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this endless summer

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They arrived at Dewey Beach in the late evening. To the salty tang of the cool sea-air, crisp and clean. From the window of his shared room with Robin at the hotel, Steve could see the shoreline, the black waves crashing on the rocks. He breathed in the clear air and let it wash through him.

Billy was up early with Max and El the next morning. By the time Steve and Robin had walked down to meet them, all three of them were at the edge of the blue shore.

The heat of Summer had clung onto early September, still warm enough for them to swim when the sun was at its peak. With the occasional cooler light breeze drifting over the waves.

Steve's eyes lingered on their distant figures in the sun. The two of them out in the waves - Billy walking Max out on her board, the water up to his ribs.

The two of them had yet to talk yet, alone. Not since the night at his apartment. They hadn't gone beyond the occasional brief, words at the rest-stops when he’d handed him a bottle of water.

When they found a nice spot on the sand to settle, Robin set up her tanning station. Laying out, she flicked open to the first page of some, crime-novel she’d brought from the gas-station.

El spotted the two them and ran up the beach to greet them with a wave, beaming from ear-to-ear.

“Did you go for a swim?” Steve asked.

She nodded before she made a sour face. “The water is salty,” She collapsed flat onto the towel he’d laid out beside their chairs, blinking up at the blue skies with her arms outstretched at her sides.

Max managed to stand up twice on the board, if only for a few seconds. Each time she did, Steve noticed the small fist-pump Billy did. How he watched her with baited breath when she steadied herself on the board. Steve smiled, in spite of himself.

Two hours later, Max stumbled over to them and flopped down onto the sand beside El with a groan.

She pulled up her red curls up with the blue scrunchie around her wrist. "Man, he's such a drill-sergeant,"

“Max,” Billy's voice cut through the air as he approached them. Steve felt his heart pick up in pace as he noticed him walk over.

He rested his arm on her board, glowering at her through his shades. “You giving up already?”

“I'm gonna get some salt-water taffee with El," She shot El a wide-eyed look, hoping for her interference. To give her an excuse.

"Taffee?" El just sounded the word on her tongue, brows creasing

It was good-enough.

"Oh, you'll like it, trust me," Max hauled her up from the sand, smiling.

"Hey, shit-head." Billy interrupted. "We've rented your board by the hour,"

Max turned to Steve, before she jerked her head in his direction. "Then, let Steve or Robin try," The two of them sped off before he could interject, kicking up sand as they ran hand in hand.

Robin didn't look up from her book as she nudged Steve with her foot. "All yours," 

Steve lifted his head. Unable to see the expression in Billy's eyes through his sun-glasses, where his were bare under his scrutiny.

Billy broke the silence, smiling. “Looks like you’re up, Harrington,”

 

 

"These are offshore," Billy explained over the hush of the waves, pointing the roll and curl of them across the water. Blue water lapped around Billy's hips, the light of it reflecting on his golden skin and the pendant on his chest. Blue and gold.

Steve couldn't help but notice how good he looked out here. Really good. Beneath the sun, in the waves. In his element. Like, he was meant to be in a place like this, near the sea and the sun. There was a lightness to his every move or action. He seemed lighter, carefree.

Billy bent his head to catch Steve's eyes. "You listening, Harrington?"

Steve's head shot up. "Uh, yeah."

Billy narrowed his eyes at him before he continued. "I said, these waves should make it easier for you starting out,"

"Cool," Steve pushed himself up from stomach, straddling the board instead. "Or, should I say tubular?"

Billy’s tongue pushed against his canine, fighting a grudging grin. "Only if you wanna get dunked," 

"Okay, I got it.” Steve laughed. “It's all about the onshore waves,"

"Off-shore." Billy snapped. 

"Isn't that what I said?" He frowned. "Look, I get it. It's fine,"

Billy's wet curls clung to the side of his face. Steve could see his own reflection in his glasses, looking back at him, mouth slack. He sat up a little straighter.

"You know what," Billy said abruptly. "Forget all the text-book definition shit."

He steadied the back of the board then dropped his hand onto Steve's knee. "Since you're so confident, why don't you just give it a try?" He grinned, white teeth catching the light. "Impress me,"

Steve's eyes fell to the hand on his knee. The graze of his thumb across his bare skin. He knew he shouldn't push - whatever this was - any further. He could shake off a drunken kiss. He could try to bury the memory of the night in his apartment...his hand hot and heavy on the front of his jeans.

But, before he could stop himself, he was returning his playful smirk.

"And, if I'm a natural?" He teased, raising his eyebrows cockily. "What'll you do if I impress you?"

Billy's mouth curved up into a slow smile.

"Whatever you want."

 

Turned out, it was much harder than it looked.

Steve wiped out before he could even gain footing.  Sending it flinging out from beneath his feet.

Water shot up his nose as he fell into the water. Salty and sharp. He coughed and spluttered, his nose and eyes burning.

He soon found his board. Sighing, as he rested his elbows on it, bobbing with the waves.

Billy looked all-too-pleased with himself when he swam over. "You ate shit, Harrington," 

"Thought life-guards were supposed to help drowning men." Steve said. "Not mock them,"

"Who says they can't do both?" He grinned.

"So." Steve smirked and pushed back his wet-hair, raised his eyebrow theatrically. "Did that... impress you?"

“I think that was a world-record wipe-out,” Billy grinned, his eyes falling low. Heavy. He pressed his tongue into the side of his cheek and smirked. "It’s too bad," He said. "Was curious about what you'd ask me to do,"

Steve felt his face go hot, something curling deep in his gut. He rubbed at the back of his neck. "Was gonna make you streak the length of the beach," He said, trying to keep his tone playful.

"That's it?" Billy scoffed. "Fucking weak, Harrington,"

"You put me on the spot," He laughed.

"If you wanna see my dick so bad, just ask."

It was a joke. The sly, teasing tone was there in Billy's tone - one that he'd always used when he was trying to annoy or tease him. And, yet, Steve couldn't help but go there in his mind.

His thoughts froze over. Stuttering and pausing like a skipped record.

He tore his eyes away and hauled himself up onto his board. "I'm gonna take five,"

On the beach, he could see El and Max had returned, sitting by Robin’s feet on the sand. 

When he reached the shore, he dragged the board along-side him. Stopping in place to peer out across the beach. The beach was busier now with people laid out on their towels and under rainbow umbrellas.

As he was looking, something hard knocked him upside the head and his vision flashed white for a second. He winced and rubbed at the tender spot.

Looking down at the offending object: a yellow frizbee.

"Shit," It was a girl's voice. "God, I'm so sorry-"

She was pretty. Tanned and athletic-looking. The curls of her bleached hair tied up into two thick, braided pigtails that stopped by her collarbone. Wearing a red bikini and a pair of jean shorts.

"It's okay," He returned her frizbee to her with a smile. "Trust me, I've had worse,"

"Thanks," She looked him over, curiously tilting her head. "...Not from around here?"

"Is it that obvious?" Steve asked. A breeze blew by and the dried sand on his legs stung his skin like little needles.

"A little," She laughed. "So, you're here for surfing?" She asked, a little hopeful sounding as he eyed his board.

He laughed at the idea. Surely, she saw him flailing a minute ago. He was sure everyone got a kick out of that. "No, I'm here for...a friend,"

"Oh." She looked past him, smile falling and brows raising. "I take it, this is him?"

"What-?" Before Steve could turn around, he felt a warm weight on his shoulder as Billy's arm wrapped around him. "Who's your friend, Stevie?"

The girl met Billy's wolfish grin with a bright smile. “It's Rachel,”

She was exactly the type of girl Steve would’ve imagined would spend most of her time around the sea and sand. A student at a nearby University, majoring in Education, living in an nearby apartment with a group of other girls.

Steve had discovered this through Billy's line of questioning. He laid it on thick, holding all of her attention.

By his side, Steve might as well have been a lamp.

He would’ve politely slipped away, if it weren’t for Billy’s arm still wrapped heavy around his shoulders, holding him there. When she ran back to her friend, she turned to wave, shooting him a lingering glance over her shoulder.

"How 'bout it, Harrington?" Billy said, once she'd left.

"How about what?" Steve grumbled, and pushed his arm off.

"She's cute, ain't she?" He said, insistently. "Don't you think?"

Steve's brows knitted together. "I guess," He frowned at his tone. He had eyes, himself. He didn't need to be told when a girl was pretty.

"You should go for it, if we see her again," Billy told him, patting his shoulder. Or, rather, giving it a shove, before walking ahead of him. "Girls like that are hard to come by in Hawkins,"

Steve's eyes fell to his broad shoulders as he walked towards the others. He worried on his bottom lip, a little confused.

Max was holding a large brown-bear that El had won for her at a bottle-stand. When Billy approached, she left it sitting upright with her sunglasses before she returned to surf-class.

Steve returned to his chair by Robin's side, leaning back to watch them head out on their boards. The sunset reflected on the waves like a thousand diamonds as their shadows moved through the waves.

Steve soaked in the image, committing it to his memory.

 

All four of them walked down to the board-walk when the sun had set. The temperature dropping with a cool, crisp breeze. They all got changed into warmer clothes at their hotels. All, except Billy - who sported a sleeveless white shirt over a pair of jeans.

They headed for the fair, first. Robin and Billy got competitive over the glass-bottle stands, both vying to win the largest prize for one of the girls.

After they'd dragged them away, El Max and Billy queued up for the roller-coaster. Steve tapped out after the second turn - even though Billy ragged on him for it. He joined Robin in search for a table at a nearby restaurant.

When they finally found them again, Max was grey. Grumbling, she let her head fall on the table. Billy and El were live-wires, loud and flushed with adrenaline. Still fully able to stuff their faces with pizza, whilst Max watched the stringed web of mozzarella with a green-faced grimace.

"Steve?" A voice caught Steve's attention mid-way through dessert.

Rachel stopped by their table, her gold hair loose and curled around her shoulders. She was wearing a waitress uniform, a little name tag pinned to her chest.

"I thought it was you," She smiled.

It was poor timing. Since, he'd just taken a large scoop of strawberry ice cream in his mouth. Wincing at the brain-freeze, he tried to greet her but his words were warbled through the thick, clog of cream. 

"I think, that's him trying to say hi," Robin cut in, saving him. "I'm Robin, by the way,"

"Nice to meet you," She laughed, eyes falling back to him. He swallowed the large, ice cold chunk of cream before he managed to wheeze out. "Hey, Rachel," He got out.

“Hey,” She laughed. She re-adjusted her bag on her shoulder, the edge of her teeth catching on her bottom lip. "So. Will you guys be around tomorrow?"

"Sure," Billy replied, leaning forward on the table. "Bring your board. Maybe you could give Stevie here a few tips,"

He played with the cherry stalk resting on his bottom lip before he quirked his brows. "Or, me,"

"Ugh. I think I'm gonna hurl," Max commented. Billy gave her a not very discreet nudge under the table with his foot.

"It's your choice," He grinned, eyes flicking over to Steve briefly. Deliberately. 

Steve glowered at him from over the edge of his glass. He could feel the knot in the pit in his stomach again, balling up tight like a fist.

“Maybe I will,” Rachel preened, before she turned back to Steve. Smiling, she gave him a once over before she scanned all of their faces. “You guys have a nice night,”

 

 

The next day, Rachel found them again. When Steve left to join Robin and the others for some frozen smoothies, Billy and her were already out in the sea together.

She waved at him giddily, smiling. Billy stood, at her side, jerking his head - as if to signal him to join them.

Steve didn’t.

He sat with the others as they looked through the souvenirs they'd bought for the guys at home. He dug the end of his straw into his raspberry-freeze, stirring it until it broke down into fruity mulch.

Robin finished applying sunblock to El and Max's shoulders before the two of them set off again for the boardwalk. Then, continued basking in the sunlight in her swimsuit and cat-shaped sunglasses.

Next to each other, Billy and Rachel looked like models out on a beach shoot. Golden and toned in the sun. A regular Barbie and Ken. She threw her head back and laughed loudly at something he said, hand going to touch his forearm. Steve chewed on the flesh of his cheek.

"Those two seem to be getting along," Robin said.

"Sure,"

Robin laughed before she added. "You don't care?"

"About what?" He scoffed. "About him and surfer-girl?"

“Rachel,” She sighed and pulled off her sunglasses to meet his eyes. "And, I didn't say it was about her."

Steve's face fell. "...What?"

"Steve, I'm not blind," She said, softer. "Don't you think I've noticed how you've been acting lately?" She turned to them in the distance, where Billy was still sat on his board, pushing his wet curls back from his face with his hands.

"It seems mutual, if that's what you're worried about. He watches you constantly...when he thinks you're not looking,"

He did? The thought got under his skin in a way that he couldn’t shake. How did he look at him? When? He almost wanted to ask, but that would mean looking like he agreed with her.

When he turned back to her, she was already looking at him. Her knowing eyes were searching and firmly set upon his. "It's okay to be scared." She said, soft.

Her hand sat on top of his on his, resting on the arm of his chair. She squeezed it softly. "But, be honest. And, don't play stupid games. You'll only get burned."

"I don't know what you're talking about," He peeled his hand out from underneath hers. Reaching down between them, he lifted the magazine off the floor and started flicking through it, wiping through the pages loudly.

Trying to ignore her lingering gaze, even though he could feel it searing the side of his face.

"You remember that girl from the store that day?"

"What about her?"

"Me and her were..." She trailed off, voice going quiet. "We were sort of a-"

Steve brought the magazine to a close, sitting upright. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I felt like I couldn't," Robin had dropped her gaze to her book, eyes low and heavy when she replied. "What we had, was...secret."

Steve didn't follow. "Secret, how?"

The strands of her hair fell over one side of her face as she turned her head to the other page. "We had to sneak around, all the time," She sighed as she began. "Lie to our parents about study-groups or after-school band rehearsal."

She shuffled a little uneasily in her seat. "We'd fool around in her car when her boyfriend was out of town, or at football-practice," She trailed off, a little in a quiet, subdued tone. Like she was ashamed of her part in that. "But. I liked her, a lot." She said. "And, for a while, that was enough."

"And...then?" Steve pressed, knowing that there was more to how it ended between them.

"There came a point when I realized, that it wasn't." She said, resolute. At that, she lifted her head, meeting his gaze. "I deserved someone who was honest with themselves," She continued. "And, I wanted something more than being someone else's dirty little secret,"

Steve's mind worked to catch up, to figure out what she was trying to tell him. He sat up, a little, frowning. "You think that's what I'm doing?"

"If you are," She said seriously. "You should stop."

He raised to stand suddenly, chest twisting into knots. "You're way off-base," 

She gave him a look, curious and skeptical. "Really."

"Yeah. Really."

"How so?"

"It's just-" He spluttered, wanting to rebut her. "It's not like that,”

“What is it like, then?" She sighed, sitting up. "Tell me,"

It was frustrating. He wanted to prove her wrong, only that would mean admitting that she was partly right. That there was something going on. That there had been something, for a while now.

When he'd been trying to convince himself otherwise.

"You know what, I'm going for a walk," He decided. A long one, preferably, he thought. Away from Robin, away from the kids and far away from Barbie and Ken.

"Don't get burned, dingus." Robin's voice trailed after him.

 

Steve walked a long stretch of the shoreline, before stopping off at a nearby café for another iced-smoothie and some fries. He sat out on the sand to watch the sun-set.

Hues of orange and pink painted the skies. Fading to a dim, murky blue as evening fell.

He'd bought a pack of cigarettes from the store. Finding a strange nostalgic calm from the scent. Under the nose of his parents, he'd smoked a random packet he'd selected at around fourteen.

They were nothing like the thick, smog of his father's cigars, or his mom's skinny, flavored brands with baby-pink and blue packaging. They were all his.

They weren't as great as he remembered. They weren't all that great, at all, actually. But, they were calming nonetheless. Comforting in an odd sort of way. He'd almost finished one when he noticed a figure walking towards him.

Even in the dim evening light, it didn't take him long to work out who it was. He felt his heart quicken.

Billy worked his way up to him on the sand. He tried to appear unbothered when he addressed him.

"Hargrove,"

"What brings you out here, amigo?"

“Could say the same for you,” He said.

"Went for one last swim," Billy said simply. "We leave tomorrow," He reminded him. It would be the last he'd see of the sea, for a while. Steve could see that he'd missed it.

He felt right out here. He had no idea how he could manage to swim after sun-set, without the warmth of the sun overhead to dry and warm his skin. Billy was only wearing his red-trunks, his chest bare and flushed with the cold.

Billy stopped in front of him and Steve exhaled smoke into the air, words escaping before he could taste them in his mouth.

“So. Where’s Rachel?”

There was bitterness in his tone that didn’t belong there. That he had no right to. Nevertheless, it slipped from his lips.

Billy just smiled, like he was enjoying himself. Like he noticed, but somehow found it amusing. Maybe, because it fed his ego. She'd made a bee-line for him, like many girls did. Must be nice, he thought. To be wanted by everyone.

Looming over him, Billy shook out the end of his wet hair out like a dog, flickering Steve's face with sea-water.

"Come on," Steve complained, rubbing the drops away on the back of his hand. Billy smirked flopped down beside him on the sand, leaning back on his elbows.

"Thought you quit,"

"It's a stress habit," He sighed.

"What's got you stressed, pretty boy?" Billy turned onto his side, wet curls dark around his face. Sea-water ran in rivulets down his toned stomach, and lower. Steve’s mouth went dry, lips pursed around his cigarette.

"Rachel is sweet on you," Billy told him.

Steve's mind skipped like a record. She was sweet on him? Was he crazy?

"There any reason you’re giving her the cold shoulder?” Billy pressed.

“I’m not,”

“She thinks you are,” He shrugged.

Steve frowned at him. Why did he care about this so much? “Well, I’m not,” He insisted. 

"She not your type?"

"No, she's-" Steve shrugged. "She's pretty."

"Then, what are you waiting for?" He brought his hand to his shoulder. “You’re in, Harrington.” He told him, hand rubbing the muscle back and forth. "You got nothing to worry about,"

Steve lingered on his touch, on the warm weight of his hand on his skin, before Billy dropped it, leaving him cold. Irritably, he busied his mouth with the cigarette, mouth pursing to a whistle as he chuffed out smoke. “How'd you know this anyway?”

"Because she wouldn't stop asking me about you,” He said, voice dull as he stared out at the horizon. “Or, eyeballin’ you."

"You sound jealous,” The words came out before he could stop himself. And, he almost regretted them when Billy's head turned sharply. For a beat, he said nothing, eyes boring into Steve's.

Until he gave a unbothered shrug, concluding. “She must like the dorky, yuppie-types,”

Oh. That was right. This was supposed to be about her. Or, at least, Billy was still pretending it was.

Still. Steve knew what this feeling in the pit of his gut was. The cold, twisting fist every time he'd seen them together.

All day, when he'd watched them. He'd spent enough time doing just that, watching, to know. That it wasn't about her, at all.

Steve scoffed, tapping the ash off the end of his cigarette. “As opposed to the chain smoking, hair-metal types,”

Billy barked a laugh. He turned to him, grin cutting and sharp. Flicking his eyes down to the cigarette, he raised his eyebrows and leant forward. He let his lips part, eyes flicking up to Steve.

Steve got the message and turned his palm. He let him take a long, slow drag from the end of his cigarette. Eyes falling heavy when Billy took it between his lips, the cherry of it flaring in the low light.

He held him there in a trance. Steve succumbed, eyes falling heavy and hazy.

All of his thoughts were focused on the sensation of his lips against his fingers, the rough stubble above his upper lip, the soft edges of his cupids bow. It shot from his arm and down to his gut as his cock began to fill out between his legs.

Then, Billy pulled away.

Exhaling the plume of smoke into the air, he smacked his lips together and grimaced a little at the minty taste. Steve tore his own eyes away, still reeling.

"They're an acquired taste," He said, voice low and uneven. He stubbed out his cigarette in the sand between them. 

"No kiddin'," Billy laughed softly.

Lowering his gaze, his eyes fell to Steve's neck. It dawned on Steve that they were alone out here. A corner of the beach all their own. With no one around for miles. He felt his heart pick up, anticipation crawling under his skin.

Billy reached up to press his fingers to his skin of his shoulder, where his loose white shirt hung a little loose on one side. Steve winced at the sting.

"You got burned again," He told him.

"Yeah," Steve felt his breath get thin as he allowed himself to stare, let his eyes to drop to Billy's mouth, red and parted.

Billy touched the stinging skin again, watching the blood flush back to his fingerprints. "You oughta be more careful, Stevie-"

Steve moved quick.

Billy kissed him back like he'd been waiting for it, like he'd been expecting it. The soft and sure touch of his hand grasped around the side of his face, hand warm and rough, fingers curling around his neck.

He sucked at the swell of his bottom lip and Steve could taste the salt from the sea on his lips. He chased it. Billy let out a moan that rushed straight to Steve’s head, buzzing through him.

Then suddenly, Billy pulled back.

Wary, he frowned at him, his breath heavy. "...Why'd you do that?" His voice was almost a whisper, almost afraid.

"Sorry, I-" Steve panicked. Had he misread that? "I just felt like it,"

Billy's eyes narrowed. "You just felt like it?" He repeated, jaw clenching. "On a fuckin' whim?"

Steve didn't want to tip-toe around this anymore. He made sure to hold his eyes when he said, earnestly. "I wanted to,"

This time, Billy kissed him first. Roughly taking his mouth as his tongue slipped into his mouth, fingers wrapping around the base of his neck, pulling him to his will. Steve gave as good as he got, hands finding the skin of his chest, his thick arms.

He could feel the heat radiating off him, from all day of soaking in the sun, could smell the balmy scent of Copper-tone on his skin.

Billy began tugging at the end of his shirt. Rolling it up his body until Steve got the message, pulling away for a moment to yank it over his head.

As soon as his head was clear, Billy was on him. Rolling him backwards onto the sand beneath him. Bringing his mouth to the side of his throat, to suck on the thin skin of his throat, to trail his hands over his body.

A part of him had wondered if there would come a point, when he would feel that this was wrong. When he would want to stop. The roughness of his touch, the thick, sturdy feel of his body against him. The sandpaper stubble that dragged across the skin of his throat, sending a chill over his skin.

But, he didn't.

He wanted all of him.

Billy rolled his hips and ground them together and he lifted his to meet his movement, cock rubbing against his through the material of their swim-shorts. Steve's hands went to his flanks, lingering over the ridged, roughness of his scars as he pulled him in closer.

He wanted to feel more of him flush against him, skin on skin. It wasn't enough.

Billy’s warm breath fanned against his ear. "Want me to touch you, Steve?" He asked, as his hand trailed down his stomach before it stopped at the waistband.

The tip of his thumb trailed in teasing motions on the skin of his navel. Steve’s teeth set on edge, aching to be touched. "Do you want my mouth?"

Steve let out a choked groan and canted his hips up. Reaching down to roll down his own shorts - when Billy's hand stopped him short. 

He fixed him with an icy, blue stare. "Need an answer,"

Steve wet his lips with his tongue, throat swelling. A plea caught in his throat. He was rock-hard and throbbing, it was bordering on painful.

"Yes, just-" Steve sighed, surrendering all of his pride. "Please," 

Billy's hand ever so slowly tugged down his shorts past his balls, freeing his dick to the air. He shot him a hungry look before he spat onto his hand, reaching between them to wrap his hand firmly around Steve's cock.

Steve groaned with relief at his touch. At the feel of his fingers curling around him. Rolling his thumb across the wet, sensitive head before his thumb dug into the slit.

The night at his apartment had haunted him, been the beginning of many uneasy but irresistible thoughts. Billy’s dark, heavy gaze peering up at him from his lashes. The sight was far better than he could have ever imagined.

The red heat of his tongue gliding up the length of him from the base his cock, lashes dark and hooded as they kept his gaze. Curling around the wet head before he slipped past his flushed lips.

"Oh, fuck-" Steve's hands went to his hair, fingers tightening around his curls. He dug his heels into the sand and rocked lightly into his mouth. Lost in the feel of him, in the heat of his mouth wrapped around him.

Billy's eyes glanced up at him from dark wet lashes, cheeks flushed red. His lips and chin wet with spit. He took more of him, going even deeper into his throat. The grip of his throat fluttered around him, squeezing tight. Steve chased the feeling greedily and bucked upwards.

Billy pulled back for a beat and coughed, his eyes watering.

"Sorry-," Steve murmured.

"Warn a guy first," He smirked, pinching the skin of his thigh.

"Sorry," Steve said, chewing hard on his bottom lip. Billy's lips lifted into a smirk. His hand went to stroke him instead, thumb pressing hard just under the head.

Billy's eyes were almost black in the dim-light, his mouth wet and glistening. "Feel good?" He asked, his voice low.

When Steve didn't answer, he released his hand on his cock, leaving it to rear up on nothing. Steve bucked upwards, breath catching.

"I wanna hear you," Billy said. "Say it, Steve."

"It feels good," He moaned. "Fuck, please," When Billy's hand wrapped around him again, he let go of his pride, arching his hips into his hand.

The muscles of Billy's arm flexed as he rubbed at the front of his shorts. Grinding against his own hand. The sight made Steve felt his balls draw in tight.

Billy took him inside the dizzying heat of his mouth again, tongue gliding over the head, as his hand quickened faster around the base.

Steve chased the building pleasure as it curled tight. "Ffuck-" The hot, sharp spike of pleasure reaching it's peak. "I'm gonna come," He moaned.

He seized up and it shot through him violently, washing his mind blank. His fingers gripped tight around the damp roots of Billy's hair as he came, toes curling.

The pull of Billy's hand and mouth drained it from him, milking him dry. Steve bucked and rolled his hips, riding out the cresting waves.

Until he was spent and cringing with over-sensitivity, falling boneless on the sand. Panting, Billy moved up his body.

He pressed his forehead against his, nuzzling it a little. Steve couldn't help but think how good he looked, mouth parting as he shuddered. "Fuck," His breath was warm against Steve’s face. "I'm close,"

Steve tilted his chin up to kiss him and Billy let out a sudden, pained sound against his mouth. He shuddered as he came, finishing in wet streaks on Steve's stomach.

Steve blinked the color-bleed from his eyes as he lifted his eyes to peer up at the twilight-blue skies. He let out a sigh and his muscles went with it, falling heavy and lethargic.

Billy used Steve's discarded shirt to wipe him down, before he tucked him back in his shorts and threw his shirt aside. Steve was too high to care, or complain.

"You okay there, Harrington?" Billy asked, when they were face to face. A soft-looking, lazy smile on his face.

Steve brought a hand through the messy strands of his hair, trying to gather his thoughts. "I can't think, right now."

"You look so fucked," He laughed, lazily. "It's a good look on you," There was an awed, dreamy tone in his voice that made his chest ache. Steve allowed himself to get lost in it. Baring his neck, as Billy kissed the side of his neck just below his jaw, lazily rolling his hips between thighs.

Above him, the clear starry skies stretched out for miles. A crash of waves gasped against the nearby shore, hissing when they descended. A shout of voices sounded from somewhere on the beach.

Steve's hands shot up to Billy's shoulders."Wait."

Instantly, Billy rose his head, heavy-lidded and mouth flushed.

Ice cold, rational clarity seeped through him as his eyes darted over his face. Something, like this...he couldn't pretend this hadn't happened. He couldn't blame this on weed or alcohol. Or, some fucking dry spell. How could he have been such an idiot? Who had he been kidding?

He'd wanted this. He'd wanted him. And, that meant something.

And, yet, he wasn't...that.

Was he?

He remembered every time he'd said those words in the hallways at school, on the court. At Johnathan Byers. Now, all of his thoughts circled back to the same, knee-jerk reaction. Scathing and cowardly:

He wasn't a queer.

Billy frowned as he looked him over, still waiting on an explanation. "What's wrong?" 

"I can't..." Steve felt felt his chest seize up with panic, with unease. "I can't do this,"

He saw the moment that Billy's face changed. First, flickering with confusion before his features darkened, like a dark-cloud over the sun.

All the softness from moments before turning hard and rigid. He rolled off him and laid out by his side on the sand.

A painfully long silence spread between them, with only the sound of the rushing waves to fill the air.

Steve wanted to say something. He wanted Billy to say something. Anything. Anything would be better than the silence. The unrest in the center of Steve's chest bunched up tight as he searched his face.

Billy didn't look at him. Instead, he kept his eyes up high at the skies overhead, chest falling and rising with his breath. Unnervingly still and stiff by his side.

Even as he looked at him, he felt it. The urge to reach out and touch him. He wanted to kiss him again. He still wanted to. The strength of his own want shook him to the core.

The sharp, spit of his father’s words rang in his ears. About the two dead boys.

Billy sat upright, avoiding his eyes. "I'm heading to the boardwalk," He said.

Steve raised to stand up from the sand as he followed him. Reaching out to grasp hold of his wrist. "Billy, I'm sorry. I just-"

Billy turned on him quickly. "What're you sorry for?" He said, eyes dull and cold. "Nothing happened here," He sounded the words, slow and sharp. "Did it?"

Steve wasn't going to pretend otherwise. Not anymore. "I just need...to think about all this,"

Billy's eyes found the lights of the board-walk, avoiding his gaze.

"Think all you want," He ripped his hand away from Steve's grip. "Just, keep me fucking out of it,"

"Billy-" When he reached for his wrist again, Billy whipped around. He shoved him backwards, knocking his feet out from under him. Steve landed on the sand with a huff. "I said, keep me out of it." Billy snapped, mouth curled up with disdain.

Steve's chest ached as he watched him go. He let his head fall in his hands and cursed loudly into them.

 

As Steve packed his suitcase, his vision blurred and swam, his eyes stinging hotly. He was throwing another t-shirt into his suit-case when the door creaked. At the corner of his vision, he could see the door open slowly.

The main-light flicked off suddenly overhead. Leaving him in darkness.

"Who's there?" Steve lifted his head, squinting in the shadow. He could hear someone's low breathing, see a shape of a shadow. What was he doing here, trying to scare him? 

Steve marched to the lamp at the bedside table. "You're not funny."

The light flicked on to reveal Rachel. "It's just me," She smiled, raising her hands in surrender.

"Oh." Steve said, deflating. "Sorry, I thought you wer-" He rubbed at his eyes, sighing. "How'd you find my room?"

She closed the door behind her, the lock clicking closed. "Billy told me where you two were staying,"

Steve's head shot up. "He did, huh."

"I think, he went to go eat on the boardwalk, with those other girls you came with." She tucked her hands into the back pockets of her jean shorts, as she walked towards him. "I'm sure you could catch up with them if you-"

"No, that's uh-" Steve sighed, before he zipped his suitcase closed loudly. "I'm staying here. I think I’m all vacationed-out,"

"Already?" Before he knew it, she was at his side. Smiling and gazing up at him.

He knew the look. A lot of girls had approached him this way, once. Before Nancy. She wanted him to kiss her.

Billy had been right.

It was a confidence boost. That she wanted him. That she liked him. For a while, he’d began to doubt all of his other girlfriends. Maybe all of them had only wanted to date him for some intangible, shallow reason. Popularity. Money.

And, all of them were laughing at him behind his back now. Laughing at what a loser he'd turned out to be.

Maybe, Nancy was the only one who'd ever truly liked him.

Until, she didn't.

Some part of him had needed the reassurance. And, yet, he was rigid when she kissed him. Taking his stunned silence for an answer. He was slow and mechanical when he kissed her back, thoughts slow and cloudy.

Her mouth was sticky with some kind of plastic saccharine gloss. Malleable and squishy. She was lean. The length of her hair stopped at the base of her spine, tangled with salt sea-air and sand.

He let her move him, push him back onto the sheets. He went through the all of the motions, the feel and touch of her familiar. It happened quickly. When, she took him inside her and began to move, he cast his eyes to the ceiling. Her voice was grating so he let his eyes fall heavy.

Willing himself to get lost in sensation. In the low light, he could mostly make out her light hair, the golden-brown of her skin. The dull brass shell pendant around her throat clicking against her chest as she moved.

He lingered on those details, as they helped him along. He pulled her down, turning his face into the curls of her hair.

When it was over, Steve felt heavy and sick.

"Are you...always this quiet?" Rachel faced towards him, curled on her side on the pillows.

"No," He felt wrong. An unshakable feeling of shame settled deeply in his gut.

"Did I do something wrong?" She asked by his side, voice thin with nerves. He couldn't feel more terrible, hearing her sound like that. Or, say it. It wasn't her - it was him.

"No." Steve could barely swallow. He couldn't bring himself to look her way. "I'm sorry. It's not you."

She scoffed and raised to stand up. "Whatever," She sat up and began to get dressed, gathering her shirt and skirt from the floor. He couldn't spare her a look even when she closed the door behind her, head low.

He was the worst.

When she was gone, Steve wandered out onto the beach. Night had fallen and the skies were pitch-black. In the distance, he could see the flashing lights, where the board-walk was.

He thought about Billy.

Wondered where he was was right now and what he was doing, who he was with. Whether or not he was still angry. If he hated him now. He couldn't get the look he'd shot him out of his head.

He slumped down on the sand and started to heap it up in a line. A wall before him and the sea, like he used to do when he was a kid.

When he and his parents would visit Dewey, he'd walk out on the beach for hours. Seeing how far he could get before his parents noticed, before they worried.

Only, to give up the game when darkness fell. And, trudge his way back to where he'd left them. The dark waves rolled closer, crashing loudly. Steve pushed at the edge of the sand-wall and it came crumbling down over his toes. He dug them deep where the sand was ice cold. 

"Steve!"

He heard Robin's voice but he didn't turn. "There you are," She laughed when she almost toppled over at his side.

"Where'd you go? I looked for you at the hotel,"

Robin took a seat next to him, slapping her hands together to rid them off the grains.

"Dingus? Anyone home?" Slowly, her smile fell as she looked over his face. "What's wrong?" Steve could barely swallow the lump in his throat to talk. He could feel it in his throat again, welling up.

"Steve," Robin's hand found his as she squeezed it lightly. "Talk to me."