The battle has been a rough one. Billy is happy that he could help, now that he knows the secrets of this hick town. Despite him making comments all the time about how much he hates it, he’s not sure he could have ever found so much adventure in California. When he stumbled upon this mess late last night, he didn’t have time to ask questions, but he plans to do that today, no matter how tired he is.
He hates that Max was dealing with this shit on her own, but he’ll never tell her that. What really pisses him off is that even after he beat the shit out of Steve, it turns out that Steve is far more of a badass than he will ever be. The kids were without him when Billy arrived last night, but eventually Steve had sprinted onto the scene from downstairs, a number of monsters behind him. The night was long, but this day was even longer as they took breaks to strategize and rest in order to keep their strength up. Now, he’s pretty sure the nightmare is over. He stares at the demo-dog he just took down and wipes the back of his hand across his forehead.
He looks around at the destruction and heads back to the rendezvous point when he hears another scuffle. He’s already sprinting before he can determine what the noises are, but he manages to push himself harder as he hears the screams of the nerds filtering through what he can only describe as a chorus of roars. He runs in just in time to see the monster take a swing at Jane, barely missing her head, but definitely causing enough of a distraction to knock her to the floor. Hopper is immediately at her side and the monster rears back to strike again, all the while getting pelted with various weapons from the others.
Just as he’s about to call out a warning, Steve fucking Harrington makes a full run and slides in as if he’s a star baseball player. Billy figures that makes sense since he’s got that scary ass bat. Steve pops up, gets in his stance and delivers a hit that would be worthy of a home run anywhere else. But this is Hawkins. This is a mall. And Steve is facing a real monster, not a fucking pitcher and Billy is impressed anyway.
He runs forward and also begins attacking the creature. He sees Steve in his peripheral vision and actually tries to keep the nerds safe, focusing more on Max. He can only imagine what would happen if he goes home to his dad and Susan and tries to explain that Max was eaten by a monster at the mall. Granted, it would get him out of the house finally. Into a psychiatric hospital. Ah, who’s he kidding? They’d pin her death on him and he’d rot in prison for the rest of his life. Still might be a good option if he can hide from this crazy shit.
As Steve comes fully into his line of sight, he notices that the other boy is fading a bit, as if he’s being weakened. He frowns as Steve stumbles, but Billy is able to keep focus. He’s getting a little worried now. Steve is the one dealing out the big blows. Billy isn’t sure how he does it, but for some reason Steve is probably the most violent among them. Billy was fueled with rage when he went after Steve, but this is something else. Billy realizes as he watches Steve scream in rage and slam the bat, and a nail, right into the side of the creature’s head, that Billy fuels his rage with hate. And Steve? Well, he seems to be so desperate to protect the kids and the adults who are helping that hate is not even entering into how hard Steve fights.
Billy doesn’t really feel he has anyone to protect, except himself. Even keeping Max safe is a sort of self-preservation. As Steve yanks the bat free, Billy nearly gags at the pieces of flesh that come with it. The monster drops and he hears the kids cheer as they take out the last straggler who didn’t make it back before the Gate closed.
He goes over to the others and grimaces as he gets a pat on the back from Hopper. The kids wouldn’t dare touch him. They know he’s still as rotten as always and he’s fine with that. He doesn’t need their acceptance and doesn’t want it. Usually Steve is right there asking if everyone is okay, but he’s absent. Billy frowns at the others, who haven’t seemed to notice yet and looks around. He sees Steve standing where he was and looking at the felled monster. “Harrington?”
The others stop talking and follow Billy’s line of sight. Hopper takes a step forward. “Hey kid, you alright?”
Steve looks over at the group and smiles weakly, raising his hand to let them know he’s fine, but then he sways and Billy’s eyes widen as he clearly sees Harrington’s eyes roll back in his head. As he drops, Billy rushes forward. The others are still in shock, but Billy has always been quick to react. He’s had to in his home and he rarely thinks first about anything anyway.
He skids to a halt and looks at the brunette, bat off to the side of him. Billy kicks the bat away, making sure to avoid the nails and kneels down just as the others get to them. He shakes his shoulder gently. “Harrington?”
Hopper grabs Steve’s wrist to check for a pulse. “It’s weak. Anyone see him get hit?” He starts checking him over for injuries.
Billy notices how pale Steve is and is trying to keep his thoughts together, but the kids are all yelling and asking what’s wrong with Steve and Billy can barely concentrate on anything, especially not figuring out what’s wrong with the other teen. He tries to get them to stop asking the same fucking questions over and over again by actually answering them. “I don’t know. I don’t know! I don’t know! SHUT UP!”
Everyone stops talking then and even Hopper appears startled before going back to looking for injuries.
“Jesus! Everyone just shut the fuck up. Damn, shitheads….” He ignores the Wheeler kid asking who Billy thinks he is and tries not to smile when Dustin elbows Mike in the ribs and tells him to shut up so they don’t get killed or something because an angry Billy is a dangerous Billy. He feels good about that for just a second until Max reminds then that she can take him down if she has to.
Billy almost rolls his eyes. He’s pretty sure that he can kick her ass into next week if she doesn’t have her trusty sedative and Harrington’s bat. He looks up at Hopper. “Well?”
Hopper shakes his head. “Some areas where it’s clear he’s gonna have a lot of bruising and some cuts, scratches and gashes and shit, but the bleeding is under control. I don’t get it.”
Billy’s stomach growls then and he ignores it because seriously, who has time to eat when-
Billy looks at the others. “When did he eat?”
Lucas frowns. “What?”
“Food, shitbirds! We’ve been fighting for awhile and I know I ate today because Harrington practically shoved a granola bar in my mouth and tossed me a water bottle, but I didn’t see him with anything so… when did he eat?”
Max thinks about it. “He was trapped below the mall for a couple of days before this so-“
“A couple of days? You’re telling me that when he came upstairs last night he had already been missing for days” And nobody mentioned this to me, why?”
Dustin frowns. “It wasn’t important. You’re not even part of the Party. We don’t have to tell you anything!”
Eleven tilts her head in contemplation. “He helped. He can know things.”
Mike clenches his fists. “No, he can’t act like he cares now when he practically killed Steve last winter.”
Hopper grits his teeth. “Enough! We don’t have time for this. Billy asked a question. Has anyone seen him eat since he got back from the Upside Down?”
The others think for a bit and shake their heads, all recounting how Steve had made sure they ate during the breaks, but rarely took a break himself. Will speaks up. “He was drinking some water earlier, but not much. He had just opened the bottle and started to drink when he saw me. He gave it to me and said that I looked thirsty.” He shrugs. “He was the one making sure that I had food and water this whole time, but it was usually something that he had.”
The others agree that anytime Steve had sat down to eat, he’d seen one of them and gave them his food and/or water instead. They had all assumed that he had gone to get something for himself afterward, but now they weren’t so sure.
Billy looks down as Steve whimpers, starting to come to a little bit. He looks up at the kids. “Go find some water.” As the kids run off, he yells after them. “And something for him to eat!” He looks down at him again and then at Hopper. “Help me sit him up.”
He and Hopper maneuver him and Billy ends up cradling Steve’s head on his lap while leaning up against a pillar. He’s not thinking about how odd the situation is as his thoughts are only on the crisis at the moment. He shakes his head. “Damn, Harrington, you’re stupider than I thought.”
Hopper is about to say something to defend Steve, but then glances up and sees that Billy is looking down at the other boy and running his fingers through Steve’s hair in comforting gesture as Steve whimpers again.
Billy doesn’t even realize what he’s doing, but he remembers his mother stroking his hair when he was sick and this seems like a good time to do that. He marvels at how soft Steve’s hair is and nearly laughs at the memories of finding him in the bathroom after practice acting like a princess primping for a ball. Billy is too focused on the moment to enjoy the levity and starts to become nervous as Steve gets impossibly paler. “Come on, Harrington. All this fighting and you can finally rest, I get it. Adrenaline can keep people going for a long time, but you pushed too far and now you need to take care of yourself, alright?” He bites his lower lip. “Look, those brats aren’t going to make it without you. They’re stupid as fuck and reckless. And I’ve heard rumors that you’re like… the best babysitter in Hawkins so… Well, let me first say that being the best babysitter in Hawkins is super lame, but… regardless I guess you serve a purpose.”
Hopper stands up to avoid laughing at Billy and his attempt to rouse Steve. “I’m going to see what’s taking the kids so long. You got this?”
Billy continues stroking Steve’s hair and looks up slowly. “What? Oh… yeah, we’re good. Right, Harrington? But you gotta wake up. I’m getting bored.”
Hopper shakes his head and heads off to see if he can help find something. He’s almost certain the kids are arguing about nutritional value over something stupid. God, if it were up to the kids, they’ll end up bringing back gumballs and soda. He moves a little faster to intervene.
Billy looks down as Steve whimpers again, but this time in turns into a pained groan. “Hey… okay, come on… wake up for me. Let’s see those big brown eyes, pretty boy.”
Steve does open his eyes after a moment and he frowns in confusion. “Billy?”
“Yeah, hey… you’re gonna be alright. The kids are coming back with something for you to eat and some water, okay?”
Steve moans and shakes his head. “No… too tired to eat.”
“Fuck that. You’re eating. The kids said you haven’t eaten for days. How the hell does someone forget to eat?”
“Well… I was trying to… stay alive…” He starts to fade again but Billy shakes him softly and his eyes open wide. “Need to sleep…”
“No way. You’re not leaving me here to sit by myself.” He stops moving his hand through Steve’s hair, realizing how odd that must be. “Sorry.”
“Don’t… don’t stop.” He looks up at Billy. “Feels nice…”
Billy looks around to make sure they’re still alone. He doesn’t want anyone to know that he’s actually giving in to a request made by Harrington. “Yeah… yeah, alright.” He starts stroking his hair again. “But if I do this, you promise to stay awake.”
“Sure…” He opens his eyes again and this time they look fearful. “This is real, right? I don’t… I don’t want to be back there. I can’t…” His eyes fill with tears. “I saw you and they were going to take you and the others and I tried… I tried to get to you, but… I didn’t and… if you’re all dead then this isn’t real.”
Billy looks around, frantically hoping someone is coming back. “Harrington, that wasn’t real. This is.” He frowns. “Steve, look at me. I’m real. You came back and that weirdo chick closed that door or whatever and we all killed what came out with you. So… whatever you saw there… forget it.” He wipes at Steve’s tears. “And stop crying. You’re already dehydrated enough.”
Steve smiles softly. “You like me.”
“I absolutely do not.”
“We could have been friends.”
“In what universe?”
“You saw me as a rival and I wasn’t. I would have loved… loved to have a friend.”
Billy scoffs. “You had plenty of those, King Steve.”
“No… they just… they just used me. Everyone… uses me.” His eyes fill up again, but this time he also seems to start giving into the pull of sleep.
“Stay with me, Steve.” He looks around and then yells. “Hurry the fuck up!” He looks back down at Steve. “You’re going to be alright, but I can’t have you fading out on me. You’re kind of the hero of this story of monsters and darkness at the mall. I was thinking I could write it up for English class and get an A for my creativity, but… but if you die, you’re going to fuck it all up for me so… knock it off.”
“You’re a lifeguard… you can save me.”
“I’m a lifeguard who wants to get a tan for the summer and be around hot bitches in bikinis. If I’m going to do any mouth to mouth it’s going to be on Wheeler’s mom, not you.”
Billy grins. “Don’t knock it until you try it, princess. Older women… damn they know some shit and they’ve usually gone without anything good for awhile. Total animals in bed. It’s so worth the risk of getting killed by the husbands.”
Steve shakes his head. “Nancy's mom so...still gross.”
Billy hears the kids in the distance. “You, uh… you really wanted to be my friend?”
Steve looks up at Billy. “You… you were the only one who didn’t know me… well enough to only want… want to be my friend because of my money.”
“Money’s nice, though.”
“Not when you’re… you’re alone.” His mouth turns downward. “Nobody… nobody is there anymore. I… I have nobody. Just me and the big house… and the pool.” He shudders.
Billy considers it for a moment. “Maybe we can be friends, okay? I’ll try to be friends with you if you stay awake.”
Steve looks Billy in the eyes. “Promise?”
“Yeah fine. Promise.”
Billy frowns. “What?”
“I want to go to a movie. With you.”
Billy grins. “Like a date?”
Steve smirks. “Like a movie. And you buy the popcorn.”
Billy looks up as the others come running back. “Jesus, did you go plant the shit yourself and wait for it to grow? What took you so long?”
Lucas kneels down on the other side of Steve with a bottle of water. “Hopper sent us back. We weren’t sure if we should take things so Dustin was trying to find change so we could leave money.”
Billy looks at all of them with no expression. “Oh my God I hate you guys.” He holds out his hand. “Give me the water.”
Lucas reluctantly hands it over. “You’re no prize, either, Hargrove. Anyway, Hopper is calling Mrs. Byers to see if she can meet us at Steve’s house. It’s the biggest.”
Steve opens his eyes again. “I’ll buy dinner.”
Billy opens the bottle and lifts Steve up a little, already knowing that Steve is far too weak to hold the bottle himself. “Come on, up you go.” He holds the bottle to his lips and gently tips it so Steve can get a little bit of it. “Not too fast, princess.”
Dustin smiles. “You’re buying dinner? Awesome because I could really use a pizza.”
Billy glares at Dustin before turning his attention back to Steve. “Dinner? So this has become a dinner and a movie outing? You are asking me on a date, Harrington….”
“Okay, sure.” He turns away from the water. “You can feed me. Cuz you’re good at it.”
Dustin gasps. “Oh God… you’re dating Billy Hargrove?”
Billy sighs. “He’s just delirious right now. Relax.”
“Delirious?! I knew it! He’s going to die or be brain damaged or something! Shit, what the fuck are we going to do? Who’s going to tell his parents? I don’t even know them!”
Mike elbows Dustin. “Shut up! He’s not brain damaged. He’s just hungry. He’ll probably get an eating disorder now or something, though.”
“I don’t think that’s how it works.” Lucas frowns and then looks at Max. “Right?”
Max rolls her eyes. “Right.” She looks down at Billy. “I brought some oyster crackers from that Chinese place upstairs.” She hands them over.
Billy takes them. “Perfect. Thanks.” He ignores the comments about how Billy Hargrove actually used manners. “Steve? Come on…” He presses a cracker to his lips. “Take a bite, pretty.” He nods in satisfaction as Steve parts his lips and starts to chew the cracker. He keeps alternating the food and the water for at least half an hour. Hopper has returned by then and looks over the kids for any injuries and guides some lab folks in to clean up the mess.
Steve starts to look better after about 20 minutes, but he likes that he’s being fed so he doesn’t say anything. He moans as his body seems to be responding positively to some sustenance and he leans his cheek against Billy’s stomach just as it growls again. “Full…”
Billy sighs. “Alright, but we’re going to your place and I’m finding more stuff for you to eat. Deal?”
Steve nods. “Deal. But you have to eat, too.”
“I will when we get to your place.”
“You’re coming over? We can have a slumber party… I had them all the time when I was little.”
“Yeah? Lucky you. My dad never let me have people over.” He starts stroking his hair again, much to the shock and dismay of the kids.
Steve shrugs. “They never knew.”
Billy frowns. He gets that Steve is on his own a lot now, but it’s kind of shitty if he was left alone a lot as a kid. He looks up at Hopper. “Can you help get him up?”
Hopper leans in and carefully picks Steve up off the floor, letting him get his balance. Billy is up quickly and wraps his arm around Steve’s waist. “Okay, we’re going to walk out and get in the car. You can rest in the backseat.”
“No… wanna be up front with you.”
Billy rolls his eyes. “God, don’t get needy on me, Harrington. We’re trying out this friends thing, but if you get clingy, I’m kicking your ass to the curb.”
“You and Steve are friends now?” Dustin starts having a mini meltdown again.
“Shithead, get in the car. Max and Lucas, you, too.”
Hopper looks at the other three. “Nancy and Jonathan are meeting us so you three can go with me. Steve’s house should be large enough for all of us to regroup and debrief.”
Max grabs Steve's discarded bat as the others help Steve into the car. Once he's settled, Billy runs around to the other side and starts the engine. He looks over at Steve. “You feeling better?”
Steve nods. “I think so. I just… I couldn’t eat. I was hungry at first and then the idea of food made me sick and I just kept going… kept moving…” He looks over at Billy. “Thank you. For looking out for me.”
Billy meets his eyes for a moment and then looks away. “Yeah, well… didn’t feel like going to dinner and a movie by myself.” He can’t help the smirk that crosses his face.
Steve laughs. “Fair point.”
As they pull away to go to the house and put another adventure behind them, Max and Lucas laugh at the prospect of Steve Harrington and Billy Hargrove as friends and unintentional date partners.
Dustin looks at all of them like they’re crazy. “Oh my God…”