Steve Harrington was a normal eighteen year old in Hawkins, Indiana looking to graduate in June and really not much else; unless you count babysitter for a bunch of 14 year olds as something else.
He's not a monster hunter, not anymore.
His baseball bat lays dormant in the trunk of his car like some slumbering beast. He tried not to think about a time when it would have to wake up again... if it’ll ever have to again.
Hawkins has settled down, much like the nagging feeling that sits on his skin whenever he thinks of the last remaining months of 1984.
After Barb’s funeral, after Hawkin’s Lab shut down, after Will Byers remained just Will Byers. Things were finally the way they used to be. For better or for worse. Like any town, anywhere, they forgot about those strange, horrifying incidents that haunt their small town.
Even he did, a little.
The college kids at Roane County Community College were throwing a rager, letting the incoming freshman get a taste of a real party.
Steve scoffed at that, a real party. His first ‘real party’ at Lori Vaster's house. Some junior at Roane he didn't remember ever meeting, invited him.
It’s almost April and he’s been ghost-like. He knew he'd only have these years for a short while longer and a short while keeps getting short with graduation coming up. He’s a bullet train speeding through a tunnel and everything’s about to start going downhill. Showing up at Lori’s was just his version of trying to push down on the brakes.
He could at least try to pretend to be normal again.
He was once King Steve and once parties were his whole scene. The smell of 'pure fuel' and hormones wafting up his nose used to be grounding, now it felt like someone shoved a wet gym sock under his lip.
It feels like he’s grown out of old clothes.
Parties aren’t his scene anymore; too much shit goes down and it never ends well. Nancy pulled him under and drowned him like a tidal wave and the demogorgon pulled Barb into the Upside Down, both at a party.
Steve stared at his reflection, he wasn’t drunk enough to blur the boy staring back him or to forgive the little things that everyone else does. His skin’s too pale to be his own, his big brown eyes look too big and sorrier than ever, and his hair is too flat. He was trying to find peace or God or the right answer to ‘what the hell is wrong with you?’ The roadmap to those things, unsurprisingly, wasn't on his face.
He looked down at his watch, ten to midnight and he’s already decided he’s done here. It’s time to hop back into his car, and speed off back to his house and call it all a wash. Tomorrow he’ll wake up, watch TV, and attempt to do his homework again.
Except that’d be just too easy.
The sounds of somebody screaming sent electric rippling under his skin. Jesus, this is what you’ve been waiting for?
His body prickled with a sudden feeling he hadn't felt in a long time, it settled over him like a blanket and his mind went clear. If it was a demodog attack, he had nothing to fight with, and that was fine by him. He could make do with whatever Lori had in her house.
Steve pressed against the door and listened. His shoulders slackened, his fist unclenched and his skin stopped buzzing--no demodog attack, there’s only one person screaming.
The old gym sock smell slapped in the face again. He opened the door to Lori’s guest bathroom in time to see Billy Hargrove fly past him in a blur, the sounds of screaming came and went like an ambulance siren.
Steve jolted when he felt a hand clap onto his shoulder, his eyes couldn’t move from the back door that he ran out of, still screaming. Steve tore his eyes away to see Tommy’s ugly freckled face, laughing.
He looks uglier when he’s asshole, Steve’s noticed and sometimes he wondered if Carol noticed it too. He doubted it.
Tommy looked at the bathroom Steve was hiding in, understood immediately that he was hiding in it and gave him a brief unimpressed look. His face burned with embarrassment, and Tommy for the first time in a long time, didn’t take the opportunity to ridicule him.
The next look on his face said he has bigger fish to fry than him, and that bigger fish probably had something to do with Hargrove.
“Bigger they are, harder they fall,” he said like they never stopped being friends. “Nobody’s gonna look at him like he’s the second coming after this.” Steve shoved him off violently, causing Tommy’s smile drop. “What?”
Steve doesn’t know why he’s asking, doesn’t want to know, but he can still hear the screaming and Hargrove doesn’t scream in fear. “What did you do to him?”
Tommy snorted, “April fool’s prank.” His tongue snaked out across his lips in a very Billy Hargrove kind of way, it made Steve cringe. “Wasn’t my idea, it was Chad’s. Billy’s always talking about how tough he is, so he slipped a little giddy-up into his drink.” His beady black eyes glimmered, “obviously he can’t take it.”
Steve’s eyes widened. “Chad drugged him?”
Why can’t the high king of Hawkins ever be a decent human being? You know, like... that word he heard Jonathan say once. Benviolent. Why can’t Hawkins ever have a benviolent ruler? They're always a raging asshole, like the title’s cursed and Chad Price, who graduated two years ago, was no exception.
Tommy’s nose wrinkled at that. “Well, yeah...” He said like that’s a logical thing to do to somebody on a Saturday night.
They heard a large crash from outside and more screaming only now it wasn’t just Billy. Tommy’s grin was back and he was shoving through the crowd to get outside to the patio where the pool (somewhere Steve definitely doesn’t want to be) is.
Steve trailed after him, his heart thrumming loudly in his ears, something sick resting menacingly in his stomach.
Who just drugs a person?
He pushed his way through the crowd outside following just behind Tommy. The little shit and everyone else was doubled over laughing. Steve’s eyes landed on Billy who was thrashing, flat on his ass with his leg stuck in a lawn chair like an animal in a bear trap. Even from here he could see his pupils blown up to the size of basketballs. All black and barely any blue.
Billy pulled helplessly against the plastic vinyl, but it didn’t budge. “Get away!” He screamed, his blackened eyes darting from face to face. “Stay the fuck away!”
If he hated Billy more, he’d be laughing like everyone else. But there’s no sick kick in his stomach or uncomfortable titter that made him want to, all he can do was swallow and stare at the mountain of aggression and bravado crumble, watch Billy lose a hopeless battle against a lawn chair like it’s a four hundred pound beast.
Sometimes Jonathan Byers is right. High schoolers are annoying, primitive animals.
He found it pretty fucking accurate when they were gathered around the pool like a watering hole and cackling like a bunch of hyenas.
Steve knew the smart move would be to duck back right back into his car and leave now before the cops show up, before this all gets out of hand.
But he’s an idiot.
You’re an idiot, Steve Harrington .
And this party got out the hand the moment Hargrove took a sip.
He shoved Tommy and whoever was on the other side of him aside to get through to the absolute front.
Billy’s eyes trained on him, he started thrashing more. “No! No! Not you! Not you! Fuck! Not you!”
Steve tried not be offended that Billy seemed to prefer the lawn chair currently gnawing on his ankle over him. If it were Steve in Billy's place he'd probably have the very same reaction. “Hey man,” He sighed, kept his voice low like there wasn't a whole audience of high schoolers watching them. "I'm not trying to hurt you."
“Harrington! What the fuck are you doing?” Chad yelled. He burst through the front of the crowd just in time to stop Steve from ending their fun.
Y’know, like the raging asshole he is.
He’s tall and blonde with curly waves that could compete with the ocean and a dazzlingly smile to match, too bad he’s such a shitty human being on the inside. “Let him be, the outsider needs to learn some respect.”
Steve snorted and rolled his eyes, he turned around to look at a Chad and the cackle of hyena-kids behind him. “Clearly,” he gestured to Billy, “he’s had enough, you got him tangled in a lawn chair, man. You won, happy?”
Billy was still jerking and trying to get away.“Stay away from me,” he whimpered. And that wasn’t that a kicker? Billy whimpering like a five year old.
Chad grabbed onto his shoulder and hauled him up by his shirt. “C’mon Harrington! Don’t worry about it, you got a problem with it go home, tuck yourself in and forget about it.” He grinned, so overwhelmingly confident and dominant, he’s pretty sure he heard some girls’ knees buckle. “Give your mom a kiss for me while you’re at it.”
He didn’t feel the jab, his mom hasn’t been home since February anyways, he just felt exhausted.“I’m so sick of this kindergarten shit, man.” Steve shoved Chad again-- right into Lori’s pool.
Steve noted for a moment even Billy stopped to look at him. For a moment he looked calm and curious like a child in a stroller. The crowded ooed and Billy startled again. It took every bit of his patience not to yell at everyone one of them to get lost. This shit isn’t funny, never will be funny, and it never was. Steve went back and knelt in front of Billy. “Hey, you’re okay, alright?
“Just stay away from me,” Billy shook his head and shook it again all feverish and jerky like he’s losing his everloving mind. “Stay back.” He shook. “Just stay away from me.”
“You’re stuck,” Steve explained to him since he clearly can’t process there’s a reason he can’t run. “I’m gonna let you go, do you understand? But just stay put. I’m not trying to hurt you.” That didn’t seem to calm Billy, not that Billy’s ever been calm. “I’m not going to do anything to you.”
“Don't touch me, I don’t want you. I don’t, I don’t,” Billy shook his head repeatedly, sweat poured off him making his blonde curls dark and stick to his forehead. “Stay away from me.”
“I know,” Steve decided to say, someone told once to just agree with people when they’re fucked up instead of trying to argue with them. He wished he knew that sort of information when he was with Nancy. “I know, I know,” Steve sighed. “Stay away from you.”
Billy nodded, “stay away.”
He pulled apart the plastic slats of the lawn chair and let Billy’s foot ease out from the trap, that’s when the jeering picked up again. Billy’s eyes widened, “hey, hey, Billy, Billy, it’s okay. No one’s trying to get to you.” Steve reached out to him, which admittedly was stupid because trying to grab him is the exact opposite of staying away.
He crawled across the patio, pathetically Steve thought dimly, until he was back on his feet and bolted down through the crowd of hyenas now turned big eyed meerkats all watching and letting him race away from them.
“Stay the fuck away from me!” He howled. He ran like Lori Vaster’s house was the live set of an action movie.
“Look at him go!” Tommy hollered, causing everyone to keep on laughing again.
Chad whooped from the pool’s edge in dripping wet clothes. His soaked polo meant less to him seeing as he got what he wanted, to see Hargrove turned into a laughingstock. “Go get your boyfriend,” he grinned with satisfaction. If he had more time and it really meant anything he’d punch Chad in the face, but Billy ran off into the thick woods.
The woods in Hawkins, Indiana are dangerous and no one should be in them alone.
Steve ran down the slope of the backyard leaving the loud laughter and booming music of the party behind. His hearts hammering, his ears strain over the noise to try to hear footsteps or at least Billy’s ragged breathing.
“I am in such deep shit,” Steve muttered. Both his hand balled into fists at his side, he hates the woods and he’s officially swearing of parties. Steve willed the sight of a face opening up out of his mind and pressed forward, trying to keep himself calm. “It’s just the woods and it’s just Billy, and Max might hate him but if her step-brother dies she won’t have a ride and that means I’m driving her too.” That’s right, that’s a reason to give a shit about this. He thought about also being the one to last see Billy Hargrove alive and that wouldn’t sound good at all considering how well they get along.
He heard Billy before he saw him. His knees pulled up to his chest, even in the dark he could see the outline of his shaking form. “Billy?” Steve started slowly.
Billy jumped up on his feet again. “Fuck off! Just stay away from me! You don’t understand! You don’t understand!”
Steve would’ve snorted, he understands he’s hallucinating something awful in his place. “C’mon, it’s just me.” He sighed, arms crossed, he looked away from him. “You know, pretty boy or whatever it is you call me.”
“No! Just stay away!” Billy backed up several feet the closer Steve inched toward him. This time he was prepared for him to take off again, he could see it in the tight coils of his muscles.
Just as he did, Steve grabbed Billy by the legs toppling them both over to the ground. “Billy! You need to stop! You’re gonna hurt yourself!”
Billy started sobbing from underneath him, he squirmed and fought to get out from underneath him. “Get off!” He screamed desperately. “Fuck! Get off of me! Understand you need to stay away from me, Harrington!”
He does recognize him, Steve thought.
He tried to wrestle all of Billy’s muscular limbs into submission. His nails dragged into his leather jacket in an attempt to wiggle his way up his bod and the treads of his shoes snagged and pulled against his jeans. “Billy, it’s just me, it’s Steve. Breathe, alright?” Steve clambered up his body until he was straddling Billy’s waist in an attempt to keep him still. “It’s okay, I’m not going to hurt you! Just...Jesus! Just stay still!” Something resigned flashed over Billy’s face seconds before Steve grabbed him by his wrists and forced them over his head.
He felt it immediately, something hot washing over his brain like his skull has been cracked open on a warm sidewalk and left to scramble in the sun. It wrapped itself around him and for a moment he thought he was going to vomit directly in Billy’s face.
Billy felt it hit him all at once. His head throbbed when he felt the pull--the big pull. He could feel the whole world stop. His eyes rolled back into his head and white-hot bolted down his limbs from his brain.
Those shits are real trouble y’know?
We--we’re partying! P-Partying!
Slay 'em dead.
Let’s just pretend like we’re stupid teenagers.
You said you wanted to help.
Just….just go away Steve
Mama, why can’t you come home?
Stevie’s in love!
Now I know you promised Nancy you’d keep us safe, so keep us safe.
Atta boy, Steve!
Did you see Barb leave?
King Steve everyone!
The world doesn’t revolve around you, Steven.
Pretty boy like you’s got nothing to worry about
Go get your damsel, white knight!
You’re an idiot, Steve Harrington
I messed up! I-I messed up!
Run away! Just like you always do! That’s right, Harrington run away!
Steven, honestly, how hard is it for you to keep a proper smile on your face?
You’re pretending like everything’s okay and we’re--we’re in love!
But if you tell anyone I said that your ass is grass, ok, Henderson?
Ti amo, il mio angelo.
Try, Steve, just try for God’s sake once in your life, son.
I just…I wanna help.
Billy jolted upright almost hitting himself in the face when saw that thing lunge towards him, seven feet tall with a face that opened up, a gruesome flower with rows of sharp teeth. Steve’s pale and green, Billy can feel the grip on his wrists slacken. The boy above him looked faint.
“No…” Billy breathed. He got all of Steve's memories in sharp fragments and horrible pieces. This is why he should've stayed away, Billy thought, lying on the cold ground. He already had Steve Harrington in his head figuratively, the last thing he wanted was for it to ever be literal.
Steve rolled off of him gracelessly, sweat matted down the front of his dark brown hair making it even darker.“Are you okay…now?” Steve pulled himself up to lean back on his haunches. Steve got back up on all fours, his limbs were shaking too. Whatever hit him, whatever that was it took a bite out of all his energy.
Billy's eyes burned through his straight into the back of his skull. It made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Steve backed away. “I hate you,” he said weakly, it didn’t sound much like Billy. Steve watched him roll over onto his side and try to stand from there. He only accomplished in falling over onto his back. Billy curled up groaning with his fingers twisted tightly in his golden locks of hair. “Fuck, it hurts ,” he mumbled hoarsely.
“Hurts?” Steve battled his own shaking legs to get to Billy. “What hurts?” His eyes searched over him scrapes and injuries, other than the stray scraps on his cheek and brow he seemed fine. “Billy,” he tried again, “what hurts?”
“Everything,” he said, and then he was crying. Steve could see his tears, catching moonlight, mingling with the lines of sweat on his face. “Fuck you, you dense piece of shit. I hate you. Don’t want you,” he babbled. His sun-kissed skin paled all over again and he groaned. “It hurts ,” his body shuddered, the fingers in his hair curled tighter--threatening to rip out blonde strands.
God, he can feel Steve in his bones.
He can’t even describe the hurt, who knew it would come from Steve Princess of All that is Good Harrington--the perfect golden boy himself? Billy certainly didn't. It’s deep within him, made Billy hate himself more than he already does, made him want to beg for that bitch Nancy Wheeler to come wrap her arms around him, made him hate these woods and the demodogs that might be in them.
Billy knew what a demodog was. He knew where he was that night with little Maxine.
He could smell the stench of those rotting tunnels deep in his nose, it made him think he might vomit. “I hate you so much. So so so so much.” He gasped for breath, trying to get the spinning to stop. “I can’t live with you in my head,” he hiccupped. “I can’t, I can’t .” The cries were almost animalistic, they made Steve want to cover his ears.
He realized then Billy probably needs to go to a hospital, maybe even a mental one. His brain feels sapped like the moment he touched Billy it’d been sucked clean like he’s a human leech. Steve forced himself to his feet, still feeling weak and drained. He prepared himself for one unfortunately long and unpleasant ride to the county hospital with a sobbing, seemingly fine Billy Hargrove in tow. Maybe they'd pump his stomach or something, hopefully, they could fix whatever happened to him. “Billy, you can’t stay in the woods,” he pulled him up by the underarms and forced him against the tree for balance.
He sighed, "c’mon, you’re okay.”
“Just shut up,” he sounded pleading, he wasn't proud of it. "Shut the hell up."
Billy’s eyes were bright red from crying, like an ocean burning up in the summer heat. Steve stared at him for a moment, he’s physically okay at least. Mentally, has always been up in the air. “I’m gonna give you a minute to get yourself together, and then I’m taking you to a hospital.” Steve needed a minute to think--forty million years would be preferable but a few minutes is all he has.
“N-no,” he said in a weak voice. Steve looked at him again, he looks so much younger now, hugging himself and crying. Billy’s always looked at least 20, but now...Steve didn't know what to think of him. He looked lost and hurt, and most importantly scared-- scared out of his mind.
Steve sighed, maybe he's been through enough tonight. If he'd just been forcibly drugged and humiliated he wouldn't want to go to a hospital either, where it'd probably happen all over again, he'd want to go home. "What do you want me to do then? I can't just leave you here."
He saw the Chief in his head. He knew if his dad caught him coming home with Steve Harrington they’d both be dead meat. Joyce would work too, but Billy’s not sure he wants to meet her. The warmth that radiates from her frightened him...maybe it frightened Steve too. It’s hard to tell. Billy forced himself to form a coherent sentence, “you want me out of your hair?" He tried for commanding or threatening, it just fell flat. "Call Hopper.”
Something in Steve settled and he nodded--thankfully without being a nuisance about it. “Will you stay put this time?”
Billy sunk down the bark of the tree back onto the ground as his answer, he’s not going anywhere.
“You’re welcome,” Steve said, sounding like a nuisance.
“I hate you,” Billy spat.