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Something Worth Looking At

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Billy woke up in the backseat of his car, his body feeling so stiff that he hesitated to sit up. With his head pounding, it took him a moment to come to, feeling like he had been hit by a train or, really, sedated by his younger step sister. To say it had been a freaky night was an understatement.

And then he slowly remembered... He remembered losing it like he never had before, going after Sinclair, who had looked so scared but so determined too. Max's face of horror melted into a sort of easily recognizable anger and her furious tone as she yelled at him to let her friend go buzzed in Billy's head even now. He couldn't let go... all he saw was a target, a reason why he was probably going to get yet another beating from daddy dearest. 

He also remembered how he tore into Steve Harrington like the boy was nothing. Billy swallowed and somehow that hurt too.

It wasn't meant to go that far, but he was so angry with Max, so angry that that she should have known better. Max was good at getting Billy into trouble all by herself, but Lucas Sinclair seemed to motivate her even more and Billy was not going to have that. 

And then there was Steve Harrington with his high-and-mighty attitude and cheap words, all at the wrong time and the wrong place. It was like pouring gasoline on Billy's fire. Boom.

He still had no idea why Harrington was alone with a bunch of kids in a stranger's house, but he was aware of how stupid his suspicion seemed at the time. Steve was many things, but a pervert? Nah. Billy guessed that he just really needed to punch someone and it didn't matter if he had a legit reason or not.

"Max, you little shit," he mumbled to himself. This could have been easily avoided if she just listened to him for once. But who was he kidding? Max was young and just as much of a firework as he was. There was no way she was going to sit in a cage that Billy built for her, a cage built at the Neil's orders. It wouldn't have been a big deal if it wasn't for the fact that Neil was going to walk all over him if he didn't keep Max safe and at arm's length. Neil's slap the night before was just a warning, the calm before the storm. 

And if he was fair, Max rarely saw what was going on under that roof. Whenever Neil got serious with his punches, he made sure Susan and Max weren't around. Not that Susan would stop him, no, she was as worthless as Neil was, staring with a grimace from the sidelines like she gave a shit. Billy was pretty sure that the only thing that disturbed her was the sight of blood and bruises, and not that he was used as a punching bag. In the end, Neil just wanted to avoid causing her that discomfort and maintain whatever respectful image he thought he had.

Max probably knew something. Whenever Neil got a bit physical with him in front of her, she looked at Billy like she had questions on the tip of her tongue but didn't have the courage to spill them. Billy was always grateful for her silence because he wouldn't know how to even have that conversation. Sometimes he did want to tell her everything, scream at her and blame her for all the bruises, but the truth was that his father was a piece of shit regardless of the bonus fights he endured because of the occasional Max fiasco. 

He stretched his fingers and gasped at the pain in his right hand. It hurt like a motherfucker and Billy wondered whether it was fractured. He had lost count of how many times he hit Steve before Max jammed that sedative, or whatever it was, in him. And how did she have that in the first place?

The image of Harrington's battered face brought a wave of guilt upon him that stung like the cigarette burns all over his torso. Guilt was not a feeling he was used to or one that he wanted to get used to. Whenever it came around, he tried to wash it away with alcohol and more anger. But this time he was too tired to be angry anymore so all that was left for him was regret. He hated it... the embarrassment, and how weak he felt. Billy had fun messing around with Harrington, but this had crossed a line even in Billy's book.

He sighed and stood up with difficulty. His body hurt in some places and felt numb in others. He squinted at the light coming from the local hospital sign as he realized this wasn't the Byers' yard anymore. Someone drove him to the hospital's parking lot and left him there. He wondered who did and whether it was good luck or more than that. It was an undeserved welcome occurrence that whoever took him here knew better than to take him home. 

The clock showed half past one and Billy snorted. Not only did he not bring Max home, but they both broke curfew. He was so dead. Patting his jacket in search for his pack of smokes, he thought about driving to the quarry and hanging around there until morning when he could look for Max again. He was sure she was at one of those little shits' houses. A few more hours made no difference, Neil was going to rip into him anyway.

After he found his cigarettes, "Thank fuck," he lit one up and slowly started the engine. The quiet road unsettled him as he really didn't want to be alone with his thoughts right now, but his headache told him to steer clear of anything too loud. He turned on the radio and lowered the volume by a lot than what he was used to, and frowned when he heard Shine On You Crazy Diamond playing. He wasn't sure he was in the mood for that. Too tired and lazy to look for anything else, he let it play on in the background. 

It was so quiet and dark out here at the quarry that he didn't even notice the other car a bit further away as he approached. He frowned, confused, but his stomach dropped when he realized he knew this car... and the guy sitting on top of its hood. Billy swallowed and wondered how far could God's practical jokes go.

He reasoned with himself. Steve definitely didn't want anything to do with him right now and maybe it was too soon to apologize, but he wasn't sure if he'd have the strength to do it any other time. He could do this... he could swallow his pride for one goddamn second. 

Closing his eyes and exhaling, like he had been holding his breath for too long, the image of Harrington's bloody face clouded his mind once again and the air in the car suddenly became too heavy so he stepped out before it got any worse. Biting the cheek, he gathered the courage to take a step, and then another, until he was a few feet away from the other man's back. Steve didn't notice him and Billy found that he wasn't sure on how to approach him.

"Hey." Billy muttered, his voice husky, and that's all it took for Harrington to jump off the hood like something burned him, turning around in a haste to stare at Billy like a deer caught in the headlights. He had cleaned the blood off his face, but the cuts and the bruises still made Billy want to look away, especially because he was the one to inflict them. Steve held a hand out, as if to tell Billy he shouldn't move closer. 

"Hargrove," he spoke with caution and Billy thought that his voice trembled a little, "I want no more trouble." 

This image pained him more than he thought it would. Steve looked like how Billy felt when he knew Neil was going to give him a good one, except Billy would never give his father the satisfaction of looking frightened. He'd hold his head high until he couldn't physically do so anymore.

Steve, though, looked genuinely scared and that, in turn, scared Billy. This picture should have given Billy some satisfaction, but all he could feel was something hot inside him, making his skin crawl. Is this really what he meant to get out of Harrington? He couldn't lie to himself, he felt like he wanted to vomit at the sight of his artwork.

He had thought of Steve in many ways, but never like this.

"No trouble, Harrington," Billy reassured him, feeling like something was stuck in his throat. As if Steve was supposed to believe whatever he said. 

Steve probably noticed just how fucked Billy looked because his shoulders relaxed visibly after a while. He was somewhat confused, uncertain of what was going on or how he should react to the situation. Billy looked away.

They stood in silence for a long time before Billy gathered the courage to look Steve in the eye, and he was going to look Steve in the eye because that was his punishment. The tension felt palpable.

"I'm sorry," he finally admitted, barely a whisper, and he was surprised at how genuine he sounded, how weak. The words felt wrong coming out of his mouth, like they were in some unfamiliar language, like he couldn't quite say them right. This vulnerable feeling twisted his stomach and bit at his insides in a way that was so uncomfortable. 

"What?" Steve asked softly. The surprise in his voice didn't phase Billy at all.

"You know," Billy grimaced, like the whole thing physically pained him and it kinda did, he reckoned, "your face," he continued and gestured towards Steve, "and everything else."

Steve stared at Billy, he didn't seem able to really process what was happening, but Billy wouldn't say anything more, scared he might choke on his own words if he did.

"Well," he started and chuckled bitterly, "what the hell am I supposed to say to that?" 

And Billy understood, he did, so he offered no excuse. He let Steve have his moment. 

"Hargrove, you traumatized a child. A child!" Steve almost shouted and it made Billy close his eyes for a second. Shoving Lucas Sinclair into that cabinet was one of the most fucked up things Billy had done, he could admit as much, and yet Lucas had been so bold with him, he had to give the kid credit for that, even if his fear was just as obvious as his courage.

"And my face," he trailed off, his voice quieter than before.

Billy he knew that for Steve this whole mess was deeper than a couple of bruises. The dude had lost his girlfriend to a freaky guy who also smashed his face in once, or so the rumors said. Maybe it was just another failure in a long line of failures for him, but Billy didn't feel like a winner right now.

How the mighty have fallen, Billy thought and he wasn't sure whether he was talking about Steve or himself.

"You fucked up big time. Sorry doesn't cut it, Billy."

Steve concluded... and wasn't that the truth?

Billy expected that. Forgiveness wasn't what he intended to get with his apology, he knew that was out of the question, but he had to let Steve know. And if by some miracle he wasn't going to get arrested first thing in the morning, he was going to let Lucas know too, or at least tell his parents.

He just had to march now.

"I know," Billy said and swallowed harshly. "I just, well," he kicks his boot as if the ground frustrated him, "it's all I can offer now. It's all I have now."

Steve seemed to slowly calm down and after a while he nodded. He was not unreasonable, unlike Billy could be sometimes. 

"Shouldn't you go home?" Steve asked, as if he suddenly realized they were having a deep conversation at two o'clock in the morning by the quarry. 

Billy shrugged. He didn't want to get into details. "Shouldn't you?" he shot back, quietly, barely any playfulness in his tone. 

"I should," Steve agreed, "but I needed some air and this is as quiet as it can get."

Billy nodded. As he felt the moment come to an end, he didn't know what to do with himself. Should he stay or should he go? Although he wanted to run as far away as possible from what happened, he felt like something was grounding him into place. He figured he parked his car a few feet away from here and he wouldn't be disturbing Steve if he kept his distance. As he turned around to make his way to the Camaro, he heard Steve sigh. 

"Do you want to stay a while? I have some beer to spare." 

That stopped Billy in his tracks. Looking over his shoulder, Billy was caught off guard by Steve's expression. He looked tired- no, exhausted, but there was something else there too. He was looking at Billy like Billy was something worth looking at and wasn't that weird? It made Billy feel funny and uncomfortable, in a way he didn't remember feeling before. He didn't know what it all meant, but he tucked the moment away and promised to think about it later, when his head was clearer.

Before he could answer, Steve moved to grab two beers and hopped back on the hood of his car without a word. Billy bit the inside of his cheek and followed him, in awe with Steve's resilience.

"This doesn't mean anything." Steve warned him, "just so you know." he eyed Billy to make sure that he understood.

Before deciding to do this, Billy had imagined that he'd have to let Steve beat his face in too, that Steve would try to run him over with his car or that he'd call the police on the spot. What Billy didn't expect was a beer, which said more about Steve than he could convey in words.

Billy definitely understood. 

"Thanks anyhow." Billy took the bottle and looked away.