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October Road Trip

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October Road Trip

 

Billy misses summer, misses warmth and the heat of the sun before the seasons change. It is getting cold out now, the leaves starting to turn, and Billy has had to wear his jean jacket every day for the last week, if the weather man is to be believed he only has two more days before he actually has to switch to his leather jacket. He does not care how cold it is though, he will not wear gloves and a scarf or even the winter jacket Susan gifted him last Christmas. Billy refuses to hide all his hard work after getting back into shape because it is fucking cold, he worked hard to feel good about himself again and he will damn well make sure everyone knows it. The little layer of fat softening that work just makes him look even better. Billy had been self-conscious about it at first, but Steve had kissed his worries away anytime they revere their ugly head.

 

Billy has been at work all day, anticipating getting off knowing Steve would be at home, or at least readily available, Dustin has a habit of showing up at Steve’s unannounced and dragging him off. Billy gets to see Steve most days, since they are dating and all, but sometimes their shifts do not line up. Steve has today off though and Billy is out of work early, so he grabs a shower in his tiny apartment and heads over to Steve’s house.

 

Steve is outside up on a ladder when Billy gets there, half the house covered in lights, Billy can hear the tale-tale sound of the kids around back arguing about something. Will is below Steve, on the ground one hand on the ladder to keep it steady as he cranes his head up to watch Steve work. They both turn and wave at Billy distractedly as he pulls in, Camaro rebuilt and louder than ever, before turning back to the task at hand. 

 

“Little early for Christmas lights don’t you think pretty boy?” Billy calls, huddling in his jacket, as the wind picks up, ruffling Will’s hair when he gets closer.

 

“They are Halloween lights Billy.” Steve calls back, as he sets the coiled up extra lights down on top of the roof before making his way down to the ground.

 

“Halloween lights? Did you do these last year?” Billy does not remember them, but he had still been on some pretty heavy pain meds at that point, he still has a few and several creams that he keeps on hand for when the ache in his chest flares up from the scars. He vaguely remembers a lot of pumpkins, and maybe fake cobwebs, but he cannot be a hundred percent sure if that had been here or somewhere else. 

 

“No, no lights last year. I just found them this morning when I was at the store. They’re orange and purple Billy!” Steve is excited, practically vibrating, and that is one thing Billy remembers from the fog, the way he brightens like the sun in excitement. 

 

“He bought all of them and all of the pumpkin string lights but he put those up inside.” Will confides biting off a smile when Steve glares at him.

 

“That was our secret. It was supposed to be a surprise.” Steve says with a huff, flailing an arm in Will’s direction, the kid just laughs at him and darts around the corner of the house to meet up with his friends.

 

“Think maybe you’re going a little over bored?” Billy asks, gets his hands on Steve’s hips and pulling him close now that they are alone, giving him a quick kiss.

 

“It’s spooky season, there is no such thing as over bored.” Steve chirps cold fingers finding their way under Billy’s jacket and past his open shirt to press against Billy’s stomach. 

 

His stomach flinches at the touch, but Billy does not pull away. “Walnut, September has only just started.” It is only the third, Billy does not really understand Steve’s love of Halloween, just knows he really likes pumpkins and candy and all of the decorations that come with it. Steve shrugs, smile still wide as he pulls his hands out from under Billy’s jacket and is heading for the ladder again, when the shouting from the back gets louder and he instead makes a beeline to go find out what the kids are getting up to, Billy just following after him. 

 

-

 

Both Steve’s bedroom and the downstairs are covered in strings of jack-o’-lantern lights, casting everything in shadows and an orangey glow and he refuses to turn on any of the actual lights. Seriously there is even a little plastic pumpkin set up in the bathroom, and Billy is forced to brush his teeth without any proper light, not that he needs it but it is the principle. 

 

“Don’t you think you’re taking this a bit far?” Billy asks, eyes closing as he sighs, Steve is wearing a pajama set, it is long pants, and a long sleeve collared shirt, all back and covered in pumpkins. Billy was definitely hoping he would be wearing less.

 

“No.” Steve says as he pulls back the blankets, a knit throw in the shape of a pumpkin on top, and Billy is pretty sure he has never seen these pumpkin sheets before, where do you even get pumpkin sheets? They are not even Halloween themed, white cotton sheets covered in rows and rows of orange pumpkins, leafy green foliage connecting them.

 

“Alright, out of curiosity what is with all of the pumpkins?” Billy asks as he slides into bed, and cozies up to Steve, he is not as annoyed with the pajamas when he feels how soft they are, stroking at them absently. 

 

“They’re a big part of Halloween, and Halloween is the best Billy.” Steve rolls over stuffed pumpkin in his arms, it is worn and faded, one of the foe leaves looks about ready to fall off at the slightest tug, it squishes easily between them. 

 

“There are a lot of things that are big parts of Halloween though, why pumpkins specifically?” Billy asks, choosing to ignore the pumpkins pressed against his chest, the lotions Steve rubbed into his scars are long dried by now, he does not have to worry about waking up covered in fuzz. 

 

“Hum,” Steve considers the question for a moment before giving an answer. “I had this nanny Laura, when I was growing up and she really liked Halloween, specifically the pumpkins and I guess it rubbed off on me.” Billy hums to indicate he is listening and Steve continues. “We'd always decorate for Halloween, made cookies in the shape of pumpkins and popcorn balls. Oh and every year we would take a trip to this place two counties over called Autumn Acres, they have these huge pumpkin patches, and spooky hayrides, and a corn maze it was the best." Steve says, voice a little wistful, his enthusiasm for the place practically oozing off of him.

 

"When's the last time you went?" Billy asks and Steve's face instantly falls.

 

"Not since I was thirteen and my parents decided I was too old for a nanny." Billy pulls him closer, shifting to press his nose against Steve’s rubbing them together.

 

"You miss her?  Billy asks, breath ghosting across Steve's face. A little smile tagging at his lips as he returns the nose rub. 

 

"Yeah, but we keep in touch, she moved over to Washington after her husband got offered a job, she still works as a nanny." Steve’s fingers curl in a lock of Billy’s hair as he turns his face into the pillow yawning.

 

"Let’s get some sleep, Keith won't shut up if you spend all morning yawning." Billy has a yawn of his own cracking his jaw wide as he turns his face toward the ceiling.

 

"He's your friend don’t act like you don't like your star force talks" Steve mumbles as he presses closer. The pumpkin ending up squished between his chest and Billy’s arm as Steve's presses his cheek against Billy’s shoulder.

 

"It’s Star Wars and Star Trek respectively and I know you know that." Billy mumbles rolling his eyes with a soft smile as Steve just giggles at him. "Good night pretty boy." 

 

"Good night sunflower." Steve whispers back before tipping his head up for one more kiss before nuzzling back against Billy’s shoulder. They drift to sleep under the orangey glow of the pumpkin lights strung up above the bed.

 

-

 

"What are you doing here? It's Harrington's day off." Keith asks two weeks later when Billy comes into Family Game.

 

"He took Jane on a little outing to the city, I came for some help from you and Robin when she gets in." Billy explains, dumping a map and his phone on the counter.

 

"You looking for a place to screw where you haven't already been caught? I suggest one of your bedrooms." Keith says snidely as he unfolds the map.

 

"If I wanted sex advice you would be one of the last people I would come to." 

 

"I'll have you know plenty of women want a piece of this."

 

"Are any of them real?" 

 

"You're-" Billy can feel the panic on Keith's face as he cycles through his available options for a comeback, knowing better than to bring up Billy’s mom. "Step-mom…" he just lets it trail off with a cringe, the only thing Keith is worse at than trash talking is hitting on the opposite sex.

 

"She’s currently doing worse, so you'd be an improvement." Billy offers with a hollow laugh, Susan is definitely not his favorite person, choosing to protect herself instead of Billy even when he had been a small helpless child but she still deserves better than Neil Hargrove.

 

"Can we just move on?" Keith asks awkwardly.

 

"Yeah didn't come in here for banter anyway, need some road trip advice. I want to take Steve to this pumpkin patch he went to as a kid, make a whole weekend of it and I want to stop at all the good stops on the way. Like we've stopped at Greenie's Arboretum every time we've left Hawkins but that's the only place really between here and there that I even know about."

 

"Okay I'll help but you have to bring me some pumpkin buns back. Definitely have to stop at The Cow Patch, it’s a theme restaurant and shop." Keith says pointing to a stop on the map.

 

"Let me guess it's all cow themed?" Billy asks resigned because he knows he is going to hate it but Steve will probably love it, especially if he has never been.

 

"Yeah and I know Steve hasn't gone because me and Robin were talking about it a while back and he got all pissy about not getting to go while he was with the swim team. Apparently he missed it because of food poisoning, he wanted to see the baby cows." Keith takes the pen Billy offers and marks the location for him.

 

"Of course he did, what else you got?" Billy asks with a shake of his head.

 

-

 

"You can't go to that museum." Robin points out an hour later as she leans over the map to see what they have already come up with.

 

"Why not? Keith said they have some interesting stuff." Billy is not about to mention that the interesting stuff is a room dedicated to Star Trek memorabilia put in when the museum changed owners three years ago. He knows better than to offer Robin any leverage for mocking.

 

"Well one room is full of old creepy Victorian dolls and Steve got banned when he was eleven."

 

"How did pretty boy get banned from a museum?" Billy asks skeptically, sometimes Robin just likes to mess with people. Keith looks just as curious so Billy knows whatever supposedly happened is not linked to a school trip, Keith's kind of a huge gossip, not that Billy minds. That is how he found out Steve was crushing on him all those months ago.

 

"You'll have to ask him yourself." Robin says with a sly grin, smirking at the frustrated noise Keith makes.

 

"You can’t just say that and not follow up Robin!" Keith complains. Knocking a box of milk dudes off the counter in agitation as Robin just smirks at him. The only person she likes messing with more than Billy and Steve is Keith, and maybe Carol but Billy is pretty sure she is flirting with Carol. Carol has definitely been flirting with her. "It’s store policy, it’s in the rule book, you can't just say ambiguous statements and not then tell the story!"

 

"You wrote that in the rule book in sharpie, and I refuse to acknowledge such things." Robin sniffs jumping off the counter. "There's a wooden roller coaster on the way to the patch, you should take him there, it boasts being the oldest in the state." Robin snatches the pen where Keith has started agitatedly clicking it, phone in hand as she checks the location before marking it on the map.

 

-

 

"Did you really get banned from Hewitt's museum when you were eleven?" Billy asks from the bathroom door as he watches Steve go through his face routine. The pumpkin lantern lighting the bathroom has acquired two near identical siblings and glow in the dark ghost decals now line the edge of the mirror.

 

"Who told you about that?" Steve asks before immediately answering his own question. "Robin." He hisses like an angry cat. 

 

"So she wasn't just fucking with us, spill it bambi, what happened?" Billy asks it is hard to tell in the orange glow but he is pretty sure Steve is blushing as he pouts.

 

"You can't tell anyone!" Steve demands. Hand waving nearly tipping his jar of face cream, he quickly sets it on the counter, scooping a little dollop out to finish applying it to his face.

 

"Scouts honor." Billy gives a little mock salute, Steve rolling his eyes at him in the mirror.

 

"You were never a scout."  Steve scoffs, shaking his head as Billy just gives a shrug laughing. 

 

"Tell me anyhow?" Billy requests moving closer and wrapping his arms around Steve's waist as he washes his hands, smile pulling at his lips as Billy drops kisses on his shoulder.

 

"So you know how dolls are fucking creepy" Billy hums in agreement well aware of Steve's aversion to dolls. "So like I was young and Tommy is an asshole who goaded me into watching Chucky and like I had nightmares about it for months Billy." Billy hums again, arms going a little tighter around Steve's waist. "So anyway Laura thought that taking me to Hewitt's and seeing all of the pretty dolls might help, it didn’t help Billy." Steve's face scrunches up as he shakes his head. "She got a call from my parents when we were walking in, and told me to go ahead and then it was the doll room and it was big and creepy and they were all looking at me!"

 

"So what happened next?" Billy prods when Steve stops talking.

 

"I panicked and got turned around, like everything is covered in them, and there are a bunch of shelves and I couldn’t find the exit and I was crying and running around and I accidently knocked over a couple of shelves." Steve huffs pout deepening. "It was an accident even if the lady who worked there didn't believe me. I knocked over one and it scared me and then I accidentally knocked over another and then by the time Laura came running in there were four shelves of shattered dolls all over the floor."

 

Billy cannot help the laugh that bubbles out of him at the image. "Shut up, why do I ever tell you anything." Steve grumbles angrily, lightly throwing an elbow back wanting to be let go.

 

"Awe Stevie not laughing at you." Except they both know he is and Billy hisses between laughs when Steve stomps on his foot, not hard with his feet bare but still a surprise and Billy lets him go. "Come back, I'm done laughing." Billy honestly tries to stop but he keeps imagining an outraged museum employee seeing the shattered mess and he starts cracking up all over again. Steve tries to slam the door closed but the stuffed cartoony skeleton and pumpkins hanging from the knob render his exit less angry and more comical.

 

-

 

"Hey sunflower, pizza for dinner tonight? Max let me know that her and the rest of the kids plan to come over and swim, which we both know will last all of five minutes in this weather so movie night and Robin and Keith both invited themselves along." Steve announces cheerfully as he comes in, when his parents are not around Billy lets himself in, has been lounging on the couch since he got off work and took a shower.

 

"Pizza sounds good." Billy calls back and a sudden breath of air escaping him when Steve rolls over the back of the couch to sit across his hips. "Hey pretty boy, what’s got you so excited? You find those sparkly pumpkins you were looking for?" Billy’s hands come up to rest on Steve’s jean covered thighs, he really misses the shorts he wore back at the ice cream shop. The uniform may have been tacky as hell but Billy had still been a big fan of Steve in it.

 

"No," Steve’s face falls for half a second before brightening again "but Keith is being weirdly nice and gave me the whole weekend off, I was thinking we could do something, maybe take the kids to the zoo or something on Sunday since you have Sunday off too."

 

"No can do walnut." Billy rubs his thumbs against Steve’s thighs when he pouts deflating.

 

"Why not is the shop going to be open on Sundays now?"

 

"Nope got the whole weekend off." Billy pops his P obnoxiously smiling as Steve tilts his head in question. "We got plans, just you and me." 

 

"Oh what are they?" Steve gives an excited wiggle and Billy digs his thumbs in a little harder as he licks over his teeth.

 

"It’s a road trip, the destination is a surprise, you're going to need two nights worth of clothes, maybe some snacks, we leave at noon tomorrow."

 

"Anything I can do to persuade you for a hint?" Steve asks with an enticing roll of his hips.

 

"Oh I'm sure we can come to an agreement." Billy says one hand leaving Steve’s hips to hook around his neck and pull him closer.

 

"Should I bring something sexy to wear?" Steve asks a breath away from Billy’s lips.

 

"Sexy outfit is a definite must." Billy drags Steve down that last little bit swallowing down his follow up questions with a kiss.

 

-

 

"I told you noon." Billy says when Steve finally comes down stairs with his bag at a quarter past one.

 

 "You did say noon, with the knowledge that I wouldn't be ready until at least one thirty, otherwise you would have woken me up sooner." Steve says as he kisses Billy’s cheek and drops his bag on his lap. "Will you please put my bag and those blankets in the car while I get the snacks?"

 

"What will you give me for it?" Billy asks hand around Steve’s neck, thumb rubbing softly.

 

"Give you another kiss?" Steve offers with a coy smile.

 

"Got yourself a deal pretty boy."

 

-

 

Billy tucks Steve's bag in the back with his own smaller duffle, the stack of blankets make it into the backseat. Billy leans into the car annoyed at the chill in the air and refusing to cover up more than he already is, he has swapped his jean jacket for his leather one and even has more buttons done up than usual.  It barely helps, the temperature dropping lower with each passing day.

 

Billy turns the key, the engine coming on and going quiet barely detectable under the howling of the wind, he shuts the door letting the car warm up. He would rather they take his car but the old Camaro is not what it used to be and Billy is not sure she is in the shape to make it plus he still has not worked out all of the kinks with the heating. She is rebuilt but she still has a ways to go after the car crash that nearly killed him, he had been on his way out of Hawkins for good when a tired trucker had changed everything. Billy has spent a lot of hours putting her back together with Max’s help. Steve has attempted to help a few times but Billy finds the sight of him bent over the engine or under checking the oil too much of a distraction for Steve to offer any real help.

 

Billy leans against Steve’s car puffing on his vape in the chill air as he waits. He is not left waiting long, but his nose and cheeks are still cold when Steve comes sauntering out, bundled up and holding a bag with snacks and a thermos full of coco. "Ready pretty boy?" Billy asks, stepping back from the car both breathe and smoke from his vape visible in the chill air. 

 

"Are you going to tell me where we're going?" Steve asks after a nod, Billy pulling the car door open for him.

 

"Once we're on our way I'll let you look at the map." Billy grins at the visible huff Steve gives, Steve tried valiantly to get their destination out of him last night but Billy would not give up anything.

 

"Or you could tell me now and I can make sure I packed the right clothes." Steve tries with a little hopeful smile.

 

"Not happening." Billy says with a laugh, pushing Steve into the car and shutting the door behind him before jogging to the other side, eager to get out of the cold.

 

Steve has his seatbelt on and is digging through his bag by the time Billy pulls out of the driveway. "You going to tell me now?" Steve asks, giving a little bounce kin his seat as he pulls away the container full of maple bars he just dug out when Billy reaches for them.

 

"You give me a maple bar, I'll tell you anything you want to know." Billy only has a vague memory of maple bars from last year but what he does remember of them has his mouth watering.

 

"I'll settle for our destination." Steve chirps back opening the container and the whole care smells like sweet maple sugar in an instant. Billy fishes the map from the driver’s side door compartment sliding it onto the lid of the container as Steve hands him a napkin wrapped bar.

 

Billy watches Steve excitedly unfold the map out of the corner of his eye as he heads for the town line taking a bite of the maple bar, it is even better than he remembers. "For real?" Steve asks eyes all big and hopeful as he turns to look at Billy, fingers absently tracking the path that has been marked for them.

 

"Thought we could make some of our own memories, maybe make it our thing." Billy gives a shrug going for casual even as his heart is in his throat, worried he has gone and over stepped when Steve's eyes get that wet look that always means he is seconds from crying. 

 

Billy has to hit the brakes, luckily they are on a deserted back road when Steve grabs his face and kisses him. Billy keeps one eye open as he brings the car to a stop, before leaning into it. Kiss both salty and sweet as tears drip down between their lips.

 

They do not break apart until a tractor lays on the horn behind them causing them to jump apart laughing. "You're too good for me sunflower." Steve says as he settles back into his seat, wiping at his face and pulling at the seatbelt to get it to slide back into a comfortable position.

 

"Not even close to bein' good enough, maybe someday." Billy says as he switches to the gas, flipping off the tractor behind them when the famer starts laying on the horn again.

 

Steve scoffs at him, “You don’t give yourself enough credit Billy.” Billy does not respond with words, knows that will only rile Steve up because no matter what he says, Billy will not agree and Steve is very passionate in his defense of him even when he has to defend Billy to himself. Steve huffs a little, but is easily distracted by the lure of the map in his lap, twining his fingers with Billy’s when he uses his knee to steer so he can drop his free hand on Steve’s thigh and still eat his maple bar.

 

-

 

“I thought we were going to be stopping at the Cow Patch for dinner.” Steve says forlorn as they pass the sign for it, knit sock covered feet up on the dash, and a blanket over his legs, he likes to be a cozy passenger.

 

“It’s only three, we’re going to hit it on the way back, that way you can look at the baby cows for as long as you want.” Billy reassures, “How about you pick something to listen to?” Billy offers to distract him.

 

“Yeah?” Steve asks, Billy usually only lets him pick the music when they are messing around, and even then more often than not he vetoes whatever Steve puts on. It is not Billy’s fault Steve has terrible taste in music. “Anything I want?”

 

“Sure.” Billy reluctantly agrees, a decision he soon regrets.

 

-

 

“When we get back in the car you are banned from touching the music.” Billy grumbles, as he shuts his door, glowering at the snicker Steve lets out.

 

“But Bil-”

 

“You put Monster Mash on repeat for the last half hour!” Billy stomps toward the shop, the smell of patchouli and other essential oils wafting out and smacking him in the face as he pulls the door open. 

 

“It was different renditions of Monster Mash, it’s not like I put the same song on repeat.” Steve offers, with a smile unperturbed by Billy’s annoyance,

 

“You’re not cute.” Billy sniffs nose itching, and he feels like sneezing as he holds the door open for Steve.

 

“I happen to know you find me very cute.” Steve says as he passes Billy, kissing him on the cheek and making his way toward a display case of stones.

 

“Not the point, you’re not allowed near the music for the rest of the road trip, you can’t be trusted.” Billy says before sneezing, into his elbow.

 

“Sure Billy.” Steve says distractedly holding up a tissue “Bless you.” as he moves on to another display. 

 

Billy takes the tissue dabbing at his nose, and gives a nod to the teenager at the counter who welcomes them without looking up from her magazine before following Steve as he moves deeper into the store.

 

-

 

They do not make it out of the little shop without a bottle of pumpkin pie spice oil for Steve and a bag full of rocks boasting different benefits and a deck of hand painted tarot cards for Max and El, both in the height of their witchy phase and trying valiantly to drag Will into it. So far the kid has just humored them, choosing to spend his time focusing on Dungeons and Dragons type games and World of Warcraft. “I thought you didn’t like pumpkin pie spice?” Billy asks when he catches Steve smelling the little jar of oil for the third time as he pulls into the parking lot of a little rib joint that Keith had raved about. 

 

“I don’t like the flavor, but I like the smell.” Steve shrugs, as they get out and head up to the little window. The place has no entrance, just two sliding window boxes, one for ordering one for pick up.

 

“Most of my candles are pumpkin spice.” Steve says once they have gotten their food and are sitting at a little picnic table off to the side, a pile of ribs in front of both of them and wet naps and napkins pilled between them, a blanket over both of their laps to help keep out the chill.

 

Billy hums in acknowledgment around a mouth full of ribs, they are good, smoky and sweet, and he does not spare the time to speak, that time that he can be eating. Steve snorts around his own rib, eating messily, sauces dripping down his face, and Billy knows he is going to fuss about his skin, but their next destination, a giant candle shop will have a bathroom Steve can take the time to clean up at. 

 

They end up sharing a second plate of ribs before heading out, Steve finishing up before Billy and snapping a picture of Billy grinning around a rib, looking messy and bright under the late evening sun. 

 

-

 

The candle store is big, bigger than Billy is expecting despite Robin and Keith both expressing its vastness. Billy likes candles well enough, and until how he was only vaguely aware of Steve’s affinity for them. All the pumpkin ones coming up from the basement, all different kinds, some shaped like pumpkins, some just boasting various pumpkin scents. Steve finds a whole slew of new ones to add to his collection, especially with the Halloween display front and center.

 

Billy carries the little basket provided, sniffing candles that Steve offers up to him and giving a yay or nay, sneezing at several that Steve puts down as nays without Billy having to say anything. They end up with two large bags full of candles and other knickknacks by the time they are done, most are for Steve but two of them are shaped like cats, one dressed up like a vampire the other is dressed like Santa, that Steve picks up for Mrs. Henderson. Billy does not miss the ugly cat in a pumpkin outfit that Steve puts in the basket for himself. 

 

They snap a picture of the two of them together in front of the store. The framing a little off, Billy’s face only half in it as he tries to get Indiana’s largest candle in the background. It is nearly obscured by Steve’s hair, but with the wind whipping up around them it is the best one either of them get.

 

They hit a second hand bookstore next, more for Billy than Steve, the shelves are packed full with minimal organization. This time Steve follows after Billy, occasionally picking up a book if the spine of cover peaks his interest. Billy will occasionally read the back of one aloud to see what Steve thinks. When Billy is not reading something in the horror genre he has a tendency to read aloud to Steve. Billy read Steve all of the Hunger Game books after he found out he had not read them, only seen the movies. The trunk is basically full between the candles and the stacks of books Billy adds to it, a few Dungeons and Dragons manuals tossed in for the boy, neither Max nor El currently interested in the game. 

 

Their last stop of the day is Indiana’s oldest wooden roller coaster, the sign old and the paint chipping. There is not much to the place other than the roller coaster itself, a little stall selling carnival style food, and a small shop of souvenirs. A bored employee takes a picture for them in front of the sign for the place, the rollercoaster viable in the background, blurry as a cart full of people passes them by. 

 

It is not bad, no theme park attraction, but enough of a thrill that Billy enjoys it. Steve shouting just as loudly as he does on better roller coaster, hands in the air instead of using the handle to brace himself, repeatedly sliding back and forth before Billy wraps an arm around him, anchoring him to his side as he braces on the railing with one hand. They end up riding it three times in a row, until Billy is feeling a little nauseated. That does not stop him from splitting a funnel cake with Steve. A souvenir shot glass for Flo makes its way onto the dash of the car, tucked into the little dip so it can harmlessly slide back and forth. 

 

-

 

The little bed and breakfast they end up staying in is just a short distance from the Autumn Acres, Billy choosing it because of the very out and open about it owners. He did not want to stay in a place where they might have to hide their relationship, just because Hawkins is pretty accepting does not mean all of Indiana is safe, the little town that surrounds the patch has a thriving LGBT+ community.  

 

The room is not too bad cozy and floral, a lot of floral, they could have been in the doll room, but Billy called ahead and specifically requested to not be in that one, apparently that room is booked up by the ghost loving crowd until well after Halloween anyhow. There is a haunted house near the edge of town that Billy wants to go to sometime, but Steve does not like that sort of thing. Instead he plans to take another trip out this way, the place is open all year round. Supposedly authentically haunted and Robin has expressed an interest in going and he knows Max and El will want to come.

 

"I thought you were going to dress sexy?" Billy asks when he comes out of the bathroom to find Steve in another long sleeve long pants pajama set, they look like they might be as soft as his pumpkin set, the pattern this time is bones, in a fairly accurate anatomically correct configuration, a few smaller bones missing or added onto larger bones. He is laid out on the floral bedspread, propped up on his side facing Billy, the left side of the ribs, wrinkled up and pooling a little against the comforter. 

 

"I'm showing you bones Billy, what could be sexier than this?" Steve asks grinning, eyes glowing in the low light of the lamp and the flickering candle light from the pumpkin pancake scented candles he insisted on bringing in and lighting. Their hosts had been good about it, offering Steve a tray to avoid any wax drippings. 

 

"I can think of one boner in particular that I would find sexier." Billy says looking at the pelvic bone on Steve’s pajamas in an obvious way.

 

"Well if you can find it, it’s all yours." Steve says laughing as Billy immediately makes a running leap at the bed, catching Steve when he goes wide eyed and tries to roll off the side both of the bed. 

 

-

 

Billy is displeased to find out over breakfast that a cold front has moved in, dropping the temperature lower than expected. The pancakes are really good though, covered in sticky syrup and that makes him stop grumbling about it at least for a little while, stealing bites of the French toast Steve is eating smeared in apricot jam. Billy resumes his grumbling when he walks outside for the first time, instantly shivering.

 

Billy glowers and reluctantly lets Steve bundle him up in a scarf, a thick wool cap and matching gloves, tucking the scarf in before zipping Billy’s jacket up all the way for him. “You look cute, pumpkin.” Steve insists, kissing Billy’s red nose. Billy does not even question the new nickname, as it warms his gut, knowing how much Steve likes pumpkins, Billy even relinquishes control of the music to him. It is short lived as Steve puts on a rendition of Five Little Pumpkins.

 

-

 

They park in a field, it is still early enough in the day that there are not too many other cars yet, the air whips around them tossing reddish brown leaves and losses hay around as they head towards the entrance.

 

"First time?" Asks an older woman in overalls and a thick sweater, heavy coat doing nothing against the cold as it sits at her side.

 

"It's his," Steve indicates Billy by holding up their twined hands, bright grin on his face. "I used to come here every year as a kid." Billy smiles despite the bite of the cold and the annoyance of giving in and wearing the matching hat, gloves, and scarf Steve had made for him, Steve's excitement is palpable.

 

"Don't reckon much has changed since then, we haven't got anything fancy like some of the other farms. Maud over at the concession stand offers pumpkin spice coffee now but her hot coco and award winning pumpkin buns are still my personal favorites." Steve starts tapping his thumb against Billy’s hand without thought, nodding randomly to indicate he is listening, his full attention on the woman.

 

Billy is not paying her any mind, thinking about those pumpkin buns. He has heard about those buns, is eager to try one, they sound amazing, seriously every time someone asked where they were headed and he told them Autumn Acres, the first thing out of everyone's mouth had been “You can't miss Maud's pumpkin buns.” He just has to remember to get some to bring back to Keith as well. 

 

"I have learned to take a pretty decent picture on a cell phone if you boys are interested." She offers and Billy tunes back in laughing as Steve jumps at the offer, nearly dropping his phone in his haste to hand it over. The woman just smiles kindly at them and directs them where to stand to get the big entrance sign in it, the pumpkin patches and Maud’s stand visible on either side of them. “When you got your pumpkins and are ready to leave let me or one of the kids working know, be happy to take another picture for you with your haul.”

 

“Thank you” Steve says, Billy distractedly agreeing, as he drags Steve off toward Maud’s stand, the allure of pumpkin buns and coffee too much to resist in this cold. 

 

-

 

Billy is not sure he will be able to bring Keith back any pumpkin buns, he gets a small bag for himself to try and mourns them as they quickly dwindle. Steve eats his own apple cider donut holes, sharing some with Billy despite Billy’s refusal to share any pumpkin buns as they make their way through the corn maze. It is a lot harder than Billy is expecting, Steve giggling using his elbow wrapped in the cork of Billy’s to tug him back the way they came each time they run into a new dead end. Billy is glad when they get to what he thinks is the end of the maze.

 

Billy is disappointed when he figures out they are merely in the center, Steve stocking up on candy corn and rock candy for Dustin at the little candy booth set up there, picking up a box of fancier caramels for Robin. It takes them nearly fifty minutes to find the actual exit and Billy makes a beeline for Maud’s booth as soon as they do. Steve laughing and abandoning him for the bathroom, with a shout to get him more hot coco and donut holes. 

 

Steve drags Billy to the barn playing a slew of old Halloween kids movies over and over on a big projector on one of the walls. They are the only ones in there at the moment so they take a hay bale near the front, and watch a grainy, likely bootleg version of the Adventures of Ichabod Crane and Mr. Toad. Billy will deny it because he claims to hate them but he ends up eating half the bag of candy corn when Steve denies him any donut holes after he hogs all of the pumpkin buns for a second time. 

 

They get lunch from Maud’s stand Steve insisting Billy cannot just live off of candy corn and pumpkin buns, making him eat a sandwich instead. Billy still gets another bag of pumpkin buns before they head off into the pumpkin patch to start looking for their pumpkins. Steve gets a slightly blurry picture of Billy shoving a bun into his mouth as they are walking.

 

Billy still does not get the appeal of the pumpkins, he never carved them or anything like Steve talks about. When his mom was around they would go to the grocery store and pick one up, nothing like the rows upon rows of foliage and pumpkins that surrounds them now. She did not like carving them up, too much mess, always painting them instead. After she left and Susan came along all the pumpkins were plastic. 

 

Billy does not think he has ever seen pumpkins like this, all the ones he saw back in his home in California cleaned up and picture perfect, with the exception of the one time on all hallows even Billy had gone out pumpkin stomping with his friends. Billy did not like it, threw a fit when he realized how much pumpkin was sticking to his boots, it had taken him a week to get it all out. So Billy has never had the desire to carve a picture into the side of one, but Steve talks about it excitedly as they pass through the more picked over parts of the field. 

 

“How about this one?” Billy asks when he spots a pretty one with no lumps or dents. It looks good to him, a nice shade of orange despite the dirt smearing it. It does not lean to the side like a lot of the picked over pumpkins left in this field, Billy would guess it is about the size of his head. 

 

“But it’s so small.” Steve says with a frown when Billy kicks his foot in its direction.

 

Billy scoffs at him. “It’s a good size pumpkin, nice and round, no dents like some of these miscreants.” He insists, bigger than any he had as a kid, and approximately the size of all the ones he had smashed.

 

“It’s a lil’ baby pumpkin, and they're not,” Steve squints as he tries the word out in his mouth, only knows it because it was in a book Billy has been reading to him, “miscreants” Steve waits for a nod from Billy that he said it right before continuing "but if you want that one get it.” Steve shrugs, eyes shifting to further out.

 

“I do want it.” Billy sniffs mumbling “pumpkin snob“ under his breath. Steve laughing as he hears him. 

 

-

 

Steve finally stops pulling Billy further and further from the main portion of the farm when they get to the last of the fields. This one is vastly more populated with pumpkins than those closer to the front that have been picked over by the masses. There is only one other person who seems to have ventured as far out as them all the way on the other side of the field.

 

Billy ends up sitting on a patch of cold dirt pumpkin tucked between his thighs as he watches Steve shifting between pumpkins. Occasionally Billy will move closer when Steve wanders out of hearing range before settling right back down on the ground, phone out snapping the occasional picture of Steve between texts and blowing smokes circles to amuse himself.

 

“Baby you can get more than one pumpkin.” Billy says two hours later still sitting in the dirt as Steve paces, trying to decide which pumpkin he wants. All of the ones he likes are far bigger than the one Billy picked, and Billy will not admit it aloud but they do make his pumpkin look like a little baby by comparison, he is not sure how they are going to get them to the front. 

 

“Oh you’re right.” Steve says laughing at himself.

 

“Did you forget?” Billy asks when Steve keeps laughing, mumbling to himself as he shakes his head.

 

“Yeah kind of, when I was a kid Laura told me they had a limit, as a way of keeping me from going over bored.” Steve says as he walks back over to Billy squatting in front of him. “Thanks for reminding me pumpkin.” Steve pops the P as he leans in and kisses Billy’s nose, laughing as Billy gets a fist around his scarf and pulls him close for a real kiss.

 

“I don’t know how we're going to get all of your pumpkins out of here walnut.” Billy admits when he breaks the kiss, the air fogging between them as they both catch their breath.

 

“Oh one of the workers left a wheelbarrow for us.” Steve tells him pointing behind Billy with a grin.

 

“Think you can keep it to just the one?” Billy honestly is not sure he can, and Steve’s little nervous laugh just makes Billy drag him in for another kiss.

 

-

 

They almost make it to the front with just the one wheelbarrow, three large pumpkins and two that are half the size and still make Billy’s look dinky stacked precariously. Steve’s got Billy’s pumpkin in his arms as Billy carefully walks the edge of the field heading for the front. When Steve spots another pumpkin he wants.

 

"How many pumpkins are you planning to do pretty boy?" Billy asks laughing as Steve sets the one in his arms down so he can grab this new one too.

 

"The most." Steve mumbles distracted, already o-ing at another pumpkin before he has finished securing the one that caught his attention in the first place.

 

"You boys need another wheelbarrow?" The woman from the front Arleen asks, her coat now on, little name tag visible, a kind smile stretched over her lips as she stops in front of Billy with an empty one. "I can take that one up to the front for you."

 

"Yeah, thank you" Billy says, most of his attention on Steve and his growing pile of pumpkins as he trades wheelbarrows with her. Billy ends up snapping a few more candids of Steve bent over more pumpkins.

 

By the time they make it to the front the second wheelbarrow is nearly full and Billy knows they are going to have to do some shuffling to get them all in the car, especially tomorrow when they head home. Steve still has Billy’s pumpkin in his arms as they head to get them weighed and pay, claiming that the baby needs to be protected and grinning when Billy just rolls his eyes at him. 

 

Arleen is manning the weighing station and offers another photo for them, and of course Steve eagerly takes her up on it. Billy gives a little snort as Steve thrusts the pumpkin Billy picked into his arms before picking up a bigger one, swollen and lopsided, coming to stand next to Billy. Billy shifts his pumpkin to one arm, tossing the other around Steve’s shoulders as they both smile for the picture.

 

“You boys staying for the hayride?” Arleen asks as she hands Steve's phone back to him. “Might want to catch a movie first, the youngins always fill up the first two. Hocus Pocus will be starting here soon.” She adds when Steve nods yes.

 

It takes them twenty minutes to situate all the pumpkin in the car, Steve fussing over them like they have feelings. Billy eventually has to drag him away, claiming he has to pee, and it is not actually a lie by the time they get back in. They grab more pumpkin buns and hot coco and this time Steve gets his own bag as they head to the barn. It is crowded but they manage to find an empty hay bale near the back just as Thatchery makes it to the Sanderson cabin. 

 

“What’s wrong walnut?” Billy asks as he catches Steve frowning at a half-eaten pumpkin bun out of the corner of his eye.

 

“I like the donuts better.” Steve says as he offers the half eater bun to Billy. 

 

Billy leans in and takes it with his mouth, lips just barely brushing Steve’s fingers. “I’ll go get you some.”

 

“But the movie” Steve’s pout deepens, brow wrinkling.

 

“Seen it, Max puts it on every year and just because I moved out doesn’t mean she’s stopped, made me watch it just last week, be back in a couple minutes.” Billy says kissing the crease between his brows.

 

 

The hay ride is not what Billy would call scary, meant more for children than adults but it is still nice if a bit cold. He and Steve are huddled together, a blanket spread out over their laps and fresh hot coco in each of their hands as they listen to the ghost story being told. The wind whips around them howling, the bloated moon in the sky illuminating them through the decorated path. Billy tucks his cold face in against Steve’s neck as he finishes his coco, slipping his cold fingers under Steve’s jacket and clothes to press against warm skin, smiling at the shiver and hiss Steve gives. Steve does not push him away, just wraps an arm around Billy’s back pulling him closer and ducking his head to kiss at the edge of Billy’s woolen hat.

 

 

They stop by Maud’s one last time and Billy buys two more orders of the pumpkin buns, one for himself and one to take back to Keith. Steve laughs at him wiping crumbs from Billy’s mouth as he immediately starts eating them. “You’re going to end up with a tummy ache.”

 

“Nah my stomachs made of steel.” Billy insists, stuffing another in his mouth whole.

 

-

 

“Stevie I know you said we had to bring the pumpkins in so they didn’t freeze because of yet another stupid cold front but why is that one not downstairs in the drawing room with the others?” Billy asks when he comes into their room with the hot chocolate and cookies their hosts had offered. Billy was not about to refuse anything that smelled this good, had already eaten two, oatmeal raisin is Billy’s favorite cookie, but oatmeal cherry has quickly made their way to second place.

 

“It’s a baby, we can’t have anything happening to your first pumpkin Billy.” Steve says grinning at Billy when he comes closer, hands petting over the pumpkin Billy picked out earlier today.

 

“Not actually my first pumpkin, I had them as a kid.” Billy sets the cookies and his own coco on the bedside table, passing Steve his cup when he makes grabby hands for it. Billy would offer him a cookie but Steve hates oatmeal raisin, Billy doubts oatmeal cherry will appeal to him.

 

“But it’s the first one you are going to carve Billy, it’s important.” Steve’s thighs visibly tighten around the pumpkin for a second before he relaxes both hands gripping his cup as he blows on it before taking a sip.

 

“I never said I was going to carve the pumpkin pretty boy.” Billy says as he climbs onto the bed, settling across from Steve, facing him, their knees touching. 

 

“You have to Billy, it’s fun.” Steve says giving him a hopeful look and eyeing the plate of cookies Billy moves to his lap with interest. “Isn’t there something I can do to convince you?” Steve wiggles his eyebrows, coco resting on top of the pumpkin as he leans closer.

 

“I’m sure we can come to an agreement, but the pumpkin isn’t staying in the bed” Billy rolls his eyes at the dramatic gasp Steve lets out.

 

“You want me to make our baby sleep on the floor.” Steve asks hands coming up to clutch at imaginary pearls.

 

Billy shuts his eyes shaking his head “It’s a pumpkin, it has spent its whole life until now in the dirt, I don’t think a night on the floor is going to hurt it.” 

 

“But they’re our first one together Billy, our practice baby.” Steve goes all earnest, with exaggerated puppy dog eyes and Billy tries to keep it in, really he does but a snort still escapes him, the corner of Steve’s lips tugging up in response.

 

“You planning to have babies with me now?” Billy asks jokingly, stomach flipping pleasantly at the thought of him and Steve and a couple of kids down the road.

 

Billy’s heart gets caught in his throat at Steve's sudden serious expression, coco shifting to one hand as his other hand comes up to cup Billy’s cheek. “I’m planning everything with you Billy, I love you.” Steve kisses his lips and Billy is glad for the excuse not to speak. It is not the first time Steve has said it but Billy still never expects those words, still cannot say them back. Instead he brings his hand up, curls his fingers around Steve’s wrist giving a gentle squeeze, turning from the kiss to press his lips softly against Steve’s wrist. 

 

“I suppose they can sleep in the chair in the corner” Steve mummers softly against Billy’s cheek.

 

"It is a pretty comfy chair." Billy humors him, because even if he cannot get the words out yet he knows Steve is it for him, he is all in.

 

-

 

“Billy?” Steve asks blurry eyed at two in the morning as he flips the switch on in the bathroom.

 

“Shit.” Billy curses the words muffled by the pumpkin bun stuffed in his mouth.

 

“Are you eating the pumpkin buns you got for Keith in a dark bathroom?” Steve asks with a frown, the very obvious answer being yes, as the empty bag sits in Billy’s laps, crumbs the only remains as Billy swallows.

 

“The night light was on.” Billy's answer as he stares Steve down as if daring him to ask any more questions.

 

“Okay babe sure that's the detail to focus on but I have to pee so can you move off the toilet.” Steve says instead of following up, it is late and he is tired, eyes going back to half closed as Billy moves out of his way, heading for bed. “Wash your hands and face you animal! I don’t want crumbs in the bed.”

 

-

 

“You boys back for more pumpkins?” Arleen asks when she spots them the next day.

 

“No. More pumpkin buns, someone ate them all in the bathroom at two in the morning.” Steve tells her as Billy pouts and Arleen laughs. Billy gets three more bags this time.

 

-

 

 “Billy why are we going to a hunting store?” Steve asks, making a sad wobbly face when they park on the side of the building.

 

“They only hunt for the truth pretty boy.” Billy insists, his point proven when they come around the front to see the whole sign. Murray’s Supernatural Emporium in big bold letters and the whole front is painted in different supernatural creatures. 

 

“I keep telling you that was just a deer in the woods making those noises, bigfoot isn’t real Billy.” Steve says with an eye roll as Billy pulls him inside.

 

Billy gets distracted by a rack of conspiracy books and turns back around to find Steve missing. He does not find him again until he is ready to check out. Steve is sitting in a folded chair at a display near the front having a conversation in broken Russian with a curly haired man. Billy ends up talking to the owner Murray about an old Hawkins’s mystery for the next forty five minutes, Murray’s partner Alexi occasionally breaking from his conversations with Steve to shout at Murray in Russian.

 

-

 

The Cow Patch, is just as silly as Billy thought it would be. The whole place in black and white, all of the menu items are cow puns, and the uniforms all have black and white cow spots. Steve ends up picking up a set of cow shaped salt and pepper shakers, and a little stuffed cow that he claims is calling out to him. Billy just rolls his eyes with a smile and orders them two milkshakes to go as Steve heads outside.

 

Billy wanders out milkshakes in hand to find Steve leaning on the fence to the cow pen, feeding the cows corn kernels from his hand and giggling at the tickle. “Billy, you can feed them.” Steve says delightedly, taking his milkshake from Billy with his free hand.

 

“I can see that.” Billy smiles wide, slipping the little headband cow ears he picked up on a whim to sit on top of Steve’s thick knit hat before sliding in closer and wrapping an arm around Steve’s waist, pressing against his back as he watches the small cows nudge each other out of the way to get some. 

 

“You want to feed them?” Steve asks, pulling the bag of corn from his pocket he got from the employee in charge of the cows. 

 

“In a bit, good here for now.” Billy says turning his face into Steve's neck and kissing the skin above his scarf.

 

Billy does not end up feeding the cows, just enjoys watching Steve do it. He gets a good picture of Steve leaning his head against one of the small cows, his eyes going wide as it’s tongue slaps across his face, Billy caught it at the perfect moment.

 

-

 

“I don’t think we have any room for plants this time Billy.” Steve says honestly as they get to Greenie’s Arboretum.

 

“Got room for something small, just looking for something for Flo.” Billy says as he parks, Steve giving a hum of disbelief, Billy has said that before and it never ends up being true.

 

Today is no different than the other times, Billy starts out small with a plastic planter of Celosia in a burgundy purple, picking up a second one for his own apartment when Steve keeps petting at the fuzzy plant. Billy turns to head to the front to go pay but then he is distracted by a row of croton and Steve wanders off toward the Ornamental Pepper plants. Steve ends up with a lap full of plants on the drive home, two orangey-yellow and green Crotons on the floorboards by his feet and a hideous garden gnome holding a pumpkin sharing his seat.

 

-

 

It is past dinner time by the time they get back and drop the plants and books off at Billy’s apartment, Steve insisting the ornamental pepper plant has to come with him. It will not stay long but Billy shakes his head and indulges him, he is just going to have to take care of it when he is over to keep the thing from dying, Steve is terrible with plants, the exact opposite of a green thumb. They grab burgers from the diner on the way back to Steve's, the food getting cold as they unpack the pumpkins and candles settling them around the inside of the house until it is time to carve them up.

 

They are both tired from the weekend all the excitement and cold of the weekend leaving them drained and both of them have work in the morning but they still settle down on the couch after they eat. Billy settles in the corner, one arm propped up on the side, book in hand as Steve sprawls out head in Billy’s lap. Billy cards a hand through Steve’s hair and starts reading from a not so spooky book. 

 

-

 

“Pretty boy?” Billy calls when he comes into the house, Monster Mash is once again and it makes his eye twitch, if it is on repeat he is going to make Steve regret it, he does not care if it is different renditions.

 

“Dining room!” Steve shouts back and Billy toes his boots off, laces already worked open and heads for him. 

 

Billy’s eyebrow rising as he sees the table and floor covered in tarps. “You planning to commit a murder?” 

 

“No,” Steve snorts. “I’m setting up so we can carve the pumpkins. I’m almost done. Go put on something you don’t care about getting dirty.” Steve says excitedly, “Something you won’t try to pull on in the morning when you are running late.” Steve adds when Billy just stands there, unlike Steve he does not have clothes specifically for getting dirty in.

 

“Yeah alright sugar.” Billy shrugs, he has a point, Billy will pull on whatever he had the night before when he is running late. 

 

-

 

Steve has everything set up by the time Billy gets back down in some of Steve’s trash clothes as he likes to call them. Billy’s pumpkin on one side of the table and the three largest ones set up on the other. The trashcan has been dragged out and a strainer and various kitchen equipment and strange orange handled things sit between them both, a rolled up canvas case sits near the three larger pumpkins, light glinting off of the tools hidden underneath. 

 

“You want an apron for the first bit? It can get really messy especially if you’ve never done it before.” Billy just gives him a look and Steve shakes his head and holds out one of the hair ties Billy uses when he works out. "You're going to want to put your hair up at least, won't want to touch it once we get started."

 

Billy takes it and pulls his hair up, Steve's got one of Robin’s headbands he borrowed a few months back holding his bangs out of his face as he starts carving a hole in the side of his pumpkin. "I thought you were supposed to put the hole at the top?" Billy questions thumbing through a stack of paper sheets with simple pumpkin designs.

 

"You can, but if I do it this way it's easier to get the walls nice and thin. You can do the baby whichever way you prefer." Steve says setting aside the section of pumpkin he just carved and pulling out stringy orange clumps. 

 

"I'm surprised you're touching that." Billy says watching Steve pull flat seeds from the stringy pulp and tossing them in the nearby strainer.

 

“No way around it.”

 

"Saving those for a reason? Billy asks as Steve goes in for another handful.

 

"Toasted pumpkin seeds, you liked them last year." Steve says absently as Billy starts looking at the different tools laid out specifically for him.

 

"Don't remember that." Billy says with a shrug, continuing when Steve makes sad eyes at him. "I'll remember this year, it'll be like I'm trying them for the first time all over again." Billy says stabbing the top of his pumpkin.

 

"What are you doing?" Steve asks with a little gasp as he looks at the long knife sticking straight up out of the pumpkin right next to the stem.

 

"You said I could do it however I want." Billy huffs.

 

"You're going to kill our baby that way." Steve complains bottom lip jutting out. 

 

Billy rolls his eyes with a little snort as he tries to get the knife back out, it is not budging. "Come here and direct me on how to not kill the baby."

 

-

 

Steve does not just save the seeds he also saves the flesh for cooking in various dishes. Billy finds the orange flesh Steve has in a large bowl dubious, but he also looks forward to trying whatever Steve makes with it. Steve manages to completely pull the insides from two and is working on the third by the time Billy is finally satisfied with his own pumpkin’s insides. The walls are still thick and a few bits of stringy pulp and seed cling but Billy is over it, he does not have the patience to carefully scoop the flesh from the walls to make them thinner.

 

He picks a toothy grinned generic face from the sheets of paper at random, he will take artistic licenses once he gets the bare basics down. He keeps getting distracted watching Steve when he starts delicately carving at one of his pumpkins, tongue poking out between his teeth as he focuses intently.

 

It turns out carving pumpkins is hard, harder than Billy was anticipating and he does not care for it. Billy’s knife keeps cutting too deep, going further than the little pokey outline he made. Steve is so wrapped up in his work he does not even hear the frustrated noises Billy makes. It is probably for the best because Billy would definitely snap at him right now if he tried to help. 

 

Billy has to move slower, to keep the knife where he wants it, but he finally gets the basic pattern out. It does not even look too bad, looks like it is supposed to with an extra slit here and there. Billy decides by this point to free hand his embellishments, he is not invested enough to go through outlining it first. 

 

The clunky sunglasses could be better but they don't turn out too bad, Billy expanding the eyes he originally cut using their original spacing to keep distance between the would be lenses. They are chunky, the edges not so rounded, but you can tell what they are. The cigarette he tries to add, goes awry, too wide, and too short, it just ends up looking like his pumpkin is sticking its tongue out and it could be worse.

 

Billy decides to leave it, ready to wash his hands of pumpkin carving forever, just because Steve seems to love it does not mean Billy has to participate, he will be happy to just watch Steve pick out and carve pumpkins every year for the rest of their lives. Billy pulls a chair up, vape in a hand and watches Steve work, he is in the zone and has not even noticed Billy is done, as he carves spots into some weird floral headed monster.

 

Steve is working on the third pumpkin, the shape not yet distinguishable when Billy asks “You want to break for food?” Steve makes a noise like he is listening but Billy can tell he really is not, just responding because he is aware something might have been directed at him. Steve does that sometimes, when he gets hyper focused. “I’m going to start dinner.” Billy says dropping a kiss against Steve’s hair as he gets another nonsense noise in return.

 

Billy changes out of his pumpkin covered clothes, waiting to shower until Steve is done, they can shower together, and Billy can get him to wash his hair, because somehow Billy managed to get that shit in his hair despite having piled it on top of his head in a messy bun. He is at the stove checking on dinner when Steve comes in apron off, pumpkin gunk cleaned from his bare arms and cardigan back on as he presses against Billy’s back, arms going around his waist. 

 

“What yah cooking?” Steve asks into the crook of Billy’s neck,

 

“Pork chops and mashed potatoes.”

 

“Smells good, I like your pumpkin.” Billy snorts, his pumpkin looks like it was done by a child but Steve is so sincere about it he cannot bring himself to do more than that.

 

“Let's go see yours now that you're done.” Billy laughs when Steve immediately starts pulling him toward the dining room with excitement. 

 

The dining room is dark, the pumpkins that have been carved lit by candles, even Billy’s is lit up, and Billy has to admit that it looks better that way, he does not dislike it as much, even if it does pale in comparison to the ones Steve did. “Baby why is there a rat in a crown?” Billy already knows the answer, stupidly fond butterflies fluttering around in his stomach.

 

“That one is for you,” Steve says grinning wide, eyes shining in the flickering light. “You know, because you're the rat king.”

 

Billy tries not to smile, tries to put on a disapproving face, but it tugs at his lips anyway, as Steve leans in close. “You’re my rat king and my pumpkin.” Steve says whisper soft, as he presses a kiss to Billy’s grinning lips. That stupid nickname that should be insulting always turns him gooey when Steve uses it against him and Steve calling him pumpkin in the same breath just makes him melt.

 

-

 

"So do you go this all out for Christmas too?" Billy asks as he cranes his head back to look up at the pumpkin lanterns he has just hung in the tree, they look nice, it will definitely give an eerie feel once all the foe cobwebs are in place, and he hangs the rubber bats he picked up.

 

"Oh I don't get to decorate. My folks always hire a designer to come in and make the place look good enough for a magazine before they even come home. I tried to add a few decorations I liked one year but that just had my mom throwing a fit over the ruined aesthetic." Steve has been slowly stretching fake cobwebs over the bushes near the tree, gently pulling it where he wants it, tugging a little harder as he mentions his parents.

 

"I haven't really been a part of the whole holiday decoration thing since my mom left, partly because I just didn't feel up to it, and partly because of, well you’ve met Neil. Maybe you and I could decorate my apartment this year?" Billy takes the last couple of steps off of the ladder putting him on equal footing with Steve as he turns to look at him eyes bright and wide and hopeful.

 

“Yeah?” Steve asks bottom lip between his teeth

 

“Yeah, might be nice, we can get a tree, mistletoe, some lights, whatever you want.” Billy says, chewing on his thumb nail, he has been thinking about getting Steve to decorate his place for a while now, under different circumstances though. He wants Steve to move in, toss his stuff all over Billy’s place, just wants Steve in his space, and one of these days he will work up the nerve to ask. 

 

“Will a tree fit in your apartment?” Steve asks very seriously and Billy snorts.

 

“I’ll make room for it and anything else you want.” Billy reassures with a soft smile as he pulls Steve close for a kiss.

-End