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I Won't Stop (Till You Knock On My Door)

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The first hit is always the worst.

That's what Billy tells himself as Neil lays another slap across his face. He can taste blood now.

He hopes it's almost over.

Billy doesn’t even know what set Neil off. He was doing the dishes, cleaning up the kitchen after Susan made dinner. The same dinner Neil grouched about being too bland. Last week it was too much seasoning. Neil always bitches about something she cooks, hides it under the guise of a compliment.

Billy fucking hates it. He hates these “family dinners” his father demands. Hates the way he wants it all ready and set up the moment he gets home. It takes him another half an hour before he’s even ready because he’s always covered in dirt and grime from a day of work, so what the fuck does it matter if the food is ready?

And every time, he still bitches about it being cold. Then when he settles down, he looks around as though he owns the court, like he’s the king and they’re merely there because he lets them. No one really speaks, no one really has much to say. Every so often Susan tries to tell him about her day, and usually that’s when he gets a beer and guzzles it in one go.

Then he goes back for another.

Billy prefers it when he drinks. It makes his father less wound up, less ready for a fight. Sometimes Susan slips out an empty bottle for another one, just as he’s distracted by something on the television. No one walks into the living room when Neil’s in there. Everyone has to evacuate the moment he shows up. No matter what anyone’s watching it’s immediately changed to something else.

It’s usually sports.

Billy used to watch basketball a lot when he was younger. Mostly his mom would put it on and get excited with Billy when his favorite team would be closing in at the end. He loved the thrill of basketball, loved how the players used strategy and their agility to get to play with the opposing side. His mother would whisper commentary into Billy’s ear, and he’d laugh and giggle, and then his father would make some shitty ass remark about how Billy’s mom was babying him and making him into a little priss and when Billy would look up at her eyes wide in questioned shame she’d shake her head a little. Then she would look at the TV excitedly again and the moment would pass.

He misses those days.

Billy’s father didn’t drink tonight, though. Instead he came home in a foul mood, one that everyone didn’t deserve an explanation for apparently, and dinner was had in tense silence. He snapped at Billy for being too loud when he was cutting into his stuffed pepper, slammed a fist into the table when Billy dropped a napkin on the floor. Billy knew what it meant, but he didn’t want to believe it.

He never wants to believe it. It doesn’t come as a shock anymore, more of a resigned reality. His father is always predictable, and deep down, Billy just wants him to not be so fucking predictable.

Billy doesn’t know how many times he’s been hit now, too far gone to care. The pain is blooming across his face, and he can feel the tears of humiliation welling in his eyes. He wants to close them but the moment he does, he knows that means something else will come and he won’t be able to prepare. He needs to temper the blow if he can.

Then he’s slammed into the wall, the stench of his father’s breath harsh in his face, and he swallows around the rising bile in the back of his throat.

“Was it you?” Neil demands. Billy tries to hold his breath as long as possible so that he doesn’t have to be subjected to that foul stench. It’s humiliating enough that Susan and Max are witnessing this, and he wants to just swing at his father one time.

“No, sir,” Billy says. He doesn’t even know what he’s being accused of, but he knows whatever the fuck it is, it wasn’t him.

“You’re a liar. You were always a liar,” Neil sneers, his fists twisting into Billy’s shirt. A button pops off and he grits his teeth. It’s his favorite shirt. Neil slams him into the wall one last time, deciding he’s done with him.

“Let’s go,” Neil says to Susan, whose hands are wringing together with nervous energy. Max follows behind them, her jacket zipped up all the way to her chin, eyes pleading. That’s when the tears spill onto Billy’s cheeks, and he squeezes his eyes shut.

He will not show any weakness. He won’t be a pussy.

The moment the door slams shut, Billy grabs his keys and his jacket and leaves. He considers not coming back, thinks about just getting on the road and driving back to California.

He’s got a bit of cash stashed away from the summer he worked as a surf instructor before they moved to Hawkins, so it’s not like he wouldn’t be able to make it there. It’d take a couple of days, but as long as he ate cheap and slept in the car he could swing it.

Maybe Alejandro would let him crash on his couch like he used to when shit got too tense at home. Alex used to sit with him on the couch and wait until Billy spoke, wait until Billy uncrossed his arms and just let the words flow out of him.

Then one night Alex leaned over, and kissed Billy right in the middle of his rant, and Billy froze, didn’t know what to do. He knew he liked the way that Alex’s lips felt against his, liked the way it made his stomach flip happily. He liked how it made the pain he was feeling in his left cheek disappear.

So, Billy kissed him back that night, and they ended up laying on top of each other on the couch, slotting their legs together, hands feverish and hungry as their mouths. That night Billy learned a lot about himself, and learned a lot about Alex too. Everything between them was sparked and wonderous. Billy wanted to drown in that and never let it go.

They kept it a secret, of course. Alex’s grandma and mom worked a lot and his siblings were always off doing some fucked up shit on the streets. It meant that they could spend long afternoons that stretched into evenings in his bedroom, Tejano music playing softly in the background, with the warmth of their bodies to soothe their loneliness.

Billy never got a chance to say goodbye properly. He was able to phone him late one evening when everyone was in bed to tell him that Neil was having the whole family pack up and move without any explanation, the only bit he was willing to share was that he found a new job in Indiana and they were going where the money was.

Alex told Billy he was going to miss him. Billy couldn’t tell him that back, his voice paralyzed by the constriction in his throat at the voice of a boy who sounded heartbroken to hear Billy was leaving him forever.

Billy doesn’t have what he had with Alex here. He doesn’t have anyone to go to, no one who will understand, nothing to drown himself in to numb the pain. What Billy does have is the bitter cold air blowing in his car until the heat kicks over, the freezing window against his cheek that helps ease the blooming pain that will surely bruise tomorrow.

It’s not the lips of an eager boy, but it’s something.

He goes driving into the overcast night, the moon eclipsed by heavy clouds. He wonders if it’ll snow, the sharp wind pushing the Camaro around on the winding road so forcefully that Billy has to slow down or risk wrapping his car around a telephone pole.

The diner is mercifully empty. It’s just outside the edge of town, old and run down, all aluminum and round. It always smells like bacon grease on the inside, but the food is cheap and if his favorite waitress is working, she gives Billy free coffee. He knows she knows, because he only comes here after his father has roughed him up, a little space that he can escape to before having to go back to hell.

A blast of heat hits Billy’s face like a crashing wave, and he immediately removes his leather jacket, sweat starting to bead at his temples. Billy doesn’t know how everyone here is used to hot air blowing around them like this, his own body accustomed to having air conditioning nearly year round or a cool ocean breeze.

He hates this kind of heat. It’s unnatural and all-consuming, sheltered and claustrophobic. At least the summers in Cali didn’t feel like walls closing in, just a part of the day. Billy could escape the summer if he wanted to back home, but escaping this means freezing to death.

Betsy ambles over, that sympathetic sharp smile at the edge of her mouth. She leans against the edge of the counter when Billy settles down into his usual booth, grabbing a sticky menu behind a napkin holder, and reading over it as if he hasn’t done this a hundred times before.

“What’ll it be, hon?” Betsy rasps. Her voice is gravelled from too many cigarettes and a hard life that settles into someone's bones. Billy lifts his ass up and pulls out a smashed soft pack, shaking it until he finds a bent cigarette and rests it between his lips.

“The usual will be fine, Betsy,” he mumbles, flicking the lighter on and grabbing for the filled ashtray.

“It’ll be right up,” she says, busying herself with writing down the order as if she doesn’t already know what he’s going to get. She’s buying time and Billy knows it. Secretly he appreciates it.

“Busy tonight?” he asks, blowing out smoke through his nose. The burn feels good, familiar.

Betsy snorts. “Oh yeah, totally slammed.” She waves her hand to the empty diner. “Just you and some other orphan teen of the night.”

Billy’s back straightens. He doesn’t want someone from school to see him. He has the weekend ahead of him to be able to fix himself up, but if some asshole sees him now, they see his face, it can cause questions and Neil Hargrove hates questions.

Betsy disappears into the back, the radio blasting Juke Box Hero, which has Betsy yelling something about it being trash and earning a hearty laugh from several people in the back. The moment the door swings closed, the background noise is muffled once again and Billy is left with his whirling mind.

He should leave. He should just get up and leave, but instead he finds himself leaning forward to the booth on the other side of the small diner and nearly falls out of his seat.

Harrington?” Billy damn near yells in shock. Harrington’s jump is so sharp, his knee hits the table and he hisses out a curse. When he turns around, Billy’s mouth drops in shock.

Harrington looks like hell. His hair is a mess, and deep bruises sit under his eyes. He looks pale, and worn, and totally out of it. Has he lost weight? Billy can’t be sure, but holy shit, Billy is pretty sure that he looks a lifetime better than what he’s staring at right now.

“Hargrove?” Harrington croaks, tilting his head to the side as he thins his eyes to focus. “Is that you?”

“No, it’s Rob Lowe,” Billy retorts with an eyeroll. “Here to bring your teenage dreams to life.”

“I’m more of a McCarthy fan myself,” Harrington says. “But if you’re offering to roleplay, I’m not that picky.”

Billy nearly chokes on the inhale of his cigarette. “What?”

Harrington’s lips curl into a mischievous smirk and he nods his head. “Got another one of those?”

It takes five whole fucking seconds for Billy to realize he’s asking if he has another cigarette to spare. “Oh,” he says dumbly. “Uh, yeah.”

“Cool.”

Then Harrington is bringing over his mug of coffee, tossing his thick jacket onto the peeling vinyl bench, and sliding into the other side of Billy’s booth as if he’s been invited. As if Billy just asked him if he wanted to have a fucking chat or something.

“Please, by all means,” Billy deadpans when Harrington reaches for the pack and pulls out a cigarette, lighting it and inhaling deeply. Harrington tilts his head back, a thick cloud of smoke escaping out of his mouth.

Harrington’s eyes settle on Billy’s and then grow wide. It’s then that Billy realizes that he’s seeing the aftermath of his father’s palm and fist. Billy shifts in his seat.

“See something you like?” Billy asks, the edge of his voice hard and clear.

Harrington blinks slowly, runs his free hand through his thick mess of hair. It sticks up to the side, and it should look ridiculous, but it doesn’t. Billy feels a stir in his chest as he realizes he likes it.

“Hm, maybe,” Harrington says. He takes another drag of his cigarette, cocks his head and blows the smoke out the side of his mouth.

Before Billy can retort a reply, Betsy is ambling over with Billy's order. He gives her a genuine smile as she refills his coffee, glancing between him and Harrington.

“Friend of yours?”

They speak at the same time:

“Maybe,” Steve says.

“Not really,” Billy says.

Steve places a hand over his heart. The cigarette sits between two long fingers, and Billy watches as the ashes sit precariously on the end.

“I’m wounded, really. Are you really that offended by my love of Andrew McCarthy?”

Betsy snorts, turning around and leaving them behind. Billy watches as she makes her way into the kitchen again, just to focus on something that isn’t Harrington.

Harrington with his hair that looks effortless. Harrington and his King Steve status at school, that he seems not to give a shit about even as it's on the brink of disaster. Even with the anemic lighting of the diner and the dark circles under his eyes, Harrington still appears as though the world bends around him, as though he couldn’t care less.

It’s then that Billy catches the flask tipping into Harrington’s coffee mug, the clink of metal against chipped ceramic. Billy raises an eyebrow and nods to the cup.

“Liquid courage?’

Harrington shrugs. “Helps me sleep.”

“You sleep in the diner?”

Harrington’s eyes shine with amusement. “If the mood is right.”

Billy grits his teeth. He wants to ruin that smirk on the side of Harrington’s face, slap it off of him. He wants to tug at his perfect fucking hair and smash his face into the pavement of the parking lot outside. He wants to see if he can make him bleed.

“So why are you here?” Harrington asks, taking a healthy gulp of his spiked drink.

“The coffee is fantastic,” Billy snaps sarcastically.

Harrington actually laughs. Tilts his head back to the ceiling and bellows out a deep, hearty laugh. Billy’s eyes track over the long expanse of pale neck, and he feels his dick twitch in response.

Huh.

“The coffee is terrible. That’s why I use this,” Steve says wiggling the silver metal flask between his fingers. “Want some?”

Billy shrugs, but still pushes the coffee cup towards Harrington. The sly smile that tilts on the corner of his mouth twists Billy’s insides something awful. He wants to grab Harrington’s neck and squeeze until that smirk melts off his face. He wonders if Harrington would like that.

The expanse of heat that fills Billy’s belly makes his insides twist uneasily. He pushes his plate of food away.

“Not hungry?” Harrington asks, reaching over and grabbing a piece of bacon.

“Did I say I was done?”

“You didn’t seem to be interested.” Harrington picks up another piece, but it doesn’t make it to his mouth. It doesn’t make it to his mouth because Billy’s got his hand around Harrington’s wrist, and he’s squeezing hard.

He expects Harrington to get pissed. He wants him to get pissed, wants him to demand he let go so that he can grip tighter until it hurts, and then who knows, maybe they end up in a fight. Billy wants to fight, wants to blow off the curling monster inside of him that wakes up when his father bangs him around like he did earlier. He wants to put the dragon to sleep again, and the only way he understands how to do that is brutally. Usually at the expense of someone else.

But what he gets instead is a confused look, a natural tug as Harrington tries to pull his wrist away. Billy holds on tighter, twists his hand harder around the skin so that it burns, and then, then he sees something he wasn’t expecting to see.

Harrington... likes it. His eyes turn lidded, and his mouth parts, and his stare is—heated. He drags the tip of his tongue over his bottom lip, let it sit for a minute at the corner and Billy can’t stop looking at it. His face grows hot.

“Wanna get out of here?” Harrington asks, his voice low and husky.

“Um—”

Harrington leans forward, searching over Billy’s face, and lifts his eyebrows. “I’ll make it worth it. Promise.”

Billy asks for the check.

***

It’s freezing, and the chill of the night hits Billy fast and hard. He hates Hawkins, he hates winter, and most of all he hates Indiana. He used to think he hated Harrington, for his cocksure attitude, for the way that he didn’t plant his feet. He hated how the monster inside took over, and pulled Billy into the darkness and how much he loved the feeling of his fist against flesh.

All the hate came out over and over right onto Harrington’s face.

So why he’s agreed to… to whatever it is they’re doing, Billy doesn’t know. What he does know is that he’s on his way to his car, and Harrington tugs at his jacket, shakes his head and tilts towards the Beamer.

“It’s further away,” he says, as if that makes any sense.

Billy lifts an eyebrow.

Steve stops and rolls his eyes. When he expels an exasperated breath, it’s nothing but a large cloud of white. “More privacy.”

“We need... privacy?” Billy asks, words thick on his tongue.

Harrington is then up in Billy’s space, his chest pressed against his. His eyes are totally focused on Billy’s mouth, and the curve of the smile on his face is sinful. “I’m all for an audience but I don’t think our waitress would appreciate what I’m about to do to you.”

Billy can’t control himself after Harrington says that. He just—kisses him. Presses his mouth against Harrington’s, and it’s not hot, it’s not hot at all. It’s not like that night when Alex kissed him, this is more awkward, and a bit wet, really. Billy prides himself in being a badass kisser, but he didn’t get the moment right, and it just feels weird and fumbly, but the way that Harrington moans around Billy’s lips, tilts his head just right and swipes the tip of his tongue along the seam of Billy’s mouth…

Yeah, yeah, that’s good. Really good.

Harrington pushes Billy around, breaking the kiss for a brief moment to show off his sharp canines under that wolfish smile and turning Billy’s insides aflame. When his back slams against the side of the Beamer, he grunts disapproval as the car handle digs into his back. In retaliation, he grabs at Harrington’s hair and jerks hard.

“Fuck,” Harrington gasps, and his mouth slams into Billy’s again.

Their teeth click against each other, tongues hurried and sloppy, but it’s working for Billy real good because his dick is getting hard and now he’s gripping at Harrington’s hips and pulling him close so that their bodies are flush against each other. They’re both wearing about eighteen layers of clothes because it’s like January and cold as fuck outside, but Billy doesn’t care, scrambles his hands under Harrington’s jacket and smiles against his mouth when he hisses at the sudden cold.

Harrington’s skin is soft and hot against Billy’s fingertips and he has the sudden urge to see how it tastes.

“Get in the car,” Harrington commands, opening the back door, and damn near pushing Billy inside. Harrington crawls into the small space with Billy, shuffling around so quickly it blurs Billy’s vision.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Billy asks.

“Turning on the goddamn car,” Harrington says, leaning into the front, and putting the key in the ignition. The BMW comes to life with a soft purr, and then the blast of heat fills the car quickly. Billy immediately wrestles his jacket off, dizzy from the sudden temperature change.

“There we go,” Harrington murmurs, adjusting so that he’s leaning sideways and staring at Billy, eyes intent. He hasn’t taken his jacket off yet, and his hand is a hot brand on Billy’s skin when he curls a palm around his arm. “So, what do you want?”

Billy ignores the thundering beat of his heart in his chest, searching for much needed bravado and returns with a feral smile. “You said you were gonna make it worth my time. Give me what you got.”

Then Harrington is on Billy, his mouth slamming into his and crawling into his lap. He bites hard onto Billy’s bottom lip, sucking it as he pulls off, eyes lidded and glassy under the parking lot lights spilling in from outside.

Billy’s body is hot, so hot all over, and his dick is definitely into the pressure of Harrington’s ass riding down on him, and he grabs for his hips to keep it going. That breathing monster inside of him starts to quell it’s anger and fire, begins to go to sleep. The thrum of discomfort shifts to a hum of pleasure.

Harrington pulls off Billy’s mouth with a gasp, shucking off his jacket messily and discarding his sweater, his t-shirt riding up over his flat stomach. Billy brushes the back of his knuckles down the pale skin, watches the way it quivers as Harrington breaths out a sigh.

Then he’s off Billy’s lap, and Billy furrows his eyebrows, unsure what’s going on until Harrington begins to unbuckle his pants with a deftness that leaves him shocked. Harrington doesn’t even miss a beat, just reaches into Billy’s jeans, and pulls his dick out without any finesse or care. Just leans over and pouts his lips, a thin line of saliva dripping from his mouth onto the head of Billy’s cock.

“Holy shit,” Billy breathes, his eyes fluttering shut when Harrington begins a brutal pace with his fist.

He’s had a few chicks jerk him off since he’s moved to Hawkins, and it’s been fine, because he’s nearly eighteen fucking years old and a hand is a hand, and if he’s not doing the work, his body catches up pretty quickly. But usually they’re toodelicate, too soft, trying to play up some coy shit that Billy doesn’t care about. He wants it to be brutal, wants it to hurt, and every time he tries to show that’s what he wants, all he gets is a that simpering fucking smile and a lip bite that makes him want to throw them out the car.

“Yeah,” Harrington agrees, all breathless and ragged. His voice sounds like liquid sex, and Billy lifts his hips when he does some kind of fancy twist shit with his hand that has him nearly coming too quickly. “Goddamn, look at you. You’re so into this, aren’t you? You love it when I do this, huh?”

Billy tries not to let the words affect him, tries not to admit to himself that the praise and encouragement thrills Billy, and makes his stomach twist in a way he’s never felt before.

Which is a lie. He felt it that first night Alex kissed him.

He’s not going to think about that right now.

Instead he grabs for Harrington’s hair, tugs him closer to him and slams their mouths against each other. Just to shut him up. Not because Harrington’s mouth is soft and that feels nice, especially the way he wraps his tongue around Billy’s like a fucking expert, Jesus.

Billy’s coming way sooner than he’s ever come before, practically screaming in Harrington’s mouth, his fist twisting harder in his hair. Harrington moans like a bitch in heat, and all Billy can think when he feels it against his lips is hell yes.

When they break apart, Billy's feeling blissed out and boneless. The car is still blasting heat, the windows fogging up a bit from their activities. It takes several minutes before Billy even attempts to open his eyes.

When he does all he can see is the wide smile on Harrington’s face. Billy wants to punch it just to give him something to do.

“That was nice,” Harrington says off-handedly, like he didn’t just have his hand around Billy’s dick for a whole five minutes. Like he didn’t just make him come undone as if he never has had a handjob before. He reaches somewhere between his legs, pulls out a t-shirt that has their school’s name on it, and wipes the mess away. “We should—”

But before he can get the rest of that sentence out, Billy is pushing him into the door with a surprised gasp, his eyes growing wide. Billy’s shoving Harrington’s shirt up to his armpits with one hand, the other undoing the button of his jeans. It takes a few tries, but he finally gets it undone, and when he reaches inside he can feel the erection against his palm.

“What are you doing?” Harrington asks in disbelief. As if he didn’t think Billy would reciprocate.

“Shut the fuck up,” Billy snaps, leaning down and licking a long stripe over Harrington’s stomach. He grins when he hears the happy sigh.

“Yes, sir,” Harrington whispers, and Billy doesn’t remind him he told him to shut up. Instead he decides to use his mouth for more important things, like getting Harrington’s dick in his mouth.

Billy doesn’t think about how much he likes the way Harrington’s voice sounds against his ears, or how gentle his hand is on his shoulder.

***

“I really needed that, thanks,” Harrington says as they tumble out of the backseat of the BMW. Billy is rolling his neck to get the crick out and blinks several times before he understands what the fuck Harrington said.

Then he’s driving away, peeling out of the parking lot before Billy has a chance to respond.

What the fuck?

***

Billy doesn’t let Harrington get to him.

He certainly doesn’t think about the way his tongue tasted in his mouth, the way his jaw went slack with awe when Billy lifted his head and swallowed his come without a fucking wince. Billy doesn’t think about how Harrington’s hand felt around his dick, twisting with surety.

No, he doesn’t think about him at all.

Except. Except sometimes he can’t help it.

Like when he wakes up in the early morning dawn, knowing that he has to live another fucking day in this place that is his personal hell. When he knows that he has to get Maxine to school, has to get to school himself, and has to face his father another day. When he doesn’t know how Neil Hargrove’s mood will be, when he has to be ready for an attack at any moment.

So, it’s in those moments, right before Billy has to face his day that he may let his hand drift under the sheets, slide his underwear down and close his eyes. And he tries not to think about how his fingers felt with that hair wrapped in his palm, the way Harrington groaned in pleasure when he tugged it. He tries, but he fails.

So he lets his mind... drift. Thinks of other things.

Like how it’d feel if Harrington dropped to his knees, his neck flushed with desire, mouth parted and ready. How his long lashes would flutter shut when Billy guided his cock into his mouth, how he’d never touch Billy, not until Billy told him to. He’d sit on his heels, hands behind his back and he’d take it, and he’d love it.

It’s then that Billy comes with a surprised gasp, every time. Then he faces his day.

And somehow, it helps.

***

Billy makes a point not to interact with Harrington at school. They don’t share any classes together, and they don’t even have the same period for lunch.

Blessings, Billy finds, come in the strangest ways.

The only time they really interact is during basketball practice, and even then Harrington’s not into the game like he was last fall. When Billy was new to the school, ready to destroy whatever came his way, and prove something of himself. When Billy was trying to temper the monster inside of him. The one that ached for more than any chick could ever give him.

And then one day Harrington gets knocked on his ass by Tommy, who towers over him with a look that’s about ninety-five percent bravado and about five percent fight, lifting his cocky eyebrow like he’s just waiting for Harrington to fucking say something, c’mon.

Instead, Harrington gets up, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, looks around and laughs. Straight up laughs. It’s humorless, and he shakes his head and says, “Fuck this. I’m done.”

And leaves.

He doesn’t look at Billy once. It sits funny in Billy’s chest.

Then he starts to notice that Harrington doesn’t show to school for several days. No one is concerned, it seems, as King Steve’s throne has long been overturned. Everyone just goes about their days, including that Wheeler bitch and her creepy new boyfriend, whatever the fuck his name is. Billy has half a mind to demand answers, but answers to what, he doesn’t know.

He just goes about his life. Wash, rinse, repeat.

And he hates it.

Tommy tells Billy about some party that some chick in his third period is throwing, and then Billy stops listening. He asks for her address, drops Maxine off at the arcade with the caveat that she will need to get a ride back, which earns him an eye roll and a whatever.

So, he’s at this party in some huge fucking house that has too many doors that lead to too many rooms. Billy is about three shots in and equally deep on some kind of hunch punch that tastes like lighter fluid but he’s feeling good. The music is loud, vibrating through his boots, and making that curling urge to fuck something up relax its grip.

Then Harrington ruins it.

There’s a loud whooped yell from the middle of the room, a battle cry of sorts, and Billy spins around and there he is. Steve Harrington, smashed out of his mind, holding what appears to be a plastic bottle of vodka that’s surely going to bring a hell of a hangover tomorrow. He’s babbling something to a girl in front of him that Billy’s never seen, pulling her closer and swaying with her to the music.

Billy’s palms ache from his nails digging into them. His knuckles itch for the pain of collison.

And like the idiot that he is, he just watches. Watches the way Harrington slips a leg between the girl’s thighs, her miniskirt riding up just under her ass. Watches the way Harrington’s hands sit on the small of her back as they sway, and the way his throat works when he tilts his head back to take another swig from the bottle.

He watches because he can’t not watch.

Like a fucking idiot.

And then, then Harrington does some sloppy as fuck half spin, nearly putting the chick to the floor, but she screams and holds onto him, tucking her face into the crook of his neck. Billy knows the exact pulse point he bit down on, knows the sound Harrington makes when his mouth was on it.

Billy doesn’t expect Harrington to see him, not really. And because he’s absolutely stupid he doesn’t know how long he’s going to watch this shit show before he’s had his fucking fill. But it doesn’t matter because Harrington does see him, and when their gazes lock, Harrington’s eyes go comically wide, and it should be funny but it’s not. It’s not funny at all, and there’s a fire inside of Billy growing, an ember that’s reaching out of control.

He has to get out of here.

Thankfully, when houses are this big it’s easy to find a bathroom. The first one is preoccupied by a dude puking in the toilet, while two girls rub their gums with the tips of their fingers, clearly tweaked out of their minds. The next bathroom sounds like an orgy is going on in there, and while Billy’s not against voyeurism by any stretch, the point isn’t to add more stimulus but to shut it out.

He eventually ends up in some kind of half-bath, the floor littered with red solo cups and beer bottles, but it’s empty. It’s small, verging on claustrophobic, but it gives him a chance to splash the heat off his face and close his eyes, to focus on his breathing.

Billy’s chest twists, demanding release, and he grips the side of the sink harder shaking his head. He won’t give into it. He can’t.

The door opens behind him, and Billy squeezes his eyes shut, grits out, “It’s fucking occupied, go jerk off elsewhere.”

“I have it on good authority that I can get it done right here.”

Billy’s eyes snap open to Harrington’s reflection in the mirror. His stare is glassy, and his hair is a mess, the familiar bruised circles from lack of sleep marring his fair skin. He looks paler than usual, worn thin.

“What’re you doing here?”

Harrington shrugs. “Thought I’d come say hello.”

Billy clenches his jaw. “What?”

“Why are you in the bathroom?”

Billy’s eyebrows furrow together in confusion. “What?”

Harrington chuckles. “Cat got your tongue?” When he speaks again he speaks very slow, enunciating each word distinctly and carefully as if Billy cannot comprehend English. “What are you doing in the bathroom?”

“Taking a bubble bath,” Billy snaps. “What the fuck does it look like I’m doing?”

Harrington’s eyes study over Billy’s hunched form, landing on his ass for several long moments before meeting his gaze again in the mirror. “Clearly not getting jerked off.”

“Astute observation, Harrington. I’m also not getting blown either, in case you were wondering.”

Harrington takes a step forward. “Well, the night is young.”

It’s not that big of a bathroom, not really, so the single step basically has Harrington crowding Billy from behind. Billy spins around and their faces are so close together he can smell the cheap vodka on Harrington’s breath, can see into his bloodshot eyes.

“Well unless you’re getting on your knees, then I don’t think we have anything to discuss.”

Harrington smiles and drops to his knees. Billy gapes.

“What the fuck are you doing?”

Harrington looks up through his eyelashes, quirks an eyebrow. “What does it look like? You think I’m down here for my health?”

Billy opens his mouth to snap a rejoinder but it’s lost on his lips as Harrington leans forward and presses his mouth right on Billy’s dick. Billy had been half hard since Harrington showed up into the small space, but now that he can feel the heat of his mouth through his tight jeans, there’s no stopping his body’s response. Harrington’s palms squeeze on Billy’s thighs as he nuzzles against his erection, and Billy’s hand automatically fists a handful of hair to tug back hard.

He stares into Harrinton’s hooded eyes as he gasps in pleasure, his tongue flicking over his bottom lip when Billy utilizes his free hand to undo his jeans. When he gets his cock out, he holds Harrington’s head in place, just where he wants him. It’s gotta be an uncomfortable angle, but Billy doesn’t care, wants to watch the way his dick dissapears in that pretty fucking mouth, watch the way he chokes when he hits his gag reflex.

Harrington opens his mouth wide in anticipation, his breathing uneven as he waits. His eyes flutter shut as Billy glides the tip over the flat of Harrington’s tongue, slides it right inside that wet, hot mouth. He hisses when Harrington’s mouth closes around, sucking hard and mercilessly, his eyes opening and waiting. They stare right into Billy’s soul.

Then Billy lets instinct take over, and starts moving his hips to the feeling, widens his stance so that he can fuck Harrington’s mouth savagely. Harrington’s hands grip harder onto Billy’s thighs, his moans muffled by Billy’s dick.

But Billy wants more.

“Put your hands behind your back,” Billy commands, stopping his brutal pace until Harrington complies. The moment Harrington does it, Billy tugs at his hair again, earning a happy moan, and he curls his lips into a vicious smile. “Good boy.”

Then he goes back to the task at hand, switching between fucking the hell out of Harrington’s mouth, even hitting the back of his throat with a gag, to pulling all the way out just to brush the tip around his swollen lips. He does it because he can, and because he wants to ruin Harrington. Wants to tarnish him just like he’s tarnished.

Billy’s never been one for dirty talk, and he’s not exactly the most vocal, but when Harrington does something with his tongue on the underside of Billy’s cock he nearly comes right then and there, with a moan so loud that if it wasn’t for the pumping music he’d be heard through the whole house.

“You want me to come in your mouth, pretty boy?” he asks, voice lust-soaked and ragged. Harrington shakes his head violently and Billy pulls out of his mouth to give him a chance to speak.

Harrington’s lips are swollen and wet, and he’s panting for breath. His hands are still laced behind him, and he closes his eyes, tilts his head all the way up towards Billy before opening them. They’re still blood-shot and glassy, but it doesn’t appear as though it’s from alcohol.

It makes Billy want to ruin him more.

“Can I—I want to touch you.” Harrington says, his voice low and raspy, a hint of desperation at the end of it. It makes Billy’s blood run boiling hot, and he feels a sweat breaking out on his forehead.

He licks his lips. “Yeah,” he murmurs, angling his hips forward. “Do it.”

Harrington’s hands are tentative at first, opting to slide his palms along the sides of Billy’s legs, all the way to his hips. Fingertips trail along the top of his tight jeans, and carefully, ever so carefully wrap around the base of his dick. His eyes lock on what’s in front of him.

And then he fucking whines.

Desperate, and shuttered, and—oh God, it’s the sweetest sound Billy’s ever fucking heard, and he doesn’t know what to think of that. Instead that monster inside of him just wants to grab the back of Harrington’s head, shove his cock past the seam of his lips and throat fuck him until he’s so hoarse he can’t speak for days.

“What do you want?” Billy asks. His skin itches, an electric livewire sparking at high voltage. “Tell me, now.”

Harrington’s focus shifts, his gaze trailing up to Billy’s eyes. He opens and closes his mouth several times, as though he’s contemplating how to say exactly what he wants.

His tongue trails over his teeth and he huffs a laugh. “What I want? I want you to come on my face.”

“Holy fuck,” Billy breathes, earning another breathless laugh from Harrington.

“I don’t know about holy, but—” That famous Steve Harrington smile spreads across his face. “We can pretend we’re doing just that.”

“Well,” Billy says, carding a hand through Harrington’s hair and tugging at the back. “If that’s the case, carry on.”

Harrington squeezes the base of Billy’s cock just as he opens his mouth and swirls his tongue around the tip, lapping up everything he can and not bothering to hide the moan. He’s really into this, like, really into it, and Billy can’t help but stare in wonder at the way Harrington’s eyes flutter shut before he starts this wrist twisting motion with the twist of his tongue and holy shit, Billy is definitely going to come from this.

He doesn’t realize that he’s fisting and yanking on Harrington’s hair as he grunts, his mouth dropping open and spilling all over Harrington’s open mouth and chin. Billy tries to watch the entire time, but he can’t, his neck going slack as he tips it to the ceiling, squeezing his eyes shut because Harrington has yet to let go of his fucking vice grip on his dick.

Billy slumps onto the edge of the sink, the hard porcelain digging into his back, filling his aching lungs with heavy pants. When he peers down at Harrington through blurry vision, he sees him reaching up and swiping two fingers over his chin before nodding to sink.

“Move,” he gurgles, and Billy steps to the side, blinking as Harrington scrambles up and spits into the sink. Then he turns the water on and cleans his face up, washing his mouth out.

Billy’s face heats from—he doesn’t want to think about why. Instead he crosses his arms and raises an eyebrow.

“If you didn’t want to swallow you shouldn’t have asked for it.”

Harrington shrugs. “Don’t take it so personally.” A grin tilts on the edge of his lips. “Jizz and vodka don’t go well together.”

“Duly noted,” Billy says dryly.

Then Harrington leans over and kisses Billy. It’s not desperate, or angry, or possessive - it’s soft and calculated. He swipes a tongue over the seam of Billy’s lips and Billy can’t help but open up for him, tasting himself on his tongue, inhaling sharply through his nose when Harrington’s fingertips wrap around his throat. He squeezes, ever so gently, like he’s testing it out, before he pulls back and nods.

“See you next time,” Harrington says as he walks backwards to the door, and in a flash he’s gone, back into the fray.

Billy slouches against the wall and scrubs a hand over his face. It isn’t until after he’s put himself back together again that he realizes Harrington didn’t ask Billy to return the favor.

Huh.

***

Okay, so Billy is not obsessed with Harrington. Really, he’s not.

It’s just. He notices things, is all. He sees how Harrington acts strange in class, staring out the window like he’s waiting for something to come get him. The way he flinches when a locker slams too loud. The white-knuckled fist during PE, when everyone’s yelling and taunting like he wants to just punch something senseless.

No, it’s not that he’s obsessed.

It’s that he gets it.

He spots Harrington at the arcade on Wednesday, right after the whole bathroom dick-sucking the Friday before. He’s not even spared Billy a single glance, and that really grates Billy’s nerves. Because Billy doesn’t just put his dick in anyone’s mouth, despite what the whispers are at school. Of course he doesn’t do anything to stop them, knows that the kind of reputation as the token bad boy works well for him, and no one fucks with him now that he’s basically at the top.

But that’s not the point. The point is that Harrington doesn’t seem to care.

And Billy hates that.

He also hates how he can’t stop thinking about the way Harrington’s eyes fluttered shut when he was on his knees doing exactly everything Billy told him to do. How he was so... obedient under Billy’s touch, as if he was made to be there.

And that’s the problem is that the peaceful, blissful look on Harrington’s face has been sitting in Billy’s mind since. When he closes his eyes at night he can’t help the way his palm travels over his stomach and down into his underwear, wrapping tightly around the base of his dick just like Harrington’s hand did it. It never feels the same, but it works for what Billy needs as his brain flips through a photobook of images, vacillating between reality and fantasy.

He always comes too quick too, which pisses him the fuck off.

“You better be here at eight thirty,” Billy snaps at Max around a cigarette, rolling down the window. Cold air cuts through him like a knife as he lights the end, the paper sizzling. He takes a deep long drag, letting the smoke flow through his lungs and out of his nose.

Max doesn’t speak, fiddling with her backpack, and Billy slams a fist on the side of her chair to get her attention. “Hey, you listening to me?”

“Yeah, I hear you, Jesus,” Max mutters with a shake of her head. Her hands are tight around the shoulder straps, knuckles white from the pressure. Her lips are pulled together in a tight frown, and her eyes are pinched like she’s on the verge of tears.

Something is wrong, that much is obvious. A flame of anger burns alive over Billy’s skin, that over-protective nature that Max hates so much surfacing. Because if something is wrong with Max that means something will be wrong with Neil, which means something will end up being fucked up to Billy.

“What’s wrong?”

Max inhales a deep breath, her focus steady towards the arcade building. The other kids are gathering outside, bundled in their winter coats and hats, their usual over enthusiastic demeanor non-existent.

“Max, what happened?”

Max turns to Billy then, tilting her head to the side, eyebrows scrunched in a tight furrow. “What?”

“What happened?” Billy repeats, trying to ignore the rise of panic in his stomach. It’s been exactly 72 hours since Neil got pissed and used his hands to show it on Billy and he’s hoping he can extend the inevitable another day, if possible.

“You just called me Max. You don’t usually do that.” Max says, a smirk curling on the side of her mouth. Her hands have relaxed a bit. “I’m just—things have been weird.”

“Weird,” Billy repeats, nonplussed.

“Yeah... weird.”

Someone screams outside of the car, and Billy and Max’s attention turns toward the raucous roar of Harrington showing up to the arcade with one of the kids. The one with the ball cap and a sassy mouth that rivals Max’s.

Billy’s stomach flips. Does this weird knot thing that makes him feel like he’s been punched, and he has to remind himself that he hasn’t. Harrington’s sleeves are pushed up to his elbows like it’s not basically twenty fucking degrees outside.

His smile is wide and bright and genuine. His stance is relaxed and his fingers aren’t twitchy, and when he laughs his shoulders come up to his ears right before he tips his head back. Billy can hear it all the way in his car because his window is down.

Billy’s whole body goes tense, his knees aching a bit like growing pains. It takes a few beats for him to recognize what this is.

Envy.

He flicks the long log of ash at the end of his cigarette, which is now close to being nothing but a nub, and he groans in frustration, snubbing it out in his ashtray. As he goes about flicking a new cigarette to life, he can feel Max’s stare boring into him.

“Can I help you?” Billy says, fiddling with the lighter several more times before it finally opens a flame. “Don’t you have your little friends to go play with?”

She doesn’t answer for a long time and finally Billy looks at her. Her blue eyes are clear now, the shiny emotion gone. She smiles but it has a tone of mockery to it. Billy raises an expectant eyebrow.

Max hums. “I see,” she says, and before Billy can even begin to work out what that means she’s out of the car, ambling up to the other tiny humans, and going inside the arcade. Harrington hangs outside for a minute longer, scuffing his sneaker against the curb, shoving his hands into his pockets.

Billy will never admit it in a thousand years, but he just wants Harrington to look at him. Harrington doesn’t, not once, just slumps against the facade of the dirty, worn building, pulls out a smashed soft pack and lights his own cigarette. He closes his eyes, tilts his head back and blows out a long trail of grey smoke.

It isn’t until Harrington finishes his smoke, drops it to the ground and smashes it with the sole of his shoe before disappearing inside the building that Billy pulls his car into reverse and leaves.

***

“Ah, we meet again.”

Billy doesn’t look up from his plate of food. He just keeps chewing super slow and with care because his fucking jaw hurts like hell. He wants to smoke a cigarette but he also can’tdo that because inhaling usesface muscles he didn’t even know existed until Neil put his knuckles into them about twenty times in a fucking row.

He wasn’t even late. That’s the part that pisses Billy off the most. His pops just wanted to start a fight, find an excuse to slap Billy around. He didn’t even wait for Max to leave with her friends. Of course not. He did it in front of her and Susan, which was humiliating as fuck. He hates it when his father does that, hates it.

And it was all over something mundane, about who had drunk the last of his fucking beer. Which, by the way, was in fact, Neil. But he was thrumming with anger the moment he walked into the door, most likely from some bullshit that happened at work that day, or because of nothing all, who the fuck knows. Billy sure as hell doesn’t. All he knows is that he was on his way out, trying real hard to avoid the fucker and then he said, “Not so fast, son,” and it all went tits up from there.

So yeah, he’s not going to acknowledge Harrington because why the hell should he? Harrington has been ignoring Billy for a solid two weeks, so fuck him.

Not that he’s counting or anything.

“Ah, the silent treatment,” Harrington continues, amusement coated thick in his voice. “That’s okay, I don’t mind talking. In fact I love it.” Billy hears the rustle of plastic, the slap of something on a palm, and deduces it’s a cigarette pack.

“Did you know,” Harrington continues, unwrapping the cigarette box, and placing one into his mouth. “Did you know that peanuts are used to make dynamite? Yeah! I know, wild, isn't it? And before you ask, no, I did not know that, I learned that from Dustin yester—Jesus Christ your fucking face.”

Billy tries to grit his teeth and ends up hissing from the pain that blooms across his right side. He doesn’t want to talk about it, and he certainly doesn’t want Harrington to use that sympathetic fucking voice on him either.

“Yes, I have a face,” Billy says through clenched teeth. Fuck it, if it hurts his face. He just wants to eat and miss being able to smoke a cigarette in peace. “Thank you for noticing it.”

“No, it’s just—” Harrington’s voice cuts off, strangled at the end. When he speaks, it’s hushed, as though he’s whispering to Billy a secret in class. “What happened?”

“Does it matter?”

“That depends on who’s asking. And since it’s me, yeah, it does.”

Billy lifts his eyes then, and he nearly gasps himself. Harrington’s circles under his blood-shot eyes are a deep purple now, and his skin looks sallow and gaunt. He’s definitely lost some weight. How the hell did Billy miss this? He feels his chest twist with something that’s a bit like anger and concern and he inhales a long breath to help temper that monster inside.

“You ever feel like if there’s a God, that he’s not really looking out for everyone?”

Harrington laughs, but it’s lacking any humor. He cards a hand through his hair, sucks on the cigarette in his other hand and nods slowly. “All the fucking time, man.”

“Let’s just say that if I could, I’d have a few choice words with him.”

Harrington blinks slowly, his head still bobbing in a nod. “It’s hard to believe in all that when you’ve been face to face with monsters.”

Billy’s stomach does a swan dive into the floor. No one he’s known has ever come this close to understanding the meaning of the word suffering. Maybe his mother, but she fucking peaced out the first chance she got, and hasn’t looked back since. Maybe Alejandro, during those nights they spent together learning more about each other. Maybe those boys in between that acted so fucking cock sure on the outside, but were totally shaking with want and desire to feel again protected by the confines of a dark room where no one could find them but Billy’s hands.

Who the fuck knows. But what Billy does know is that this is the first time anyone has hit the mark on a bullseye and he’s starting to wonder if Harrington knows.

“What did Maxine tell you?” Billy growls.

This time Harrington raises an eyebrow, juts his chin up a little and squints an eye. The cigarette is paused on its travel to his mouth, so it’s sitting in the air halfway on it’s journey. The same mouth which is parted slightly in confusion and—fear. Yeah, that’s it. Fear.

Billy is going to kill her.

“What did she say?” Billy says, his voice hardening.

Harrington blinks several times. “She didn’t tell me anything unless—has she spoken to you?”

“What the fuck are you talking about, Harrington?”

Billy doesn’t have time for this. He’s tired. His fucking face hurts, and he just wants... He just wanted some alone time, really. He hates it when he gets all emotional after his pops lays into him, but the last week has been exhausting as it is, and he just feels tired. So fucking tired. Tired of it all: school, Hawkins, the cold, his family, his step-sister, fucking Harrington. He wants to know when it’ll all end, when it’ll get better.

Will it ever? Probably not.

Then Janice walks over and refills Billy’s cup with coffee. She’s not as attentive as Betsy but she’s not in today, apparently home sick. She’s probably just as tired as Billy feels on the inside. He feels like the broken up vinyl of the booths, like the water-marked wallpaper, like the stench of the toilets no matter how many times they get cleaned.

Harrington sighs, long and loud. “Okay,” he says, in a tone that’s used when someone’s about to go into a story. “So she hasn’t told you.” Harrington raises the cigarette clad hand to stop Billy from talking. “Look, shit’s been really weird lately and even if I tried to explain you wouldn’t believe me. But that night you bashed my face in? I wasn’t doing anything weird with the kids, alright? We were in danger. Serious danger. And Max drugging you up and threatening you?” Harrington scrubs a hand over his face. “She didn’t do that to prove a point. She did it to protect you.”

Billy opens and closes his mouth several times, unable to formulate anything remotely close to a word or a sentence or whatever. He doesn’t even know if he can figure out English. The next thing that comes out of his mouth is a bit of a surprise.

“Huh.”

“Yeah,” Harrington says on a resigned sigh. “That’s pretty appropriate.”

Billy swallows hard at the way Harrington shifts in his seat like...like he’s afraid. Scared shitless. And suddenly it all adds up: why he comes to the diner at night. Why he’s always appearing on the verge of passing out standing up. Why Maxine has looked about the same since that night too. Something happened that night. Something huge.

“So am I ever going to find out what this ‘big thing’ that happened is?”

“That depends,” Harrington drawls, inhaling a long breath of smoke. He points to Billy’s face. “You gonna explain that? Cause I think it’ll be relevant.”

Billy slants his focus on his half eaten plate of food. He feels the nausea rolling in his stomach, the acidic bile forming in the back of his throat.

“Not today,” he murmurs.

“Well, when you’re ready, I’ll tell you my story.”

Somehow, Billy knows he’s not lying.

***

Billy finds where Harrington lives almost by accident. That’s what he tells himself anyway, when he’s sitting in Harrington’s driveway, staring up at the fucking mansion it is, and wondering how the ever-loving fuck did he not know about this. Billy’s lived most of his life in areas that border Section 8 housing, the current house in Hawkins literally being the nicest joint Neil has bothered to bestow on the family.

He just needed space. Needed to get away. And Harrington hadn’t been in school for a few days and it made Billy’s skin itch, made something unfurl inside of his chest that took him nearly the whole day on Thursday to figure out that it was worry. He hasn’t seen him since that night in the diner where he figured out that there is more going on than just insomnia and fall from social status grace.

He took Max to the Wheeler’s house, under the instruction that she’d better be ready by eight because Neil hadn’t been looking for a fight in almost a week and Billy was needing to prepare. He needed to get ready for something, or else the floor would give out below and then he’d be sinking into the abyss.

He hated sinking.

But then he caught sight of that Henderson kid (“Dustin, his name is Dustin, Billy,” Max had said with a roll of her eyes) and tapped his shoulder and asked where the fuck Harrington had been.

Henderson spun around, eyes wide with surprise before they narrowed. “Excuse me?”

“Where is he?”

The kid crossed his arms and assumed a position that was meant to be intimidating. It wasn’t, of course, but it was impressive nonetheless. “And why the hell should I tell you?”

It took every bit of Billy’s resolve not to just start yelling and demanding. Instead he put on his most charming smile, tilted a hip to the side and said, “You have no idea, do you?”

Henderson’s head cocked to the side, eyes thinning as if Billy were cells on a slide under a microscope. “Hm,” he said. “Maybe not. But I think I’m starting to get it now.”

That threw Billy. The whole charming demeanor vanished. “Get what?”

Henderson sighed as if he was talking to someone who was too daft to comprehend anything “He’s home. Do you know where he lives?”

And that’s how Billy is sitting in Harrington’s driveway, staring up at his motherfucking palace. Like the Taj Mahal of Hawkins. Jesus.

It takes sixty-five steps to make it to Harrington’s front door. Sixty-five long, excruciating steps, that leave Billy’s knees feeling wobbly, and his hands clammy.

The doorbell does some pretty tune, and the front door is painted in a glossy finish.

Harrington opens the front door, his eyes glassy and his hair a mess. He’s not wearing a shirt, which is distracting, and the sweatpants he has on hang low on his hips which is also really distracting. Billy wonders how he’s not freezing his ass off in this cold.

Then Harrington’s senses catch up with him.

“Billy?” Harrington says, blinking several times as if Billy’s an apparition, a trick of the mind. “What are you doing here?”

“Selling Girl Scout cookies,” Billy deadpans. “Want some Thin Mints?”

Harrington leans against the door jamb, crossing his arms over his chest. His skin is covered in goosebumps, and Billy tells himself it must be from the chill outside. His nipples are also hard and that makes Billy want to drag his teeth over them, lick them to see how Harrington tastes.

“I’m more of Peanut Butter Patty type.”

“Just let me the fuck in, Harrington.”

“Steve.”

Billy, forgoing etiquette is nearly on his way inside, but stops mid-stride. “What?”

“If you’re coming inside, you’re gonna have to call me Steve.”

Billy’s mouth twists. “Fine. It’s fucking freezing out here. May I come in, Steve, oh majestic one?”

Harrington—Steve, snorts, and walks into the house, leaving the door wide open. Billy follows him, allowing the warm air inside to surround him, smoothing out the chill in his muscles. Billy’s still not accustomed to the blasting internal heat in the midwest, just as he’s not used to the cold yet. He’s used to air conditioning, hot summer sun, and cool breezes heavy with salt.

Steve makes his way inside, and Billy just follows him. What the fuck else is he suppose to do? He takes off his jacket, the oppressive dry heat too much, too overbearing with Harrington’s bony hips and shoulders, smooth pale skin all exposed.

They make it to the living room. Steve flops onto the expensive looking couch, grabs a beer bottle, and props his feet on the coffee table focusing his attention to the television.

Billy continues to stand, holding onto his jacket and waiting. Waiting for Steve to say something. Waiting for him to be surprised.

He takes a long drag of his beer instead, flicking through the channels. The glow of the television casts sharply over his face, and Billy can still make out the circles even in the semi-dark of the living room. Steve doesn’t even look alive, really. Just coasting and... existing.

It makes Billy’s chest ache.

“Where were you?”

Steve blinks hazily, his eyelids sitting half-mast. “Huh?”

Billy’s hands ball into tight fists. His nails dig into the sensitive parts of his palm.

“School. The arcade. You weren’t there.”

“Yeah.”

“So where have you been?”

Everything in Steve’s body goes rigid. “Since when do you care?”

“Don’t be a dick,” Billy snaps. “Just answer the question.”

Steve slumps further into the cushions, rubbing a hand over his face and into his hair. It makes it stick up everywhere, wild and crazy. Billy fights to ignore the heat that spreads through to his belly.

When Steve speaks, his voice is shaky and frayed around the edges.

“Sometimes doing it all—pretending—isn’t worth it.”

“Why do you need to pretend?”

Then Steve turns, his tired, tired eyes boring holes into Billy. Ripping him apart. Shredding him at the seams.

“Why do you?”

Billy can’t do this standing up.

“Move the fuck over, Harrington.”

Steve slides a few inches, a teasing curl forming on the side of his mouth. “Steve.”

“When you annoy me I still maintain the right to call you Harrington.”

Steve leans into Billy, his shoulder pushing into the side of Billy’s bicep, poking into a particularly large bruise Neil left on him two days ago. He hasn’t even been able to work out because of that bruise and that really pisses Billy off, but right now, the ache he feels spreading over that sensitive muscle makes his toes curl and want to do damage to Steve.

He wonders if he could put bruises on Steve. Not like he did in November, but—reminders.

Steve’s mouth is pretty fucking close to Billy’s, and Billy can smell the staleness of beer and sleep on his mouth. He watches as Steve drags the tip of his tongue across his bottom lip, and it makes Billy’s cock react.

“I have a sneaking suspicion that you’ll be exercising that right a bit too much.”

Steve’s eyes are focused on Billy’s mouth as he says this, and that sends a curl of heat down his spine that spreads right to his alert dick. He can’t do this anymore.

Billy kisses him.

It’s slow at first. It’s tentative, leisurely, wet and warm and it feels—intimate. It fills something inside of Billy, something he never knew needed filling, and when Steve puts both of his hands around Billy’s face, fingers spreading over his jaw and squeezing, it feels as close to a hug as anything else.

It makes Billy want more. He pushes his tongue further inside of Steve’s mouth, earning a low groan, and it cracks Billy open inside, starts to trickle something through the seam. Steve’s skin is hot through Billy’s henley, and he wants to touch it, drag his mouth along that naked chest.

The kiss, much to Billy’s regret, is broken when he pushes Steve back onto the couch. Steve’s eyes are half-lidded and he adjusts so that he can spread his legs wider, planting one foot on the floor and stretching the other leg behind Billy on the couch. It gives a perfect view of the raging boner Steve is sporting in his sweatpants.

It makes Billy’s mouth water.

“Fuck,” Billy murmurs, hand pressing into the inside of Steve’s thigh, spreading him further. Steve lets out a breathless gasp as Billy crawls on top of him, caging him in.

Steve’s hands start to roam over Billy’s back, tugging his shirt off and tossing it over the side of the couch. It’s probably the best idea Steve’s had as far as Billy’s concerned because now he can feel that hot skin against his chest, drag the flat of his tongue along the jut of Steve’s collarbone.

“You’re pretty good at that,” Steve whispers in awe, his fingers dragging into Billy’s hair, and pushing his head further down.

“And you’re pretty fucking pushy,” Billy answers with a grumble. He isn’t going to bitch too much since his whole intention was to let his mouth grab a taste of Steve’s naked torso anyway, but he doesn’t need to know that.

“Mmm, I thought you liked pushy,” Steve says, arching his back when Billy nips into his hip.

“Maybe,” Billy agrees. “But right now you’re talking too much.”

Steve tugs on Billy’s hair so that he can meet Steve’s glassy gaze and wet lips. “You going to make me stop?”

Billy growls, yanking down those sweatpants and with a curled hand around the base of Steve’s cock, guides it into his mouth. Steve gasps underneath him, the fist tightening into his hair, and that just makes Billy suck harder, get sloppier with his tongue. Spit leaks out of his mouth from how clumsy his mouth is and before he knows it, his hand is all wet with his saliva dripping down all over Steve too, and Billy loves it.

He loves the way that Steve babbles incoherently under him, loves the way his hips shuffle and jerk and how his stomach quivers when Billy places a flat palm on it. He loves how Steve whispers tiny praises, even though he’d never admit that in a million fucking years, and most of all, he loves the fact that he’s making Steve do this.

Billy doesn’t know when he started loving all these things, but he does, and while he’d sooner have his brain pulled out of his dick before he’ll ever say it out loud, he does. And it’s when he’s got the tip of Steve’s cock sitting right on his bottom lip, a panting mess underneath him, it’s when Billy knows that what he loves most of all is making Steve Harrington come undone.

He sits back, allows his spit covered hand to glide lazily up and down Steve’s dick, watches the way Steve reaches above him to grip blindly onto the arm of the couch. It’s far more expensive than anything Billy’s family has ever owned, all smooth, fancy fabric, something out of a magazine.

Billy wants to ruin it.

“So do it,” Steve grits out between a moan, and Billy realizes he actually said that thought to the room at large, feels his stomach swoop like he’s flying.

“Alright,” Billy says with a nod, picking up speed with his hand.

He squeezes hard at the tip, and Steve laughs breathlessly at the sensation, arches into it again and nods affirmation. It makes Billy’s chest tighten, makes his stomach flutter, and his dick ache.

What he really wants to be doing is having Steve shove his cock down his throat as far as he can and brutually fuck his mouth while he jerks himself off. He’s gotten off to that idea enough times to know that the fantasy could be a fantastic reality. And Billy isn’t the type to be a pussy about shit, but he doesn’t want to ask, too hesitant to request.

Steve’s hand grips on Billy’s wrist, squeezes tight so he stops. Billy’s eyebrows furrow together.

“You were gone for a minute,” Steve says between his panting. “Where did you go?”

“Nowhere.”

Steve’s eyes narrow. “Don’t lie to me.”

“I was just—” Billy swallows hard, stares at a bit of carpet on the floor. “I was just thinking about something.”

“What were you thinking about?”

Steve’s fingers twist into the thin part of Billy’s wrist and it burns. It burns and he likes it, he likes it a lot. Finally he clenches his jaw, grinds his teeth together for a second and whispers an expletive.

“I was revisiting an idea from my spank bank, okay?” he snaps, all bravado, but the grip on his wrist lessens and he starts moving his hand again. This time he’s slow and brutal about it, punishing Steve for the interruption. “I was thinking about being on my knees for you, letting you fuck my mouth.”

The flush that started on Steve’s chest is now covered with a tiny sheen of sweat. His hair is damp around his temples, and when he ducks his head into his shoulder Billy catches the flush high on his cheekbones.

“Yeah?”

Billy leans forward, swiping the tip of his tongue along the underside of Steve’s cock, turning his head and sucking hard on the side. “Oh yeah,” he murmurs against the slick smooth skin.

Steve’s fingers scratch down the nape of Billy’s neck, curling around the base of his throat. His thumb squeezes right next to his windpipe, and when he commands, “Do it,” Billy swallows him down again, placing one spit soaked hand on the top of the couch and the other on Steve’s hip.

Then Steve starts bucking into Billy’s mouth, fast and rough, not taking into consideration Billy’s gag reflex or the way Billy’s fingernails bite into the side of his hip. Instead he presses his thumb harder into Billy’s throat, right at the pulsepoint, and when he forewarns Billy he’s about to come, Billy moans, pitiful and wanton, before pulling off right at the end.

It leaves a mess. Everywhere. Just like they wanted.

Steve flings an arm over his eyes, his breathing rapid. “Goddamn.” When he speaks again it’s slurred from the comedown. “I promise I’ll return the favor, I just need to get my shit together.”

“No need,” Billy says, getting up on his knees and unzipping himself. Steve lifts his arm to see what Billy is doing, a sinful smile sliding onto his face.

Billy shrugs. “You said you wanted to ruin the couch.”

Steve laughs. “Well, that’s not all I want you to ruin.”

That’s interesting. “Oh?”

Steve scoots down until he’s completely flat on his back. “You can ruin me, too.”

Billy’s heart hammers so hard in his chest his ribs ache. He hides the moment of panic with a wicked smile and says, “Right on.”

***

Steve goes to take a shower, claiming, “There’s so much jizz on me no amount of lazy clean up is gonna help.” He waves dismissively to the kitchen while adding, “Help yourself to whatever you want. I won’t be long.”

Billy’s not hungry, but he does help himself to some water. It takes a few tries to find which cupboard has glasses in it, and Billy laughs at the cabinet that’s supposed to be filled with liquor nearly empty, and doesn’t study too hard at the cabinet filled with orange prescription bottles.

Eventually he makes his way up the stairs, because there’s not much else to do downstairs, and after a little bit of searching finds Steve’s room. It’s much bigger than Billy’s bedroom, but it’s hideously decorated, especially with the wallpaper.

The bed is unmade, a pile of clothes at the foot of it. An ashtray filled to the brim with cigarettes and what looks like the tail end of a few joints sits on the edge of the bedside table. A book lays next to it, spread open to where it was last left off. Billy rubs a fingertip along the spine of it, reading the title Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

“It’s pretty good, actually.”

Billy spins around to find Steve standing in the doorway of his bedroom, a towel looped around his hips haphazardly, hair dripping beads of water down his chest. Billy watches the trail of a couple of them, feels his throat constrict with desire.

“I need to get going.”

Billy doesn’t miss the disappointment on Steve’s face. It’s gone in a flash, but the remnants hang at the corners of his mouth, the furrow of his eyebrow.

“To get Max,” Billy explains. “She’s at the arcade with everyone. If I don’t get her home—”

He stops. He doesn’t want to explain what will happen if he’s not in the door by 8:30 on the dot what Neil will do to him. That he knows it doesn’t matter, that tomorrow will be a rough day of pain and hurt because it’s been too long since the last time he pissed his father off.

It feels like it just happened.

“I’ll go with you.”

Billy blinks, shakes his head to clear his thoughts. “What?”

Steve shrugs. “I’ll go with you. Hang out with the kids. They usually stay later if I’m there.” He shifts on his feet uncomfortably, and then makes his way to the dresser. Pulls out one of the drawers with ease, shifts through it to find some briefs. The silence is deafening. “Maybe after you drop Max off we can—”

“No.”

The relaxed slope of Steve’s shoulders vanishes and turns spiky. The tension down the knobs of his back are visible, like a rope being pulled into a knot. Billy can see him gripping the side of the drawer. When he speaks it’s barely above a whisper.

“Why?”

Go in for the kill, the monster says. Destroy before you get too close. Billy would be a liar if he said that when his fist collided with Steve’s face last fall there wasn’t a part of him that felt electric, that came alive inside of him, a jump start of high voltage. He couldn’t stop himself even after he had destroyed Steve into unconsciousness, the beast already unleashed.

It’s happening again now.

“Because I don’t want to.”

Steve still doesn’t turn around. He sheds the towel, leaving himself stark naked in the room, and Billy can’t help the way his eyes trail over the two dimples right above Steve’s ass, the way his legs stand apart and how badly Billy wants to drag his tongue over every part of that uncharted territory. To bite and mark and claim.

Billy is thankful when he finally covers it up with the underwear. Steve grabs a pair of jeans on the floor and jumps into them.

“Fine. But why?”

“Why what?”

“Why are you shutting me out when I ask to spend time with you?”

Billy grits his teeth. He doesn’t want to hear the hammering of his heart in his chest, doesn’t want to acknowledge the veiled hurt that’s in Steve’s eyes, doesn’t want to think about how he doesn’t see him as Harrington anymore, but Steve. Everything is changing, a giant cataclysm inside of Billy and he’s in the middle of it all without a life raft.

“Just because you put my dick your mouth a couple of times doesn’t mean that we’re like, boyfriends, or something,” Billy spits, like the idea is utterly vile.

Like he’d rather be anywhere else but here in this bedroom.

Like he’s not lying straight through his fucking teeth.

He clenches his hands tight to stop them from shaking.

Steve stops putting on his sweater. His arms are hanging in the air halfway up, covered in bunched-up wool, his torso naked. There’s hair sticking up all over the place, wet and dripping, and Billy thinks about how he better wear a hat because it’s freezing outside and he’ll catch his death with a head full of wet hair.

But that’s not what bothers Billy the most. What bothers him is the way that Steve’s expression is blank, numb, withdrawn. He’s the type who’s over-expressive to a fault, giving away every emotion he has right there on his pretty face and right now Billy can’t read him at all.

“I see,” Steve says, his voice devoid of emotion too. “Well if that’s the case, what the fuck are you still doing here?”

Billy knows a dismissal when he hears it and as he makes his way down the stairs, grabs his coat on the way out. As he walks to his car in the freezing cold, he feels nothing. He feels nothing at all.

***

Despite the little—whatever it is that Billy has with Steve, they don’t stop fucking around. Billy nearly faints with relief when Steve shows up to the side of his locker a week later, leans against the metal frame, and says, “What are you doing tonight?”

And when Billy tells him that he has zero plans, because even if he did have plans he’d cancel them in a second, Steve nods looking down at his shoes and crosses his arms. His fingers tap against his arm, and Billy tries not to get too distracted about how tight Steve’s sweater looks over his chest.

“Good,” Steve says flatly. “Come over.” And then he leaves.

Billy doesn’t acknowledge how much lighter he feels the rest of the day.

So he goes home, finds out from Susan that Neil is working late that night, and ends up at Steve’s place again. This time the house has more lights on, the TV blaring in the living room. Billy thinks he smells something delicious and spicy like pizza but he doesn’t know because Steve attacks Billy on the spot, pushing him right into the door, his mouth immediately on Billy’s neck.

“Someone’s a bit excited,” Billy murmurs, a little too breathless for his liking. But he can’t help it, not when Steve’s sharp teeth are dragging over his neck hard enough to leave a mark. Billy gasps, eyes rolling into his head, hissing, “Yes,” when Steve clamps down and sucks.

Then Steve rolls his hips, right against Billy’s hard dick (which if he is honest, he’s been half hard since he got in the car on the way over, but he’s not going to tell Steve that) and smiles knowingly.

“Yeah, someone is,” he says, his voice gruff and a little shaky. Then he pulls back and yanks on Billy’s arm. “C’mon.”

And then he’s leading Billy upstairs.

This time Billy doesn’t fuck around, removes his jacket and shirt, and kicks off his boots. He starts making work on his belt when Steve wraps his arms around his middle from behind him, his hands shoving Billy’s away.

Billy leans his head back on Steve’s shoulder, giving access to his neck again and licks his lips as Steve places open mouth kisses along the curve of his neck.

“Bit hard to get naked when you’re doing that, you know.”

Steve hums, rolling his tongue along the area he bit earlier. Then he starts making work on Billy’s belt while brushing his lips along his jaw, and up to his ear.

“Well look it here,” he whispers, breath hot and voice husky. It makes Billy shiver. He shoves down Billy’s jeans, a hand splayed right above his aching erection. Then there’s a low chuckle and Steve’s nose tickles the lobe with Billy’s earring. “Someone forgot their underwear.”

“Figured they were coming off anyway, so what’s the point?”

Another low chuckle. “Did you put cologne on your dick this time?”

“You wanna find out?” Billy asks, smirking smugly.

Steve pushes Billy forward onto the bed, and Billy’s palms slam down onto the mattress. He’s breathing hard now, his cock aching and his jeans pooled around his ankles. His skin is hot all over, and when Steve folds over his bent body, the contact of his chest slippery with sweat, his long hair tickling the back of Billy’s neck, Billy cannot stop the mewlish groan that escapes his lips.

“Fuck,” Steve whispers, his lips brushing against Billy’s shoulderblade. He kisses down his spine, fingers digging handfuls of his ass, and spreading him wide. “Jesus. Fuck.”

Billy shuffles out of the jeans, stumbles on the bed a little to get them off, and turns around to find Steve staring at him in wonder. His eyes keep focusing on everywhere but Billy’s face, and something inside of Billy churns uncomfortably. He reaches for Steve’s hair, yanks it hard so that they're eye to eye, and leans close, so close that their lips are touching when he talks.

“No,” Billy growls, low and deep. “I think I should fuck you.”

Steve chuckles, his tongue sliding across his teeth and poking into the side of his cheek. “Yeah,” he says after a beat, as if he’s making a choice and not submitting to his fate. “Yeah, I think you should.”

Billy tries to hide how hard he swallows, and nods. “Good.” He pauses, peering down at the bedside table. “Do you have—”

“Yeah,” Steve says, his voice quivering a little. He leans over and opens the drawer, where there’s a tube of KY and condoms. Billy slips his hand out of its grip on Steve’s hair, and clenches his fist to stop the shaking.

After grabbing the supplies and tossing them on the bed, Steve stands in front of Billy, wraps both of his hands around his neck and whispers, “Where do you want me?”

The first time Billy ever had sex with someone he was fourteen. The girl was older than him, and she basically took control of the whole situation. Billy hated the feeling of being out of control, hated the way it felt like she was handling him with kid gloves. He wanted to make her feel good, the way she was making him feel good, but in the end he could see the detachment in her eyes, the mechanical movements of her body.

Billy’s been running on a similar autopilot with fucking for too long. Kissing and messing around with Alex was the first sign of an awakening he had felt, a moment when he realized that was how it was supposed to feel. And with Steve—fuck, with Steve it’s unlike anything Billy’s ever experienced before in his life.

Billy’s heart is hammering so fast, so loud, the roar of blood rushes into his ears. It’s all a crashing tsunami of emotions at this realization that he cannot wrangle them together.

He licks his lips and rasps, “Bed.”

The mattress creaks as Steve crawls onto it. Billy can see the way his arms tremble as he positions himself on all fours, peering over his shoulder with hooded eyes. Billy’s fingertips trace over the knobs of his spine, down the dip on his lower back, over the curve of his ass. He presses blunt nails into the crease of flesh right under, bites his lip when it earns a low shaky moan.

Billy wouldn’t claim he’s a fucking expert at this, by any stretch. But he’s had a few curious moments with himself to know the mechanics going in, and when he squeezes out the lube onto his fingers, and drags his middle finger over Steve’s entrance, he’s not shocked by the way his shoulders go rigid.

He is, however, surprised at how much he likes the way Steve’s breath catches when he pushes gently inside, the way his head falls into the pillow below him. Billy whispers small praise, adjusting his hand so that he can gain better access. It’s awkward, and uncomfortable at best, but he’s running about eighty-percent on instinct, and twenty-percent sheer bravado.

Then Steve’s breath catches and a long, low groan spills between his lips followed by, “Oh god, yes, yes—”

That pretty much dissolves any fears that Billy had as quickly as they came.

He pulls the finger out, earning a whine of loss from Steve, and Billy can’t help the smile that spreads across his face. He pours more lube onto his fingers, this time slowly adding another when he goes back in, and this earns a hiss of discomfort. He knows from personal experience that this takes time to get used to, so Billy makes an effort to lean over to distract Steve by leaving hot, open-mouth kisses up his spine, biting down on his shoulder as he works his fingers inside farther.

Billy tilts Steve’s head up so that he can get a peek of his face, and is rewarded with a half-lidded gaze over his eyes, his mouth hanging open in bliss. Billy swipes his tongue inside of Steve’s mouth just to get a taste, and Steve follows his mouth when he pulls away, but is too blissed-out to mourn the loss of connection. Instead he goes back to resting his head into the pillow below, his eyebrows furrowing when Billy stretches his fingers inside of him, before finger-fucking him again.

It’s hard not to lose control, to let the beast inside take over and see if it can rip Steve in half. It’s not the same kind of angry tempest that Billy felt last November when he couldn’t stop his fist colliding into Steve’s face, watching the way he went limp into unconsciousness, but there’s a need for more, the want to shatter Steve still sits deep inside, waiting.

By the time Billy has three fingers inside of Steve, he’s practically putty on his mattress, Steve’s legs spread wide underneath him, hips jerking back into Billy’s hand to gain more momentum. The moans are a staccatoed rhythm of uh, uh, uh with every movement of Billy’s hand, and Billy can’t be patient anymore. His dick is hard and ready, and after wiping his hand absently on the sheets, he manages, miraculously, to get the condom on without fucking anything up.

“Ready?” Billy asks hoarsely to himself, or Steve, he doesn’t know.

Steve repositions his knees, serving himself to Billy, before he whispers, “Please.”

“Fuck,” Billy says, grabbing a fistful of Steve’s hair and lining his cock up. “You’re going to fucking kill me, Harrington.”

“Hopefully not—ah—anytime soon,” Steve stammers.

The sex isn’t the best Billy’s ever performed, but it’s by far the filthiest. Billy tries to focus on anything else but the tight sensation of his dick sinking balls deep into Steve Harrington. He goes slow at first, just because he doesn’t want to be a two-pump chump, and also because he wants to see if he can keep making Steve moan and beg for him.

But then all the control that Billy starts with disappears, the beast inside demanding. His movements jerk more aggressively, more jerky, which in turn earns more moans and words of encouragement from Steve and it’s then that Billy can’t stop even if he wanted to.

The sound of skin slapping against skin sounds obscene in the bedroom. When Billy takes one hand and grips it into the flesh of Steve’s hip, and the other into his hair, the noise Steve makes is absolutely animalistic. Billy doesn’t even realize he’s pushing Steve’s face into the mattress so hard that Steve’s arms give out under him until Steve reaches behind him and grabs for one of Billy’s arms to steady himself.

The words that come out of Billy’s mouth happen so fast he doesn’t even know what he’s saying: “Oh god, you feel so fucking good, you’re so tight. Oh, God, oh God, I can’t—”

Control myself, is what Billy almost says but stops, biting down onto his lip hard before letting out a sharp gasp when Steve pushes his hips back in time as Billy pounds forward. This earns loud moans from both of them, and Billy just wants to see how fast, how hard, how long he can go before Steve begs him to stop. If he even will.

In the end it doesn’t matter, because Billy will always want more. So, he drives harder and faster, sweat dripping onto the slick flesh below him, relentless and brutal. He keeps going until his lungs burn, until there’s the familiar build up, the heady rush of an orgasm on the cusp, and Billy tilts his head back and lets out a guttural groan to the ceiling as he comes.

It’s the best orgasm he’s ever had.

He all but collapses on Steve from sheer exhaustion. But he wants to give back to Steve what Steve gave to him, and so with careful ease he pulls out, discards the used condom in the wastebasket near the bed, and rasps, “Turn over.”

Steve listens, but does it carefully, wincing a bit when he settles on his back. His whole body is covered in a thin sheen of sweat, a faint blush resting on his cheeks. His hair is sticking to his forehead, and his chest rises and falls as he gasps for air, a faraway look in his eyes.

The sight is so beautiful it makes Billy’s chest soar. He did this. He’s the one who’s made Steve come undone, and turned him into this.

Billy doesn’t think twice about sucking Steve’s cock down to the root.

It doesn’t take long for Steve to come, his voice shaky as he cries out when the orgasm hits. Billy tries to swallow it all but chokes a little because of the angle, and pulls back, wiping his mouth with his hand. Steve doesn't notice as he flings an arm over his eyes.

“I’m gonna go clean up,” Billy mutters after he regains his composure and can speak. Steve responds with a monosyllabic grunt.

When Billy stares at himself in the mirror, he almost doesn’t recognize who he sees. It’s not that his hair is a sweaty mess, or that his neck is mottled with a hickey. It’s not that his eyes are lidded with a drunken post-orgasm appearance that only happens when he’s had a good fuck. It’s that inside of those eyes he sees something different that he hasn’t seen in a long time.

He looks alive.

Billy runs the water in the bright white porcelain sink for much longer than necessary, watches the way the stream swirls down the drain before cupping his hands under the faucet and splashing his face several times. When he studies his reflection again, it still looks the same but less fucked-out. He’ll take it.

When he gets back into Steve’s room Steve is spread out on the bed, snoring. Billy chuckles, gathering his clothes and getting himself dressed. Steve whines and clutches the pillow more closely to his chest, his eyebrows furrowed like he’s in pain. Then his leg kicks out really quick, grumbling something and it’s then that Billy knows exactly what’s going on.

Billy’s had nightmares for as long as he can remember. They’re always about being trapped or running with his legs too heavy to pick up the pace and escape from the single monster who has always wreaked havoc in his life. He wakes up in the middle of the night with a hammering heart, and gasping for breath in restricted lungs.

Then he has to rub out the pain in his legs and arms because he’s been tense for too long. Move his mouth around so he can loosen up his jaw. Try to remember how to count while being half asleep so he doesn’t close his eyes and feel the panicked fear of never being able to leave the clutches of Neil Hargrove.

Another whine escapes from Steve’s twisted mouth, and Billy walks over to the bed, sits carefully on the edge. Steve’s hand jerks in front of him, and his leg kicks again, and he whimpers.

This is a bad one. Billy knows what those feel like.

Billy counts the steps it takes to get to the edge of Steve’s bed. It’s four. Four slow, precise steps that grow closer to Steve, to his furrowed eyebrows, to his messy sweat-soaked hair. Billy reaches for him, brushes back the fringe that’s fallen over his eyes, trails his fingertips over Steve’s naked back, resting a palm in the middle. His skin is hot to the touch, almost feverish, and when he whimpers again, his breathing growing harsh and rapid, Billy pushes down, strokes a thumb back and forth over his sweaty skin.

“Hey,” Billy says softly, trying to ease Steve awake. Billy watches as he twists against the sheets, his lips scrunched in a frown.

It’s the worst when someone panics and tries to wake you up. Max learned that the hard way a couple of times when Billy was screaming into the night, and she rushed into his room trying to shake him into consciousness. The time that Billy nearly knocked the lights out of her was enough of a reason for Max to learn a different tactic to remove Billy from the monsters that haunted him in his dreams.

He once asked her what she did, or rather demanded gruffly as they sat in the Camaro alone on the way to school. They were living in California at the time, the bright blue skies high above the peaking horizon of dawn, painting the clouds in a blushed pink. Billy couldn’t look at her, refused to make eye contact, and he damn near grabbed her wrist in buzzing frustration before she spoke.

Max’s voice was small and detached. Without any sympathy or regret, just straight and to the point. “I—” she swallowed hard and sighed, resigned. “I just basically touch you lightly to know that I’m there, and gently wake you. Seeing as panicking nearly got me unconscious I thought, you know, I could try a nicer approach.”

They didn’t say anything to each other after that and haven’t spoken of it since. But that’s what Billy is trying to do now, because the last thing he needs is to get a fist to the face in the midst of a panic attack from a dream.

Steve starts to whimper louder, his mouth opening in large gasps before begins to huff out sharp moans of pain. Billy’s heart rate increases, a heavy hammering in his chest that makes his fingers tremble. He pushes down onto Steve’s moving body, and reaches out and wraps a palm around Steve’s fist twisted around the sheet.

“Harrington,” Billy says more sterenly. His voice quivers under the noise of suffering that he’s hearing. He swallows quickly before he continues. “Wake up, c’mon, it’s okay.”

Steve’s eyes fly open, delirious from the nightmare, his chest heaving. Billy focuses on his hand on his back still, the way it rises and falls aggressively instead of those round eyes of fear. He can’t handle looking at that. It does something to him inside and that emotion isn’t anything that he’s remotely prepared for.

Billy twists his hand around Steve’s wrist, not trying to be painful, but trying to bring him to reality and consciousness. He can tell Steve is still running on instinct, and when his eyes shift from delirious to lucid, they blink and look at Billy for a long time.

“What are you doing here?” Steve croaks, his voice sleep-hoarse.

“Well, if you’re asking for a play by play, I happened to fuck you into the mattress and then went to the bathroom to clean myself up. Came back and you were asleep.”

Steve grunts, rubbing his free hand over his face. Billy notices that he doesn’t try to move his other hand out of Billy’s grip. “That was hardly sleep.”

“How long?” Billy asks, his eyes focusing on the terrible pattern of Steve’s wallpaper.

There’s a long-suffering sigh. Billy takes notice of Steve’s wrist twisting so that his fingers can wrap around Billy’s wrist. “How long what?”

Billy finally chances a look down at Steve. “The nightmares. How long have you had them?”

Steve slips his arm out of Billy’s grasp. “Long enough.”

“That’s why you go to the diner, isn’t it?”

Steve is staring up at the ceiling. He’s not looking at Billy, his eyes avoiding and his expression shuttered. Billy doesn’t like it. He doesn’t like it at all.

The silence between them hangs. Billy remembers when they were in the diner how Steve told Billy that he’d talk if Billy did. Billy wonders if he should tell him about the monster inside of him, the beast alive within him that needs a release that only Steve seems to be able to give him.

Billy realizes, with a numbing sense of panic that he wants to tell Steve.

“Yes,” Steve says finally, clearing his throat after his voice cracks. “That’s why I go.” His eyes are steady and fierce when he turns to Billy locking his gaze on him. “Is that why you go?”

Billy swallows hard. “Sometimes, yeah.”

Steve pushes himself up on the bed, his back resting against the headboard. His hair is a wild greasy mess now, and when he leans over to his side table, his chest brushes against Billy’s thigh. Billy likes it. He likes it a lot.

Steve pulls out a new pack of cigarettes, wiggling them between two fingers, raising an eyebrow in invitation. Billy nods.

“Can you get that ashtray over on the dresser?” Steve asks, mouth muffled by the cigarette in his mouth.

Billy counts the steps to the dresser. It’s exactly five steps, and when he finds the ash covered ashtray he stares down at the copper hued glass for longer than necessary. Eventually he picks it up, and carries it back the five steps to Steve’s bed.

He doesn’t sit down again.

Billy takes the offered cigarette, pulling a long hard drag. It burns in his chest as he holds onto the smoke longer than he should. Billy turns to the ceiling and blows a large, grey cloud to the crisp white paint.

“Stay,” Steve says. He’s turning his cigarette’s end against the copper colored ashtray.

Billy opens his mouth to speak but nothing comes out. The sheets of Steve’s bed are rucked up around his naked bony hips. He hasn’t even bothered getting dressed yet. Billy catches the mottled mark at the base of Steve’s neck and turns away.

“Why?”

The answer is quick. “Because I want you to. And because I think you want to stay, too.”

Billy clenches his jaw. “Now you know what I want?”

“I know you don’t want to go back home, and if you weren’t here right now you’d be at the diner just like me.” Steve waits for Billy to turn back to him. The warmth of the room hangs heavy in the air, it makes it hard to breathe. Billy really hates winter.

“I can’t,” Billy says quietly.

Steve’s lips squeeze together in an angry line. “You can’t or you don’t want to?”

Billy gives his head a sharp shake. “No, you don’t get it. If I’m not home by—I can’t.”

Steve’s eyes soften and he snubs out the cigarette, setting the ashtray down on the bedside table. “What happens if you don’t get home in time?”

“Don’t,” Billy says, his voice hard.

“Don’t what, Billy?” Steve asks, his face schooled emotionlessly. “Don’t ask you about what happens?”

“I have to go.” Billy says, spinning around the room to find his jacket. He needs to get out of here.

“Of course you do,” Steve mutters with a shake of his head.

“Fuck you, Harrington,” Billy sneers. He finds his jacket under Steve’s jeans and boxers that are scattered on the floor. Billy shugs into the jacket with far more force than necessary, the anger thrumming in his veins. “You have no idea what the fuck goes on in my life, and quit acting like you give a shit.”

Steve’s expression is blank and cold. “Didn’t you say you were leaving?”

Billy leaves, making extra effort to slam the front door on his way out.

***

They don’t stop fucking.

Even when they get into fights afterwards, even when Steve demands that Billy leaves, they still meet up and fuck. Billy doesn’t always intend for that to happen but it always does. Eventually he just gets used to it. Maybe even expects it.

On one occasion Billy finds Steve waiting for him after basketball practice leaning against Billy’s gym locker, that wicked smirk on his face. Billy stayed longer in the showers, worried about someone else catching the bruises that were spread over his back and ribs from a particularly bad night where Neil decided to teach Billy some kind of lesson.

Steve ignores the contusions, and sinks to his knees on the cold tile floor, unwrapping the towel that hangs around Billy’s waist. He grabs for Billy’s cock, and starts stroking it roughly to hardness.

Billy immediately reaches for Steve’s hair, wrapping a fistful into his palm. He tries not to slam his head into a locker. When he speaks he’s breathless. “What are you doing here?”

Steve huffs out a laugh, eyes peering up from under his eyelashes. “What do you think, Hargrove?”

And before Billy can even respond, Steve takes Billy’s dick into his mouth and something breaks inside of him. Everything starts to shatter at that moment, nothing but Billy’s panting breath and Steve’s mouth making obscene noises around his dick in the fucking gym locker room.

After Billy comes with a shout that verges on a scream, his hand a vice grip in Steve’s hair, he pulls Steve up to his feet, slams their mouths together just to see what he tastes like on Steve’s tongue. Steve goes pliant in Billy’s arms, and Billy grips at Steve’s hips, tugs him close so their bodies are flush together. Steve’s jeans are scratchy against Billy’s naked body, but his sweater is soft and Billy just wants to touch Steve so bad, wants to make him unravel under his hand.

It isn’t until he’s on his knees, cock softening between his legs, and yanking Steve’s tight jeans down to his ankles, it isn’t until Billy brushes the tip of his nose in that crease of skin near Steve’s erection that makes Steve gasp and Billy dizzy with the scent of Steve—clean, and something else altogether that just screams Steve—it isn’t until he’s hearing Steve babble incoherently above him because of what he’s doing with his mouth that Billy realizes how utterly fucked he is.

He realizes how fucked he is because he loves this. He loves these moments he has with Steve and how he can make Steve beg like that when his fingers go searching and especially when he gets one inside of Steve. It’s then that the walls start to crumble around the tiny area of himself that Billy’s spent a painstaking amount of time and effort building. They crumble like they’ve been hit with dynamite, except it’s not fucking TNT, it’s Steve goddamn Harrington.

He still goes to Steve’s house whenever Steve drops by his locker to let him know he’s available. They usually end up fucking and then fighting because Steve keeps asking Billy to fucking stay and he can’t even if he wants to. He can’t because if he does then Neil will figure shit out and Neil can’t know. Billy’s only got a few months before he can leave the shithole house that Neil rules, and eventually this shithole town too.

But he knows only part of that is true. He doesn’t focus on that though.

Billy does catch Steve at the arcade when he drops Max off one week. It’s only when it dawns on him that the only time Steve and Billy really talk to each other is when they’re basically exchanging how the hell they’re going to get the next orgasm, that the surprise of seeing him fully dressed and laughing settles in. Billy’s pretty consistently had his dick either in Steve’s mouth or ass for a solid month now. Witnessing him in neither one of those positions is leading Billy to believe that maybe he should try sharing fully-clothed civil space with Steve that isn’t an obligatory requirement of classroom interactions.

Max stops on her way out of the car when she sees Billy turning off the engine.

“What are you doing?” she asks, her eyebrows furrowed.

Billy cocks an eyebrow at her over the hood of the car. She’s grown a couple of inches over the last couple of months and now she can peer over at him without having to stand on her toes.

“What does it look like?”

“Um, I don’t know, having a temporary bout of amnesia?” Max snipes. “You don’t play video games.”

Billy’s mouth curls into a smug grin. “No.”

“You don’t even like video games.”

Billy shakes his head slowly. “No.”

“You hate my friends.”

The smile disappears. “That’s not true.”

Max returns the sardonic smile. “Bullshit.”

Billy points to Max. “Watch your mouth.”

Max rolls her eyes, slamming the door of the Camero and scoffing, “Whatever.”

Billy shakes his head, silently mimicking Max’s whatever as he makes his way toward the entrance. He nearly has his hand on the door when a slow clap stops him in his tracks, and he spins to find Steve leaning against the side of the building, a cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth.

“Well done,” Steve says all muffled by the cigarette hanging from his lips. He’s wearing a pair of sunglasses, and the setting sun covers him in a golden halo around his perfect fucking hair. Billy wants to pretend that he hates it but he doesn’t. He doesn’t at all.

“Should I take a bow?”

Steve chuckles, taking a long drag, tilting his head up to the sky and blowing out several circles of smoke. There’s a smile on his face but it doesn’t appear inviting or happy at all.

“What are you doing here?”

Billy juts his hip out, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Why do you care?”

Steve’s still looking up to the sky. It’s clear today, the clouds feathered across the purpling background. A chilly wind blows through moving Steve’s hair over his face. He doesn’t stop looking up.

“You’re following me.”

“I’m dropping Max off.”

“And according to her you hate video games, and you hate her friends. So I ask again: why are you here.”

Billy swallows, licking his chapped lips. The dryness of winter makes his hair flat, and his fucking lips chapped, and he hates it. He hates the freezing cold, the way his hands never feel warm, and he hates the ugly ass clothing that he has to rely on in order to not fucking die of hypothermia. Billy longs for summer, for half naked bodies, for the smell of salty sea.

He takes a step forward.

“I knew you’d be here.”

Steve’s head snaps to Billy. He lifts the glasses onto the top of his head. His face is expressionless for a beat before he purses his lips and nods his head, lifting the cigarette back to his face. It... it oddly resembles a similar face Billy made back in November when he—

Billy’s not going to think about November.

“You knew I’d be here,” Steve repeats, his voice resigned. “So what? You wanna jerk off behind the dumpster? Blow me in the car? Which one will it be this time? Your Camaro or my Beamer?”

Billy’s eyebrows wrinkle in confusion before he schools his face. “Are you offering?”

Steve shakes his head, huffing a humorless laugh. “You’re unbelievable, man.”

“I’m not the one suggesting orgasms in various public places.” Billy takes another step closer. He rakes his eyes over Steve, lowering his voice. “But like I said, if you’re offering…”

Steve levels a blank stare. “Why, so you can get off and run away?”

Billy stops walking. He bites down on the inside of his cheek to stop his lip from curling into a sneer.

He doesn’t succeed. Instead he narrows his eyes, his hands balling into fists in his jeans. “What was that?”

This time Steve draws closer to Billy. He walks until their faces are inches apart. He smells of cigarette smoke and that froufrou hair shit he uses. Billy’s mouth waters. He wants to push Steve up against the metal paneled exterior just to feel his body against Steve’s.

“It’s what we do,” Steve says, his voice low. His eyes trail down to Billy’s mouth for a moment, and Billy can’t control his breathing. He’s losing his grip to remain in control here. Steve’s eyes flick back up to Billy’s. “We fuck around, and then one of us acts like a total dickhead and moves along. I think it’s your turn.”

Billy thins his eyes. “I don’t ‘run away’. I leave because we’re done. It’s what you want, too.”

Steve tilts his head. “How do you know what I want?”

“‘Thanks, I really needed that’,” Billy recites Steve’s words back at him. His voice comes off more bitter than he wants. Steve’s eyes widen, his mouth parting as he sucks in a sharp breath.

“Billy,” Steve whispers, his voice so, so soft. It makes Billy’s stomach somersault, his throat tighten. “Billy, that’s not—”

“Steve!” someone calls from behind them, and Steve takes several quick steps back, muttering a curse. He glides his hand through his hair and sighs. “Steve, where the—oh, shit.”

Billy turns and sees the Henderson kid frozen on the spot. He looks between Billy and Steve in utter confusion, his mouth opening and closing several times before saying, “What the hell is going on?”

“Nothing,” Steve says flatly.

Henderson places both of his hands on his hips. “Sure doesn’t look like nothing.”

“Dustin,” Steve commands. “Don’t.”

Henderson’s gaze focuses on Billy again. Billy fully turns so that he’s facing the kid, putting his weight on one leg and waiting. He’s itching for a smoke, and he reaches into his back pocket, gets out his pack and pulls a cigarette out. He takes his time making a production of lighting the end, snapping his lighter shut with a flick of his wrist.

Then he raises an eyebrow as if to say, Well?

Henderson rolls his eyes. “Come back inside when you’re done out here, okay? Max is kicking everyone’s ass and you gotta see it.”

Billy watches Henderson go. When he rounds the corner he looks back at them briefly before disappearing inside the arcade.

Steve goes to follow, and Billy reaches out, grabbing for his forearm to stop him. “Wait.”

Steve isn’t moving, his back turned to Billy. Billy can see Steve’s shoulders rising and falling quickly, his breathing ragged. He half turns to Billy, eyes focused on the ground.

“Can you come by tonight?”

Billy bites his bottom lip and nods. “Yeah.”

“Good. I’ll drop the kids off and then Ms Henderson will want me to stay for a bit. I’ll be home by ten.” Then Steve yanks his arm out of Billy’s hold and walks inside.

Billy walks to his car and slumps against its side. His face is hot despite the freezing evening setting in and his heart is a hammering gong in his chest. He scrubs his hand over his face, takes a shaky-handed drag of his cigarette and finds the usual comfort in the burn of smoke, but the taste of the nicotine makes him nauseated.

He tosses the stupid thing onto the parking lot pavement and watches it burn. Alone.

***

Billy ends up driving around, trying to calm the monster inside of him. It’s breathing hot and raw, aching for release and Billy grips his hands on his steering wheel harder. He tries to take deep calming breaths under the dark, clear night sky, and finds nothing works.

Blaring music doesn’t help, speeding like he’s James Dean begging for death doesn’t help, rolling down the windows and letting the car be filled with icy air, the bite so strong it’d take anyone’s breath away doesn’t help.

Nothing fucking helps. So Billy goes to the diner.

He’s banging his hand against the wheel as Here I Go Again plays, a cigarette in one hand, and a tremble in another. His body thrums with nerves that need taming, because if he continues to be distracted by this overwhelming mixture of anxiety and excitement he’s going to end up with his car wrapped around a goddamn tree.

Neither Betty nor Janice are working, probably because it’s not in the middle of the night with nothing but the memory of the day to keep everyone company. It’s busier than Billy’s used to, families and other people from school hanging around. The conversation is boisterous and happy, and the moment the glass door into the diner snicks shut, Billy wonders if he made a mistake.

Nonetheless he asks to sit at his usual booth in the corner, and the excited young girl that is seating everyone slants a flirtatious smile as she leads him there. Billy doesn’t want to eat, too keyed up on what is going to happen when he gets to Steve’s later, but he has to order his usual because this waitress doesn’t know Billy’s order. He then has to go through all his selected choices (extra bacon over sausage; scrambled eggs and wheat toast) and that feels strange too.

The food takes longer to arrive too, and Billy spends his time playing with his cigarette in the filled ashtray rather than smoking it. He thinks about the way Steve looked when he spit those words back in his face, how shocked and concerned his expression became.

Billy doesn’t think about how that affected him.

By the time he’s ready to leave he realizes that he’s finished his food after all. He slips a decent tip on the table with his owed amount and drives back to the arcade.

Max doesn’t say anything when she gets into the car. She looks more relaxed than usual, a small smile on her face, and her cheeks flushed. Billy almost asks what the deal is, but decides to let the comfortable silence sit around them.

He takes the long way home, going for the winding back routes of Hawkins, including the road that overlooks Sattler Quarry. The moon is full tonight, a hazy shadow surrounding it, and Billy wishes he could turn the windows down and let the air blow through his hair and over his face just to get a whiff of the briny air. He misses that about California.

Max finally talks when Billy parks in front of the house, right behind Susan’s shitty Dodge. In some unspoken mutual agreement they don’t get out of the car just yet.

“You know that night in November?” Max asks after several silent minutes.

Billy wants to bark back some kind of sarcastic remark about how he doesn’t know anything she’s talking about, play it off like it wasn’t that big of a deal that she literally had to immobilize him with some kind of horse tranq before he killed Steve Harrington with his fists.

Instead, he breathes in a deep, slow breath, and exhales through his nose. He doesn’t turn to Max, just focuses on the long street ahead of them, covered with empty trees. He thinks about what they’ll look like when the spring comes, and maybe even the summer. If the sun will be bright like it is in California.

But instead of palms it’ll be maple and oaks, and Billy never thought about it like this before but he actually is curious about what he’ll see.

“There was—” Max stops, and sighs. “Okay, so, you’re not going to believe me, but that night we were all in, like, serious danger. And Steve helped us a lot. It was... it was crazy, Billy, and I wish I could explain it all but I can’t, and I think you’d get better answers out of this from Steve.”

Billy then turns to Max and blinks. He furrows his eyebrows in confusion. “What?”

“Just—Just talk to him, okay?” Max says. “Hear him out.”

None of this is making sense. Steve had said something similar to Billy at the diner that one time, but he thought he was mentioning how they almost got hit by a car or something. What the fuck is Max going on about?

“Okay?” Billy says.

Max rolls her eyes. “Dustin said you guys were fighting at the arcade? So just talk to him.”

Billy narrows his eyes. “What did that little brat say?”

“Billy,” Max says, her voice equally as hard. “You don’t even know the half of it.” She goes to open the door, and yanks her backpack with her. Just as Billy is prepared to hear her slam the car door shut, Max stops and leans down so that their eyes meet again. “I’ll cover for you. Don’t worry about when you get back.”

The constriction in Billy’s throat is near painful. He swallows hard and nods. “Okay.”

A smile ghosts Max’s lips as she says, “You’re welcome.”

She shuts the door before Billy can answer.

***

Steve isn’t home yet, so Billy ends up staying in his car chain smoking a shitload of cigarettes, and bobbing his leg in anticipation. Eventually the Beamer rolls into the long driveway, past Billy’s car and shuts off. Steve gets out, and walks right to the front door.

Billy follows.

“I’m glad you came,” Steve says, slipping the key into the lock. The door opens to a whoosh of hot air. Steve’s whole house maintains its heat, Billy realized, far better than any house he’s ever lived in. For the first time in his life, he finds himself liking it.

The whole house is bright and lit. Even the kitchen light is on.

“Did you eat?” Steve asks, opening the fridge and placing a large tupperware dish inside. Billy hums in response. “Ms Henderson gives me food that could last me a week and I can never finish it.”

Billy leans against the counter. “What’s the cuisine this week?”

Steve shuts the door and sighs. “Italian. Lasagna.” When he turns around, his eyes are bloodshot and red-rimmed. He looks exhausted. “You sure you don’t want any?”

Billy shakes his head. “I had some food at the diner.”

Steve’s eyebrows crinkle together. “You drove all the way to the diner?”

Billy shrugs. He’s dying for a cigarette but the only place that they’ve ever really smoked was in Steve’s room and even then Billy felt like he was doing something sacreligious, being in such a nice looking house and doing something that probably caused permanent damage to the walls.

“Max told me to talk to you,” Billy says, looking down at the shiny tiled floor of the kitchen. It’s pearly white like porcelain, reflecting the overhead light brightly.

“Did she?” Steve says quietly. Billy sees his sneakers coming toe to toe with his books. He gets a full vision of Steve when Steve places a curled finger under Billy’s chin, tilting his head up. His eyes search over Billy’s face and land on his lips. “Anything else?”

Billy shakes his head. His tongue feels heavy and thick in his mouth, and he just wants to lean in and press his lips against Steve’s, just to feel Steve’s mouth against his. He wants to pull their bodies flush, trace his fingertips under the bulky sweater Steve is wearing.

“Ah,” Steve says, tilting his head to the side as he leans closer. “What did she say?”

“Um,” Billy starts, licking his lips. His eyes flutter shut when Steve’s lips brush against his jaw. “I don’t know, she talked about... about November a bit.”

Steve grows stiff in front of him. Billy internally curses himself for fucking saying anything. He doesn’t want to have some little pow-wow about that night, doesn’t even want to bring it up. What he wants it to drop to his knees and push Steve against the skin and suck him dry.

When they meet eye to eye again, Steve’s expression is somber. His lips are turned down in the corners and Billy hates that expression. He hates it so much.

“Forget I said anything,” Billy says harsher than he means. That fucking monster is breathing hot inside of him, and he wants to do something about it. He hates the way it makes his skin itch, and he clenches his hands into fists. Billy goes to leave, but Steve grabs his arm, tugging him back.

“Don’t do it,” Steve says quietly, his face pleading. “Don’t walk out because shit’s getting real.”

Billy bares his teeth. “You don’t know a goddamn thing about me, Harrington, so stop acting like you do.”

“Oh, I don’t?” Steve snaps back. “I know that whatever the fuck goes on in that house of yours has Max spooked every week when she walks inside, and she has to blow some shit up for about two hours before she feels calm again. And this was going on long before the whole Upside Down, too.”

Billy leans back blinking in confusion. “The... what?”

Steve blanches, loosening his grip on Billy’s arm. “Shit,” he says. His breathing is quickening, and he closes his eyes. “You’re not going to fucking believe this, but I swear I’m telling the truth. We should sit down.”

They make their way into the living room and settle onto the same fancy couch that Billy had marked Steve with his release. It’s still soft and squishy, only now Steve doesn’t have that salacious smile on his lips. Now he’s looking spooked as fuck, and Billy braces himself for the worst.

What he gets instead is beyond worse; it’s just absolutely goddamn insanity. Steve goes on about Will Byers missing a year before, how Nancy Wheeler and him started off and her friend Barbara went missing too. How the place called the Upside Down was some dark alien dimension and that on more than one occasion Steve Harrington has nearly died because of it.

He finally finishes that on that insane night in November, when Billy’s monster was thrumming with the need to break someone and Steve made it so fucking easy they almost died that night too. That when Max demanded that Billy stay away from her friends she wasn’t just pushing Billy away, she was protecting him from the monsters.

Monsters. Billy knows all about monsters living on the other side. The bone-chilling realization that they can strike at any time, or the inability to sleep a full night without waking up in fear. The cold sweat that settles on your skin when you know it’s going to happen, and you just don’t know when. Yeah, Billy’s got a good fucking idea about monsters.

Steve finishes and puts his face in his hands, scrubbing his face. “So you see,” he says, voice muffled. “Things have been a bit weird.”

“My pops beats the shit out of me whenever he’s had a bad day. Which is basically everyday of the fucking year,” Billy mutters. Steve’s head jerks up, eyes wide. Billy hitches a shoulder. “You said you would tell me your secret if I told you mine and you went first. Thought it was unfair to not fill my end of the bargain.”

Billy isn’t prepared for when Steve leans in and kisses him. The kiss is soft and careful, and closed mouth and Billy’s heart twists inside of his chest, squeezes him breathless. Steve places his hands on either side of Billy’s face, thumbs stroking over his cheekbones, and when Steve swipes his tongue along the seam of Billy’s lips, Billy opens up greedily, hungry for more.

Billy breaks the kiss first, leaving Steve heavy-lidded and lips wet. Billy takes his jacket off first, and Steve follows suit. Then Steve pushes Billy back onto the couch, settling his body between Billy’s legs. Billy shudders as Steve drags his teeth over the sensitive skin of his neck, reaches and grabs a fistful of hair when Steve’s tongue licks at the angry skin.

They begin moving their hips against each other, eager for friction, and Billy moans when he feels the pressure of Steve’s hard-on against his own. Billy rucks up Steve’s sweater, his fingertips tracing over the knobs of his spine, tucking under the hem of his jeans to squeeze his ass. Steve’s tucked his face in Billy’s neck, his breaths coming out in sharp puffs on his chest.

Billy grabs a fistful of Steve’s ass and pushes him down further, earning a shuddered moan. The monster inside of Billy wants to bite and tug and pull and rip apart everything he can but then he feels the flutter of Steve’s eyelashes against his neck, watches him grab a fistful of Billy’s shirt until his knuckles are white, whimpers when Billy slots their legs in between each other everything shifts, and it isn’t about fighting with domination, it isn’t about breaking everything he can, it’s about the here and now and this moment and Billy wants it he wants it so badly.

Steve adjusts until both of his hands are bracketed on either side of Billy’s head. His cheeks are flushed, and his dark brown eyes are heated, and his hair is a fucking mess. It’s right then that the word beautiful shows up in the forefront of Billy’s mind, flashing radiant and blinding. It’s then that Billy leans up and kisses Steve, filthy and wet, and Steve melts back into him, his hand wrapping around Billy’s neck.

Their tongues curl around each other and then Steve does some kind fucking trick that sends Billy’s blood on fire, and makes his toes curl. He can’t help the shudder that runs over him like a crashing wave, and the soft kisses that Steve trails over Billy’s neck, and down his chest has him spinning. Steve continues leaving open mouthed wet kisses as he unbuttons Billy’s shirt, leaving a cold trail in its wake. When he gets to the button of Billy’s jeans, Steve peers up from his eyelashes, and bites his lip.

“You’re amazing,” he whispers with a level of awe that Billy has never heard directed to him ever. He is so overwhelmed by the confession that he doesn’t even register what Steve is doing until his mouth is wrapped around his cock, sucking hard and sloppy, and Billy tries to arch off the couch but Steve stops him with two steady palms on his hips.

Billy’s definitely had plenty of blow jobs, and he’s had his fair share with Steve now. Something about this one is different, the way that Steve takes his time with Billy, drawing his tongue delicately down his shaft, lapping at the head as if he is savoring the moment. His eyes remain closed, like he’s running on touch alone, and when he tilts his head and starts sucking on Billy’s cock, moving up and down the side.

“Kiss me,” Billy all but begs, his voice raspy and raw. “Please,” he adds, running strictly on instinct and not able to be careful enough to concern himself with holding back.

Steve scrambles up to him, slams his mouth onto Billy’s and wraps a hand around his cock, and with a flick of Steve’s wrist and a sharp set of teeth settling into Billy’s bottom lip he’s yelling through his orgasm, warmth spreading over his belly.

Steve continues to kiss Billy afterwards, his hand still wrapped around Billy, softly stroking him. He trails his lips over to the corner of Billy’s mouth, across his chin, and up his cheek to his temple near his eye. Billy can feel him smile on his skin.

“Incredible,” Steve murmurs before pulling back. Bill props himself up on his elbows and watches as Steve adjusts his dick in his jeans. He lifts up a single finger, and disappears into the kitchen again.

Billy listens to the sound of the tap turning on and off.There’s more shuffling until Steve comes back with a wet paper towel and takes extra precaution cleaning Billy’s stomach off. There’s still that ever-present flush on Steve’s cheek, and his lips are swollen from kissing.

Steve tosses the dirty paper towel onto the coffee table, grazing the back of his knuckles against Billy’s stomach. There’s a smirk on Steve’s face and he inhales deeply, his eyes traveling up Billy’s body until their gazes meet.

“It’s nearly midnight,” Steve says quietly. His fingers don’t stop moving along Billy’s skin.

“I—” Billy begins, his voice sounding hoarse. He swallows and tries again. “I need to go.”

Steve nods understandingly. “Yeah, I know.”

Steve walks Billy to his car, his feet socked and arms wrapped around his middle to keep him protected from the cold. Billy wants to yell at him for not putting on a jacket, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t want to ruin the moment with the potential of an argument.

Billy pulls his keys out of his jacket, stopping at his door and turning around. “Thanks,” he says. “For... you know.”

“What?” Steve says with a teasing smirk. “No goodbye kiss?”

Billy leans forward and gives Steve a small kiss. It’s a peck really, but Steve ends up biting his lip and that makes Billy’s stomach swoop like he’s being dropped from a fifty story building.

Steve tilts his head to the sky. There are so many stars in Hawkins, far more than there was in the cities Billy lived in in Cali. Billy catches the flashing lights of an airplane far above them, slowly coasting through the air a satellite of its own.

“I hope one day you’ll stay,” Steve says, keeping his gaze to the heavens. His voice sounds a little sad but still a little hopeful.

“Yeah,” Billy says, closing his eyes as the wind blows over his face. “Me too.”

***

No one has ever figured out Billy’s secret. He suspects that Neil knows, but then again it’s hard to tell because Neil looks for any opportunity he can to belittle anyone who isn’t Neil. Every guy that’s good looking, or keeps himself together is a fairy, a faggot, a pussy. If they’re not slinging six packs, and talking about manhandling women then to Neil Hargrove you’re a pollution meant to be eradicated.

And yet, Nancy fucking Wheeler figures it out.

It wasn’t meant to be a conversation that was supposed to be heard. But Billy catches sight of Steve right after school near his locker, leaning against the beige metal, the linoleum scuffed. Max is bumming a ride off of someone else at school, going to a friend’s house for some girly shit that Billy half listened to that morning because Neil is working late.

Which means that for a few hours, Billy is free.

Billy only gets a view of Steve’s back, a spiky stiffness in his shoulders. He can hear Wheeler’s voice, that tinny whine and Billy slips into a hallway out of their sight so they can’t catch him listening.

“Steve, what is going on?”

“Nothing,” Steve snaps. “Why are you following me?”

“I’m not following you, I just—”

That bitter laugh is acidic and harsh. “Bullshit. You always follow me. Hovering over me like I’m some kind of child or—” A brief pause. “You know what? Just go.”

There’s an inhale that sounds shaky. Billy gathers it’s that Wheeler bitch. He rolls his eyes and shakes his head. So fucking dramatic.

“Steve,” she whispers. “I care about you. You know that right? But... Billy Hargrove?”

Billy freezes and smashes his eyes with the heels of his hands. Fuck. Fuck. He wants to scream at the top of his lungs, punch a hole into the plaster of the wall behind him. But instead all he has is the banging of his heart in his chest is on the verge of pain and the air too thick to breathe.

He strains to hear the conversation more.

“You don’t get to dictate what I do with my life,” Steve hisses in a low tone. “So stop acting like some kind of homeroom mom, okay? I’m fine.”

There’s a long, awkward silence, and a sniff.

“You really aren’t,” Wheeler responds, her voice even and just as cruel. “You just think that fucking around is a good distraction from the truth. But guess what, Steve? Keep isolating everyone and no one will be there to catch you when you fall.”

The click of her shoes echoes against the hallway. Billy waits until he hears the door slam shut before he turns the corner.

“Lover’s quarrel?” Billy asks casually, making his way to his locker. He schools his expression so that it’s blank. Because he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care at all.

Steve’s eyes grow comically wide and Billy wants to laugh. He wants to laugh at how utterly fucking stupid Harrington is about all of this. Instead Billy works to open his locker, a few stray students shuffling around them.

“Hey,” Steve manages, leaning against the locker next to Billy’s.

Billy spins the lock to the right three. Then to the left.

“When do you have to be home?” Steve tries again. Billy’s mouth twists, and he clenches his jaw.

He shrugs. “Does it matter?”

Finally he gets his locker open. He shuffles around inside, just to buy himself time. He always gets his homework done during study hall because he never knows what the fuck is gonna happen when he’s at home. Billy doesn’t have time to worry about shit like homework at home. He’s too busy worrying about surviving.

“Well, I mean, I was wondering if maybe we could go—”

Billy slams the locker shut hard, and he can see Steve jump out of his peripheral. “Don’t.”

He’s breathing harshly, and his shoulders keep rising to his ears and Billy’s jean jacket is fucking uncomfortable as fuck. “Just don’t, Harrington.”

The caustic laugh that spills out of Steve’s mouth is almost too much to handle. “Oh, we’re back to Harrington again. Great. Whatever you just heard is nothing.”

Billy whirls, crowding Steve into the lockers. “Nothing, huh? What do you know about nothing? You live in that ivory tower of yours, with everyone and everything at your fingertips.” Billy pulls back and eyes Steve up and down, his lip curling in disdain. “What do you honestly think is going to happen, huh?”

Steve doesn’t answer the question right away. Instead he stands there, breathing a deep inhale and letting them out through his nose in one long, controlled exhale. He searches over Billy’s face, landing somewhere over his shoulder behind him, focuses on that.

“I get it,” Steve says, leaning back against the lockers, and crossing his arms. “You think that no one understands, right? That because my parents have money I don’t get what you’re going through.” He nods, peering down at the floor, lips curled in a way that’s absolute pure condescension. “Right, so is that why you push me every fucking chance you get?”

“What do you want?” Billy screams. It reverberates against the empty halls. The only person who turns around is a janitor pushing a garbage can on wheels. Steve glances down the long hallway, lifts a couple of fingers, and gives an over-brilliant smile that is definitely forced.

The janitor has a haggard appearance about him, the stretch of a hard life. He grins a little at Steve and nods his head, turning a random corner and disappearing.

“Jack and I go way back,” Steve explains as if it is totally normal to be buds with the fucking janitoral staff. He pushes himself off the lockers. “And you know what I want. You’re just too chicken shit to fucking give it.”

Then Steve walks away, leaving Billy behind with nothing but his too-warm jacket, his pounding heart, and his thoughts.

***

Steve doesn’t acknowledge Billy at school at all.

Billy knows that crushing weight of abandonment too well.

***

Somehow, Billy’s not sure how, Neil figures it out.

Maybe he’s always known, deep down, and now that Billy’s old enough he’s just taking it out on him. Billy knows deep down his father’s racism, his hatred of gay people, the disdain of women, is all because he identifies with those people. Neil feels the world’s hatred of him, his own father’s hate for him, and so he does it to Billy and everyone else around him.

He does it because he can.

The fight gets worse when instead of taking it, like he normally does Billy whispers in a dark tone: You a faggot too, Neil? Is that how you know?

Then everything goes black.

Billy remembers this: he remembers the pain being so surreal it was like his whole body had been dipped in acid; he remembers the feeling of something getting crushed in his ribs, and how he nearly threw up from that; he remembers fading, wishing for death because what was the fucking point anymore? Everything that Billy touched turned to dust, slipped through his fingers like sand.

Sand. Billy remembers sand on his feet, the sun so bright even with sunglasses he had to squint against the reflection of the water. Billy remembers Alex sneaking him behind a building, obscured by the crowd and dropping to his knees, his hair a soaking mess in Billy’s hand. He remembers how Alex moaned around his dick as he took him down, wet and sloppy but Billy felt more free at that moment than he ever had in his life.

The sound fades into the background. Billy can’t breathe anymore, and everything is black. Blackness and the lull of sleep, but not a comforting sleep, it’s painful, and everything hurts. Billy just wants peace to come. Billy wonders what he’d find on the other side.

***

Billy slips in and out of sleep.

There’s frantic yelling, and all Billy can do is cough and that hurts like a motherfucker. Then he moans, and that hurts like a motherfucker. Jesus fucking Christ, he’s never felt pain like this before.

Max is swimming in the background, her voice distorted but shrill. He thinks she says something like don’t you fucking die on me, Billy, or I’ll never forgive you. He wants to laugh at that, because Max has never threatened him like that before. The only time she ever sounded this angry was when she had slammed a bat full of nails pretty close to his balls demanding he never come near her friends ever again.

And then everything fades to black again. It doesn’t hurt so bad this time.

***

Hands. Hands everywhere. Hands that push and prod and spike pain through Billy’s spine and his arms and his legs and his face. God, this is fucking bad. This is the worst. He tries to open his mouth to scream when someone lifts him, but nothing comes out. Billy wants to beg for anything else but this, because this is hell.

Billy throws up, the acrid taste harsh against two cuts on his mouth, and he gags, tastes copper with vomit. A hand pushes back his hair and he can hear the murmur of, “It’s okay, we’re almost there,” and Billy just lets his body go limp, because what the fuck else is he going to do?

***

He must have passed out again because then he’s not on the hard floor anymore, but something soft and comfortable. His face is cold, and when he tries to move his hand, someone gently pushes it back down.

“Don’t move, okay?” a deep voice instructs gently. Billy searches his mind to try to figure out who the fuck it is.

“We have to get him to a hospital,” someone else says, their voice ragged, the ting of panic at the end. Billy realizes in horror it’s Steve.

“No,” Billy croaks. His own voice sounds foreign, hoarse and wet. It makes his throat tighten and he tries to cough but he can’t, not really, not when his fucking stomach is killing him and he’s pretty sure he has several broken ribs.

“No hospital,” Billy says again, and that makes him cough for real this time and the terror of pain sends sparks on the backs of his eyelids and he hisses. He can feel his eyes watering automatically and he shudders through a breath, trying to focus on something else.

“It’s okay, I know someone,” the deeper voice says, and Billy wonders who the fuck this person is and where the fuck is he?

Then a hand goes for Billy’s, and it’s soft and cold. Billy’s hands hurt too, but the chilliness helps somehow.

“I’m so sorry,” Max whispers. “I didn’t know what else to do.”

 

“D-Don’t,” Billy manages, and sighs. Then the sudden burst of panic hits Billy like a freight train. Neil will be looking for him. And when he finds him, Billy will definitely not survive. He attempts to move but the pain makes him lean over and dry heave. “Neil, what about—”

“Okay, I know this is going to suck, honey,” another voice Billy doesn’t know, female and kind. “But I need you to open up and swallow this.”

Billy hopes to God it’s fucking pain meds. What he gets instead is freezing applesauce and he sputters at the funky taste. The woman who fed it to him goes, “I know, I know, but this is the only way. Just do this for me, okay?”

So Billy does. What the fuck else does he have to lose?

He hears murmurs, hears whispers, and hears sniffles. Eventually whatever was in that bullshit applesauce concoction takes over and pulls Billy into a deep, numbness, where all the pain is completely erased like water to a filled chalkboard. He wants to thank whomever this person was that granted him this but he can’t, not with his tongue numb in his mouth and his limbs heavy.

Billy finally sleeps.

***

After that first night Billy seems to be on a consistent regiment of some kind of painkiller. He doesn’t give a fuck what it is as long as he doesn’t have to be in pain.

“You can thank Joyce for those,” Steve explains when Billy manages to ask between a dose. Billy doesn’t even bother to ask who Joyce is, but makes a mental note to send her a fucking fruit basket if he lives to through this.

Time moves in a hazy blur of doses, prodding hands, and voices Billy doesn’t recognize. Billy finds out that Max fucking called Steve to come get him, and Steve took him to his house. Then he called the fucking Police Chief of Hawkins for a favor—whatever the fuck that means—and the guy ended up calling another favor to figure out how jacked up Billy was.

He had several bruised ribs but none were broken, and the handling that Neil had on Billy’s face didn’t leave any permanent damage. His face still feels like it’s about the size of a fucking watermelon, but Steve keeps telling him that he’s looking better and better every day.

Honestly, Billy doesn’t care as long as Steve keeps giving him that spiked applesauce.

When Billy can open his eyes, he gets a full vision of another room that’s not Steve’s. It’s painted instead of wallpapered, colored in a bright buttercup yellow. The windows are covered in thin sheers that do nothing to hide the brightness of the sun spilling into the room. Jesus, even squinting fucking hurts.

Billy hears the faint snore next to him, carefully cranes his head to find Steve laying down next to him. He’s facing Billy, and he’s curled up into a fetal position, with his hair splayed over the single pillow. It takes a shitload of effort, but Billy reaches out, places a hand on Steve’s shoulder and squeezes with as much force as he can. He’s too scared to speak, his still beating heart pounding loudly in his chest.

Steve turns to Billy in his sleep, hums a tiny whimper and grabs for Billy’s hand. His grip is gentle, but real, and Billy doesn’t know what he did to deserve this, but he’s grateful anyway. Because if Neil Hargrove had it his way, he probably would’ve left Billy to die.

Instead Billy is going to live after all.

***

Chief Hopper comes to visit again, carrying two large paper bags of groceries. Billy has finally manage to make it around the house, albeit slowly, but as far as he’s concerned progress is fucking progress.

The room that he woke up in was a spare room located downstairs. Steve hasn’t left Billy’s side, and when he asks about school while Steve was feeding him some broth Steve slanted a somewhat shy smile and said, “It’s taken care of.”

Billy nearly spit out the broth from his mouth. Instead it led to a considerable amount dribbling down his chin like he didn’t know how to swallow food. “What do you mean, it’s ‘taken care of’?”

Steve carefully reached up and dabbed away the mess. His eyes focused on the task instead of meeting Billy’s gaze, and he shrugged. “It means Hopper called the school and we both got an excuse.” Eventually his dark eyes met Billy’s and he smiled wider, more confident. “It’s a small town, you know. Hop’s got a lot of influence.”

It occurs to Billy that in the midst of all of this, he needs to know if anything happened to Neil. Neil will come find him, and Billy doesn’t know if he’ll survive another round of this. A small part of him wants to think that those monsters that Steve told him about got ahold of him on this epic escape he probably tried doing, but another part is wondering if he’ll ever come back. The swirling bit of anxiety settles like lead in his stomach, and Billy has to swallow hard to stave off throwing up.

He pushes away Steve’s hand when he tries to give him another spoonful of broth. “No more.”

“You need to eat a bit more so you don’t get sick from the painkillers,” Steve says gently.

“I don’t—” Billy sucks in a deep breath and closes his eyes. “Not yet, okay? I have questions and everything has been so fucked up the last—Shit, how long have I been out?”

“Officially?” Steve asks. Billy opens one eye. “A week and a half.”

“Jesus,” Billy whispers in shock.

Steve sets the bowl down on the bedside table and leans back in his chair, crossing his arms like he’s cold. “Yeah, no kidding.”

The tightness in Billy’s throat is overwhelming and painful mixed with the emotions that are swirling inside of him. If he had to use words to describe them he’d say it was a jacked up mixture of confusion, anger, and... gratitude. His eyes start to sting and he hates that, hates that this trifecta of shit is making him feel, that Steve is sitting next to him on the bed with a bowl of broth like an invalid, but the fact of the matter is Billy is at the moment.

And it appears Steve wants to do this. Billy just doesn’t understand why.

“I have some...” Billy stops, searches for the proper word to approach this shitstorm of a situation. Eventually he settles with, “Questions.”

Steve snorts and then laughs. Billy feels his cheeks heating up. “I imagine you do, yeah.”

“Don’t laugh at me,” Billy snaps.

Steve’s eyes go wide, his mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water. It should be comical but it’s not. “I’m not laughing at you,” he says slowly, carefully, handling Billy like you do a nervous dog in the corner baring its teeth. “It’s just this last week has been fucking crazy, and as ridiculous as it was, I was happy it didn’t involve random monsters from another universe. Maybe that’s a terrible way to think about this, but it was the only thing that kept me from losing it.”

Billy tries to smooth out the thin line of his lips, leans further back to the pile of pillows against his back and just sinks into them. He doesn’t even have the energy to be angry, really. He’s too tired, too bone-weary, and too overwhelmed to even let the momentary embarrassment get the best of him.

“What happened to Neil?” Billy asks, his eyes trailing down to the blanket over his lip, fingers twisting into the soft fabric.

There’s a long stretch of silence before Steve speaks. When he does, his voice is toneless, and clipped. “Neil Hargrove was arrested last Wednesday for attempted murder. His trial is pending, but according to Hop he probably won’t get to see the light of day ever again. Max’s mom is divorcing him, apparently. She knew he knocked you around but apparently you weren’t alone in that.”

At this Billy looks up at Steve. His eyes are laser focused on Billy, and his mouth is tight. Billy catches a glimpse of the tick in Steve’s jaw and the twisting in his chest coils even more.

 

“I won’t have anywhere to go,” Billy whispers.

“You know Susan won’t—”

“No,” Billy agrees, shaking his head. “She won’t. But I also know she won’t be able to afford another mouth to feed with Max. I don’t know how much Neil controlled her paycheck but he definitely had his hands in it.”

Steve leaned forward until his elbows sat on his knees. “Do you really think you have nowhere to go?”

Billy had already been looking down at the blanket again. It was quilted and felt nice against his hands. He wondered if Steve had a grandmother or someone who made it, because it appeared handmade. Billy didn’t have anything like that in his house like this. What he did have, and he never told Neil about it, was a tiny crocheted baby blanket that his mom gave him the day before she left for good. He kept that stupid blanket with every move, and everywhere he went.

He knew if Neil found it he’d destroy it, so he always kept it safe inside of a lockbox he hid in the back of his dresser. Neil didn’t give a fuck about the contents of his drawers outside of the top one when he went on random searches to basically find the gay. He never did, though. Until last Wednesday.

“I don’t know,” Billy finally says. “It’s not like I know where the fuck my mom is, anymore. She skipped out when Neil nearly put her in the hospital one time. Didn’t take me though. I guess she thought I would bring her down or something. Too much baggage.” Billy inhales deeply and closes his eyes. He desperately wants a cigarette right now.

“Stay,” Steve says suddenly, his voice firm and unrelenting.

Billy’s eyes snap open. “What?”

“I said stay,” Steve repeats slowly. “You’re telling me you have nowhere to go. And you do. You can stay here.”

Billy’s eyebrows furrow. “But your parents—”

“My dad is a raging dickhead but he’s not going to let someone who’s barely eighteen live on the fucking streets. And besides,” Steve says, bobbing his head back and forth. “I’ve been wanting to travel and shit. I’m sure if I slap your sob story on top of it my dad will actually pay for it.”

Billy rolls his eyes. “Oh my God, you’re using me for parental blackmail?”

“Maybe,” Steve says, pulling the chair closer to the edge of the bed. “Does that mean you will?”

“I literally cannot walk straight,” Billy says with a wave of his hand at himself in the bed.

Steve leans closer towards Billy, placing a palm on the mattress. His breath is warm against Billy’s cheek, and he smells like his fancy shampoo. Billy’s stomach swoops at the way it makes his mouth water.

“You didn’t say yes, though,” Steve whispers.

“What are we doing?” Billy whispers back. “Why are you—We don’t work well together.”

Steve pulls back a little, his eyes searching over Billy’s face. “Maybe. Joyce says I should apologize for being bad at this. And I am sorry. Fuck, Billy seeing you like that I can’t—I don’t want that to happen to you again. You don’t deserve that.”

There’s a long silence that stretches between them. It dawns on him that Steve was the first place that Billy thought of when he was in trouble. Steve was the first person in his blurry mind that rang out to him like a beacon to sailors on the sea. It was Steve. It’s always Steve.

Billy turns to Steve, cupping his cheek, and presses his forehead to Steve’s. “Yes,” he whispers. “I’ll stay.”

Steve kisses Billy so gently, so delicately, Billy’s whole world starts to spin around him. When Steve gently nibbles on Billy’s lower lip, easing off when Billy whimpers at the discomfort and swiping a tongue into Billy’s mouth, Billy smiles. He smiles into the kiss when it grows heated, he smiles when Steve lifts out of the chair and knocks it back onto the carpet with a soft thud.

When Steve pulls back his eyes are heavy-lidded, and he brushes a thumb over Billy’s cheek. “You finally said yes,” he whispers, eyes dancing.

Billy leans in and kisses Steve one more time. “Yeah,” he whispers back, “Yeah, I did.”