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You'll Make Some bad Friends, and Lose Good Enemies

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“I don’t fucking like you but-”

“I don’t like you much either, you prissy dick hole”

“BUT, Okay, let me finish - also I’m gonna ignore that - but I hate your abusive shit stain of a dad even more -”

“That’s great Harrington, really original, super helpful, I can’t thank you enough!”

“Would you stop being a jerk for like 10 seconds and let me say my fucking part, Billy?! - You’re the dick hole, Billy, and all that shit, but you’re not evil, so what I’m trying to say is: Let’s kill Neil”

Billy and Steve are going to kill Neil.

The plan doesn’t start that way, but no revenge plan ever really starts with that drastic a course of action. It just kind of develops that way in Steve’s head. Sure, Billy doesn’t know about the plan yet, but he’s gonna, and when he does: Billy and Steve are going to kill Neil.

Steve’s leaning up against his car, mindlessly chewing the inside of his lip. The hill off the road overlooking the pumpkin farmer’s fields seemed like a good spot this afternoon when he’d told Billy to meet him after school, but now in the harsh late afternoon light everything seems too sharp and too warm. As time goes by he’s starting to sweat, and it’s not only caused by the sun.

Yeah, he hates Billy, and Billy definitely hates him, but all that just gets pushed to the background when real shit happens. Like demi-dogs, and evil plant tunnels, and Billy’s fucking monster of a father- and that’s the shit that really gets him going, that he can just get away with it; beating his son, conditioning him to turn into another violent asshole. It’s fucked up and he’s sick of just putting up with fucked up shit. When a pack of Demi-dogs surround him and his child gang, Steve defends them. When one of the monsters attacks, he fights back swinging with his favorite bat-turn-medieval-bludgeon. If Neil fucking Hargrove is gonna punch his child to a pulp, Steve’s gonna do something about it.

That’s why, during lunch earlier that day, Steve walked up to Billy’s table. He was confident enough not to worry too much about how it would go - it was hard to take social ranking too seriously after the plethora of supernatural shit Steve was beginning to deal with on the regular. And Billy sat with a mix of people that didn't intimidate Steve, all equal parts uninteresting and uninterested, the kind who follow whoever chugs the most from that weekend’s keg party. So he tries to be nonchalant when he taps Billy on the shoulder and hands him the note he’d hastily written. He hears Billy sarcastically say

“This some kinda love letter, Harrington?”

but he just ignores him, instead throwing his hand up noncommittally and going back to his seat next to Nancy and Jonathan.

 

And maybe that’s why Billy’s not here yet. Maybe Billy won’t show up. What did he write again? It was something along the lines of ‘meet me on the hill by where we left your car after the kids stole it”. Shit, maybe that wasn’t the right thing to say, maybe Billy thinks Steve wants some kind of rematch, or that it was a stupid joke, or…

Steve looks up at the telltale rumbling of Billy’s engine approaching. He lets himself smile for a second, holding back a laugh because he never thought he’d be relieved to see Billy fucking Hargrove. But he definitely is.

“So what the fuck is this, Harrington.” Billy calls as he pushes his door closed, already lighting a cigarette. “You really wanna start some shit again?”

“Nah Billy, I just wanna talk some shit out.” Steve’s anxiety over his hasty letter was already proving to be not entirely baseless. “Well, not exactly that - I really just, wanna talk about this one thing, I guess, or this idea...”

Billy takes a long drag from his cigarette and looks him over, “Yeah? And what’s that?”

Steve pauses for a moment.

Where the fuck does he even start with this.

Shaking his head quickly he decides to just plow forward.

“I don’t fucking like you but-”

“I don’t like you much either, you prissy dick hole.”

“BUT, okay, let me finish - also I’m gonna ignore that - but I hate your abusive shit stain of a dad even more -”

“That’s great Harrington, really original, super helpful, I can’t thank you enough!”

“Would you stop being a jerk for like 10 seconds and let me say my fucking part, Billy?! - You’re the dick hole, Billy, and all that shit, but you’re not evil, so what I’m trying to say is:
Let’s kill Neil”

A considerable stillness falls between them, and Steve’s gotta say he’s impressed with himself on how he’s handling the situation - but then he’s flush against his own car, back slamming into the hood.

“I don’t get you, Harrington,” Billy hisses, eyes oddly glassed and mouth twisted in a grimace. “I thought I knew your type - preppy head jock, fucking miss mennonite cinderella, a real suburban story book - ”

He takes a step back, grabs onto the front of Steve’s shirt, pulling the fabric taught.

“But I don’t get this shit, you gettin’ off on my bullshit like I’m some fucking charity case, and I’m not having it, Harrington. So my dad’s a piece-a’ work and you know it, you think you’re gonna use it against me? ” Billy spits out.

Steve shoves Billy back and stands to his full height, one hand grabbing Billy’s wrist, trying to remove the fist from his shirt. “I’m not bullshitting you, Billy. I mean it! This isn’t some stupid prank, I don’t say shit I don’t mean.”

As the words come out Steve feels a pang of sadness drudged up from remembering Nancy’s drunken confessional the month before. He wasn’t bullshit. And their relationship - to him at least - wasn’t bullshit like Nancy put it. When he said he loved Nancy he meant it. When he said he’d fix shit with Jonathan he fucking meant it. And when he says he’s going to kill Neil Fucking Hargrove he means it.

Billy drops his hand releasing Steve’s shirt, Steve’s hand still gripping his wrist.

“And why should I believe that, Harrington.” His eyes dart up from the ground to meet Steve’s.

“You gotta stop with that last name shit Billy: Harrington? Harrington? My name’s Steve! This isn’t some soap opera! We’re not arch nemesis! We’re just people who don’t like each other, you can call me Steve like everyone else!” Steve’s huffing by the end of his rant. Maybe he should’ve picked a different time to hash that particular point out, but he couldn’t feasibly enter a murder plot with someone who couldn’t even call him by his first fucking name.

“I dunno, Billy, why did you trust me enough to come here today? If you thought I was fucking with you, why’d you even bother to show up? I don’t play that shit, and I’m not playing you right now. The fact is, I wanna kill your dad, and I want you to do it with me.”

Billy holds Steve’s gaze but doesn't say anything immediately, instead opting to light another cigarette.

“Well you do talk some shit, Steve.” he enunciates cockily. “How’d we even go about this, how d’you plan to kill my father and get off scotch free?”

“I figured that’s where maybe you’d come in?”

Billy laughs for a beat “What, so you figured I’ve killed somebody? What about me led you to believe that I’ve, oh- you know, casually killed a man?”

He’s laughing outright now, and Steve thinks it’s the first time he’s seen the expression on him. A genuine smile.

“Shit, Harrington, you really had me going! You don’t have any plan at all, do you? You seriously thought I’d killed before!”

Steve blushes a bit and rubs the back of his head, probably messing up his hair. “I have the framework of a plan! It just needs, the, well, the rest of it! Can I take this as you saying yes?”

“Sure, Harrington, yes, I’ll help you murder my only biological family member in the state.”

“Cool. Okay, good to hear.”

Billy turns abruptly and walks back towards his car. “This has really been a trip, but I gotta go grab Max from AV Club before Susan wets herself.” He turns back and points a finger at Steve, winking, “But you keep me updated on this murder plot of yours.”

“Meet here tomorrow then?” Steve calls.

Billy starts his car and begins to pull out, and he’s laughing again. “Sure, Harring— Steve, yeah, I’ll be here.”

Billy’s car kicks up dust clouds as he tears out. Steve coughs for a second before getting back in his car.

 

He smiles the whole way home.

 

__________________________________________________________________

 

The next day is strangely normal.

There’s something about stewing up a murder plot that makes one assume the rest of the world is in on it, that the everyday people you encounter are onto you–– but that’s not the case.

The police are not waiting for Steve at his parking spot, and no reporters are shoving their foam covered rods in his face asking for a comment. Instead, leaning against his blue Camaro is Billy Hargrove.

Had this been any other day, Steve might’ve expected trouble to be in his forecast, but something about the way Billy was leaning was too casual for him to be trying to pick a fight.

Steve steps out of his car slightly cautiously, because Billy is not to be trusted. Yet.

“Susan was watching some new show last night,” Billy says as he turns to Steve, letting out a deep breath of smoke.

“Nothing to write home about honestly, who cares about some old bitch solving crimes, but it gave me an idea I think we should consider.”

Billy takes another drag, and Steve smiles a little. He’s milking this, practically basking like a cat in the sun over his potential idea.

“You gonna tell me, Billy, or what?”

Steve’s face is smoke screened for a moment.

“I thought you’d never ask, Harrington. Poison.”

“I’m gonna need more than that, Billy, and I thought we went over this last names thing.”

“Well–– Steve, poison is easily concealed, doesn’t leave a bloody trail, and more shit than you’d think around the house can be used for it!”

“Yeah, like what?”

This isn’t a bad idea - in fact, it’s really good. Honestly, Steve had held some fantasies of bashing Neil’s head in with his trusty bat after he lays into Billy, but the gore of the whole thing left a sour taste in his mouth. Steve had seen Evil Dead twice at the drive in last year and didn’t like the gore all that much.

“Well, I think our best bet is Antifreeze, no smell, and it tastes good- but if we’re pressed there’s always drain cleaner.”

“All of this from a tv show? I’m impressed, Hargrove.” Steve laughs out.

“What’s this one sided no last names shit, Princess? And no, I didn’t get it all from the show. I do know a thing or two about dangerous chemicals.”

Billy winks then flicks his cigarette butt onto the ground and slings his backpack halfway on. Steve lets his eyes linger on Billy’s torso. Why even wear a shirt if you’re only going to button the bottom two buttons? Something about it makes Steve feel claustrophobic, and he quickly snaps his eyes up.

“It’s a good idea, Billy. Really. Let’s run by the grocery after school and see what our options are.”

“Now that’s what I like to hear, Stevey! But don’t sound so shocked about me being right, you know I can outsmart you on the court, plus I can fuckin wall you.”

And there’s the Billy he knows.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, save it for later, Billy, I’m gonna be late for class. Meet me here after last period. We can head over together.”

Billy stands to his full height and moves much closer to Steve’s person than Steve might like. He doesn't resent Billy like he used to, but his body still shifts into fight or flight mode at the proximity.

“As you wish, King Steve.” Billy murmurs, leaning into him. Billy’s hand snakes up to Steve’s side and pinches him hard and fast on the hip, his eyebrows cocking up.

And just like that he’s off, already prowling towards the main building, leaving Steve there alone, slightly embarrassed, and weirdly breathless.

But Steve can handle weird. Frankly he kinda grooves with weird, it’s his specialty. So he takes a moment and then heads to first period, already rehearsing a lie as to why he’s late.

__________________________________________________

 

The day passes in that fast-but-slow way most school days do, and before long it’s lunch. Steve has ended up in this awful sadomasochistic ritual of spending his lunch period with Jonathan and Nancy. They’re his only two friends. They're also totally boning, and he’s happy for them! Really, he is! That’s great for them... just not for him. So he sits down to endure yet another friendly lunchtime and takes perhaps too aggressive a bite from his apple.

“How’d I know King Steve would be the type to eat rabbit food?”

Billy’s voice comes from behind him dripping with smugness, and this explains the expression Jonathan and Nancy have. Their grimaces are honestly an improvement to Steve, who’s more than acclimated to their smitten glows.

He takes his time fully chewing and swallowing his bite of apple before turning his body to the side to face Billy.

“I don’t know if you’ve heard, Billy, but one of these bad boys a day keeps the doctor away.”

Billy looks impassive for a moment, then gradually lets a smiles crack his face. It’s still off putting to Steve - this is the third time in 24 hours Billy’s given him a warm expression. A week ago Billy looked like he was about to start frothing at the mouth with how much he hated him. Now he’s smiling at his jokes.

“What do you want, Billy?” Nancy interjects, and the ice in her voice is really something Steve wasn’t expecting. But Nancy is full of unexpected things.

Billy’s eyes stay on Steve.

“Nothing from you, Wheeler. Harrington here and I have some unfinished business we need to discuss.”

“We do?”

This is news to Steve.

“Yeah we fucking do, Harrington, now come to the parking lot.”

Against his better judgement he gets up and follows Billy out, leaving Nancy and Jonathan with matching faces of nervous bewilderment.

Steve follows Billy at a safe distance, and is pleasantly surprised when they actually do seem to be heading towards the parking lot.

“I’ve had enough of this shit today, let’s cut class and go shopping, Stevey.”

Billy has called Steve four different names now–– none of which are his own, technically, and it’s equal parts perplexing and annoying (and also strangely endearing).

“Billy, I’m not skipping class. Nancy already thinks I’m a joke and I’m failing English.”

“You know it’s strange, Steve, that you draw the line of misbehaving at cutting class when we’re literally planning to murder my fucking dad.”

Steve stops walking and stares at Billy.

“I guess you’re right,” he says.

Billy turns around for a moment and stops too.

“Getting cold feet, King Steve, or is your moral ambiguity finally catching up with you?”

“Honestly, Billy, I don’t even know what that means.” Steve spits out, because this is frustrating. All he wants to do is the right thing, and why does that mean he has to do something wrong to achieve that? He knows killing someone is wrong, he’s not some psychopath, but when the police can’t even fix something as simple as a father beating the shit out of his son, a man is driven to extremes.

“Shit, Harrington, you really are failing English, aren’t you?”

“Fuck off Billy.” Steve says, but continues walking towards the parking lot, closing the distance between them.

“Ambiguity - it means you’re open to letting shit have more than one meaning. Think about, killing a murderer because they murder people. That makes you a murderer too right? But you’re also a hero for killing him. That’s pretty ambiguous.”

“Shit, Billy, what’re you trying to say?! Has Neil killed someone?”

“No, Princess, it’s just an example. Neil’s a piece of shit, but he’s never killed anyone,” Billy laughs his panic off.

Billy’s face is so different when he’s not scowling. Steve’s not afraid to admit that Billy’s handsome, what with his muscles, long hair, and California wardrobe - he knows half the girls in Hawkins would jump him in a heartbeat. But the scowl ruins it, makes him look like a rabid animal.

“Is it really that shocking to you?” Billy asks, letting the amusement fall off his face, his laugh trailing off.

Steve hadn’t realized he was staring.

“No, no, it’s not - sorry, I was just thinking.”

Billy’s eyes get an odd twinkle and his right eyebrow twitches.

“Yeah, and what were you thinking about, Steve?” His tone is predatory and low, and it makes Steve’s belly do flips of either fear or excitement, but he’s in no frame of mind to figure out which right now.

“Nothing, Billy. Just what you were saying about ambiguity. I was thinking you’re right. C’mon, let’s leave before we get caught.”

“Didn’t yah know, Steve, all the fun’s in getting caught.”

And he winks at him before jogging off to his Camaro.

“Get in, Princess, it’ll be less suspicious if we only take one car.”

And since Billy has proven his logic is surprisingly sound on two separate occasions today, he does.

Billy’s car smells overwhelmingly like him. Warm and spicy; heady like a mix of vanilla and tobacco. It’s almost too much as Steve inhales.

“Don’t start hyperventilating on me over playing hooky, Princess, we haven’t even left the block yet.”

Steve lets out a small laugh and relaxes into the seat, watching the mundanity of Hawkins whisk by.

Billy drives like a maniac, the rumble of his Camaro escalating as they careen around corners and through residential roads. Steve’s knuckles whiten as he grips the edges of his seat more severely after a particularly sharp turn.

Billy notices this, and the Road Warrior-like driving gradually transitions into something more ambling. Stop signs are more readily adhered to, and the vibrations coming through his seat subside to a gentle purr. Billy doesn’t say anything about it, and Steve doesn’t acknowledge it either, but as he lets go of his seat he notices a grin playing across Billy’s face. And that’s–– that’s something Steve doesn’t know how to interpret.

It’s kind?

They pull into the local grocery store’s parking lot, and find it expectedly quiet, most families already having done their shopping by now.

Billy’s flashy Camaro stands in stark contrast to the rest of the cars in the lot. Steve feels like he’s in Grease as he steps out of it, walking around front to meet Billy, who’s finishing a cigarette he’d started in the car during the drive.

Steve likes this grocery store. He has fond memories of getting a free sugar cookie from the bakery as a child shopping with his mom. Only complaining when he’d finished it and they still had more shopping to do. He hasn’t been inside here since he was nine or ten, opting to stay home then and being old enough that his mother let him.

“This way,” Billy says, confidently leading Steve through the aisles, “they keep some basic car maintenance stuff over here.”

And it makes perfect sense that Billy would know exactly where the beauty products for his car are. Billy takes impeccable care of it. Matter of fact, Billy takes impeccable care of himself. Billy’s hair is the mirror image of the ringlets from some trash romance novel cover, not that Steve’s ever read any of those. Even though the lack of buttoning throws him, Steve has to admit he has style. It makes him self conscious over his own clothing. Steve had never really paid too much attention to it til now.

“Where do you get your shirts, Billy?” He asks.

Billy, who’d been up until now reaching for something on the shelf, pauses and looks at him. It’s a searching look, one trying to decipher whether Steve’s intentions are pure or at his expense.

“A mix of places, Princess. Honestly nowhere around here. I brought all my stuff with me from California. They’ve got tons of shops and malls there that would knock your preppy socks off.”

“Sounds nice.” Steve says, and he means it. He can picture the sun and the lifestyle he associates with the beachside, and Billy somewhere in that.

“Yeah it was nice,” Billy says wistfully, “Anyways you can borrow one of em’ sometime. I've got plenty. It’d be funny to see your preppy ass in something other than polos and sweaters.”

“Hey, I’ve got more than that!”

And Billy is laughing at him. His smile reaches his eyes and crinkles them, and Steve thinks he looks beautiful.

And that’s confusing.

“If we’re done talking about my shirts, Princess, let’s get back to work.”

Billy grabs two different bottles of antifreeze, one in each hand. Prestone and Starbrite.

“Now which one do we want? Personally I think there’s something kinda symbolic about using Starbrite for this.” Billy says with a wicked grin.

“Yeah, Starbrite has a nice ring to it,” Steve says, “which one do you normally use?”

“It’s a bit warm for antifreeze, boys.”

They both freeze. Steve is the first to recover and quickly turns around to see Hopper looking confused.

“Hi Hopper, how’re yah?”

“I’m fine Steve, I’m just trying to figure out why you boys are being so proactive about buying antifreeze when it’s only November and the first freeze isn’t expected to happen till the end of December.”

Steve doesn’t have an answer for that. Luckily for them both, Billy does, quickly relaxing his posture and gesturing noncommittally to the rows of product behind him.

“Yeah it’s not expected, Sir, but I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust weathermen at all. Plus I’m not about to wait for the first freezing day to try to buy this, what with most of it likely to sell out. They’ll probably jack the prices up.”

Billy is a genius, Steve has decided. He’s cunning, and coercive, and a genius.

Hopper considers this for a moment before nodding his head, clearly buying the story.

“That’s some smart thinking, boys.” Hopper says before another thought crosses his face, and he says, with an edge of questioning, “I didn’t know you two were friends.”

This time, it’s Steve’s turn to take the reins.

“We’re both on the basketball team. During gym today Billy was telling me about how his last car got real damaged over the winter, so I thought I’d let him show me what I should get.”

Steve feels great about this. Billy’s lying skills have really kicked up some of his own.

“Aren’t you from California, son?”

Oh fuck. Steve isn’t Billy.

“Yeah, I am, I do a lot of driving though. My mom lives in a different state every other year it seems. I’ve gotten real used to long haul driving in all kinds of weather.”

Steve is in awe at how seamlessly Billy has picked up the loose ends of his unraveling lie and neatly put them back together. Fuck sports, he should be an actor.

Hopper’s face looks sad in an understanding way he can’t place.

“That’s good of you, kid. Now, shouldn't the both of you be in school for say,” Hopper checks his watch, “Three more hours?”

“We were on our way there now, Sir, just decided to pick this up quick during lunch.” Billy says, one hand gently pressing the middle of Steve’s back, acting like a guide.

“Okay, well, don’t make a habit of it, boys. I’ll see you around Steve. You stay outta trouble Billy.”

“See yah, Hop.” Steve says, as he walks away with Billy, who’s hand is now a comfortable presence on his lower back.

They wait until they get back in Billy’s car to really say anything, the rustling of the completely unnecessary plastic bag acting as their only soundtrack until then.

Billy turns to Steve, clearly angry.

“Well there goes that fucking plan.”

“What’d yah mean?” Steve asks, because he thought that actually went really well all things considered.

“Chief fucking Hopper saw us together buying antifreeze, dumbass!”

It still makes no sense to Steve so he says nothing, waiting for Billy to explain.

“Steve, if we kill Neil with antifreeze, Chief Hopper will definitely be there to investigate. And when he sees that my dad’s dead because someone poisoned him with antifreeze - and if he uses even a fraction of his brain - he’ll maybe suspect that his son, who’s on record of being fucking kicked the shit out of by his dad, who he saw buying antifreeze at the grocery store a week ago, might possibly have something to do with it!”

And that makes sense now.

“Fuck, you’re totally right.”

It takes a moment before Billy calms down, but then he laughs.

“That must be the tenth time you’ve told me that today Steve. I’ve gotta say, it doesn’t lose its appeal.”

Billy flicks his car on and puts one hand behind Steve’s seat.

“Well Princess, looks like we’re back to the drawing board.”

Billy drives back to school, speeding only a little, the now useless bottle of antifreeze mocking them on the floor.

_________________________________________________________________

Steve holds up his members only jacket and looks at himself in the mirror.

Nice color, a quick sniff tells him it’s clean enough, and it’s useful for the nippy November weather. He doesn’t know if it goes with his shirt, though, and how does one even know if something goes with a shirt? Is it the fabric or color that matters more? This is something Billy probably knows.

Steve lets out a small sigh of defeat and decides that this will have to do, even if the shirt doesn’t work. He’ll ask Billy about it later.

He grabs his bag and trots down the stairs, slips his favorite Nike’s on, and heads out the door.

Steve’s drives to school are always nice. It’s one of the few chances he gets a day to really air out his thoughts and clear his head. Today he’s decidedly set on the task at hand. They’ve gotta come up with a new idea for how they’re going to kill Neil, and it’s times like these that he wishes he were more creative, because he keeps cycling back to the same few bad ideas, all of which involve a gun or other weapon.

And while technically the revenge of it all might feel great, and he kinda loves the theatrics, the reality of the gore those would bring is unnerving. Thinking about the guts, and maybe brain matter, and matted hair. The hair really gets him, and that’s what makes this totally not an option. Even though it’s the only thing he can come up with.

As he turns into the parking lot he finds his usual spot empty - the cars sandwiching his the typical ones, the blue Camaro nowhere in sight, and it’s dumb, but he’s disappointed. It’s not that he really expected Billy to be waiting there for him again, but he had thought that he might be. Maybe he’d have another great idea, some new tactic neither of them had really thought of until then.

But Billy isn’t there, and Steve doesn’t have any new ideas.

He gets out of his car and walks to first period, arriving a few minutes before the bell. His seat is cold, and he’s already tired as he watches the majority of the class settling in. His first period is U.S. History, and it’s a personal curse that he has to sit through the class that’s the easiest to pass out in when he’s the most likely to. This day is kinda shitty so far, and it’s only 8am.

The shrill ringing of the bell sounds eventually, and with it everyone makes their way into the hallway.

He spots Nancy and Jonathan not far from his locker and starts making his way towards them. Their vomit inducing intimacy is preferable to his so far silent day.

He opens his mouth to say hey when an elbow knocks into him, sending him into the lockers beside him.

“Watch where you’re going, Harrington.”

Steve looks up to see Tommy. This is so stupid. Tommy hadn’t been anywhere near him two seconds ago, this clearly wasn't coincidental at all. And Steve doesn’t know what to do. Sure he could stand up for himself and lay into Tommy’s stupid fucking face, but then what? Get suspended, flunk a class, get kicked off the basketball team?

He rallies for a moment before fully regaining his height, slinging his fallen backpack onto his arm.

“Sorry, Tommy, I didn't see you there!” He tries to sound overly jovial.

“Yeah you fuckin’ didn’t.” Tommy spits out, clearly pissed that Steve isn’t choosing to pick a fight.

And it’s shit like that which makes it easier to ignore Tommy and his crew. He’s not witty like Billy. Tommy’s not a weakling by any means, he can hold his own, and in some instances even overpower Steve. But he’s–– well, he makes Steve look like an honors student.

“What’s happening over here?”

And of course Billy picks now to show up. He walks over to Tommy with his usual swagger, and looks at Steve.

“Hiya, King Steve,” Billy says full of a mocking venom, “Pretty rude of you to be bumping into people.”

And this is typical Billy. Steve’s an idiot for thinking anything else.

Steve bypasses anymore talking, heads off toward the now staring Jonathan and Nancy, only to fall on the floor completely this time from a swift tripping kick from Billy.

“So damn clumsy, Harrington, really something you manage to stay on the team.”

Steve’s ankle stings, but he gets up and walks away.

He’s so angry. Billy’s a fucking phony, and doesn’t deserve anything.

“What the fuck’s his problem?” Nancy spits out. She’s grabbing at his arm like she used to when they were together, Jonathan following in her wake.

“They’re fuckin’ pricks.” Jonathan adds, and Steve remembers why he likes him.

“Thanks guys, but I gotta get to next period.”

He brushes Nancy off his arm in a way he hopes is polite. He’s thankful to have them as his friends, but he’s just never been a fan of performative sympathy, even when it feels authentic.

He makes it to English right as the bell is ringing, and sits down for what’s sure to be another 45 minutes of life wasted. His shoulder throbs a bit, but it’s nothing serious.

He’ll be fine, he just needs to get through the day.

__________________________________

“We’re going to college together!” Nancy all but shrieks at Jonathan who’s locked in a constricting hug.

The news had apparently been brought to her attention an hour ago, but this was the first time she’d seen Jonathan since then.

Of course Nancy would be able to get into any college she wanted. She was definitely the smartest girl Steve knew. Probably the smartest girl in the state. But the odds of her and Jonathan both getting accepted to a college with a rigorous program and competitive standing were pretty slim.

“Congrats, guys!” Steve chimes in.

Nancy lets go of Jonathan and beams at Steve, her face flushed from the excitement.

“God, I’m so excited Steve! Jonathan got his letter first, so I assumed I just must’ve not gotten accepted, then my mom called the office to tell them she’d gotten something in the mail and–– I'm just so happy!”

“Seriously guys, I'm so happy for you two!”

He tries to mean it, he really does. They’re so lucky, being together, going to college together, maybe getting jobs together and advancing their careers. Having children, and making sure they have the very best...

It’s just, he’s so jealous of them.

The certainty of their future is so set in stone, and it’s so large and probably eventful, and all Steve knows is Hawkins. He can’t compete.

He feels alone and useless. Even Billy Hargrove thinks he’s an idiot. He was so stupid to think Billy had changed, that they were friends. And here go the only two people he has as actual friends, ready to leave him for their big bright future together!

He feels sick. He gets that awful jolted feeling like after he’s been hit.

Then his head is rushing with that awful panicked feeling he’d only ever felt before when dealing with real shit. Like monsters, and plants, and well, come to think of it, Billy. It’s like someone’s cracked an egg of cold dread and it’s dripping down his head and spine. He walks as quick as he can towards an exit without trying to draw attention to himself. He just needs air. To be outside, and just breathe for a minute.

The doors creak their objection as he shoves past. He’s thankful for the cool air and breeze. He takes deep breaths, tries to recenter himself. Backing against the wall, he lets his hands explore the road-like grooves between the bricks, comparing the two rough but entirely different textures.

It takes a few minutes for him to calm down. That awful need to escape subsides into a more manageable distress. He opens his eyes and begins to fully take in his surroundings.

And this day just keeps getting worse: always the king of inopportune timing, swaggering over to him from the parking lot, is Billy fucking Hargrove.

“Cutting class again, Princess?” he asks, “We leave early one time and now you’re a regular truant.”

“Fuck off, Billy.” Steve spits out, because he doesn't want to play at this.

“Jesus, what’s got your panties twisted up, Stevey?” Billy questions as he joins Steve against the wall.

“You, Billy! Look, I’m not expecting for us to be best friends because we’re in on a project together, but if you’re gonna keep being an asshole to me in public the least you can do is give me a heads up!”

He huffs for a second, feeling ruffled again, but presses on, because when’s the next time he’s gonna be able to say this?

“I’m not trying to fucking sing Kumbaya, I’d just fucking like it if you’d - if you could leave me alone. I didn’t, I just didn’––“

And he’s so embarrassed, and angry, and sad, and he feels the tears welling up, their presence a caustic burn on his eyes and ego. Steve turns his head to look away in an attempt to hide his face, because the last thing he needs right now is for Billy to see this.

But it’s too late, apparently - Billy’s hand grips his chin and turns his head back. He gives Steve a long look, an impassive stare. Steve’s waiting for the moment Billy punches him in the eye, or sneers at him. To do any number of things that involve him getting wrecked.

Instead, Billy’s thumb strokes his jaw, silence still between them.

Steve’s so confused. Billy gently moves his hand around his jaw and face, presses gingerly into it like people do with baby’s to have them make silly expressions.

“Noted” Billy eventually says. He brings his other hand to Steve’s face and drags his finger under both of his eyes, collecting the moisture. Slowly he brings his hand back to his mouth, moving from the knuckle to the tip, never breaking eye contact with Steve.

Then he turns away and swiftly creaks through the doors back into the building.

Somewhere a car’s honking its horn, and the leaves rustle in the trees, but Steve stays staring off into space, taking none of it in. He replays the last few moments in his mind on repeat, exhausted to a point of numbness.

He rustles through his backpack to find his keys, and jogs off towards his car.

He’s had enough of this day,5 he’s decided.

As he steps in he notices his reflection in the mirror. The shirt definitely doesn’t go with the jacket. He wonders if Billy even noticed.

____________________________________________

There’s an awful noise.

It’s repetitious, and abrasive, and just the worst. Steve throws his covers off and rubs his eyes, the day streaming back to him. He’s in that awful post nap delusion, where everything is confusing, and he feels slightly nauseated. He glances over to his bedside and checks his clock.

6:30 pm.

He’d been asleep for 5 hours then, which is quite an impressive feat. It’s funny how some days he’s so exhausted for no real physical reason.

The knocking comes again, and that must’ve been what woke him up, so he pats down the stairs in his socks and opens up the front door. Perhaps he should be more cautious with this sort of thing given the supernatural terror that’s becoming the norm in Hawkins, but between the mix of sleep delirium and a thoroughly average suburban upbringing, he doesn’t overthink it.

Billy’s standing there, looking at him, bemused.

“So this is what Sleeping Beauty’s castle looks like up close?”

“Shut up, Billy.” Steve says, but it lacks any conviction.

“I’m just trying to get this straight–– you skipped school to take a long ass nap?”

Billy’s clearly picking on him, but Steve finds he doesn’t mind. It’s not his usual venomous taunting. This feels playful and easy.

Steve takes in Billy’s full outfit. He’s wearing his staple denim jacket over a white ribbed basic tee and his skinniest blue jeans. He looks like an ad for California, but it’s really too cold out to only be wearing that.

“Yeah, Billy, I did. Now come inside before all the warm air drains out.”

“Wrong move, Princess! You never invite a vampire into your home!”

Steve laughs as Billy rushes him, shoving him inside and against the nearest wall, the front door clicking shut behind him.

Steve’s laughing to a frightful point, and Billy joins in too, releasing Steve from his grip and taking the room in.

“Shit, Steve, I forget you’re so loaded.”

Billy plops onto his couch and kicks his feet up on the table.

“Where’re your folks, anyways? They wouldn’t be happy if they knew little Stevey was cutting class.”

“They're away for Business, and you need to take your shoes off, Billy. The last time I had people over when they were away someone died. It’s been different since then. A new stain on the rug might throw em’ overboard.”

Billy’s eyes have a mischievous gleam, but he obliges anyway. His boots thud to the floor as he regains his previous position.

“So, Steve. Any new ideas?” he asks.

“No… I’m sorry, I was trying to come up with some this morning but nothing seemed right, then the day kinda got away from me.”

He pauses for a moment, then looks at Billy because he needs to hold some accountability for this.

“I’ve had a really awful day, Billy.”

Billy shifts in the sofa, clearly uncomfortable with where the conversation is going.

“I reckon I’ve got something to do with that.” He turns his gaze to the floor, his hands jammed in the side pockets of his jacket.

“––I’m, I’m sorry Steve.”

His voice is so small Steve barely hears it.

“That’s o––I, I forgive you Billy. It wasn’t only you, it was just a bad day honestly. Jonathan and Nancy were being so fucking happy, and Tommy was being such a cock as always––“

“No, Princess. I - I saw Tommy pick a fight and I - I don’t know.”

Billy pauses and looks at his hands, then glance around the room, a strained look on his face.

“I’m…. sorry I hurt you”

Now he’s looking directly at Steve, and Steve can feel the sincerity of it.

“It’s okay Billy. I forgive you.”

Billy nods and Steve smiles.

“But now actually since I have you here, I have a question. When I got home earlier I tried putting the antifreeze we bought in my car. I figured why not, right? I read the back and I think I did it right, but I want you to check before I take her out again”

Billy sits up from his slouch.

“You were doing it inside your garage?” There’s an edge to Billy’s voice, and Steve is almost hurt. He’d honestly expected Billy to be impressed with him over this, not pissy.

“Yeah, I was? It’s cold out? Wait, how’re you from California and you’re not put off by how cold it is at all? I’ve lived here my whole life and I still think it’s fuckin’ freezing.”

“Yeah I am, but it’s–– that’s not the point. Steve you can’t do that. Your car was on during this, right?”

“Yeah for a bit? I wanted to listen to the radio.”

“You’re a fucking moron, Harrington.” Billy bites out, and Steve’s a little scared at how angry Billy is over nothing.

“Didn’t your parents ever tell you about CO?! People fucking die everyday because every car ever made produces it. It’s a gas, so if you let it collect in a closed space, a’la’ your fucking garage, it’ll kill you quicker than you can even react.”

“I didn’t know.”

One of Billy’s hands grips Steve’s shoulder while the other falls to his side, his leg pressed in-between Steve’s. Within a few seconds Steve is essentially caged in by just Billy’s body.

“I fucking hope you didn’t. You could’ve died, Steve.” And Billy’s voice is so intense and close. Close enough that he can feel his breath as he says it, and smell the remnants of his last cigarette.

Steve takes a breath, and lets himself inhale how Billy smells. It’s so warm up close, spicy, and a bit musky with a hint of ginger. Billy makes no move to release him, instead his leg presses in deeper, his thigh now flush against Steve’s crotch - which is going to be a problem very soon.

“Well, I won’t do that next time.” Steve says in a small, petulant voice. Something about the situation makes him feel like he’s a misbehaving child.

“That’s for sure.” Billy breathes into his ear. And when did Billy’s face get this close to his face? Sure they’ve been physically close plenty of times before, whether it’s on the court or during a fight, but this is different.

“Next time you try to do anything with that car of yours, you give me a call, Princess, and I’ll be there.”

Steve can’t help it. It’s just the closeness he thinks, and maybe because he hasn’t gotten laid in months now, but he can feel his excitement building up in his groin. The telltale signs of a boner beginning to show. And he’s sure Billy can feel it, he’s sure that he’s going to make fun of him, or even beat him up for it, but then - then something hits him.

“Oh my god, Billy, I could’ve died!” Steve exclaims pushing back with some success, the better part of his body still under Billy’s control.

“Great job accepting that, Steve, but I thought we’d gotten around this?”

“Yeah, I know, Billy, but like, I really could’ve died that way! And it would’ve been entirely my fault! No real investigation into it because this kinda thing happens all the time!”

And Steve loves, he really, really, loves watching the realization cross Billy’s face. It’s intense, and wicked, and his smile is something more complex than words can describe in Steve’s opinion.

“Oh, I’d say you’re fucking right, Steve.”

“Mmh, it does feel nice hearing that, doesn’t it?” Steve says mockingly “I get your point about it now.”

And then Billy wraps his arms around him, and hugs him. It’s a hard hug full of muscle, one that softens over the moments. Steve takes a second, but hugs back just as earnestly, letting his nose go into Billy’s hair, once again getting lost in the scent of him. It’s more intense here, and much sweeter. Billy’s hands are rubbing at Steve’s back and he can feel tingles of pleasure everywhere Billy’s body touches his. He can hear Billy laughing through his brain fog, and knows that if this hug lasts any longer it might get weird, so he pulls back and grins from ear to ear.

“I guess I’ve got our new perfect murder, Billy.”

“Time for Neil to do some indoor car improvements.”

 

_________________________________________________________________

 

“Yeah my Dad’s out of town for a work convention, and my mom’s gonna be upstate”

The girl is pretty, Steve thinks. Tousled blonde hair, and an attractively curvy small frame. She’s trying her best at a nonchalant lean, but what’s off-putting is her voice, which sounds like it’s teetering on the verge of mania. He can’t blame her though, it’s not the easiest thing to just talk to Billy.

“Anyways, you should stop by. It’ll be fun, like, everyone is coming.”

She lets a giggle trail off as she walks away. Steve realizes that Billy never gave her an answer, instead just kinda grinned at her and nodded. He’s rifling through his locker again and—

“Hey Steve!”

The aforementioned girl is now somehow right beside him. She must’ve taken some roundabout path to him because Steve swears she came outta nowhere.

“I’m throwing a party tomorrow night, I’d love to see you there.”

“Yeah, Yeah sure I’ll come, sounds great”

She’s beaming as she heads off.

He’s a little embarrassed, though, because he can’t for the life of him remember her name. It seems an important thing to know when you’re going to a party held by said person.

He walks over to Billy, who’s shoving papers carelessly into his bag.

“Do you remember her name?” He asks.

“Not a chance, Stevey.”

Steve laughs, and Billy gives him a mischievous grin.

“Will you be gracing this party with your presence then, your majesty?”

“I was thinking about it- yeah… are you?”

“I’ll have to check my schedule. Wasn't really planning on it, but now that I know the King of Hawkins will be attending I just might.”

On the other end of the hallway Nancy and Jonathan— who now are attached at the hip always, apparently, are posted up.

“See yah’ there, Billy.” Steve says with a wink as he walks away

Billy’s face is a battleground once again, something like anger fighting off a battalion of what might be humor all while bludgeoning a swiftly forming blush.

Steve needs to stop letting the kids talk him into D&D nights - while they’ve proven to be invaluable sources for new adjectives, they’ve also turned his mind into a permanent medieval fair.

“Sup’ guys,” Steve says walking up to where Nancy and Jonathan are talking.

“Hey!” Nancy says, and Steve’s getting better at this. Where once he thought Nancy’s poker face indecipherable, and capable of anything, he now can spot key features that mean she’s thinking about something.

So he waits, letting her chew it over obviously, and turns to Jonathan.

“So are you guys going to this party?” he asks.

“Seeing as I haven’t been invited, that’s a no from me.” Jonathan replies, “Who’s party is it anyways?”

“That’s a really good question, man. I really don’t know her name, but it looks like it’s gonna be a good time, and she seems like the fun type.”

Steve’s gonna sell this party if it kills him. It’s just what he needs honestly: his friends, alcohol, music— good times abound.

“Steve, what was Billy talking to you about just now?”

Typical Nancy! The best at catching Steve entirely off guard.

“Was he threatening you or something, Steve? You can tell us if he is.” she continues.

“Really, Steve, you can talk to us, it’s better if we all know.” Jonathan adds.

Steve is trying his hardest to channel Billy’s unshakable charisma when he’s lying. He’s just gotta be like Billy and this’ll be easy.

“Oh yeah, didn’t know you guys saw that. Billy didn’t show up to practice the other day, I thought it might’ve had something to do with me. I was just making sure he wasn’t gonna miss any more.”

Jonathan and Nancy are maybe, almost, buying it? Their faces are both incredulous but maybe on the right path to being satiated.

“Sorry guys, didn’t mean to worry yah.”

“No, no, it’s alright Steve, I was just worried. Billy’s such a dick , and I saw him trip you the other day- so, well— I wanted to make sure you weren't gonna do something stupid.”

Steve can’t help but grin at her over this.

“Did you really think I was picking a fight with Billy Hargrove?”

“I dunno, Steve! I was thinking lots of things and none of them were good for you.” Nancy says, but she’s smiling now too.

“Back to the important subject, are we three amigos going to the fiesta tonight or what?” Steve says because this is too vital of him to let go.

“I don’t have any other plans.”

“I wasn’t invited.”

“Great, we’re going!”

___________________________________________

Steve reaches into his sock drawer and pulls out the piece of paper Billy’d written his number on. He’d been given very specific instructions to only call after dark, but before ten or else Neil would be angry.

He dials the number and waits.

The cool plastic of his phone feels sticky from the nervous sweat on his hands. What’s the worse that can happen? Billy’s not home, oh well, too bad, he’ll move on.

“Hello.” comes a hard voice - this must be Neil. Steve had never placed a voice with the name before. It’s strange hearing the voice of someone you’re planning on killing.

“Hi, Mr. Hargrove! Is Billy home? It’s Steve, his lab partner from Science— I wanted to ask if he had our lab sheet from today with him?”

“Yeah, yeah, one minute.” Neil says, apparently buying the lie.

He can hear movement on the other end of the line as Billy’s dad walks with the phone.

“What’s up?”

“Hey.”

“So it really is you, Harrington, thought Neil was drunk.”

“I have a serious question, and you can’t make fun of me for it—”

“Can’t make any promises about that, now.”

“Well don’t, I really- I need help figuring out what to wear tonight, and I know you know about that, and I figured I had your number so why not shoot my shot, and I—

“I’ll be there in 20 minutes, Steve.”

The line goes dead and Steve’s more than a little mortified at himself. He’s Steve Harrington! He’s suave and cool! The kids look up to him for it. But here he is once again making an idiot of himself in front of Billy Hargrove.

He sets the phone down, and begins to sort through his clothes, organizing it into heaps of “maybe” and “definitely not”.

________________________________

He can hear Billy’s car before he can see it. The loud rumble of it like some mechanical monster prowling Hawkins for its next meal.

He’s prepped some drinks already so they can pre-game while getting dressed.

The doorbell rings and Steve waits for a beat to pretend like he’s not been anticipating this.

He swings the door open with a smile.

“Thanks so much for doing this, Billy.”

“No problem, Princess.” Billy walks inside confidently. He has the demeanor of owning the place. And maybe he does somehow.

Billy has his backpack slung onto his back, which is a little odd because that’s not his usual style.

“Where’d you wanna do this?”

“Oh, upstairs I guess, I’ve got some shit setup in my bedroom.”

Steve grabs the drinks and leads Billy upstairs.

“I made some drinks so we can pregame if you want?” Steve says once they get in his room.

“Don’t mind if I do,” Billy says grabbing one.

He lays back on Steve’s bed and puts one arm behind his head, his eyes full of mock chauvinism.

“Now show me the options, pretty boy.”

Steve’s blushing.

He turns away from Billy and contemplates what to put on first. As he goes to take his shirt off he’s hit with a wave of self-consciousness. He’s happy enough with his body - he’s not ripped like Billy, but he also isn’t flabby. Plus he’s been naked with Billy plenty of times in the shower after gym, so it’s dumb for him to be awkward about this.

He casts his shirt to the floor and begins to put on the first option, a dark blue button down, when Billy whistles.

He slips the shirt on, and turns to Billy.

“I’ve seen priests show more skin.”

Steve laughs and unbuttons the shirt a bit.

“We’re getting somewhere now, but you’re still too conservative for a Friday night party, Princess.”

He’s flushed now he knows, but luckily his face is kinda concealed at this angle anyways, so he continues to unbutton his shirt.

“Maybe now it’s okay, but I have a better idea”

Billy gets up from the bed and grabs his bag, he then pops the single button holding his shirt together and tosses it to Steve.

Steve catches it easily, and stares at Billy. He’s so confident and cool. His eyes hold contact with Steve’s even when Steve’s trail off to take in his full stature. His abs are seriously unfair.

“Try that on, Harrington.”

The shirt is a deep maroon, with small black buttons. It feel so intimate as he slips on the viscose fabric of Billy’s already warm shirt. He must smell like Billy now he thinks, and it’s engulfing and strange, and the shirt drapes like sex across him. And it feels good.

He looks up at Billy, who’s not attempting to conceal his stare.

“That’s something I never thought I’d see.”

“I like it, Billy.”

“I do too.”

Steve turns away because he needs a moment to collect himself. It’ll be too cold to only wear this, so now he’s tasked with finding a jacket to wear.

“Wear the black one you wore yesterday.”

Billy must be reading his mind now too. Maybe he really is a vampire.

“Did you see The Hunger last year?” Steve says turning around to face Billy who’s now wearing a new shirt he must’ve brought with him. This one is black.

“Are you making a pass at me, Mr. Harrington?” Billy rasps.

“Steve,” he corrects.

“Steve?”

“Not that I'm aware of, Billy” He says playing along.

“Good memory, Stevey.” Billy winks at him and drains his drink.

“Not that I’m not enjoying this bullshit party we’re preparing to go to, but we do have some work that needs to be done.”

Steve’s thought about this too.

“Yeah, I’ve got some ideas.” he says.

Billy now casually takes Steve’s glass and begins to sip from it.

“Beauty and brains, ladies and gentlemen.”

“Shut it,” he giggles out, but continues, “So it's really not too complex. We’ve just gotta make it look like Neil was doing some car maintenance or repairs. Setup the car in his garage, place some tools around it, maybe an open beer, some oil—who knows. Then we turn the car on, and wait a bit.”

Billy nods. “How’re we getting him in there?”

“I haven’t fully thought that one through. We might just have to knock him out or something, then drag him in.” Steve says, and he knows he has a penchant for revenge, so maybe this is the happy medium?

“That won’t work, Princess. If the police find any signs of a struggle it’ll make the whole ‘unfortunate accident’ angle seem unlikely.”

“So he’s gotta somehow end up in there on his own?”

“That’s the trick.”

And while this is important, it’s really not what Steve wanted to do tonight. Tonight is about having fun and not worrying. Especially not worrying about a murder plot.

“Wanna head out soon?” He says in an attempt to divert the conversation.

He turns and takes another look at himself in the mirror. He feels…hot? Desirable in a way he’s never experienced. He’s felt cool before, sure— but this is different, he feels weaponized almost.

Billy comes behind him, one hand gripping his side, his fingers dipping into his pocket while his thumb stays firm on his hip bone.

“Don’t worry, Dorian, your beauty’s not fading yet.”

Steve’s heart begins to beat like it does when he’s in the middle of a game.

“What’d you think of The Hunger, Billy?”

“Eh, what’s not to like? Vampires, two hot chicks going at each other, Bowie? I liked it a lot.”

“Yeah? I saw it with Nancy and she got real squirmy over it.”

“She get scared by how much she liked it then?”

“I dunno, maybe? To me it looked like she felt ashamed she was even watching it.”

“There’s nothing about that to be ashamed of, Steve.”

He takes his hand off him and steps back.

“Now, if you’re all done, Princess, we’ve got a party to attend.”

He shrugs on his leather jacket, but leaves his backpack behind.

Steve likes little things like that. Tiny promises tied to physical objects.

Billy is planning on coming back to his after.