the dining room eating all the vegetables Steve convinced him to like when they met, he knows it’s all Steve’s way of reminding him he loves him still.
It keeps the hope alive, and it keeps him breathing and feeling not like he’s totally falling apart.
Silently, he slides into their bedroom and finds the brunette sitting at the desk writing away with a single desk lamp on. It’s quiet, it’s draining, it’s tense in a blurry way.
Steve doesn’t even look at him when he places the mug down, doesn’t even react when Billy kisses him on the temple.
It’s coffee because Steve stays up late a lot doing homework or projects, because his group won’t pull half the weight and leaves him hauling ass trying to do everything for them to just succeed and pass.
Billy still works at the pool, but sometimes he works as a mechanic or helps out around the gym he frequents at. Steve used to visit him often.
“Come to bed,” Billy says in the dead of night, tucked under the blankets looking at his boyfriend.
Steve shakes his head, “No, I can’t. I have to finish this before tomorrow morning.”
Billy kind of feels his world shake with every word, kind of feels his heart drop like every other night he tries to no avail. It’s all just kind of… useless.
Because Steve’s never able to, Steve’s always got a reason to keep his distance from Billy, and Billy’s too scared to cuddle with him anymore and they don’t even talk right anymore.
It hurts him, to think that maybe Steve’s prioritizing something else over him, more concerned over his education than their relationship, but he knows it’s all within reason. Steve has parents, after all. A mom who expects only the best out of him.
But it hurts even more when Billy’s mind drifts off into the idea of what if and he finds himself wondering if Steve’s maybe stopped loving him.
Even despite the little gestures, the little routines, maybe it’s all just Steve trying to retain some sanity, maybe he’s just trying to pretend he has things to do because Billy knows Steve likes to keep himself busy nowadays so maybe he gets iffy when he doesn’t do anything and that’s why he’s always tossing and turning when Billy’s too close in bed and maybe that’s why he still makes breakfast.
What is it? He wants to ask. He wants to reach out, push, try again.
But when he looks back at Steve and notices the frown on his face, all Billy feels is sadness.
Isolation, loneliness, betrayal, and…
Maybe it’s all over now.
Is it my fault?
That night, when Steve finally gets into bed on the other side again and the lights are all off, Billy curls into a ball and sobs quietly to himself until he manages to squeeze in maybe an hour of sleep for once.
He thinks maybe he should’ve tried harder.
Or maybe the love just isn’t there anymore.
The sun arrives.
It warms Billy’s face, shines in his eyes and when he opens them weakly, he doesn’t have to turn to know Steve’s not there.
His eyes are a bit sticky, cheeks dry and he can tell his hair’s a mess. But he’s going to the gym early today, he promised he’d help Max.
Still, when he gets up to stretch, the room feels so unlike his. It feels more like he’s climbed through the window to get into Steve’s room now, it feels like he’s not a part of it anymore.
But back then, he did feel like it was a home, even before he moved in.
He gets what Steve meant when he said that the house felt so big, now.
Billy throws on his shirt, shuffles into his socks and shoes and grabs his bag. Stuffs his phone but not before checking it to see if maybe Steve said anything.
It’s not like there’s ever anything, anyways. No more cute pictures of him at campus being grumpy about classes.
Gym time, I guess.
Sibling bonding was never Billy’s thing, but him and Max got closer after awhile and now the other kids really do forget sometimes that they’re step-siblings. Lucas sometimes stops by when Billy’s being a mechanic and helps out, he appreciates it.
At gym, he runs through his usual routine while waiting for Max and when she gets there, she calls him a mess then shows him photos she took with her polaroid camera of her and Jane studying together and messing around. It’s weird, but the moment he saw the pens in the photo he kind of felt his words get tangled in his throat. It looked too real, and it was real, but when Max showed him the rest of the photos where they were messing around, Billy found himself almost crying.
If she noticed, she didn’t comment.
He comes home late.
Steve’s not there when he’s back though. Steve’s way later than usual.
His heart pangs. Because maybe Steve won’t be coming back, or maybe Billy’s expected to be packing up and leaving soon.
But he ignores it, because…
He doesn’t know why.
Maybe he’s just blind.
Whatever the reason, he walks upstairs and locks himself in the bathroom. He slides down the door, curls into a ball and wraps his arms around himself.
But no tears come out anymore.
Instead he just stays there, feeling his eyes gloss over but feeling nothing come out. He thinks, what should he do next and what’s gonna happen and if Steve’s gonna yell at him for whatever reason. He wonders if he should leave, if he should go back to Susan or Neil or something,
And he hears footsteps coming up the stairs.
Shaking, Billy gets up and unlocks the door. Peeks out and doesn’t even look, smiles with prickly teeth and stretched lips. “You’re late.”
That’s all he says before he ducks back into the bathroom and closes the door, puts his hands on the sink and closes his eyes. He wasn’t crying before, but now he’s biting his lips with a reddening face.
Of course, Steve always gets him this weak.
He considers trying again, but more than ever he’s so tired. He’s so scared, so trapped and isolated and he misses Steve so much and his heart just clenches at the mere mention of his name. Maybe he shouldn’t have said he loved him, maybe Steve never meant to reciprocate to begin with. Maybe the spark wasn’t ever really there, maybe it was all Billy’s fault.
Maybe, he should give up.
Even though Steve smiled at him when things started getting a little more stressful, even though Steve used to kiss his tears away and lock him in his wings and arms and kept him safe from the world. He can’t escape the way Steve really loved him. But maybe it’s not that anymore.
The tears are there again, they warm his cheeks and drip down to his bare chest covered in a sheen of sweat. He wanted to shower, but now he wants to curl up again.
Still, his knuckles remain white around the sink while he keeps trying not to cry even if he already is.
But before he can choke on a sob finally, warm light arms wrap around him and he feels hair brushing his jaw and a nose pressing against his neck.
“I’m so sorry, Billy,” Steve whispers wetly into the crook of his neck and squeezes him.
The sobs slide out so easily and he’s filled with an explosion of relief and pain and sadness and he’s scared because he doesn’t know what Steve’s sorry for, but he misses this contact and he’s been longing for it since the day he was shoved aside.
“Let’s go to bed, okay?”
Steve’s voice is croaky, tired but trying so hard, and he’s speaking as soft as possible and it breaks Billy’s heart. But he nods furiously, because he’s tired and it’s been awhile since they went to bed together. It’s been a long, long while.
Maybe nothing’s really changed. Maybe nothing has to change.
Steve gently unwraps himself from around Billy and pulls them both towards the bedroom, pushes Billy down onto the bed when they get there and turns off the lights. For a moment, Billy thinks it’ll just be opposite sides again.
He chokes on a borderline whine when Steve gets under the sheets and wraps his arms around Billy again. It’s so warm.
“I’m sorry,” Steve whispers while rubbing circles into Billy’s back.
All the while, Billy’s crying into his shoulder and crushing him with his arms. He loves him so much, he’s so scared to leave him, he’s so scared to be left and abandoned all over again.
“I’m still here, Billy.”
Those words mean so, so fucking much and Billy finally whines, lets out so many noises while burying his face in Steve’s neck and he can’t find the right words to say nor can he find his voice right now.
Steve tenderly places his hand on Billy’s cheek and pulls back, one arm still draped over the tanned skin, “I still love you.”
Billy cries, knows his face is a snotty ugly mess but Steve still looks into his eyes with such admiration and love that he believes it again. It makes his stomach twist in weird ways.
Lovingly, carefully, naturally, Steve leans in and presses a lingering kiss to Billy’s wet lips. Doesn’t care as he thumbs away Billy’s tears and his lips feel so soft and smooth against Billy’s chapped ones.
When they pull back for air, Billy just wants to kiss him forever again. Just like the first time, just like the second time, just like every other time.
“I’m sorry I pushed you away, I regret it so much, baby,” Steve says and presses his forehead against Billy’s, breathes deep and in the moonlight Billy can see the tear coming out of his eye. It’s not right, he shouldn’t cry, he deserves to be happy.
Billy gently pecks the tear away, the way Steve used to for him, and Steve’s face scrunches before he breaks down sobbing. “I’m so sorry, fuck-- I missed you so, so much, baby, I fucked up bad--”
“It’s okay, Steve, it’s okay,” Billy shushes, hates the way Steve’s voice trembles and wants to kiss him all over again. He does just that, just for a second. A quick peck on the lips again.
“No, no, it’s not. I hurt you, I’m hurting you, I can’t handle that. I can’t do that, I love you so much-- I shouldn’t have pushed you away, I’m so fucking sorry--”
Steve’s words come out slurred but Billy catches every syllable and he can hear his own heart shatter with every realization that comes to him.
Steve doesn’t want to be busy.
Steve’s scared, stressed, just like him.
Steve loves him.
Steve will always love him.
It’ll be okay, they’ll work through this. They’re working through it right now.
Billy crushes Steve yet again with his arms, presses them flush against one another and kisses his oncoming tears away. All the time, never missing a drop. Steve giggles a little at how fast it is and tangles his hand in Billy’s hair.
“You’re here now, that’s what matters to me. As long as you’re here by the end of the day, that’s all I need,” Billy whispers.
Steve hiccups and nods, smiles weakly at Billy and pulls the blanket over the both of them. “You mean the world to me,” Steve mutters.
It means a lot to hear.
Billy smiles back, rubs Steve’s cheeks. Tenderly, Steve places his hand over Billy’s and entangles their fingers together, pecking Billy’s palm so lovingly as their crying starts to calm down.
He has to ask, though.
“Will you be busy still?” Billy asks unsurely.
He dreads the answer.
“I’ve got a few friends willing to pull their weight now, and I’ll never be too busy to be with you,” Steve smiles.
It makes him sob harder again, and Steve holds him close in a crushing cuddle and kisses his hair, “I love you, Billy,” he says genuinely.
“I love you too,” Billy cries, grips Steve’s shirt tight.
They’re still in love.
They keep close to each other for the rest of the night, when Billy falls asleep he wakes up more than seven hours later feeling so incredibly well-rested with Steve still holding him sound asleep and he doesn’t bother to get up for coffee or breakfast, even if he’s missing out on his gym routine he doesn’t mind. He’ll always make time for Steve.
This time, when he looks at Steve, he’s not frowning. His mouth is agape, eyes shut so peacefully and hair draping over his forehead in a way that frames him even more perfectly. Billy feels lucky to be with somebody like him, and his heart fills with the idea of being with this man for the rest of his life. He wants that.
From behind Steve, Billy sees a piece of paper on the back of the door written by Steve saying that he’ll be late home today and why. It has a little heart at the end. He didn’t see that before.
It was a way for Steve to remind Billy he’d still be there.
It was a way for Steve to remind Billy that he still loves him.
And Billy smiles, presses his face in Steve’s chest and chuckles stupidly to himself all too in love and giddy. “I love you too, you dork,” he mumbles with the biggest grin and loves the feeling of Steve’s fingers splayed across his back and feels so relaxed with Steve’s chin resting on his head.
And still, their hands are connected.
Just as loving as when it started.
And Steve stirs, opens his eyes and smiles when he sees Billy still there. “G’mornin’, handsome,” he drawls lazily.
Billy feels so lucky, and in love.
“Good morning, pretty boy.”