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The air in the frilly feminine bedroom is stifling, smells of smoke and sex and spilled beer, the thump of the music from downstairs audible but muffled. Steve, taking a moment’s respite from the rager, wonders if something’s wrong with the house’s air conditioner. Maybe it simply can’t keep up with a house full of partygoers dancing themselves into a frenzy. Dancing, and making good on the promises made on the dancefloor, judging by the disheveled state of the couple he saw leaving the room a moment ago.

Steve wonders how the air can be so suffocating, how his polo shirt can practically be sticking to his back, when he feels so empty. Empty and cold.

He goes to the window and cracks it. Outside, beneath him, the party’s spillover congregates, hooting or yelling or swaying together; a group off to one side is drunkenly trying to sing along to the song that was playing three tracks ago, while from the bushes beneath the window comes the sound of somebody puking. Somebody screams, and Steve’s heart jumps. He looks away. Breathes.

Early August air in Hawkins is hardly fresh, but the sun has gone down and there’s a breath of breeze, just enough to taste. Steve inhales air rich with the scent of turning leaves and old cow pies and yellowing fungus. In, then out. Another. One more. The punch, spiked by who knows how many people (Steve used to be the guy who knew, would have known exactly how many, and with what, back in the day) roils uncomfortably in his stomach, makes the floor shift slightly under his feet. At least, he thinks it’s the punch. It could also be the rotten outside air, reminiscences of dark, close places full of unknown hazards. It could be the hollow in his gut when he thinks about the end of the season, his final paycheck, being turned back out to aimlessness and living on his parents’ grace. It could be the endless cycle of seasons, fall to winter to spring to summer, school to summer vacation and back again, stretching out before him, empty and formless but for shuttling around the kids, working some menial job or other, eventually renting a shitty apartment, haunting the town like a ghost—

He moves abruptly away from the window, toward the small vanity on the opposite side of the room. Sits for a moment, stares unseeing at his reflection in the mirror, surrounded by photographs, pictures of smiling Tina and her carefree friends wedged haphazardly into the mirror frame.

The surface of the table is crowded, full of cosmetics and cut-glass bottles and powder puffs. Steve pulls a familiar-looking ridged gold case from the tabletop, opens it up, twists the tube.

It’s a different color—Sakura Blossom, the bottom of the tube reads—but the smell is the same, and the sense memory is so intense he sucks in a breath. Billy Hargrove, overpowering him, painting his lips bright red. Blue eyes narrowing, examining his handiwork. The timbre of his gaze, moving from playful to aroused.

What had happened after.

Steve had spent days trying to forget that incident—and nights remembering every detail, often with his hand around his cock. The feel of the pigment on his lips, heavy and sensual. His reflection in the blacked-out arcade window, red lips parted with wanting. The desire that had flooded through him at Billy’s look, at his touches, at the words whispered roughly in his ear.

He didn’t feel empty then.

Was it the lipstick? Or was it Billy that had altered him? Made him feel so strangely sovereign?

Well, now’s as good a time as any to try. Steve peers down into the vanity’s mirror, carefully applies the lipstick to his mouth. Moves his lips together as he closes the tube and replaces it on the vanity. Stares back at his image, and waits for the other boy to appear. The beautiful wanton little whore of a boy. The wrecked angel.

But there’s nothing there. Just Steve Harrington, wearing pink lipstick. He’d laugh if it weren’t so pathetic.

A feminine giggle and a thump are the only warning he has before the door bursts open to admit another entwined couple looking for a place to fulfill their dancefloor flirting. Steve gets up from the vanity so fast he nearly knocks over the chair. Averts his gaze, mutters something about how he was just leaving.

He’s about to make a break for the door when the boy lifts his head, and suddenly Steve registers the blond curls, the unbuttoned shirt. Of course. Who else would it be?

“Why, King Steve,” Billy Hargrove practically purrs, eyes fixed on Steve’s face.

The girl glances at him, gives an uncertain sort of giggle. She turns back to Billy, goes in for a kiss, alters course at the last second—everyone knows Billy Hargrove doesn’t kiss—and nips playfully at his ear instead. Her move garners barely a flicker of acknowledgement; she’s inconsequential, now. A gnat.

Steve should probably look at her, notice her in some way, but his gaze is locked to Billy’s, a quiet contest of wills palpable in the air between them. And because Steve’s life these days is a cheap melodrama, a rumble of thunder sounds in the distance, followed by the cheers and hoots of the drunk teenagers outside.

Without looking away, Billy pulls out a cigarette and lights it, regards Steve, assessing. “Hey Liz, go get me another beer, would you?” His eyes never move, even as he puffs, blows out a stream of smoke.

Steve doesn’t have to look at the girl to guess how her face goes from uncertain, to confused, to pouting. “It’s Lisa.”

“Whatever. Harrington and I have something we need to discuss.” He gestures towards the door with his cigarette, not even looking at her. “I’ll see you around.”

She huffs at the dismissal, slams the door behind her; without turning around, Billy reaches back and locks it, and Steve feels his gut drop. Not again, he thinks, even as some part of him choruses at the same time Please, yes, again.

“Pink isn’t your color, Harrington.” Billy takes a step forward, another; Steve refuses to back away. “Whoever put you in that deserves to get their ass kicked.” Another step, and he reaches out, swipes a thumb over Steve’s lips, examines the pastel color that comes away. “Who was it? I think I was pretty clear about what was going to happen.”

Steve finds his voice. “Somebody took my red. I had to make do.”

A moment as Billy registers this, then his entire face lights up. “Oh. Oh, pretty boy. Trying to doll yourself up for me?” That predatory grin spreads lazy across his face as he puffs, holds, blows out the smoke. “I’m so touched.”

Steve doesn’t even dignify that with a response. He rolls his eyes, tries to move past Billy towards the door, but Billy takes hold of his shoulder, grip almost hard enough to bruise—probably would bruise, if Steve were a girl. “Here.” He reaches into his pocket with his other hand, pulls out a crumpled tissue and hands it to Steve. “Get that gunk off of your face.”

Steve shakes off the offending hand, but obeys, trying hard not to think about what else that tissue might’ve been used for. Once the Sakura Blossom is gone, he hands Billy back the tissue, watches him pocket it.

They look at each other for a moment longer. Some part of Steve’s mind, the smarter part, is screaming at him to get out of there before something worse happens—but he’s frozen, held captive by the morbid curiosity of the prey between the cat’s paws. Is Billy hungry? Bored? Will he let him go, or will he play with him awhile?

Billy blows another stream of smoke into the fug of the room, tosses the half-smoked cig on the floor and grinds it out in the carpet. Steve breaks the silence with a scoffing sound. “Could you be any more disgusting?”

“Rich families have maids to vacuum.” Billy shrugs. “You should know.”

“Right, right, rich kids have no problems.” Steve can’t keep the derision from his voice.

“I didn’t say that.” Billy’s face goes abruptly serious as his eyes find Steve’s. A pause, and then, “Rich boys can be just as broken as any other kind.”

Steve opens his lips to make another scoff, but can’t quite seem to get it out. “I’m not broken.”

“Sure you are.” The smile again, not predatory, but almost—understanding. Terrifyingly so. “Or you wouldn’t have been looking for me.”

You walked in on me,” Steve huffs, but it feels a poor defense in the face of Billy’s eyes searing through him, blue-white flame hot on his face.

“Uh huh.” Billy reaches into his pocket again, pulls something else out. “And if I hand you this, you’ll just leave? Give it back to your girl? That’s it?”

“She’s not my—” Steve’s retort dies on his lips as his eyes flick down, as he registers the gold-ridged tube in Billy’s hand. As the image of that red-lipped boy in the mirror flickers past his mind’s eye once more. He looks back up at Billy’s face, expectant. “What is that?”

The predatory smile comes out again. “You know as well as I do. Sweet Cherry.” He raises his hand a little further. “Go on. Take it.”

Steve swallows against his suddenly parched throat. “You’re not going to put it on me again?”

The smile grows wide, lazy. Enticing. “And deprive you of the opportunity? When you want it so badly?”

And that—that turns something, in Steve’s mind. Shines a light on something he’s avoided looking at. Because he does want it. Wants to become that needy, beautiful, broken boy.

Wants to feel that power when Billy looks at him again.

Slowly, he reaches out for the tube, only to halt at the sound of Billy’s voice. “Remember, Harrington—” and his voice grows darker, “—once you’re wearing it, there’s no turning back.”

Steve hesitates. He should go. Let Billy keep his twisted souvenir. He should brush past him, should ignore him, should go back to the party. Back to his life.

His cold, empty life.

His eyes find Billy’s. Blue fire, burning the cold from him.

Trancelike, he takes the tube. Turns back to the vanity. Pulls off the lid, twists it, slides the pigment onto his lips.

If the color felt powerful before, when Billy had applied it, putting it on himself is an entirely new level. It’s like he can feel the transformation happening, the salacious boy in the mirror coming to the forefront.

He reaches forward, tilts the mirror slightly to get a better angle. Billy walks up behind him, expression blank, fixed on Steve’s face. On his lips. Their eyes meet in the mirror, briefly—then Steve straightens and turns, meets Billy’s eyes once more, ignores the crack and rumble of thunder coming closer.

Billy Hargrove doesn’t kiss. The rumor mill’s always been clear on that point, loved speculating on why. But the heat from Billy’s gaze is scorching, in a very different way than the sweat-soaked air that’s being pushed before the oncoming thunderstorm outside. He reaches to tuck a damp curl of Steve’s hair behind his ear, and the accompanying lightning flash sizzles deep along Steve’s nerves, causes him to suck in a quick breath of air between parted, red-red lips.

“Pretty,” Billy murmurs as his fingers trace down Steve’s jawline. “There’s my pretty princess.” His voice is like overripe fruit, split and fermenting on the ground. “You know what you want, don’t you?”

I want to not be alone. I want someone to want me. I want to lose myself in something. Steve’s shadow-self is stronger, this time, words spilling into his head that he has to choke back. “Yes,” he says, letting his eyes hold Billy’s as he sinks to his knees, brazen and shameless.

Billy’s fingers wind in his hair as Steve finds the waistband of his jeans. “Fuck,” he whispers, eyes closing, almost reverent. “Fuck yes, you do. Gonna paint my cock with that pretty red lipstick.”

Steve registers this, but it’s divorced from this moment, meaningless sounds floating through the air above him. Because right here, right now, he’s unbuttoning Billy—of course he’s not wearing underwear—and slipping his fingers along the hard silk-steel length of Billy’s cock.

The sound Billy makes, half-groan, half-plea, fills Steve’s ears and goes straight to his gut. He wonders, distantly, why he and the other boys he’s met all seem to think a hard cock is a source of power and pride, when it’s really a vulnerability. Something that makes you want, makes you need. Puts you at another’s mercy.

“Kiss it first,” Billy says, and Steve obeys, presses his lips to the hard length, lets the tip of his tongue peep out for a taste. It’s nothing objectionable; salt and musk, and a hint of something artificial—cologne? Certainly nothing that makes him want to choke and spit exaggeratedly the way Tommy usually does whenever someone brings up the subject. His lips travel down Billy’s length, tasting, testing, teasing, then back up until he reaches the head, listening to the hitches in Billy’s breath.

Then he slips the head into his mouth, and Billy’s breathy moan is worth every misgiving, every moment of uncertainty. Fingers tighten in his hair, and he barely notices, he’s so focused on sliding his mouth slowly down, careful to wrap his lips around his teeth, until he can feel the head bump against his throat—he gags, has to come off, feels a shameful sort of pride at the trail of lipstick he’s left along the shaft.

Billy laughs a little, not unkindly. “Careful, princess. It’s your first time, isn’t it? Take it slow.” He’s careful, gentle even, as he guides Steve’s head back onto his cock; the rumble of his voice has almost a singsong tone. “Nice and easy does it, see? Just like that. A little more, and don’t forget—fuck.” Steve finds his tongue, swipes it along the underside of Billy’s head, even as he takes him deeper, bobs his head along the shaft. Again, and he listens to the sharp intake of breath. Experimenting, he slips one hand around Billy’s length, runs his tongue underneath the ridge, up and over, up and over, Billy’s groan mixing with the roll of thunder outside, promising, pregnant with meaning—though what, exactly, Steve isn’t sure—

“Jesus. If you keep that up I’m not going to last.” The ragged edge in Billy’s voice testifies to the truth of his words, and Steve glances up at him; even without the mirror, he can imagine how his face must look to Billy, large dark eyes over obscenely stretched red-red lips, and Billy’s reaction—the look on his face, seared into Steve’s eyes by a flash of lightning—is enough to send a jolt of energy straight to his own cock. He redoubles his efforts, moving his lips, swiping with his tongue, heedless of the sudden death grip in his hair. Billy’s breath is catching now, quivering on the inhale; his eyes fall shut; there’s the barest warning of a pulse beneath Steve’s fingers before his mouth floods full of warm bitter-salt liquid.

He swallows, chokes a little, swallows again, as much out of surprise as erotic intention. Billy rewards him with a muttered curse, as fingers untwist themselves from his hair, as he withdraws, tucking himself away.

Steve feels the slight coolness of saliva on his lips, of smudged lipstick, but makes no move to fix it. He expects Billy to make fun of him a little, to leave, but Billy makes no move to leave. Is still staring down at him, when Steve chances a glance upward. Transfixed.

Slowly, Billy slides a finger into Steve’s mouth. Two. Steve closes his lips around them, sucks, watches Billy’s entire body shudder.

“Fuck. You’re going to kill me, sweetheart.” Billy presses his fingers further back, stretches Steve’s lips again. “Tell me what you want. Gotta make it good for you too.”

Steve, mouth full, gives him a questioning look.

“Mmm. Well, maybe I can take a guess.” His eyelids flutter a little as Steve tongues at the digits in his mouth. “You want me to finger you open. Stretch you out just like your pretty little mouth stretched for me.”

Steve looks up for a moment, eyes large, listening.

“More than that? Are you begging me for a good fucking? Pound into you until you fall apart on my cock? Because you know I won’t hesitate.”

Smiling a little to himself, Steve drops his gaze, continues sucking on Billy’s fingers, demure despite the saliva dribbling from the corner of his mouth.

“You are a pretty little whore, aren’t you?” Billy’s voice is soft, admiring. “I wonder…what if I took you out there?” A pause as he makes an appreciative deep-throated hum at Steve’s efforts. “Just like you are now, your hair a mess, lipstick smudged across your face. No doubt what you’ve been doing. No doubt who owns you. Would you enjoy that?” His free hand reaches out, strokes Steve’s face, curiously tender. “Would you give them a repeat performance?”

Steve’s eyes stay lowered, but Billy’s words thread through his mind, weave pictures, sounds, sensations. The shame, blossoming bright-hot against his cheeks. The laughter, the jeers of the other teens, watching the former King turned fucktoy to the new one. The bright, white-hot flame of desire, his lips and Billy’s cock burning together, the noises of the crowd falling away as he made Billy’s eyes fall closed just like that—

He doesn’t even realize he’s making sounds, soft breathy whimpers. Doesn’t realize there are tears gathering at the corners of his eyes, until Billy pulls his fingers away, until Steve hears the needy little whine his throat makes at the loss. Billy swipes his thumb along the corner of Steve’s eye, comes away wet. “Oh, my sweet little princess,” he murmurs, running his thumb along Steve’s lips, leaving a barely-there wisp of salt wetness behind. “Don’t be afraid. You know nobody will dare touch you. Not when they know you’re mine.”

“Am I?” And it’s not Steve who’s asking, who’s raising dark wet wide eyes up to Billy’s face; it’s that beautiful, red-lipped, nameless boy. The one who needs this. Who can’t stand to be alone. Who’ll do anything—anything—to feel this fire, this heat again.

Steve almost hates that boy. Hates how much he loves being him. Loves the way Billy’s eyes feel, hot on his tearstained face. Hates how much he needs it.

“Fuck yes,” Billy says, the heat suffusing his voice. And just like that, Billy’s tugging him up to stand, only to push against his chest until Steve stumbles backwards, lands on the unmade bed. “Strip for me.”

Steve’s limbs move practically of their own accord, feet kicking off his shoes, fingers finding the hem of his polo shirt and tugging it over his head. He hesitates a moment, glancing up to where Billy stands over him, but those blue eyes spur him on, and he undoes his jeans. Starts to tease his fingers at the waistband of his briefs.

Billy growls and reaches forward, tugs them down himself. Steve kicks them off, clumsily, and then he’s naked before Billy, helpless and shameless and spread.

Powerful. Open. Free.

Billy eases himself down onto the bed over Steve, not touching, not yet, but so close he might as well be. A lock of his hair falls over his shoulder and brushes Steve’s skin, and Steve shivers, even though the room is still sticky-warm. His eyes close and he can feel Billy’s breath against his ear, can smell the sour beer and smoke even as the thunder cracks again, threatening, almost overhead.

“Yes, sweetheart, just like that,” Billy murmurs, and lightning flashes behind Steve’s eyelids as that voice slides thick and syrupy into Steve’s ear, wraps around his brain stem like heavy velvet. “So pretty for me. Just relax, baby. Let me take you apart. It’ll be so good.”

There’s a rustling, a tapping, a cacophony of cheers and yells and screams from the window, and some part of Steve’s brain is saying danger outside, but the greater part of him is saying danger right here—danger not with claws or teeth, but danger with blonde hair and lust-blown eyes and fingers that burn like blue-bright flame. Those fingers trail down his torso, tweak at one of his nipples, and he gasps, smudged mouth parting to suck in air. He can feel his own length aching, bobbing against his belly, unimportant until just now, until Billy’s fingers trace down towards it, along it, wrapping themselves around him, squeezing for just a moment—then gone.

Another needy whimper tears itself from Steve’s throat, and Billy laughs a little. “Just a moment, baby.” Under his breath, over the sound of his weight shifting and a drawer opening—“Tina, you slut, don’t fail me now”—then a triumphant sound as he straightens. The thunder rolls again, directly overhead now, louder even than the music from downstairs as Billy’s hand, slick with some kind of lubricant, comes down once more around Steve’s cock and strokes.

Steve’s whole body spasms with the sudden stimulation, lips moving in a half-whispered curse, and Billy chuckles. “I know you want it, sweetheart, but try and last a little longer for me. I’ve got such a treat for you.” Those wicked fingers move away, down between his thighs. “Bring your knees in to your chest, let me see that pretty little hole of yours.” Steve obeys, and the slick digits find their target, slip inside—

“Princess, you’re so loose,” Billy says, and though his voice holds the same playful singsong tone, the notes have sharpened. “Have you been opening yourself up for me?”

And that red-lipped, bright-eyed, wanton boy opens his eyes, lets a smile grow wide across his face. “Maybe. Maybe I needed more than you could give me.”

Billy’s voice goes quiet. Dangerous. “Don’t play coy with me on this. You are mine.”

Steve’s eyelids grow heavy, and his tongue peeps out, tastes the red on those lips. “Are you sure?”

In answer, Billy growls, echoing another burst of thunder, the rain growing in intensity. “If I have to fucking remind you—”

“Think you can fill me?” He’s playing with fire, Steve knows, but the words feel so right, as if the script between them is already written. “Think you can satisfy me? Maybe I fucked the whole basketball team after you. And the math squad, after that.” Billy’s eyes are burning again, as he strips off his shirt, color high in his cheeks as he undoes his pants, and Steve finds a whole new sense of power, now. “You made me into a pretty little slut, but you couldn’t make me your—”

Steve’s taunts are cut off by the sensation of Billy’s cock filling him, sliding into him, and maybe he’d been practicing but not like this, not the entirety of Billy’s girth all at once. His words turn into a breathy gasp, muscles burning, stretching around the unrelenting pressure. Steve is full, so full, Billy sliding in, inch by inch until their hips are flush, until his torso is half-resting on the backs of Steve’s thighs, until he’s on his forearms over Steve’s face, until they’re panting into each other’s mouths.

“You made yourself pretty—for me,” Billy says, voice rough as he murmurs into Steve’s mouth. Listens to Steve’s trembling breaths. “You’re mine.”

Then Billy—thrusts.

The angle is different from their first time, and the depth, the overwhelming possessiveness of it—Billy’s face inches from his, the violence of the motion, the slow pull followed by a quick snap of his hips—it leaves Steve breathless, as if even the air in his lungs is only there by Billy’s permission. Steve writhes underneath him, trying to find his own space, trying to find himself, but Billy places a heavy hand on Steve’s chest, drives deep into him again, and again. “Mine,” he says, fierce, certain. “Say it.”

Steve can’t say it, can’t say anything, can’t think—Billy is taking him, filling him, obliterating any thoughts, any resistance he might have. The heat is overwhelming, electricity dancing along his nerves, fire roaring through his veins, until his very skin feels incandescent. “I can’t—”

“Say it,” Billy snarls, relentless. “Say it or I’ll keep this up all night if I have to.”

“Please—” It’s building, coiling deep in Steve’s hips, but it’s energy with no outlet, lightning with no ground; the terror and the pleasure short out Steve’s brain, his body still struggling, his mouth babbling obscene nonsense. “Fuck, please, Billy—”

“Say it!” Another crack of thunder, and Billy rears up, his thrusts growing somehow even deeper. Steve can feel the tears again, slipping from the corners of his eyes as the intensity grows, as he wants—so badly, he wants

He opens his eyes, blinking through the tears, and Billy’s face is there over him, haloed by golden hair, his expression focused and ferocious in a way that should terrify him, but Steve can only stare in awe. Billy is a force of nature, and Steve is here with him, in this moment, swept up and away by the wind and rain and electricity, possessed by him, powerless before him.

“Yours,” he gasps, voice barely more than a ragged whisper. “Billy. I’m all yours.”

“Fuck yes you are.” Billy’s hand, still slick, finds Steve’s cock, and it’s barely four strokes before Steve loses control, jerks, spasms around Billy as his world shatters apart, as he pulses hot come over his belly, over Billy’s, because Billy is collapsing over him, his lips finding Steve’s, swallowing Steve’s desperate broken cries just as greedily as Steve had swallowed his come.

The wind is quieting outside, gusting cooler air over their skin, as Billy pulls away, strokes Steve’s sweat-soaked hair away from his face. Steve keeps his eyes closed, basking in this strange tenderness, scared to open them and possibly break the spell, not wanting to watch Billy become Billy again.

Wordless, Billy rises; a moment later, Steve feels a cloth wiping away the mess on his belly. His breath catches, and he inhales deep, lets it out, chances a peek through fluttering lashes. Billy, still hard, is cleaning himself off (with Steve’s briefs—of course); he drops the scrap of cotton on the floor, glances up, sees Steve watching him. “Rise and shine, Princess.”

Steve makes an indeterminate sound, but slowly rolls over and sits up, still lightheaded and full of endorphins. He shivers at the cool gust of air that comes through the open window, caresses his skin; Billy throws him his balled-up clothes, and he catches them by reflex. “Can’t take up the room all night. Probably some other assholes want to bang in here, too.”

Numbly, Steve pulls on his shirt, his pants (skipping the soiled underwear, which he balls up and buries in the bottom of Tina’s trashcan). His eyes avoid the vanity and the associated mirror; he plucks a tissue from the bedside table and uses it to wipe the remains of Sweet Cherry from his lips. Something occurs to him, and he glances up at Billy.

The sight makes him smile a little.

“Here, hold still.” He approaches Billy cautiously, tissue in one hand, and raises it up. Billy’s eyes are wary, but he allows Steve to carefully wipe away the traces of lipstick.

Billy’s about to open the door when Steve—just Steve, this time—opens his mouth. “I thought you didn’t kiss.”

Billy turns, curls his lips upward at one corner as he rakes Steve up and down with his eyes. “Guess I never had a princess brave enough to want to, before.”

And with that, he’s gone, leaving a ghostly warmth in his wake.