“Congratulations, Steve. You’re having a baby.”
Steve stares, and Dustin, who’d insisted that Steve go see Dr. Owens after Steve had thrown up for the umpteenth time, and then decided to tag along as moral support—bless the boy—falls into a dead faint, which really is the only appropriate reaction in a situation like this.
Steve would have done it himself, and he is feeling distressingly faint, but he stays upright by sheer strength of will alone; he doesn’t think falling to the ground unconscious would be a good idea right now—what with him being pregnant and all.
What the fuck?
So here’s the thing: Steve has not had sex in months. Steve has not had the kind of sex that would result in him being pregnant ever, because he’s never trusted anyone enough to be vulnerable like that.
Which, of course, means it’s a wishbaby.
Steve has not wished for a baby.
“A thousand per cent sure,” Steve says, somewhat hysterical, when Dr. Owens asks him if he’s absolutely sure he hasn’t been thinking about babies lately—you’re a teenager, it’s not unusual for teenagers to get a little overzealous once you start dating. And it’s easy to forget your wish suppressors. Statistically speaking, teen pregnancies account for—
I’m not a statistic! Steve had cut him off emphatically. And he hasn’t forgotten his wish suppressors. Not even once.
Dr. Owens looks at him sceptically at this, and Steve scowls. Is Dr. Owens even qualified for this sort of thing? Steve is not even sure he’s a medical doctor.
They should have gone to the hospital or the clinic in town, except Dustin had very reasonably pointed out that it might be smart to see Owens first. Just in case it has something to do with, well, you know.
Yes. Steve does know, because he still keeps the barbed bat underneath his bed. Just in case.
“How—how did this happen?” Steve croaks out, and Dr. Owens smiles sympathetically once he accepts that Steve hasn’t, in fact, foregone one of his pills.
It’s rare, the doctor explains, but it would appear as if someone else has wished Steve pregnant. Apparently, someone has looked at Steve and wanted so badly that their wish had overpowered Steve’s suppressors, which should be impossible according to everything Steve knows.
“Actually,” Dr. Owens starts, and it turns out everything Steve knows is wrong.
Steve hates sentences that starts with the word ‘actually’.
Actually, wish suppressors only work if used correctly.
Actually, wish suppressors are sometimes defect.
Actually, sometimes someone just wants it badly enough and a baby is wished into existence even with the suppressors. We don’t know why.
Steve fucking hates the word ‘actually.’
“You probably shouldn’t be swearing so much,” Dustin says as they’re driving home later.
Steve tightens his grip on the wheel. He probably isn’t in any state to be operating heavy machinery, but it’s not as if he was about to let Dustin drive. Christ.
“I mean, you’re having a baby. You probably shouldn’t be swearing around the baby. They pick that shit up really quick.”
Dustin rambles a story about Mike and Nancy’s little sister and how she’d spent a solid week saying nothing but crap and bastard and how Mike had been in so much trouble and it would have been funny if Dustin wasn’t telling him this story because Steve is having a baby.
In just half a year or so, Steve is going to have a baby who will one day say crap and bastard and a whole host of other words and what the fuck is Steve even going to do?
“It’ll be okay, you know,” Dustin says when Steve drops him off. He looks more serious than he usually lets himself get—and Steve remembers, even with demogorgons out to kill them, Dustin had been sporting a goofy grin for most of the time. “Whatever you want to do, you won’t have to do it alone. I’ll be here, and the others too. And there’s all kinds of assistance programs for wishbaby parents. I’ll do some research, okay?”
Steve manages to dredge up a watery smile. He hasn’t decided what to do yet, if he wants to keep the baby or—
He’s only known for a couple of hours, and how the hell is he supposed to make this kind of life changing decision in just a few days, nevermind hours? Steve is kind of freaking out a lot. He’s eighteen, weeks away from graduation with no immediate plans for the future, and single. Very, very single.
He’s a trust fund baby, so he’s financially set because his parents have always preferred throwing money at him rather than spending actual time with their only child, and even if he doesn’t think they’ll cut him off, Steve is going to have to tell them about the baby if he wants to keep it—Steve is pretty sure even the news of a grandchild won’t be enough for his parents to return to Hawkins from their jet setting life.
And that is such a sad commentary on the state of his life that Steve feels a little like crying.
Steve is alone. If he’s doing this, he’s going to have to do it on his own, except—
Except he’s not entirely on his own, because Dustin had said, I’ll be here and you won’t have to do it alone.
To Steve’s utter dismay, he feels his eyes water at the realisation. He blames it on the hormones. “Okay,” he agrees, his voice a little shaky, and sometimes it takes his breath away that not that long ago, Steve hadn’t even known who Dustin was and now he can’t imagine life without him. He’s the little brother Steve never knew he needed and didn’t think he would want.
He’s Steve’s family in every way that matters.
He loves him so much, and Steve hasn’t actually ever told him that before so, “I love you, kiddo. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Dustin’s delighted grin and cheerful, “Love you too!” is totally worth the hormonal imbalance currently wreaking havoc on Steve’s body—on account of the baby.
Seriously, what the fuck?
Because he’s so far along even though he’s not showing at all, Steve has less than a week to decide if he wants to go through with the pregnancy or not.
“I’m sorry, Steve,” Dr. Owens had said. “But you really need to make a decision as soon as possible. I can refer you to a clinic or an obstetrician, depending on what you want.”
What Steve wants is to not have to make this decision, but the baby has already been wished into existence, and no amount of counter wishing is going to make this pregnancy go away.
“We should make a list,” Dustin suggests on day two. “You know, kinda like a pros and cons thing. Maybe it will help.”
It does help. Steve makes rows upon rows of cons—he’s too young, he doesn’t know anything about babies, it’s a lot of responsibility, babies cry, babies take up a lot of time, he’s not ready to be a parent, babies are expensive—and not a single pro except for one in the privacy of his own mind.
I won’t be alone anymore.
On day four, Steve decides to keep the baby.
His mother is oddly delighted when he tells her—I’ll ship you some baby clothes, darling, the best in fashion, of course.
His dad doesn’t much care either way, which Steve expected. They don’t come home.
Steve is unsurprised.
“Who needs them anyway?” Dustin says fiercely when he finds out. “You have me, I’ll help, and I’m going to be the best uncle ever.”
Steve laughs until he cries and lets Dustin pet his hair as he sobs into his shoulder while Dustin whispers, “You’ll be all right. Everything is going to be all right.”
Astonishingly, Steve believes him.
By the time he graduates—with a perfectly respectable grade average, thank you very much—Steve is already halfway through his second trimester, has lost any and all muscle definition basketball ever managed to put on his wiry body, and is actually looking a little pudgy.
Okay, so he’s more than a little pudgy. But he’s not fat, Lucas. You’re fat!
Steve needs better friends. Preferably older ones.
“I still can’t believe you’re having a baby,” Nancy says with no small amount of awe at his graduation dinner that night.
It’s a small affair at the Byers’ house, because that is Steve’s life now, hanging out with kids five years his junior, his ex-girlfriend, and his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. Even Joyce and Hopper are there, along with El who is so taken by the idea of Steve having a baby she will not stop touching his belly.
It would be exasperating if her utter delight and open curiosity wasn’t so endearing.
Steve hates that he loves it all so much.
“You’ll be a good parent,” Joyce says, nodding her head decisively, and Joyce is possibly the best mom in the whole of the universe, Steve thinks, so he takes this for the compliment it is even if he’s not entirely sure she’s right.
He still knows next to nothing about babies; Steve mostly just feels vastly underqualified.
“No, no, I agree, absolutely,” Nancy rushes to say. “Just look at how he is with Dustin. It’s just, uh, so weird.” She offers Steve a grimace of a smile, that crooked, hesitant one she does when she’s being painfully earnest but doesn’t want to upset anyone.
Steve sighs. He used to love that about her. Still does, a little bit.
“Are you any closer to finding out who is responsible for the wish?”
“No.” Steve shakes his head. “Only the carrying parent makes it on the wishbaby register, apparently. You have to add the other parent manually. I have no idea who it is.” It’s been frustrating, wondering who out there could feel so strongly about Steve that they wished a baby into existence. Someone obviously very strong-willed, his OB/GYN had speculated during his last checkup. Someone desperate for family.
Steve has been thinking the other parent must have been one of his classmates, someone who knows him well. He’d even thought it was Nancy for one wild, panicked moment—but it isn’t Nancy, and Steve doesn’t know which of his high school friends fit the description his doctor has painted for him.
No one, really.
“I think it’s cool you’re having a baby,” Max says, which of course means Lucas rushes to add his own assurances of how awesome babies are. “Even Billy thinks so,” she goes on. “He punched Tommy H. and called Carol a bitch when they said you were getting fat.” Max looks more delighted by this than is probably healthy.
Steve is relieved to notice that Dustin eyes her a little warily even if Lucas’ heart eyes grows impossibly bigger, the lovestruck fool.
“Wait, really?” Jonathan asks.
Max nods, her red locks bouncing. “Billy is an ass, but he’s weirdly protective of babies and pregnant people. It’s his one saving grace,” she says with the air of one quoting someone verbatim. Probably her mother or her asshole of a stepdad.
Steve suppresses a wince. He can’t help but feel a little bad for Billy; because of Max, Steve probably knows more about Billy’s homelife than Billy would ever care to know or like, and if Steve was being told he was worthless and all manners of unsavoury things day in and day out, or pushed around by his own father, he might be having anger issues as well.
Even so, no one can deny that Billy has at least made a token effort to change after he attempted to cave Steve’s face in with his bare fists and Max had ended up drugging him.
He’d even apologised, to Steve and Lucas, and kept his distance afterwards.
Steve can count on one hand the number of times he’s had a full conversation with Billy in the months since El closed the gate to the Upside Down, and three of those times happened after the rest of Hawkins learned about Steve’s pregnancy.
Once, it’d been to offer Steve a quiet, curt, “Congratulations.”
“Well,” Nancy says primly. “Carol is a bitch, so he’s not wrong there. And Tommy was due to get suckerpunched sooner or later.”
“Nancy!” Joyce and Jonathan protest, but even Hopper looks as if he secretly agrees.
Steve holds back a smile. It’s a good night.
This is how the news of Steve’s pregnancy broke:
Steve picked Dustin up from the arcade for their Thursday night evening out, and Dustin, whose default setting is loud, said, “Hey, Steve! Can you still eat spicy food even though you’re pregnant? There’s this new Indian restaurant that just opened downtown. An Indian restaurant! In Hawkins!” and somewhere behind them, someone made a choking noise.
“Oh my god,” Steve heard, and he closed his eyes wearily because he knew that voice. “You’re pregnant?” Carol said gleefully, and sure enough, when Steve turned to look, Tommy and Carol were grinning nastily, standing next to Billy Hargrove’s car.
Of course, Steve had thought. Of course Billy would pick up Max the same time Steve was picking up Dustin.
Tommy laughed cruelly. “I can’t believe this. King Steve is up the duff. Oh, this is priceless. Wait till everyone else finds out.”
Which of course was the precise moment Billy walked out of the arcade with a sulking Max behind him. He stared at Steve for a long, uncomfortable moment, his eyes dipping to Steve’s still flat stomach. For once, his face was devoid of his usual deranged grin. He looked oddly solemn.
“Come on, let’s get out of here,” Billy said finally, turning away from Steve with no comment and no king Steve or princess. He expertly ignored Carol as she whined, “But Billy—” and ushered Max into the front seat, barely waiting for Tommy and Carol to get into the back of the car before he was driving away, tires screeching.
Steve stared after them.
The next day at school, everybody knew.
In July, Steve’s stomach pops. Or that’s what it feels like, anyway. He goes from looking mildly overweight to being very clearly, visibly pregnant.
No denying it now.
Not that he was, it’s just. It’s more real, suddenly. He has to start wearing maternity clothes and everything. He finally buys a book on What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Baby’s First Year. It’s…illuminating.
If Steve wasn’t terrified before, he is now.
With July follows a heat wave, and suddenly every day is unbearable. Steve is always hot, no matter what he does, and even the pool is losing its charm the bigger he gets.
He only slips down the ladder once before deciding he probably shouldn’t be using the pool on his own anymore. It ended up being fine, both Steve and the baby unhurt, but it freaked him out enough to stay away from the pool for a few days, his heart racing at the thought of how badly it could have ended.
As it turns out, Steve is kind of protective of his baby now. He supposes it was bound to happen. They are sharing a body, after all.
“Please don’t say it like that,” Dustin says. “It sounds like your body has been taken over by an alien and you’re just the host now.”
“Isn’t that kind of what is happening?” Steve asks innocently, and then can’t help but laugh at Dustin’s horrified look.
As July edges into August, the heat waves lingers, and Steve is only getting bigger as he enters his third and final trimester. Sleeping is becoming a problem. He tosses and turns as best as he can with the size of his stomach, but no matter how exhausted and tired he feels, he’s still stubbornly awake.
Steve sighs, defeated, and drags his body out of bed. He’s got a bad case of heartburn anyway, and could do with some crushed ice, which is the only thing that has proven to be even somewhat effective as a treatment. He shuffles his way down the stairs carefully and waddles into the kitchen.
If he cries when he opens the freezer only to find that he’s out of crushed ice, no one is around to see it anyway.
Hawkins isn’t exactly a big town, but even Hawkins has a couple of 24/7 convenience stores and Steve needs his crushed ice, okay? He needs it.
Driving is becoming something of a chore now too, but Steve will suffer the indignity of having to climb-shuffle-fall into the driver’s seat and then the struggle of getting back up again if it means he can soothe his heartburn. Steve parks in the lot outside the store and turns off the ignition before opening the door.
“Okay, Steve,” he tells himself. “You can do this, you can get out of the car. It’s fine, you’re not that fat yet.” He is that fat, but Steve knows to psych himself up for the challenge that is manoeuvring his stomach and thighs from underneath the wheel.
Five minutes later, Steve has pushed the seat back as far as it will go, and is struggling to find the leverage he needs to actually get out of the car. He’s fighting against tears and his own rising stress levels when he hears, “What the hell are you doing, Harrington?”
Steve looks up, blinking the tears out of his eyes as he takes in Billy Hargrove and his stupid mullet because Steve’s luck has always been shit and this is his life: crying in a parking lot outside of a 24/7 convenience store because he is too pregnant to get out of his car, and his high school rival standing witness to the mess Steve’s hormones have turned him into.
“I can’t get out of the car,” Steve blurts out. “And I have heartburn and I need crushed ice, but I can’t get out of the car and—” Horrifyingly, Steve feels himself very close to a meltdown of epic proportions.
Billy stares at him. “Fuck. Okay, calm down, will you, princess? I’ll go get your damn crushed ice. Just stay here.”
He’s gone before Steve can even think to put up a token protest, even though he would definitely have let Billy go eventually; Steve really does want that ice.
“Here,” Billy says a few minutes later. He’s got a bag of crushed ice in one hand and offering Steve a cup of ice in the other. He’s even thought to include a spoon. Steve feels his tears well up again. “Shut up,” Billy barks at him when Steve opens his mouth. “You said you were suffering from heartburn, right? That shit can’t be good. Just take your damn ice.”
Steve obediently takes the proffered cup and crunches down happily on the cold ice as Billy stands guard to make sure he goes through the whole cup. It’s a strange few minutes of silence, broken only by Steve’s teeth cutting through the ice.
“Are you okay to get home?” Billy asks when he’s done. Steve nods but Billy looks unconvinced. “Will you even be able to get out of your car?” he asks, and the truth is Steve probably won’t, not without a great deal of effort and another bout of crying, but he’s not about to tell Billy that, so he nods again and starts to reach for the bag of ice.
“Yes. Thanks for your help. How much do I owe you?”
Billy eyes him critically. He doesn’t let go of the bag.
“Come on, Hargrove,” Steve says. “It’s getting late. What do I owe you?” He can feel himself flagging quick after all the excitement and now that he’s gotten his hand on some crushed ice. Steve thinks he’d fall asleep pretty easy now if he could just make it back to his house. Even the baby is quiet, probably exhausted from its own nocturnal activities, because of course Steve has ended up with a baby that won’t move for anything during the day but wrecks havoc on his bladder and ribs once night comes around.
Billy sighs, aggravated, and runs his free hand through his hair roughly. “Fuck,” he says again, more to himself than anything else, Steve thinks.
Steve watches, surprised, as Billy throws open the door to the backseat and throws in the bag of ice before coming back to where Steve is and offering out his hand. Steve stares at it uncomprehendingly.
“Well don’t just sit there, princess. I’ll drive you home. We just gotta move you to the passenger seat.”
“But what about your car?” Steve asks instead of the why that is crawling up his throat. He’s tired and he really could use some help getting out of the car, which is what Billy is implying by offering to drive him home. Or so Steve thinks.
Billy shrugs and doesn’t meet Steve’s eyes. “I’ll come back for it later. It’s fine. Not like anyone in fucking Hawkins is gonna steal it.”
Steve blinks up at him, and when Billy finally deigns to meet his eyes, his face is carefully blank. It could be a prank, Steve knows, but somehow he doesn’t think so.
He’s weirdly protective of babies and pregnant people, Max had said.
“Okay,” Steve says, and takes Billy’s hand.
Steve isn’t sure what possesses him to invite Billy inside.
A combination of things, probably. The sleep deprivation, the heartburn that is acting up again, and his baby, awake and punching at Steve’s ribs as if it is a national sport. A feisty little thing, isn’t it, with no regard for their parent.
Steve loves him or her a lot, but he does wish they’d leave his ribs in peace.
“You’re alone,” Billy says when Steve shows him inside the house, and it’s not a question, but Billy sounds surprised all the same.
And Steve doesn’t know why he tries to kid himself. This is the real reason he invited Billy in: the gut-wrenching loneliness that is never more pronounced during the nights when it’s just Steve and his thoughts and the god-awful fear that he won’t be able to do this on his own.
He’s no Joyce Byers. Steve doesn’t know how he’s ever going to make it as a single parent.
He misses having someone around. Misses someone he can talk to, share his fears with and his thoughts and hopes for the future and his child’s future. He misses someone to hold when he needs it. Someone who can say, “It’s going to be okay,” and then make it so, because they’d said so and Steve doesn’t have to worry so much.
It can’t be Dustin, as much as he loves the boy. He’s only fourteen, and Steve is the responsible party in that relationship. Steve is the one to wipe away Dustin’s tears and cheer him up when he’s down.
They’re brothers in all but blood.
What Steve needs is a significant other. A partner who loves him, really truly loves him. Someone to help him raise his child. Most of all he just needs someone to be there.
Weird how that has turned out to be Billy Hargrove at 3:30 am on a humid August night.
Steve isn’t quite sure what that says about the state of his life. Nothing good, probably.
“Hey, princess. You fall asleep on your feet, or what?”
Steve blinks, startled to see Billy standing right in front of him suddenly. He looks…concerned? Does Billy Hargrove do concern? “I, uh, no. I mean yes,” Steve stuttes. “I’m alone. My parents don’t really spend a lot of time in Hawkins. Mostly it’s just me.” He lifts his shoulders into a careless shrug, turning his gaze to the side of Billy’s left ear so Billy won’t see how upset Steve is by that—by the parents who’s never cared enough to be there when he needs them.
Billy makes a questioning noise, but he doesn’t comment. He hefts the bag of ice in his hands and says, “Where do you want this?”
“Kitchen,” Steve says, grateful for the change of subject. “In here.” He guides the way, feeling more than a little bemused as he lets Billy usher him to a chair and sits down to watch as Billy roots through the cabinets for a glass and pulls at drawers in search of a spoon before putting another glass of crushed ice on the table before him. “Thank you,” Steve says quietly, because the ice really does work for his heartburn and it’s a sweet gesture.
It’s unsettling. Steve has never known Billy to be sweet about anything.
“You’re welcome,” Billy says, all nonchalance, but Steve isn’t fooled.
He can see the twin spots of red on Billy’s cheeks and has to duck his head to hide a grin. It’s unexpectedly charming.
“Whatever,” Billy mutters, scowling when he catches Steve smiling, and goes to put the bag of ice in the freezer. “Do you need any more help tonight?” he asks when Steve has finished his glass of ice. He is fidgeting in the seat he’s taken across from Steve, but he’s looking at him expectantly, as if he’s perfectly ready to assist with whatever Steve might need him for.
Steve isn’t entirely sure how he is meant to deal with that. He shakes his head carefully. “No, I’m okay, I think. You’re free to go. I’m sure your parents—your dad—I mean, I’m sure they’re wondering where you are. Thanks for the help, though. Really.”
Billy eyes him for a long moment. He’s no longer fidgeting. “They’re not,” he says finally. “Wondering where I am,” he explains at Steve’s confused glance. “I moved out the second we graduated. Got an apartment close to work. I haven’t been back since.”
“Not even to see Max?” Steve blurts out, because it hurts him that Billy can’t see how awesome she is, how desperately she wants for Billy to just give her some attention. He’s her older brother, no matter how much Billy will deny that, and that means something to her. But Billy is different, Steve knows that, knows about the crap he’s had to deal with his dad, so when Billy’s face goes carefully shuttered, Steve hurriedly changes the subject. “Old man Gary’s garage, huh? That’s where you work, right? Part time?”
Billy’s brows go up, obviously surprised by Steve’s knowledge. “Full time now,” he corrects, and doesn’t ask how Steve had known that.
It’s pretty obvious he knows because of Max.
Steve hums. “You must be a very good mechanic. I heard Chief Hopper had a couple of the police cars in for service. Says they haven’t run so well since they got them. He was very impressed.”
“How do you know it was me?”
Steve looks at him pointedly. “Well, we both know it wasn’t old man Gary, and Justin hates cops so he either wouldn’t have done it at all or he’d do a shit job.” He shrugs, leaning back in his chair and resting his hands on his bulging stomach. “That leaves you. Process of elimination.”
“That leaves me,” Billy agrees, and something about the way he’s looking at Steve makes Steve’s chest go a little tight, his breath stuttering on his next exhale.
Steve has no idea what’s going on here, only that something is changing. Something monumental.
“I’m gonna split then, if you’re sure you don’t need any more help. Go to bed, okay, princess? And don’t go for any more late night drives by yourself. I might not be there to help out next time.”
He takes off before Steve can yell at him for ordering him around.
Billy never does tell Steve what he owes him for the ice.