Chapter 1: Favor
“Mr. Harrington, there’s a Ms. Wheeler on the line for you.”
Steve groaned and put his head down on his desk.
Nancy only ever called him at work when it was an emergency with one of her clients . He reached out towards his phone and picked it up.
“This is Mr. Harrington,” he said in the fakest voice.
“I know, I know, I shouldn’t have called you at work, but I’m kind of in a bind and you are the only person I know living in Chicago.”
She sounded desperate.
“That’s a lie and you know it. What kind of legal trouble is your newest pet project in now?”
She was immediately silent—so not legal trouble then.
“When do you get off today?”
“You’re here ?”
“Yes, which is why I’m asking you to kindly allow me to visit one of my oldest friends, so again, when are you free today ?”
“Nance, the last time you asked to see me the same day you call, your client ended up robbing me and I had to move because she made a key for my apartment! So again, what do you need from me this time?”
He didn’t like the hitch in her breathing just then. It spoke volumes about her nervousness of the current situation.
“It really would be best if we talked in person.”
He sighed, making sure she heard his disdain for agreeing to go along with whatever she needed this time around.
“Fine, I’m off at four-thirty, but you will not show up until after five-thirty. I need a bit to unwind and prepare myself for whatever the hell you’re dragging me into this time around.”
“Great! We’ll see you then! I need your new address.”
He told her the street address and knew she’d figure out that she wasn’t getting in unless Henry gave the okay.
“You alright dear?” his secretary asked, poking her head into his office.
“Am I really that bad, Edith?”
“You’re too nice for your own good. It doesn’t hurt to tell people no. But I’ll have your proposals drawn up before you leave. It’ll be the blue folder on my desk.”
“You are a lifesaver, Edith! I have no idea what I’d do without you!”
“Nonsense Steve, you give an old woman like me purpose. All my kids are grown and out in the world, and here you are, still wet behind the ears, and lord knows your parents weren’t the greatest. It’s a win-win for both of us. How is Ms. Wheeler by the way?”
“Bringing me another one of her pets.”
“Celebrities are people too dear. Who is it this time?”
“She brings me all the ones with problems! One of them robbed me, took stuff right out of my apartment! I had to move! Another one ignored every piece of legal advice given to them and is now hiding somewhere on the other side of the world because they think they’re that entitled to freedom. This one, I don’t even know who it is, what they’ve done, or what I need to do!”
“I didn’t say they were all good people.”
She smiled and waved him off. She knows about every single one of Nancy’s pet projects that he’s been involved in. This will make number twenty-one.
“Thank you, Edith, you truly are the light of my life.”
“It’s three o’clock, two more hours and you can go home. The blue folder will have your proposal outlines.”
She turned and left the office to go to her desk right outside the door. She closed the door behind her—the woman is a saint.
Two more hours and Steve was going from one hell to another.
Steve knew the moment he stepped into his apartment building and saw the tight smile Henry was giving him that Nancy hadn’t listened to a goddamn word he said.
“Good evening Mr. Harrington, your guests are waiting for you in the elevator atrium.”
“Thank you, Henry, she’s a force to be reckoned with. Never one to follow the rules. Do give Enid my best!”
He shook out his nerves and headed towards the inevitable at this point.
“Steve! I know, I know, and I’m sorry, but we brought pizza and Chinese, I didn’t know which you’d want. Filming wrapped early today and I thought it’d just be easier to come straight here. I haven’t been here before.”
“No, you wouldn’t have been here before, but you know why I’ve had to relocate. Let’s hope this isn’t going to be a repeat performance. I like Henry. You’re lucky he let you in.”
Steve looked over her shoulder at the other man leaning against the wall, too casual. He was broad and not quite as tall as himself, and muscular. So some new up and coming star. That was Nancy’s specialty . And he looked like a complete tool.
“Oh, where are my manners! Steve, this is William. William, this is Steve.”
Steve held out his hand for a shake but William just kept holding up the wall. Steve made a face, one he didn’t care if it offended either of them or not, and pulled out his key, before pressing the elevator button.
Once inside the confined space, William’s cologne overwhelmed the small space around them. It wasn’t entirely un pleasant if Steve were to be honest with anyone. But he wasn’t going to share with the class so he put his key into the slot next to the button for floor 17.
The ride up was silent, but the small sounds Nancy and William made getting off the elevator and directly into Steve’s penthouse apartment was worth it. He’d take the small victories at this point.
“Since you’ve messed with my evening plans, I’ll give you two a quick moment to get comfortable in the kitchen. Help yourselves to anything in the fridge. I’m going to go change.”
He didn’t give them time to respond before he was heading off towards his bedroom. He hates that it’s on the east side of the building. He is not a morning person.
He hears them move around before he closes his bedroom door behind himself and presses his back against it and takes a few deep breaths.
She’s here with her client, to ask for a favor.
He’s trying to think of any newer actors that are trying to make something of themselves but they all look the same and if there’s any remote hint of truth to the tabloids, he doesn’t want any one of them to be in his kitchen right now.
He tugs his tie until he can pull it off over his head and tosses it on the bed, same with his shirt. He at least steps over to his dresser to remove his shoes, but his slacks end up in a heap near his laundry basket. He digs through his drawers to find a pair of gym shorts, not bothering to change shirts. He wasn’t sweaty and he didn’t care if he smelled like his office in his undershirt.
With steeled resolve, he exited his room and made his way to the kitchen. He stops and listens for a moment when he hears them talking to each other.
“Someone who lives like this isn’t going to follow your plan.”
“Oh, ye of little faith! Billy, Steve’s a great guy. I’ve known him practically our whole lives.”
“I’m telling you, Nance, he’s going to say no. He was wearing an Armani suit!”
“So, you wear them on press tours. Why are you so against this?”
Steve didn’t want to know the answer to that question, or what they were here to talk about, but like Edith told him, he’s too nice for his own good sometimes.
“Ah, I should’ve known you’d have found the Moscato Nance,” he said as he bee-lined for the fridge and pulled out a beer for himself.
She turned and grinned at me, “I can still drink you under the table!”
“So we eating first, getting more liquid courage, or can we just dive into whatever reason you’re here?”
“Shit man, you don’t do small talk, do you?”
Steve’s insides froze.
He recognized that voice.
William. Billy. Liam Mayfield was sitting in his kitchen.
He was going to kill Nancy Wheeler. He’d have to send Jonathan a fruit basket or something as an apology.
“Not when it comes to people in your line of work, William. I’ve had my fair share to last me a lifetime of headaches. Yet, here we are.”
“Boys! Steve, play nice. Billy, you’re not helping your case with that attitude.”
“It’s part of my charm, and definitely why we’re here in the first place;” Steve noticed how William sounded resigned in a way that he’s heard he’s a piece of shit his entire life.
“Oh my god, shut up! You’re hopeless!” Nance turned to Steve, “Okay fine, you want to just dive in, let’s dive in.”
Steve saw her point to a chair, which he realized was set for him, next to William at his island. He watched her drink down the last of her glass and slam it on the counter.
“Okay fine , we’ll do it your way Steve Harrington,” she spat out.
“ Steve , we’re here to make a proposal of our own. Let me get everything out before either of you say a word. Billy’s found himself in a bit of a pickle, and his team and I have decided that he needs to do something to help improve his image and reputation.
“He’s got a bit of a playboy, California bad boy thing, going on, and it’s begun to impact job choices for him. He’s getting type-cast and that’s usually a death sentence this early in someone’s career. He’s here doing something on an independent film level, which is why we’re at a hotel and not in an apartment like he usually is.
“I know you don’t read tabloids, and you could care less about our little corner of the world out in Hollywood, Steve, but I need you to understand that what I’m about to ask you, it’s going to put you out there , in that little corner of the world.
“Liam Mayfield is his stage name, we , and by we, I mean myself and his management team, feel that in order for him to truly regain any semblance of stability, he needs to show the world Billy, Billy Hargrove .
“I’m about to ask you for a huge favor, and you have every right to tell me no and to get the fuck out if that’s how you feel, but please, just think it over before you say anything.”
She looked at Steve expectantly. She wanted a response.
He gestured for her to continue.
“We wanted to tackle this from an approach that would explain away his playboy behaviors, and that’s when you came to mind. Not you specifically, you came later, but we wanted to allow Billy to show the world himself and that includes letting the world know that he’s bisexual. He prefers males in relationships, but females when it comes to flings.”
Steve felt his stomach drop. Fuck .
“You came to mind because you don’t give a shit about what anyone thinks of you. You wouldn’t care if you were to be outed, because let’s be real, you weren’t exactly candid in high school about your romps around the school, boys and girls alike, and that was in the shithole small town we come from.
“We can say you guys met a few years ago on a vacation; Jon will come and do photos for us, make it believable. You’re settled into your career Steve, you’re ready to settle down, and Billy’s was just taking off, and he didn’t know if he could handle the pressures of living so far away from you, let alone allowing the world to know that he’s in love with a man, since all the tabloids have picked up on are his flings with women.”
Steve’s slightly impressed. She’s thought this through. Thoroughly.
He glances over at Willam, no Billy , who’s just pushing the food around his plate, looking like he’d rather be anywhere else but here.
Nancy’s still talking, “We’re trying to sell this current project as a means for him to come and see you. So we’ll need you to pretend to be in a long-term, off-and-on-again relationship. You have your reservations because of the tabloids, and his supposed flings with all those women. Billy’s had this talk, and we’re here really just to see what your answer is, and if it’s a yes, then how compatible we can get the two of you to be.”
Steve watched her watching him.
“What would you need me to do, exactly? Lay it out for me in terms and conditions.”
“You don’t have to do this Mr. Harrington,” Billy said.
Steve couldn’t look at him.
Nancy cut in, “We are requesting public appearances together, dates, grocery shopping, and if The Party visits while he’s here, their involvement too.”
“You’re not putting them out there, not like that , and definitely not like a stupid ploy to make some modern-day James Dean look like a decent human being.”
He hadn’t meant to sound so harsh, but he was protective of those kids. Well, young adults now, but they would always be his kids.
“Relax, I’ve talked to them, well, I spoke to Mike, and he filled the rest in. You know they took after you, not giving a shit about what anyone thinks about them. Call Dustin if you don’t believe me.”
Steve took a long drink from his beer, “So what, we’re supposed to just be boyfriends, and act all happy together to sell that he’s changed his ways? Why would you agree to something like this?”
He hadn’t realized he’d directed that last question directly to Billy.
He watched as Billy finally slid his sunglasses up to the top of his head and their eyes finally met, and oh , Steve thought, they’re really blue.
“ Because , Mr. Harrington, this is what I want to do with my life. I, it’s, uh, it’s come to my attention that I need to grow the fuck up and, and accept and own my shitty life choices up until now.”
Steve was not prepared for that kind of honesty. Not from one of Nancy’s pets.
He ignores Billy for the moment and turns his attention back to Nancy, “Those are the terms, what are the conditions?”
“Well, you’ll need to actually sell this as a relationship, one you’re both comfortable being in, so that means whatever displays of affection you both agree on as acceptable in public. There will need to be proof of this being real. We can cancel the hotel and have Billy stay here. Jon’s coming in Tuesday, so you’ll have to be free for some photos that day; sorry for the short notice.”
“Fuck, Nance, I have a trial starting Friday, the senior partners are actually letting me consult on, shit.”
She raised her hands, “Steve, we can, look, you can say no. I know th—”
“I need to call Edith. Can I have a minute?”
She nodded and he bolted.
He slammed his door shut and dug through his slacks on his bed before getting a phone out of his pocket and dialed one of the few numbers he actually knew by memory.
“I’m sorry to call you after work Edith, but I need your advice.”
“Of course sweetheart, what can I do for you?”
“You know the call from Nance earlier? Well, she needs me to pretend to be her current pet’s boyfriend . Like we have to take photos together, go out on dates, and he has to stay here, with me, at my apartment.”
“Steve, take a deep breath and count to ten for me.”
So he does.
“Good, now, tell me about this young man.”
“Uh, it’s, it’s Liam Mayfield.”
“Damn kid, he’s beautiful, but I hope the tabloids aren’t based off any truth, his reputation precedes him. It won’t be easy, but you strike me as the type that can handle challenges. Now, I want you to be honest, do you want to do this?”
“I think I’m just tired of being lonely that I’m thinking about accepting this favor just to have someone else in my space.”
“Stevie, sweetie, just be careful. You wear your heart on your sleeve, and it’s been a while since you’ve been with anyone, even if this is just going to be pretend.”
“Thanks, Edith, I’ll treat you to lunch tomorrow.”
“I hope you know if any photos of you end up in the papers, I’m going to post them on my fridge, and I might even put one on my desk at work.”
He felt himself flush but he smiled.
He knew he was always going to tell Nancy yes because he’s always had a hard time telling her no.
Chapter 2: Princess
He heads back out to the kitchen and asks, “Can I talk to Billy alone?”
Nancy looks between them both before walking off in a direction that’s not here in the kitchen with them.
He looks at Billy, notices the other man is tense.
“Why did she choose me? For real.”
Billy sighed, “Because out of a line-up of photos of potential options she came up with, I picked your photo off her desk. You weren’t even an option. I asked her why you were off limits, and she told me because you’re her best friend. Then she told me about your history with each other, and then about your kids.
“I’m not going to pretend that I’m all about this situation, but as I told you earlier, I’ve found what I’m passionate about and I want to do this for the rest of my life. I make stupid choices, I had a rough home life growing up, but I can’t imagine you’d know anything about hardships.”
“You don’t know anything about me!” Steve blurted out, a bit more defensive than he had any right to be.
Billy smirked, “You live in a penthouse of one of the most expensive buildings in Chicago. You go to work in Armani, and based on your briefcase, I’d say that’s more than my car will ever be worth. You like music because I haven’t noticed a television, so you don’t have time to sit and watch something, but you don’t like quiet—that’s a very nice sound system.
“You’re Nancy Wheeler’s best friend since you were like six, she doesn’t keep people in her life she doesn’t deem worthy of her time and affections. If she’s willing to come nearly across the country to ask you a favor in person, face-to-face, you’re someone she deems very worthy.
“You don’t have a lot of photos up, but you do have a lot of artwork, originals if the quick glances I’ve gotten of them are anything to go by. They’re by someone you care about otherwise they wouldn’t litter up so much wall space. Probably one of your kids; there’s progression throughout them.
“I know you don’t care about who I am and what I do, but I also know that you wouldn’t ask to speak to me if you weren’t going to agree to this sham of a relationship. Which I will fuck up because that’s what I do—I always fuck things up.”
He rubbed his hands over his face, “Mr. Harrington, I chose you because Nancy gave me her word that you’re one of the most genuine people she’s ever met, and I could use that in my life. Who knows, you might just make me a better person.”
Steve was gobsmacked. He had never been so easily read before. Or maybe he had and just never paid attention until now.
He squared his shoulders, “Then we set our boundaries now . With the exception of the photos Jon will be taking, you will stay in your own room. With my line of work, I’m not huge on public displays of affection, however, I am not ashamed of who I am seen out in public with. I’ll allow hand holding, hands on lower backs, and small intimate touches, to make it seem like it’s normal for us to be in each other’s spaces.
“Mr. Hargrove, my work is very important to me; that’s something we both have in common. That being said, unless you give me enough notice for our supposed date nights, I will be at the office or the courthouse more often than I am here. I will let you know that any staff of this place, you will treat with the utmost respect as that’s how I treat them. I greet them with their name, a smile, a hello, and wish them a good day or night, depending on when I see them.
“I cook for myself more often than I order out, but if you’re not up for waiting until I’m home for late meals, feel free to do as you please. I’ve never really shared my space with many people; I don’t particularly allow myself the luxury of relationships in general. I don’t have the time.”
“Will you draw up contracts then? Or have Nancy do it?”
“Who’s to say she hasn’t already drafted them?”
Steve appreciated their little moment of back and forth just now. He offered Billy a small smile.
“I’ll go let her know we’re done. Please make yourself comfortable, it needs to be plausible you’ve been in my space before today.”
He walked off towards the other end of his house, knowing exactly where he’d find Nancy Wheeler. In his study, sitting at his piano. He wonders if Billy knows how to play, or even what his reaction will be to seeing it for the first time.
“Why do you have a broken piano?”
He sat down beside her and lifted the small compartment door that hid the controls, “It’s a silent piano. Meaning I won’t disturb anyone with my shitty playing in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep.”
“So, how’d the chat with Billy go?”
“I assume you already have contracts made up?”
She nudged him with her shoulder, “I am not that predictable, but yes, yes I do.”
She put her hand on his forearm and brought his attention solely to her, “Steve, I do, I shouldn’t, uh, you have no idea how much this means to me. Can we, can we talk for a moment, please?”
She let out a deep breath, “It’s not my place to tell you this, but you know, sometimes I can’t help myself; Billy’s had a bit of a shitty upbringing. I’ve heard messages from his dad, the guy’s a dick of massive proportions. I can’t tell you that underneath his asshole tendencies there’s a decent guy underneath because I’ve known him for three years and I haven’t seen much else.
“I just, be careful, please? You wear your heart on your sleeve and I don’t want you to get attached to him. You fall hard and fast, and that’s been my concern since he looked over all the photos on my desk, and then up to the one of you in a frame and he picked it up and said, ‘him.’ It’s, it’s the photo of you and the kids at El’s eighteenth birthday party.
“All the women he’s been with, when we’ve had to run damage control, they’ve all said he’s charming, very sweet and extremely considerate of their needs, but he sometimes wouldn’t follow through. Which if any of them start talking once photos of the two of you start to appear, could be a selling point, but I’d hate to have to put him in that kind of predicament.”
“What exactly are you trying to tell me? Or ask me? I don’t have to sleep with him, that’s not part of any of our negotiations.”
She sighed, “I know, I’m just trying to say, in a nice way, if some hot chick started saying you couldn’t get it up while fooling around, do you think you’d take to that kindly?”
“No, but if that’s the case, I can immediately call for slander and have her pay a hefty fine.”
“That’s nepotism, Steve.”
“I’d be the doting partner that you’re trying to sell me as. Besides, it’s not the first time I’ve had to pull slander on, or against for that matter, your silly little pets. Where will you be during this charade?”
“The hotel; it’s a long term kind of stay place. We’re here for three months. The premier is in four, which you will be attending together. That’s non-negotiable.”
“Fine. Are we done here?”
She took her cue and got up and left Steve to his own devices.
Was he really going to do this? Pretend to date Liam Mayfield? Sure the guy was fucking gorgeous, but even Steve had heard of his reputation.
They both would have eye candy for the next three months.
He got up from the piano and went to the window that overlooked the city. Taking in all the lights coming on as the sun set.
It had been down for a while before he heard her voice again, “You’re still brooding at the window and have the nerve to call me dramatic?”
He flipped her off.
“Does he have things to add his own personal touch here?”
“You could go and ask him yourself. I set him up in the guest room just off the kitchen. I hope that’s okay.”
He nodded. Opposite ends of his apartment, it suited him just fine.
“I’m sure if you asked him yourself, you guys would get a lot more accomplished than having me be the middle man. He’s in his room, if you want, I can run to the hotel; pack up some stuff for him. Give you guys a bit to adjust to each other alone.”
Steve nodded, “You could’ve given me a heads up on who you were bringing me this time.”
“Where would the fun be in giving away the surprise? You get to play house with, outside of his shitty reputation, one of the most beautiful men in Hollywood right now. Do you know how many people fantasize about being with him?”
“Do you ? Does Jon know ? Does Jon want in on the action too?”
She just smiled, “I don’t share well with others; you know this from experience.”
“Is an hour too much, or should it be two? I’m out of my element here Nance; I haven’t had much time for dating these last few years.”
She approached Steve and hugged him from behind. “Steve, I meant it when I told him that you are one of the most genuine people I have ever met and know. If anyone messes this up, it’s going to be Billy. That’s not a stab at him, he’s emotionally dense, which makes no sense because if you watch some of the films where he’s the romantic interest, he’s so good at pretending to be in love.”
“And here I am, the world’s worst boyfriend with a heart of gold, and yeah, okay, I get it now why you and Edith are always telling me to be careful with people. It’s pretend; it shouldn’t be that hard to not get feelings involved. I’ve got the big case coming up, and you’ll be just across the city should something happen.”
“I’ll put dinner away, and then once I’m done, I’ll give you guys an hour before returning with his belongings. I’ll come up with a list of items he has in his apartment back home that we could buy a duplicate of to put up around here, sound doable?”
She pulled away, “It’s only until after the premiere, then you guys can decide how you want things to end, but just be mindful that his reputation needs to remain intact.”
Steve let Nance get a few steps away before heading off towards the room she’d told him she put Billy up in. They could do this. He could do this. It was all just pretend.
He knocked on Billy’s bedroom door and heard a faint, “Come in,” before opening the door. Steve noticed the other man was sprawled across the bed like a starfish.
Steve took a breath and let it out slowly before he spoke, “Hi, I uh, I wanted to know what kind of things you wanted to add around the apartment to make it look like you uh, live here too. Nance is packing up left-overs and then heading to the hotel to gather up your things. I also figured we could use the time she’s gone to see how comfortable we are with each other. Establish boundaries and whatnot.”
Billy hadn’t even turned his head at Steve’s entrance into the room. Didn’t even look at him as he spoke.
“I’m willing to help you out; you just have to let me know what you want from me. I don’t mind footing the bill for whatever things you want to get for here. We can even convert this room to whatever it is you want it to be to make you comfortable. I’m nervous too, which is why I’m still talking, it’s something I do, but not at work, which is weird, but I, I know we’re in an awkward situation, but we can make it comfortable for ourselves.”
Billy finally looked over at him, “You’re willing to spend your own money on things for me, just to make me comfortable?”
“ That’s what you focus on?
“No, I get you’re freaking out internally, and I also know you know exactly who I am, Mr. Harrington. Outside of acting, I’ve never had much time for actual relationships. That’s been my whole life. I’m sure Nance was the over-sharer she tends to be and told you I had a shitty upbringing. My old man wasn’t too fond of the part of me that likes boys. Don’t pity me; get that look off of your face, right now!”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize; sometimes my face just makes expressions.”
Billy stared at Steve with a brow raise, “I also know that you agreed to do this because you’re tired of being lonely.”
“ I’m not the one who needs to rebuild their entire reputation for the sake of their career. I’d think long and hard about how you want to treat me outside of our public appearances together. I can still just walk away.”
He smirked at Steve, “There you are. I was wondering when you were going to come out and let me see you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Calm down, Princess, I just meant it’s nice to see some fire in your eyes. I like passion in others; it’s a hobby of mine.”
“ Don’t call me Princess.”
“What can I call you then?”
“What do you usually call your flings?”
Steve didn’t like the shrug Billy gave.
“I usually didn’t call them anything because I usually didn’t even know their name.”
“Oh. Uh, well, if you had your ideal relationship, what kind of pet names would you use?”
“You ask a lot of questions.”
“It’s part of my job.”
Billy’s lips twitched, almost like a small smile; “In a perfect world, I’d like to think I’m old school and would like to call my partner darling or sweetheart. I don’t know if I’d want to call them baby, or babe, but I wouldn’t mind if they called me either of those. What about you?”
Darling. Sweetheart. Fuck .
Steve shrugged, “I honestly don’t know. I tend to just say whatever comes out of my mouth.”
“What did you call Nancy?”
Steve felt his face burn, “I don’t...that’s... why ?”
“Because if you call me that same pet name, she’ll either shit a brick or really buy what we’re trying to sell here.”
“She’ll shit a brick, and then kick both of our asses.”
“It can’t be that bad. Come on, use a line on me, pretty boy.”
Something inside of Steve twisted at that name; “In your bedroom?”
Billy smirked and opened his arms wide; “Why not, what’s a boy like you got to offer?”
This was going to be a long four months.
“You want me to show you what I’d do?”
“No time like the present, Princess.”
Steve could do this. It was just pretend.
He just had to show Billy how he would treat him if he were actually his boyfriend.
Steve hated how right Edith and Nancy are. He really does wear his heart and emotions out for the world to see.
He can’t help it. So he heads to the door of Billy’s room and gives the other man a nod before going into the hallway. He leaves the door cracked just enough to give him a moment to gather his wits and to get ready to put on a show.
And he did.
Steve knocked on the door with a soft, “Hello, Dearest,” upon seeing Billy seated on the bed. He crossed the room with a smile that lit up his entire face and reached out to gently caress Billy’s cheeks with his hands as he leaned in to press a soft kiss to the other man’s forehead. He cradled Liam Mayfield’s head in his hands as if he were the most precious thing in Steve’s life.
Billy just stared up at him.
Steve felt his entire body flush with embarrassment.
Billy’s ears were pink, “ Damn , Princess, I’ve never felt so cherished in my entire life.”
“Isn’t that the point, make it believable?”
“I don’t think you’ll have a problem pretending to be the doting boyfriend. Do you treat all your partners like that?”
“I, I uh, uh, haven’t really dated anyone since Nancy, and I know that sounds really pathetic, and makes me look like I still hold a flame for her, but I don’t. I haven’t since the night I saw her and Jon at the SnowBall. She was happy. I never made her smile like he can, and that’s not my fault. Plus she emotionally cheated on me with him. They technically didn’t do anything physical together until after I broke up with her.”
“Then why are you still friends with them?”
“We grew up in a small town; grudges weren’t really a thing you could hold onto if you wanted any friends. I know how to make them feel really guilty still, so I can’t really complain. She doesn’t let him call her that name. Shit happened, and they were better for each other because of it. I got the kids out of it, so it’s a win for me. They made me the better person I am.”
“Hold up, you haven’t had sex since high school?”
“Not that it’s your business, but I didn’t say that. My experiences may not be as vast as your own, but I’m not a nun. But what about you, how would you greet your partner after a long day? Or a trip from doing a shoot?”
“It’d only be fair to be given the same circumstances, so if you don’t mind, have a seat,” Billy said patting the bed beside him.
Steve sat down and watched Billy get to his own feet and cross the room to the door.
Steve only waited a moment before he heard a soft knock on the door before it was pushed open a little and Billy’s head peeked around it. He watched as the other man glanced around the room as if looking for Steve and when his eyes landed on him, Steve was shocked that the color blue had changed.
He could only watch as something bloomed across Billy’s face and the man walked across the room, pulling Steve to his feet and pulling him close, resting his forehead against his own. Billy closed his eyes as his hands began to softly rub up and down Steve’s back as if he were testing and making sure that Steve was really here in his arms.
He feels Billy shift his head, nuzzling off towards Steve’s left ear, “God, I missed you, sweetheart. It’s so good to be home .”
Steve could tell in the way that Billy said home he wasn’t talking about a physical location, at least not anywhere else but in the arms of the one he loves.
“That’s it?” Steve asks.
He can feel Billy smirk against his jawline, “Of course not Princess. Then I’d kiss the fuck out of him and beg him to let me ride his dick. It’s been too long. I’d be so happy to finally be back home with him.”
“I almost felt special but then you had to go and talk about dick riding.”
Billy pulled back with a laugh, “You’ve never been ridden before Stevie? Shit man, it’s one of my favorite things.”
“Again, I didn’t say that.”
He let out a small laugh. “Okay, okay, I get it, you’re a prude. No harm no foul. I’ll rein it in, I promise.”
“I’m not a prude; I have standards. I don’t just fuck anything with a pulse. I’m not saying you do, I’m just saying I’m not one of those people who can just fall into bed with anyone and not have repercussions.”
“You calling me a slut, Mr. Harrington?”
Steve smiled and laughed. “Yes.”
Billy smiled too. “At least we know our senses of humor mesh well together.”
“I have a high pain tolerance, you’re not that funny.”
“Oh, I like you. You’re my new favorite person.”
Steve and Billy shared another smile before Steve excused himself from Billy’s space.
Maybe they could become friends after all.
Chapter 3: Forty-Eight
He groaned and stretched and immediately felt embarrassed. He’d done the one thing he swore he’d never do. He completely ignored his alarm.
He went to the nearest corner store last night and bought all the tabloids he could find that had something about Liam Mayfield in them.
Outside of being ridiculously photogenic, and extremely gorgeous when he cleaned up, Billy really had a horrible image to rectify. Steve glanced on his nightstand as he sat up and noticed he’d apparently taken notes.
A minimum of forty-eight women have some claim about being with him in some sexual capacity.
He’s grateful he chose the paper route and not have that kind of traceable search in his phone.
His two favorite titles were Liam Mayfield: Is his career already over? and Liam Mayfield: Does his bad-boy persona hide a boy-next-door? Nobody just thinks the guy's an asshole. He is glad to see that he made note that at least five other people have made the same kind of James Dean remark he did.
It’s only been a few days and Steve’s still not sure if he made the right choice in agreeing to do this favor for Nancy. And Billy.
He’d almost clobbered the other guy with the baseball bat he keeps near the door because he’d forgotten in his sleep stupor that someone else was living in his space.
He asked Henry just yesterday if he could get a spare key set made for the elevator and fob for the front door. He didn’t like the smile Henry gave him when he assured him he’d have it taken care of when he got home from work. Even more so when Henry told him that Enid was a big fan of his boy’s.
Steve’s always been terrible at cooking for one so he’s always had leftovers, but he’s been courteous and making a little extra. Billy had told him that they were going to be doing a few night shoots for the film so his hours would be weird. But Billy’s always eaten whatever was left for him and even cleaned up the dishes afterward. Nancy always leaves her dirty dishes in the sink.
He knew what today was. He and Jon had met for drinks after work yesterday. Nancy and Billy were still doing filming.
Jon had told him that he’d make sure the photos being taken today were tasteful and nothing to be embarrassed about. He’d also been able to find older photos of the two of them and manipulate stock photos and whatever genius shit the guy did with photos and computers. Nancy was serious about this being a relationship that was years old.
He’d have to get through half a day’s work and just a few hours of Billy and him pretending to be in love.
He was grateful that he was able to leave at lunch today. Friday was a clusterfuck. People who can afford the firm he works for, should really, really, really read the fine print. EVeryone's asses are on the line so everyone needs to make sure their I's are dotted and their T's are crossed. Not to mention all the clauses his firm used had clauses of their own. The fine print was important for a reason.
But Monday , yesterday, that was a shit show.
“I like what I’m seeing, keep it up, Mr. Harrington.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Steve waved the senior partners out of his office and the moment the door closed behind them he sank into his chair because his knees got weak and his legs were shaky.
He’d been distracted since this morning and wasn’t even sure how he’d gotten through the presentation with his new client.
He’d spent far too long in the shower, but if he were being honest with himself it was how easy he’d forgotten that someone else was in his home.
He’d gotten out of the shower and wrapped a towel around his waist and headed to the kitchen for his morning coffee.
A choking sound caught him off guard and he immediately focused on Billy sitting at the island eating a bowl of cereal -- he didn’t know he even had cereal. Then he realized that Billy was sitting in only a pair of gym shorts. And immediately felt himself blush all the way down to his belly button.
“Morning,” Billy choked out. Ears tinging pink.
Steve could only nod like an idiot.
“Uh, yeah, morning. I uh, I’m still, I’m not used to someone else being here. Sorry.”
He ignored the once over Billy gave him.
“I don’t mind if you don’t mind.”
Steve just nodded again and turned around to make himself a cup of coffee.
His phone rang and the ID said it was SECURITY. He shook his head to clear his thoughts about
“This is Mr. Harrington, what’s up guys?”
“Uh, Mr. Harrington, we, we have someone downstairs claiming that they’re uh, they’re here to pick you up.”
“You guys have a name for me?”
Steve could hear the security guys talking to each other before he hears a very familiar voice.
“It’s me, sweet pea. I wanted to surprise you but these gentlemen didn’t believe me when I told them who I was here for.”
Steve was grateful for twenty-seven floors being between him and Billy at the moment. His face was burning.
“He’s good guys. Please bring him up. I’ve got something to finish up before I can head out.”
Steve immediately buzzed for Edith. She quickly came into his office, closing the door once again.
"He's here ! He's here to take me home! Edith, what the hell is he doing?"
She just smiled and laughed softly at him. “He’s putting on the show you two are meant to be putting on. Walt would surprise me some days by swinging by to pick me up. It’s very sweet. Romantic even.”
Steve could tell she was enjoying watching him squirm.
“He’s an asshole, Edith! Sorry, language, I know, but he’s, he was almost naked at my counter yesterday!”
She smiled and kept laughing, “Steve, sweetie, just enjoy the attention from a very beautiful man. Tell Jon to make sure I get a cute picture for my desk.”
Steve narrowed his eyes at her and then just slumped over, banging his head on his desk.
“Oh, now you’re just being a child. Listen, he’s obviously arrived, I can hear everyone getting antsy out there. Get yourself together Mr. Harrington.”
He looked up at her nodded. Watched her slip out the door, leaving them cracked just enough to hear Billy’s arrival.
"I'm sorry, but Mr. Harrington doesn't have any appointments on the books this late in the day."
"Mrs. Jones, this is a Mr. Liam Mayfiend here to escort Mr. Harrington home."
"Do you happen to have identification on you young man? I can't just let anybody walk into Mr. Harrington's office. Did you do your jobs Desmond Ray, and Beckett Earl? You both know better than to just waltz someone up to this floor without properly identifying them. Now, young man, your identification card, please?"
Steve couldn’t love anyone more than he loved Edith in this moment. She knew exactly who was standing at her desk and still treated him just as severely as she did anyone who dared approach his office without an appointment or being one of the higher-ups. No one got passed Edith if she didn't want them to.
He heard Billy’s voice and took a deep breath.
“Sure thing ma’am.”
"Thank you, Liam Mayfield . Oh, from California I see, is it nice out there? I've heard wonderful things. I'll need to make a copy dear, company visitor policy and all."
Steve had gathered himself and opened the door the moment he heard Edith’s desk chair squeak.
"Don't bother Ms. Edith. Liam should've known better than to come and pick me up. Hello, Dearest,” he said, stepping into Billy’s space and placing a chaste kiss to the other man’s cheek.
"Hi, Love. I finished earlier than expected and I wanted to surprise you.” Billy even looked a little sheepish.
"You've met Edith, the light of my life. Dez and Beck, shame on you for making Edith break out your middle names! Thank you for treating Billy like a normal person though. I appreciate it. Now, if you'll excuse us, I apparently have a home to be taken to. Have a good evening guys."
Billy casually put his hand on the small of Steve’s back, then took his briefcase to carry for him. Steve had never had someone be so attentive to him before.
They both ignored the stares and whispers that followed them to the elevator bay and once they were enclosed in the doors of an elevator did Steve let out the breath he’d been holding.
“Damn Princess, you didn't tell me you were at this posh of a firm. I don't even think my management team could afford your time."
“You can let go of me now.”
“Cameras pretty boy. Cameras.”
Steve just rolled his eyes and forced himself to get used to the feeling of the heat of Billy’s arm and hand on the small of his back.
"How much is an hour of your time anyway?"
"Why? Interested in buying some of my time, Mr. Hargrove?"
He laughed, "Not today."
Steve noticed that Billy dropped his hand from his back but took up fiddling with the fingers of the hand between them. It was nice. He could at least grudgingly admit to that.
“This was uh, Nancy’s idea,” Billy started, “She said it'd most likely piss you off, but it would at least get your office creeps off your back for asking about coffee dates."
Steve laughed to himself, fucking Nancy Wheeler.
"No, I, uh, I didn't mind it as much as I thought I would if that makes sense? I mean, it would come out some way or another right?"
"Still, for what it's worth, I'm sorry for springing this on you."
"It's really no big deal,” Steve said, squeezing Billy’s hand, “I'll probably have a million of notes on my desk tomorrow, lots of questions they want to be answered, but nothing that a sharp look and a comment about this being our workplace to knock 'em all back into shape."
"Can I ask if you were planning on cooking tonight? You're actually very good at it. I haven't eaten this well since, mmm, well, it's been a while."
"I actually was planning on making something, Nancy and Jon will be around. They both eat too much take out that I can't stand to let them be in my home and not have a cooked meal for them."
“He does good work. I’ve worked with him a few times before. I didn't know he was the Jon from all of Nance's stories though. That was a lightbulb moment for me the first time I ever saw them together. Odd couple, but they make it work."
Steve could only nod.
As soon as the elevator reached the ground level and the doors opened Billy put his hand back on the small of Steve’s back and leaned in close, “Nobody knows I'm here, there shouldn't be anyone with a camera loitering outside. I uh, I have a car waiting too, if you don't mind."
“Thank you, Billy. I appreciate it."
Steve could tell the smile he was given was genuine.
It was only a matter of fifteen minutes before Steve found himself being ushered into his own building by his boyfriend . Billy had told him in the car ride over that he’d given Nancy and Jon the spare key set Steve had given him to get whatever areas staged they wanted set up.
Henry greeted both of them by name and was surprised when Billy was the one to ask about Enid by her name and if she was going to make another batch of her peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Steve gave Henry and offended look. Enid never made anyone but him cookies!
“She’s a big fan, Mr. Harrington. I won’t interfere with whatever makes her happy.”
“Yes love, besides, I saved you some. Thank you, Henry, do send her our best to Enid,” Billy said and led them towards the elevators.
When the doors shut Steve stepped away from Billy and looked at him, “You, you spoke with Henry at length?”
“You asked me to treat the staff here as you do. I did my homework, Mr. Harrington. I’m merely doing what you asked of me.”
Steve didn’t know what to say to that so he was beyond grateful the doors had opened up to his apartment.
It was short-lived, however, because Nancy was right there waiting for them.
Steve just stared at her to which she just rolled her eyes.
“He’s in a mood Nance,” Billy offered.
Steve was struck at someone outside of himself and Jonathan calling her Nance.
“Snap out of it Steve, we’re jumping in with these photos. To the living room please.”
She turned and led them to the living room where Jon had set up a few items that made it appear that both of their styles were always present in the room.
“Oh, hey guys, I uh, I hope you don’t mind but I kind of had to get some things from your rooms to stage a few scenes.”
Neither of said anything but Steve just nodded and shrugged.
“Okay, can we uh, can we put a record on and have you two dance around the living room? Slow and steady, pretend like I'm not even here."
Before Steve could say anything Billy had made a bee-line for Steve’s sound system. He watched him thumb through some of the old vinyls and couldn’t see which one he chose but the moment he heard the first notes of the song, “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” he laughed.
Billy just turned and smiled and crossed the room to Steve and held out his hand as if in a silent request for a dance. Steve put his hand in his and let the other man lead him around his own space.
“Remember guys this isn’t supposed to be an awkward middle school dance! Get closer together and pretend I’m not even here.”
Steve let Billy arrange them closer together. His cologne was still present but not as strong as it was that first day. Still not unpleasant to Steve's senses.
Steve started humming along and Billy started to sing softly along. He had a very nice voice.
They ignored the soft clicks and flashes. Noting that Jon was switching between actual cameras and cell phones.
"Is it awful to say this is one of my favorite songs?" Billy had said softly as they swayed together, pressed in close.
“No, I’d be a hypocrite if I said otherwise. My grandma adores Elvis. She got to meet him when she was younger, like fifteen or sixteen. Her and her friend were walking around and saw him coming out of a store. She said he was very nice and had a nice chat with them.”
When the song ended Jon asked Steve if this apartment had a balcony.
“Uh, yeah, it, it’s just the only access is through my bedroom.”
Jon smirked, “Shouldn’t be a problem then, you know since you’re living together and all.”
Steve flipped him off. Jon just laughed.
"Shit! I need to grab a few things from my room, give me a sec guys and I'll meet you in Stevie's room."
He was gone in an instant.
"You sure he's just pretending, Stevie ?" Jon asked; "I'm serious, he plays being into you very well, and that's not just me saying anything because I've worked with him before; he's very good at switching his characters on and off. I've met Liam and Billy . Billy seems pretty into you. Liam is in love with you, but that's supposed to be the point here, but I'm telling you, man, Billy might have a bit of a crush on you."
"It's a pretend relationship Jon, nothing's going on. If it is, it's one-sided. Outside of a pretty package and intelligent brain, he's really not my type. At all."
Steve was about to retort but heard approaching footsteps and noticed Billy had an armful of his own belongings.
"We gotta make it look like we share your room, right, if only for a few photos?"
Jon nodded and Steve just shrugged. Too caught up in Jon’s thoughts about Billy.
Steve watched the two of them stage the few belongings Billy brought with him. Steve noted them both taking the time to stage clothes hanging haphazardly out of the hamper and an extra pillow and blanket on the bed.
Steve didn’t even have to tell them that he preferred the right side, Billy had automatically gone for the left side. Even stacking a few books on the nightstand. He didn’t want to think about that too much.
“So what did you have in mind?” he asked. Wanting the distraction of the photoshoot to keep him from thinking about anything going on.
Jon had wanted some staged and some natural photos.
"Definitely a few staged poses of the two of you on the bed, intimacy is a must, but obviously keeping things PG. So maybe some spooning while you're reading, Billy. Maybe with Steve in your arms as he pretends to be sleeping while you're reading. Your bed clothing is your choice, but keep it as natural to yourselves as possible."
"I usually just sleep in a pair of sweats or jersey shorts."
They both looked at Steve expectantly for an answer.
"I tend to sleep in my underwear, but for the sake of the photos, I can be in a pair of pajama bottoms."
Jon smirked before waving his arm, gesturing us to change.
Billy quickly stripped out of his clothes, obviously comfortable being in various states of dress in front of people. Steve found himself momentarily stunned but then just told himself the quicker this is over and done with the quicker he can get back to being alone in his shared space.
As Steve slowly slipped his trousers down his legs he realized that he really only had one pair of sleep pants. He wasn’t joking when he said he sleeps in his underwear. He gently tossed the pants onto his bed before walking to his dresser and pulling out a pair of sleep pants. Jon snorted and commented that Will had the same pair. Steve told him they were a gift from Will.
He realized they were both staring at him still and steeled himself for removing his shirt. He unbuttoned each button before slipping it off his body and laying it over his trousers and then slipped off the undershirt and tossed that into the corner near the hamper.
They both just stared at him.
“Damn Princess, who knew that's what you were hiding underneath those suits you're always wearing.”
"Fuck off, both of you."
Jon laughed and moved to the bed, moving blankets and sheets around; "Messy is more inviting. Makes it look lived in."
He then gestured for the two men to get onto the bed.
Steve was a ball of nerves. Nobody had ever been in this bed. Sure he’s had people in his apartment, but he always fucked them in one of the guest rooms.
He watched Billy grab a book from the nightstand and get on the bed then pat it gently. So Steve rolled his eyes and climbed up beside him.
“Do you even know whose symbol you’re wearing?”
Steve shrugged. He knew it was one of the many superheroes the kids were always going on about in their comic books and movies.
Steve shrugged again. Billy laughed.
Steve heard the click of Jon’s camera.
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell Will you don’t know who you’re wearing. He’d probably stop sending you his art.”
“Shit, your kid brother’s the artist littering up Stevie’s walls? Kid’s good man.”
“Will is very talented!” Steve hadn’t meant to burst out as he had.
“I didn’t, I wasn’t, I didn’t mean anything bad by it,” Billy said softly.
Steve was done talking about it. He looked up at Jon and spat out, “Where do you want us?”
He felt Billy tense beside him.
“Billy, if you could lounge back against the headboard, uh, slouch down just a little bit more, there. Steve, if you could press up to him, back against his chest and side there, yeah, perfect . Now, you're Billy and Steve, two men in love, show me how a typical night unwinding in bed would look like. Steve, I know this is a little outside your norm, but just go with it. I promise there won't be any bad photos published."
Steve felt Billy manhandle him, pulling his body flush to his side, tucking an arm around his shoulders, Steve’s back pressed to his chest.
"Typically, if I'm with someone I love enough to be this intimate with, I'd be carding my fingers through their hair as I read, is that okay? Can I do that?" Billy asked softly.
Steve nodded, “I’m supposed to pretend to be sleeping anyway.”
He loosened his own body and closed his eyes and felt Billy’s hand start to move through his hair.
He hated how nice it all felt. Being in someone’s arms. The best kind of intimacy outside of having sex with another person.
He listened to Jon’s camera clicking and the steady rhythm of Billy’s breathing.
“Great guys, now Billy, can you, can you position the book as if you’ve fallen asleep too?”
Steve felt Billy shift just a little and then rapid clicks of Jon’s camera.
Steve opened his eyes and smiled at Jon then felt Billy shift them just enough to where Steve’s back was on the mattress and Billy was just slightly hovering over him. Steve was still smiling. He heard another click of Jon’s camera.
“All done with the bed guys, let’s move onto the balcony. I’m thinking some shots in your current attire and then I’ll have Nance do you up like you’re both coming from work. Keep it as natural as possible. These are all going to be candid shots.”
Steve had made quick movements to get himself up and off the bed and outside. He went right to the railing and took a few deep breaths in. This, outside of the shower, is what sold him on the apartment. The view was breathtaking, and all his. None of his guests would ever get this view because he had to invite them through his room to get to it.
He started when he felt a hand on the small of his back, “Sorry Pretty Boy, didn’t mean to startle you. I just, I wanted to make sure you were okay?”
Steve just nodded.
He felt Billy press closer, pressing his chest against his back and arms encircling his waist.
“This okay? Jon’s taking creepshots from your room.”
Steve nodded again.
“You going to actually use words anytime soon or has this bodacious bod rendered you speechless?”
Steve hates himself for laughing at the other man.
“He’s got a knack for voyeur-esque photos.”
Steve smirked, “A hobby from high school.”
“You’re shitting me!”
Steve shook his head, “Nope. I’m even the unwilling subject in some of his projects.”
Billy lets out a laugh before Steve feels him press close, “I bet you were still just as pretty back then as you are now. Bit scrawnier, but still such a pretty boy.”
Steve just shrugged and changed the subject.
Billy had him laughing with his comments every now and then and it really was easy to just fall into a conversation. They shifted around at one point, Steve’s back against the railing, Billy’s arms bracketing him in, Steve’s hand resting gently on Billy’s hips.
It wasn’t until a few hours later when the sun started to set that Jon had them change into their work clothes. Something about wanting to capture a natural homecoming. He’d captured them in comfortable clothes around the apartment. Even a few while Steve had Billy help him cook dinner for all of them.
The last photo of the day was set just as the sun was setting so the sky was full of cotton candy colors. The smile on Steve’s face is a genuine one because Billy’s telling him about a time when his kid sister was so pissed off that she’d threatened him with a baseball bat and a syringe of ketamine. Billy said he’s never been more terrified in his life. He thought she was going to castrate him and kill him.
Steve was in his suit, jacket unbuttoned and tie loose around his neck, Billy in a button up and nice fitting pair of jeans. It’s staged to where Steve is seated in one of the chairs on his balcony, Billy standing over him from behind, they’re grinning at each other, leaning in closer, as if Jon had waited a few seconds later they might have been kissing.
Chapter 4: Dick Move
Jonathan had interrupted their conversation to let them know that Nancy was hungry and wanted to know if she should order some food for everyone. Steve gently put a hand on Billy’s chest to push him away to signal that he wanted to walk away.
“I can get dinner started then,” he offered, stepping away from Billy, out of his arms.
“Pizza burgers?” Jon asked with a smile.
Steve nodded, “Of course, as if I’d make you anything else! I’m going to change first.”
He started to make his way into his room and placed his work clothes a little neater on the end of the bed, but dug around in his dresser for a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. He watched as Jon and Billy made some small talk out on the balcony and as Jon took a few more photos of Billy. Then as Billy took a few photos on his phone.
He called out, “Hey Billy, want to help me make dinner? Jon could grab a few more candid shots for us.”
He doesn’t know why he asked the other man if he wanted to cook with him. Steve’s never cooked with anyone. Not even Nancy way back when.
Billy glances over Jon’s shoulder into the bedroom and looks at Steve before he gives a slight nod. Steve just nods and then heads to the kitchen to get all the ingredients out.
He washes his hands after everything’s set out and rinses what items need to be rinsed before Billy enters, having tossed on an old, worn looking band t-shirt.
“I should preface this whole experience by letting you know that I burn water.”
“If you don’t want to help you don’t have to.”
“No, I mean, I want to help, I just, I thought you should know my skills in a kitchen are not real.”
“You can’t be that bad?” Steve asked.
Billy scratched the back of his neck, a nervous tick of his Steve’s noticed; “Uh, you could call Max. She’d be glad to tell you how many times I’ve almost burned down our place because I tried to help in the kitchen.”
“Oh, don’t you two look cozy! How’s the shoot been going?” Nancy asked eyeing the ingredients Steve had put on the counter. “Ooh, did you get me the no-good-doesn’t-belong-on-pizza topping?”
Steve just nodded and let her hug him, “You’re the best! I love you!”
She left to find Jon, yelling about how Steve is catering to her disgusting need for pineapple on pizza.
Billy looked at him and where she disappeared to, “You guys always like that with each other?”
Steve couldn’t read him, but he just shrugged, “Sometimes. Not always. Like I said, we have a history.”
“I think I could chop stuff up if you need anything cut up,” Billy offered.
“That would be great, but let me get the meat started and then we can chop stuff up together.”
Steve and Billy moved around each other without having to use many words. Steve grabbed bowls while Billy grabbed knives and a few cutting boards. Both being so caught up in making dinner together that neither of them noticed the photos being taken of them.
Steve had instructed Billy to put the trays of completed pizza burgers in the oven and set a timer for ten minutes. He headed towards his living room to find Nancy and Jonathan. He heard part of their conversation.
“—ne, they’re really good at this.”
“That’s the point!”
“You’re not hearing me, Nance.”
“I think you’re just looking too hard, Jonathan. It hasn’t even been a week.”
“ We didn’t need a week.”
Steve didn’t want to hear anything else and made his presence known.
“Billy’s setting the timer so food should be ready in about ten minutes or so.”
“Great! I think you guys are really going to love the photos Jon captured today.”
Steve didn’t hate the look she was giving Jonathan, but he didn’t like that he hasn’t had someone look at him like that in a long time. That kind of awe of their talent and just happiness for them doing something they love.
“I uh, I should have some proofs for you to look through in a few days, barring anything else comes up on my schedule. Nancy tried to make this a priority and worked my schedule around, but if something else pops up, I'll do my best.”
Billy entered the room, carrying a tray Steve didn’t even know he had. He had a glass of wine for Nancy and beers for the rest of them.
“Domesticity suits you,” Nancy said to him.
“You know me, just a slut for being someone’s kept boy.” He joked.
Steve politely excused himself while the others got lost in conversation about an upcoming promotional event.
He went back to the kitchen, shocked to see everything was cleaned up and extra ingredients had been put away.
While they were getting ingredients together, chopping, cooking the meat, and then putting the ingredients on before putting them in the oven to melt the cheese, Billy and Steve had actually opened up to each other.
To the point where Steve had to tell Billy he’d never shared any of what he had with someone else. Billy had then said the same thing.
They’d discussed their childhoods. Billy had asked what Steve was making and why he’d asked for pizza toppings if it wasn’t actual pizza being made. That led to Steve telling Billy about the string of nannies who raised him because his mother couldn’t handle him choosing them over her. Why would he choose someone he hardly ever saw over someone who cared about him and loved him every day?
He’d told Billy about Nonie. His last nanny. The one woman, besides Edith, that calls him once a week to check up on him still. Told her about the first time they made pizza burgers together. Said she came from a poor family, it was cheap to make and was a lot of food for a little bit of money.
Billy had told him about his sister Maxine. Told him about his step-mom and his old man. How Sue knew he liked boys before he did. Told him it didn’t matter and would never change the way she loves him. Said that she and his pops are still together. He stays with Max and her friends in their weird little hippy nerd house whenever he’s got a break in between filming.
Steve shook his head to try and clear his thoughts from the other day. He and Billy were on a similar schedule again, so he’d seen him every morning before heading out. Billy had taken to doing some personal workout moves in the living room and Steve hated that he had to walk by that. Not hated per se, just that he couldn’t sit and oggle like part of him wanted to. He would never deny that Billy was nice to look at.
His phone ringing caught his attention, “Harrington,” he said into the receiver.
“Hey Steve, I have a Mr. J. Byers here to see you. Edith says he has an appointment tomorrow.”
“He can come up Beck, thanks.”
He didn’t want to dwell on why Jonathan was a day earlier than scheduled, but he quickly put his finishing notes on the Wilson family’s case.
He really hated ridiculously wealthy people who could afford to waste that much time and money on such trivial things. But that was three hours of his life he was well compensated for even if he could never get that time back.
Edith popped her head in and announced Jon’s arrival.
“You work fast, Mr. Byers.”
“Cut the shit, Steve. Nancy doesn’t know I’m here. She doesn't know I finished early.”
“Why are you here early?”
Steve watched him cross the room and place the portfolio in his arms on the desk in front of Steve. He sat down across from him and looked down before meeting Steve’s gaze.
“You’re going to believe me about what I said. The evidence here is hard to miss.”
Steve rolled his eyes, “Do you keep forgetting we’re supposed to be selling this relationship as real? Of course I can put on a lovey-dovey face and pretend to be all about someone.”
“Steve, you and I both know you’re the only one faking this whole thing.”
Steve watched as Jon reached out to open the portfolio.
It was black and white and Steve’s breath caught in his throat.
Billy was smiling at him, lifting his hand as if to wave in greeting. The photo is taken over Steve’s shoulder.
“People don’t,” Jonathan started, “People don’t just smile at someone else like that. Even if just pretending.”
Steve flipped through more photos.
There was one in color, they were on the balcony, Steve bracketed in Billy’s arms. They’re laughing, like eyes crinkled laughing at each other.
“You do good work, Mr. Byers.”
“Steve, please, I’m not stupid. I’m trying to show you that that asshole is in love with you and you’re just brushing it off.”
He quickly stood up and flipped through the photos until the very last two. One was in black and white, and the other in color.
The one in color was the two of us pretending to be asleep. We looked so comfortable together.
The black and white one though, that one Steve hadn’t even realized was taken. It was of the two of them in the kitchen. It was the moment that Billy realized he’d shared something about himself that he’d never shared with anyone else before. That kind of vulnerability cannot be faked.
Steve’s smile though, you can’t fake that either.
“He’s an actor Jon, you’re forgetting that. It’s his job to pretend to fall in love and be in love and all that other emotional garbage that comes along with being in relationships.”
Jonathan huffed and sorted through the photos and pulled one out that Steve had missed.
It was another in black and white. They were in bed together. It was the moment Billy had maneuvered them to put Steve on his back. Steve was smiling up at him and it looked like a rather intimate moment between two people in love.
“Look Jon, I think you’re just seeing something that’s not there, or at the very least, is very good at being pretend but isn’t actually real .”
Jon laughed at him.
“When this is all over, one , or both of you is going to be nursing a broken heart. I’m not going to tell you I told you so, but it’ll be a damn near thing.”
“I’ve got work to get back to, thanks for stopping by. Tell Nance and Billy they can pick out whatever ones they want to use. They can even get busy and hang some up around the apartment.”
Steve gathered up the photos and handed the portfolio back to Jon. Making it very clear they were done.
Jonathan paused at the door, “Have you guys planned a date yet?”
“I, uh, I think it’s next week. It’s my first outing with Liam. We’re uh, going to dinner.”
He stood and grabbed the portfolio and looked down his nose at me; “I’m not wrong. I just want you to be careful. He’s charming, he really is.”
“I am so tired of hearing people tell me to be careful. I know this is pretend okay, I’m not a fucking idiot! I know this isn’t real and I’m not treating it like it is. I’m doing my best to pretend to be someone who is in love with someone. Liam Hargrove has a reputation that needs to be rebuilt. I am doing him a favor and nothing else.”
Steve hadn’t intentionally stayed later at the office to avoid Billy. But he’d stayed late in hopes that he wouldn’t have to encounter the other man when he did get home.
Had he seen the photos?
What did he think of them?
He berated himself in the elevator up to his floor. He was being ridiculous.
He noticed the photo of them, doctored of course, on the small table by the elevator doors. Then as he ventured further in and around his apartment he noticed all the little pieces of Billy that had been added along with photos of the two of them.
He noticed more doctored photos, even some of the supposed vacation they’d met on. Even a few on the mantle above his fireplace.
The one that caught his attention though was one that was printed on canvas, printed in black and white, and hung above the mantle. It was doctored from photos they had because their arms were around each other’s shoulders and they were smiling at the camera. It looked so natural. So comfortable. So real . Like they had managed to take a photograph together a few years ago.
“I might be an asshole, but even I know it’s a dick move to avoid somebody because my feelings got hurt.”
Steve startled at Billy’s sudden presence behind him. He was leaning against the wall near the entrance to his room.
“I, I wasn’t, I, I wasn’t avoiding you. I have new clients and they’re quite petty.”
Steve felt his ears and cheeks burn.
“Tell yourself whatever you need to, Princess. I know that between the two of us I’m not the one avoiding you. Have a nice night, there’s some left over take-out in the fridge if you’re hungry. Don’t forget, next week is our first outing.”
He watched Billy turn and take a step towards his door before pausing and turning once more to look at Steve.
“They’re just pictures, Mr. Harrington. Nothing more.”
With that, Billy entered his room and shut his door so softly that Steve suddenly felt like he just took a test. And he’d failed it.
Chapter 5: Promised Discretion
Apologies for the delay...
Life happened...not the good kind. My hubby had a mental health breakdown and we're still reeling and recuperating from that. I've been moved to a new classroom at work with a co-teacher who does absolutely not a goddamn thing. I am losing my mind. And school is actually kicking my ass this course so that's where I'm at y'all.
Side note: S3 was freaking amazing! I am still reeling from it!! My sister totally spoiled it for our Ma today, and I absolutely love knowing that at least for today, I am the favorite child.
This is the last of the pre-written that I have from the former version of this story...so no promises about rapid updates like the previous few chapters...SORRY!!
PS: apologies if there are any typos!!
“Are you sure you’re ready to do this?” Billy asked Steve, looking him in the eye.
Steve stared at the other man, hand on the handle to open the car door, “Yes. I gave you my word.”
Billy nodded and Steve opened the door.
He was not prepared for the onslaught of flashes in front of his eyes, but Billy had warned him. They’d let Nancy slip to one person where Billy and Steve were going on a date.
Steve climbed out and ignored the calls for Liam. He held his hand out to help Billy slide out of the car. They both made sure they only had eyes and smiles for each other.
“Liam! Liam! Over here, Liam!”
Steve closed the car door behind them and allowed Billy to place his hand on the small of his back and lead him to the door where a frazzled looking hostess was awaiting their arrival.
Steve ignored the calls of insinuating that Billy’s a slut, but they’ve never seen him out with a man and be so intimately together.
Billy leaned in close, Steve could feel his nose brushing along his jawline. While they looked nice and cozy, Billy was talking business.
“You know these photos will be all over the place in a matter of minutes, right?”
Steve smiled and nodded, making sure to maintain their image of being close.
“You forgot that fast that I can put some hefty slandering fines on these people?”
“You’d do that?”
Steve knew that whoever managed to capture Billy’s face at this moment would have a beautiful moment of shock and awe.
“If you need me to, sure.”
They’d finally reached the hostess at the door and Steve made sure to say loud enough to be heard, “I was promised discretion. I want them gone by the end of our meal.”
“Of course sirs, I am so sorry. I will make sure my manager is notified immediately. If you’d be so kind to follow me we’ll get you settled in.”
Steve nodded and allowed Billy to lead them on after the hostess.
They only had eyes for each other as they made their way to a table that seemed to be in the center of the room; if one were to stare at them they would not be able to be discreet about the attention.
Billy thanked the hostess and pulled Steve’s chair out for him, even pushed him in when he was seated before sitting himself across the table. He even pressed a kiss to Steve’s forehead before sitting down.
Steve could tell he was blushing but still felt it fed their little routine.
He listened as Billy ordered them appetizers and a bottle of wine.
“Is it always like that when you go out?” He’d asked once the hostess walked away.
Billy nodded, “Yes. I, I’ve gotten used to it. It also depends on if I want the attention or not when I’m out.”
“And you’re okay with all that stuff they just yell at you?”
Steve noticed the look flash across Billy’s face and immediately apologized.
Billy cut him off, “Princess, it’s fine,” reaching across the table to place his hand over Steve’s, “Besides, I want Nance to shit a brick when she finally gets a load of those photos.”
“I told you to stop calling me that!”
Billy smirked, “But it suits you so well! Plus the more nicknames I use on you your real name remains out of the spotlight.”
“The reservation is under my name.”
Steve will never know what Billy was going to say because their waiter appeared, just as frazzled as the hostess, with glasses of water.
"Good evening gentlemen, I, my name is Sam and I will be taking care of you. I see that Kaitlyn has already put in your drink order and appetizers, can I help you gentlemen with anything else before I bring those out for you?”
Steve could read the star-struck awe Sam was failing to hide. He also realized he had yet to look at him , the kid only had eyes for Liam .
Billy glanced up at the waiter and then pointedly over to Steve, “Of course, my sweetheart here will have the roast lamb, but make sure there's no lemon, he's not fond of it. He'll do the mixed vegetables, and we'll both have your homemade applesauce. I'll take the salmon steak with the carrot salad. No garnishes on mine, I just pick them off."
Steve watched as the poor kid fumbled with their menus before bolting away.
“How much do you want to bet he’ll brag about touching my dirty napkin?”
“People actually do that?”
Billy smiled, “People are weird Pretty Boy. Fucking weird.”
Steve lost track of time just talking with Billy.
He realized the man was smart. Probably smarter than Nancy and she was the smartest person he knew, well besides his kids.
He’s pretty sure that Billy’s making him feel dumb on purpose, not in a mean way, but just to let him know that he’s still very aware of their situation and Steve was a giant child last week.
Steve listens and watches Billy as he talks about anything and everything. He doesn’t get the appeal, sure the guy’s beautiful, but outside of his pretty face and stupidly hot body, and that intelligent brain of his, there’s not much else to go on.
Dude is a Grade A asshole. He isn’t pretending about that part of himself. It’s not a defense mechanism like Steve had originally thought.
Only when Steve feels Billy’s warmth closer than it had been previously, with an arm draped along the back of his chair did Steve realize they’d been talking forever. The bottle of wine was mostly gone, Steve’s plate was nearly empty, and Billy’s breath could be felt on the side of his face.
“So, Mr. Harrington, if we were normal fellas on a date, what would we do after this?"
Steve turned to look at him and was grateful he didn’t startle, but good lord was the man too close.
“Well, Mr. Hargrove, I'd usually offer a walk to let our meal settle, then I'd find one of the nice, little gelato shops I frequent, recommend dessert. And depending on how that goes, I usually offer their place or mine."
Billy let out a small whistle, "So you do know how to wine and dine, then get in and out. You were holding out on me, sweet pea."
"You weren't asking the right questions. Happens all the time in my line of work."
"I definitely like you. You ready for the vultures when we head out?"
Steve glanced towards the entrance, “They’d still be out there?”
Billy shrugged, “Honestly, there’s probably more.”
"How can you be so popular when you're such an asshole?"
Something flashed in Billy’s eyes; Steve couldn't identify it, but he wasn't sure he wanted to.
"People find it charming, supposedly. I don't know, but it pays my bills, so I can't complain."
"My secretary thinks you're going to break my heart," Steve blurts out.
"Does she now? We'll just have to prove her wrong, won't we?"
Steve could see their waiter coming and before he could pull his wallet out Billy had already placed a few bills on the table that more than covered their bill. He really shouldn’t have drunk the wine.
"I've got it, sweetheart. I've missed you, my treat tonight,” Billy said it a little louder than necessary as he nuzzled at my ear.
"I told you, minimum PDA," Steve whispered.
"Ooh, someone's rankled. We want to make this believable, right? Well, we might have to do more than just share gentle touches of our hands."
"It's our first public outing, have some decorum."
He winked, "Nah, where's the fun in that, Princess?"
" Are you going to break my heart? Wine makes me chatty. I hate it."
He laughed; it was honest. Steve didn’t know what to do about it.
"I think it's time for us to go; do you want to walk it off? Or should we get a ride back?" Billy asked, standing up to pull Steve’s chair out for him.
“If more people are outside, I think it'd be best if we got a ride. Plus I don't know how complying I'd be right now. Wine's always a wild card for me. I'm always either overly affectionate and clingy, or I experience never-ending word vomit."
"Ooh, so there's a chance that I get to know your deepest, darkest secrets so soon? Count me in! I'm hoping for the word vomit!" Billy says, keeping his hand on Steve’s arm.
Billy led Steve through the tables, not once letting go of him. He maneuvered them easily through towards the entrance.
They noticed a man giving the hostess a hard time.
Steve thought that Billy was really good at pretending to be a doting boyfriend. He’d pulled out his chair both sitting down and getting up to leave, he maintained eye-contact during all of their conversations, and even now, he’d refused to let Steve be more than an arm's length away from him.
“Liam! There you are! I swear, we can't trust that Wheeler woman to keep tabs on you. Who's this ? My phone has been ringing off the hook for the last hour and a half!"
"I don't like you,” Steve blurted out at the rude man.
"Again, who the hell are you ? Liam, you just let anybody talk to your agent like that?"
"I'm Steve. Billy's boyfriend. You're a very rude agent, interrupting our date like this."
The man choked on his spit. It was beautiful.
Billy put his hand on the small of Steve’s back, "Chuck, this is Steve, like he said, my boyfriend. You are interrupting a date. I haven't been by to see him, it's been a while."
He really does have a nice smile, Steve thought.
" Boyfriend ! Liam, you don't have a boyfriend! The string of women your management team has had to placate attest to that. What the hell is going on here?"
Steve saw Billy was about to open his mouth but he let the wine take over, "I get it, you're pissed you weren't let in on the details. Well, Chuck , Billy here's my whole heart, and there's nothing I wouldn't do for him. Now, as you've been reminded, twice now , you're crashing our date. We're headed home; like he said, it's been a hot minute and I've got a dick to ride."
Steve will wish, in his sober mind, someone had recorded him in this moment. He knew that first time he heard Billy say those words he'd be able to use them against him one day.
Billy looked about ready to burst out laughing and Chuck looked mortified.
"Darling, you need to rein it in. Chuck has delicate feelings, he might get embarrassed with you talking like that." He made a show of saying those words into Steve’s ear. Steve shivered.
"Dearest, you know how I get when I've gone months without being able to touch you, kiss you, and I know you just had us come out tonight to prolong the inevitable. You're a goddamn tease!"
Steve made it a point to ignore Chuck. He could see the man out of the corner of his eye and the guy looked livid.
"I hope you know what you're doing Liam. I'm going to check in with Nancy. They don't let you go anywhere without one of your babysitters ."
Steve didn’t like his tone of voice. He turned to Chuck and with ice in his voice said, "Watch it bud, you don't get to talk to him like that."
"Harrington, right? Be a shame if someone found out some dirt on you, put it out there for the world to see."
Steve knew exactly what kind of man Chuck was now. He went to open his mouth but Billy beat him to it.
“Chuck, Chuck, Chuck , let me put the breaks on that line of thought real fast; Stevie here would bury you in so much slandering fines, you'd never find a job in show business again. You know I only tolerate you because it's in my contract with my management team. So, think long and hard about how you want to address the man I plan on spending the rest of my life with. Otherwise, I'd start looking for another career path."
Steve delighted in the paleness that fell down Chuck’s face; he threw him a small wave as Billy nudged him towards the doors.
Steve doesn’t even realize until they’re in the backseat of the car Billy hired that as they left into a sea of flashing lights with more yells for Liam, that Billy had said, “Oh shit babe, here take these,” and handed Steve the sunglasses he had tucked in his jacket pocket. His hand never left the small of his back until after he’d climbed into the car.
Chapter 6: "There's six of them."
Steve couldn’t stop smiling and laughing along with Billy’s antics as they wandered through the grocery store. They both knew that someone was following them and that other patrons were trying to take photos of the two of them. It’s been two weeks since their “first date” and a little over a month since they began this little show. He’s gotten used to the fact that people want to snap photos of them when they’re out.
Steve never understood the appeal of fame. You couldn’t be you anymore. Everyone had a say in everything you did. How you dressed. How you talked. Even over hairstyles. But Billy just let it roll right off his shoulders. Perhaps his asshole charm helped with that. Billy denies autographs and photos when asked by daring fans that approach them when out and about.
“Nance wants to do dinner this weekend. She said something about the kids coming for a visit?”
Steve froze, he’d forgotten that they were coming.
“That’s this weekend?”
Billy smiled, “She said so.”
Steve sighed, “There’s six of them, I hope you’re ready for an invasion.”
“We’ve got plenty of space. What snacks should we get for them?”
“Okay, okay, Lucas and Will like salty, so let’s do some pretzels and taffy for them. The girls love ice-cream so we’ll get them plenty of that to go around. Mike likes chips so get a few variety packs, and Dustin, he’s all about Three Musketeers.”
“People still eat those?” Billy asked, wrinkling his nose.
“He says it’s the nougat that appeals to him,” Steve said with a shrug.
“Your children are weird.”
“You have no idea.”
They smiled at each other and continued on. Steve pushing the cart and Billy grabbing items on their list, scratching them off as he put them into their cart.
They’d come around to each other. Talked through the awkward beginnings of their sham. Made clear boundaries. Redefined their contracts and what they were willing to do with each other.
“Can we make them pizza burgers while they’re here?” Billy asked, breaking Steve out of his thoughts.
“Sure! We can just get buns now and grab toppings closer to their arrival. I think I’m picking them up Thursday afternoon. I took off from work so I could have a few days with them outside of the weekend. Oh, can you grab like four boxes of Eggos? Make it six actually.”
Steve and Billy walked side-by-side, shoulders brushing occasionally as they finished up their shopping.
Steve hated to admit it was nice just having someone else helping him do this for once. He really was lonely. He could at least admit that to himself now.
Billy had his phone out and looked at Steve before coming in closer and putting his arm around him, “Say cheese Pretty Boy!”
Steve smiled as Billy pressed an obnoxious kiss to his cheek.
“For the ‘gram,” Billy mumbled and started fiddling with his phone. Steve shrugged and carried on. Rounding the corner that took them to the check-out lines.
He’s glad he never gave into Dustin’s pleading for creating anything social media related. He struggled with maintaining his LinkedIn he needed for work. He had a job, why did he need to network? If they couldn’t understand the weight his firm’s name held that was on the other person.
Billy always organized their carts in ways that always had the cashiers singing praises about bar codes being visible and cold stuff with cold stuff. Steve always just threw it wherever in the cart.
“Want anything to drink, love?” Billy asked, nodding towards the Starbucks by the exit. The cashier smiled as she rung up their items.
Billy handed Steve his card before heading off to order them drinks. The man had an obsession with their teas.
“How long have you two been together?”
He looked at their cashier and then back towards Billy; “About two years.”
“You’re still honeymooners, it’s sweet.”
Steve felt his ears and cheeks burn.
He swiped Billy’s card, noticing the name etched on it--William Hargrove. Huh. Where did he get Mayfield from?
Billy was waiting by the door, drinks in hands and smile just for Steve.
“I got us the same thing, that way in case you don’t finish yours, I’ll just finish it for you.”
They loaded their groceries in Billy’s trunk. Steve would never admit that he admired the other man’s car. An old ‘79 Camaro.
Steve liked that Billy offered to drive them himself when they would go on their private outings. It added some normalcy to both of their lives.
He also liked how they developed a flow in the month or so of living together now. They sucked it up one night and talked it out. Steve was sorry for being a whiny little bitch about stuff at first, but he was learning to be better at communicating. Billy wasn’t sorry for still remaining an asshole, but he was slowly letting down his concrete barriers to let Steve in.
Before Steve knew it, he was leaving work with a hired van to bring all the kids back to his apartment. Billy said he and Nancy would have dinner waiting for them; after they went to the grocery store to pick up last minute items.
He had the driver park in the zone, then went to baggage claim to get his kids.
He saw them before they noticed him. Lucas had his arm around Max’s shoulders, so they were on again, good to know. El was standing by Dustin while Mike and Will were trying to arrange everyone’s luggage on a cart.
El turned around and zeroed in on him and smiled. He could see her mouth his name and then everyone else was turning around.
The group hugged and he’d never admit how much he’s missed this. How much he actually missed them.
He greeted each of them and led them to the van waiting for them.
It was a quick drive from the airport to his new apartment.
“Henry, these are my kids. This is Dustin, El, Max, Will, Lucas, and Mike. Guys, this is Henry.”
Henry smiled, “Nice to meet you all. Steve, your boy’s already home, had your friend with him. Now I know why they had so many bags of food. Enjoy your visit, and welcome.”
They all piled into the elevator and Steve loved their reactions when the doors opened up onto his apartment.
“Shit, Steve. You didn’t tell me you had a whole goddamn floor to yourself!”
“Guest rooms are that way,” he pointed to his right, “Take your pick! Girls, if I’m asked by parents, you’re bunking together. Not my business otherwise.”
He watched them head off towards the rooms and he went left into his. He noticed the addition of Billy’s things again. Right, they were living together and they had a show to put on. Now they had an audience.
Nancy never clarified just what she’d told them about him and Billy, but just that their involvement would be expected.
He put his jacket on a hanger, and his shirt and trousers in his hamper and opted for more comfortable clothes. When he pulled open the drawer that usually held his shirts he was startled to see some of Billy’s folded up alongside his own.
He grabbed one and put it on, noting that it smelled like the other man.
He headed out to the kitchen where he could smell whatever take-out Nancy had bought for the arrival. He noticed the counter was set up like a make-shift buffet, complete with ice in one of the sink wells with drinks.
“You spoil them, Nance.”
Both she and Billy jumped at his voice and gave him smiles.
“That my shirt?” Billy asked.
“The show must go on,” he said.
He heard their voices and called out for them to get in the kitchen.
“Shitbird!?” He heard Billy say.
“Asshole!” He heard Max say.
“Hold up, your boy is Max’s brother?!” Dustin blurted out.
“Hey Mike,” he heard Nancy greet her brother.
“Okay, well, obviously you guys know each other and I had no idea about that,” Steve said, glancing at the now hugging siblings.
“You didn’t tell me where you’d moved to! Nancy kept telling me you were fine every time I called the hotel to check in on you. I wanted to let you know I was coming into town and if we could grab dinner or lunch one day. You didn’t tell me you were being Steve’s kept boy!” Max said to Billy.
“To be fair, Maxine, I told you he wasn’t a kept boy,” Nancy intervened.
Max rolled her eyes at Nancy and punched Billy in the arm.
“Steve, he’s an asshole!” Dustin yelled.
“Wow, I’m right here, kid,” Billy said.
“Okay guys, how about we just grab some food and drinks and we can go eat in the dining room,” Steve said, moving towards the paper plates and grabbing food to put on his plate ignoring everyone else in the room.
This was going to be harder now that the kids actually know Billy. Would they have to tell them it’s all pretend? No, because Dustin was shit at keeping secrets. He’d at least tell Erica and she’d tell all their moms and then before he knew it someone would be knocking down his door to tell him he’s such a bad influence on his kids.
“Breathe, Steve, breathe. That’s it, in and out,” he heard Billy’s voice in his ear. “There you go, come on back to me, it’s okay.”
Steve looked around, everyone had started moving around him as he froze in place.
“Sorry, I just,” he’d started but Billy kissed his cheek, keeping close.
“Hey, hey, it’s okay. No worries. They don’t know a thing is out of place, and we can keep it that way. I checked with Nancy on the way back today,” he whispered into Steve’s ear.
He hated how well Billy could read him at any given moment.
None of the kids looked at them funny while Billy comforted Steve in his moment of panic. They just moved around them gathering their own food and drinks before moving onto the dining room.
“You good, Pretty Boy?” Billy asked once they were alone in the kitchen.
Steve nodded, “Yeah, sorry. Thanks though. I just, my thoughts wandered,” he said lamely.
“You look good in my clothes,” Billy said with a smirk, grabbing a beer from the sink and leaving Steve to finish getting himself together. He really was an asshole.
Steve sighed and gathered whatever else he wanted and made his way to the dining room where he could hear the kids interrogating Billy.
“We met two years ago dipshit,” he heard Billy say.
“That’s bullshit!” Mike said.
“How so? Were you there?” Billy asked.
“No he wasn’t, but I was with you two years ago on vacation, and I’d know if you’d met some hot piece of ass. You have the easiest tells when you meet someone you like,” said Max.
Steve smiled as he sat down beside El.
“Steve! Come on, why wouldn’t you tell us you were dating Max’s brother?!” Lucas asked.
“Uh, because I didn’t know he was Max’s brother,” he tried to make it sound not like a question.
They all just stared at him.
“What? Not once in my entire time of knowing Max have you ever called her brother by his name. He was always dubbed, The Asshole, when I was in town. And he always called her Shitbird.”
“How come you guys never visited together?” Will asked, looking between the two.
“Because I told him not to. I told him I had to keep my private life private for a reason. I, I wanted to have him meet you guys, because despite all of you calling me an asshole, obviously, we care about each other on some level. I fucked up guys, don’t take it out on Stevie.”
Steve was shocked at that. He smiled a dopey smile at Billy that had the kids gagging and saying they’re gross. Nancy smiled into her glass of wine. Good. They all believed it was real.
“Love,” El said, glancing between him and Billy.
“Love,” said Billy.
Steve just flushed red and nodded. What else was he going to say?
They seemed to move on after that, filling Nancy in on their newest projects for school. Billy talking to Will about his artwork littered around the apartment.
Steve thought about the times he had visited the kids out in California and how he and Billy hadn’t met before now. He knows that Max moved to Hawkins their freshman year of high school and talked about an older brother who was left behind in California. She’d called him a lucky bastard.
He remembers seeing a few surfboards that hung in the open rafters of their living room and she’d said they were her brother’s. This was his hideaway place to get away from his busy life. She’d never said his name, often calling him her brother or the others calling him The Asshole.
Was their world really that small? How did Nancy meet him? Why hadn’t she told him that Max’s brother was Liam Mayfield? Mayfield, shit, that’s Max’s last name. He knew it was familiar and hates that it took him this long to put the pieces together.
“Can we get a photo of all of us having dinner?” Max asked, pointedly looking at Billy.
“Are you going to tag me in it?” He asked her.
“OF COURSE! You think I want your stupid fan girls blowing up my DMs just to ask me how I know you? Ugh, please. I tag you and use the hashtag big brother. It tends to keep them away.”
Steve laughed to himself at their interaction; he shouldn’t have ever doubted their relationship.
Nancy offered to take the photo and ended up taking a few. Max directed how she wanted some to go and then just said to act natural. Her and El decided which ones to use and then she requested that Billy and Steve take one together.
Steve got up and walked over to Billy and sat in his lap, linking his arms around the other man’s neck. He felt arms loop around his middle as they smiled at each other. Then they did a posed photo, both of them smiling at Nancy as she took more photos.
Steve stayed in Billy’s lap far longer than he’d expected. Through dessert and another round of drinks. Billy’s thumb would rub against his exposed skin at the top of his shorts; neither of them were aware of it.
Later, when Steve and Billy retired to his room for the night, Billy pulled out his phone and started going through his notifications.
“Would you have gone to Hawkins with your family?” Steve asked him.
“Uh, no, I, I’d told my old man that I was eighteen, I wasn’t following them. I wouldn’t have been welcome anyways. My old man’s a bit of a hardass as you’ve learned. Holds onto some old fashioned opinions about people like us.”
“Are you happy with how your life’s turned out?”
Steve watched the other man shrug out of his shirt, grateful he had a tank on underneath before he slipped his jeans down his legs and stepped out of them.
“It’s taken a while but yeah, I can say that I am. How about you?”
Steve wanted to take his clothes off like he usually would but thought better since this is the first time he’d be sharing his bed, and the kids probably had no boundaries and didn’t need them walking in on them in the morning. Not that they would be doing anything to be worried about being walked in on, but still.
“I guess. I mean, I think, I think once this is over with, I will start looking to settle down. Maybe get a cat so I’m not so alone all the time.”
“Good deal. Mind if I read for a bit?”
Steve shook his head turned off his own light, putting his phone down on the wireless charger and getting into bed.
He’d thought it would be weird having Billy in his bed, but he realized as he drifted off to sleep it was nice having warmth from another body in his bed. The turning of the pages and Billy’s quiet reactions to the words he was reading.
Maybe he really would start to look for someone to settle down with.
Chapter 7: Mr. Harrington
“I’ve never seen him like this before.”
Steve jumped at Max’s voice in the doorway of his piano room.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you, I just,” she said as she took a few steps into his room and sitting on the chair across from his stool, “He, he’s happy, and I just, I want to thank you for giving that to him.”
Steve was frozen. He was terrified. He’d never expected this kind of conversation, let alone from Billy’s kid sister, someone it turns out that he actually knows! And from someone who actually knows Billy.
“I uh, uh, you’re welcome?” He struggles to get out.
“I’m glad you guys didn’t meet in Hawkins. I don’t, he’d, I think you and him would’ve hated each other and never given each other a second chance.”
“Max,” Steve tried to cut her off but she shook her head.
“No, Steve, I don’t think you get it. Billy doesn’t, he’s, he’s brought partners around me before, hell even a few of his flings, but he’s never outright denied me access to someone before. You’re important to him. More than anyone that’s been in his life. And I, I like seeing him happy. He deserves it. So do you. That’s all. I just, I wanted to say something.”
He just nodded, not trusting anything coming out of his mouth right now. She was so genuine and him and Billy were putting on a show. Fuck. She’d be devastated if she ever found out it wasn’t real.
He watched her leave before picking up the headphones he’d left abandoned before he started tinkering on the piano.
He didn’t know what time it was. He’d left his phone on his night stand because he’d been sent the photos from dinner and he’s not sure how he feels about the ones of he and Billy.
“You know you suck at pretending to be asleep, right?” Billy said casually flipping through his pages.
Steve sighed and rolled onto his back and looked up at Billy who didn’t even glance down at him, just kept his attention on the book in his hands.
“I’ve never had anyone in this bed before, and I, it’s,” he trailed off.
“You wanted it to actually mean something the first time you shared it with someone right?”
This time Billy was looking at him. His blue eyes seemed a little darker in the dim light.
“I, uh, I can make a space on the floor if this bothers you that much. I, I get the importance of sentimentality, Pretty Boy. I won’t tarnish a potential good memory for you, I’m not that big of an asshole.”
Steve shook his head, “No, uh, you, you’re fine. I’m just, I did tell you that I am bad at relationships. I haven’t done this in a long time. Even pretending this is, I, I’m actually a horrible boyfriend.”
“Steve, you’re rambling. Do you want some space? I can easily go out on the patio to read, or out in the living room. Nance won’t mind my company. We can tell the kids I pissed you off and you sent me into exile for being a jerk.”
“I, uh, it’s kind of nice. Having you next to me. You’re a furnace. It’s nice.”
Steve could feel his face burn and that shame spread down to his chest, but he counted it as a win when he noticed the corners of Billy’s mouth twitched and he determinedly maintained eye-contact with his book.
Even now the man took the boys out to the set. The girls actually wanted to see Steve’s office and were disappointed when he’d told them he’d actually taken their visit days off, but if they really wanted to he could come up with an excuse to grab a file or two.
El was doing yoga on his patio and he’d put himself in his music room. It really was just an excuse to show off his wealth. Sure the sound system in the living room was telling, but the room that held his piano was stupid money. He easily had thousands of dollars worth of vinyl, handed down from his parents, as they had to have the first and best of everything. He knows should hard times ever hit, he’s got things to sell. Or if the kids ever need a down payment and come asking him for assistance, he knows what to get rid of to help them out.
He tinkered for a little bit. He could use a little distraction.
He heard Max tinkering the kitchen and realized that she was making her and El some Eggos. He could smell that toaster smell. He followed his nose and found them talking quietly at the island.
“I could always take you ladies shopping if you’re that pressed to get out for a while. Or we could go be tourists without the guys for the day. It’s still early enough, and I have enough cards to get us ahead of any lines,” he said with a wink.
El smiled, “Tourist sounds fun. I can mail Jim a postcard.”
“I can mail Mom a photo of me and Billy, she’d love that!”
“Alright, let me get dressed and I’ll call a car for the day. Meet me at the elevator in say, ten minutes?”
They nodded and stuffed the rest of their waffles in their mouths. He left them laughing to himself as he made his way to his room.
He quickly took a pair of jeans out of his closet and then a nice button-up and stopped at his dresser, noticing the small array of personal belongings Billy put on top.
Steve knew better. He really did. But he couldn’t help but to spray himself with just one puff of Billy’s cologne. Jesus, he knew better. But the man always smelled amazing.
He shook his head and got it together. Max was going to give him shit.
He grabbed his phone and slipped on a pair of shoes before meeting the girls by the elevator.
He noticed the abundance of notifications for a group-text, must be the boys on set with Billy and Nancy.
He noticed a single notification from Billy and opted to open that one first. It was the photo of them smiling at each other that Nancy took at Max’s demand. Or rather it was a screenshot of the photo on Instagram. Billy captioned it #sothisislove with a bunch of emojis. Steve hated himself for opening it first. He should’ve just let himself get lost in the messages from the boys.
He blatantly ignored the 14.5k likes.
He didn’t read the group messages yet but typed one in himself: the ladies and i are going out for the day...doing the touristy thing. fend for yourselves if we’re not back by dinner.
He shoved his phone in his back pocket the moment he saw the typing bubbles appear. Making sure to put it on silent so his butt wouldn’t vibrate with all the notifications.
He picked up the phone intercom and dialed down to the desk, Henry assured him a car would be ready and waiting for them when he told them of his plans for the day.
“Lucas wants us to bring them back some pizza,” Max said as she and El rounded the corner into the foyer.
Steve shrugged, “Whatever you guys want.”
“You spoil us Steve Harrington,” El said with a smile.
“I’m just buying your affection, remember that,” he said with a smile of his own.
The girls laughed as he entered his key and pressed the button for the elevator to arrive.
Max sniffed once the doors shut them inside and she looked at him, calculating.
“Are you seriously wearing his cologne? Steve! That’s disgustingly romantic!”
El shifted forward and sniffed at him, “At least you smell nice.”
“You know him taking the guys to work is like a big deal right? It, it’s like he’s bringing his step-children to work with him.”
“You two are very sweet,” El added.
Steve wished the floor would just swallow him up. He could tell he was flushing again.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, he’s a goddamn saint taking those jerks to work with him. He’ll regret it if they allow Dustin to do anything with props. He’ll never get him to leave.”
He was grateful they’d finally reached the lobby and led the girls out towards the street.
He headed right towards the SUV with a driver holding the card for “MR. HARRINGTON.”
“After you ladies,” Steve said holding the door open for them. He walked around and climbed in the front seat.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Harrinton, Ms. Hopper, and Ms. Mayfield. Where are we headed to today?”
“The ladies want to see the sights, Jim.”
Jim tipped his hat and pulled from the curb and headed into traffic.
Henry was a saint for getting Jim as their driver. He was born and raised in Chicago. He took them all over the city.
He even took them to his Grandma’s bakery, which El loved, and was beyond elated that she had an open invitation should she ever be in the city again.
They made silly faces in their reflection of the giant bean.
Took way too many panoramic photos atop the ferris wheel at Navy Pier.
Max loved the SkyDeck. Steve hadn’t been before. He and El were a little touchy about the height, but they lucked out on clear day. The view was amazing.
Jim made sure they had a view of Buckingham Fountain both in the daytime and then again at night. El loved the lights.
Jim made their last stop of the evening the Adler Planetarium. They were all a little impressed.
Steve hated to admit that he’d lived in this city for years and hadn’t done any of the things he’d done today.
When the girls were tired of ignoring calls from the guys they asked Jim if they could head back. Steve made sure to ask which pizza place had the best pizza for a first time visit to the city. Jim gave him three places and said to order from all three of them. They wouldn’t be disappointed.
Steve made sure to leave a nice tip behind, despite how much Jim protested. El requested a photo with him, which resulted in Max requesting one as well.
Steve made sure he had all their bags, they did go a little overboard being tourists and buying little souvenirs, as if they’d never be coming back to visit him again.
He gave his keys to El to call the elevator and then to put in for his floor.
“He missed you today,” Max said quietly as the elevator began to rise. “He kept texting me after the first photo I posted of us out together. Kept asking me where we were going next.”
“Love,” El said.
“Love,” said Max.
Steve just smiled and wished the elevator would rise faster.
He did suppose those kinds of texts would be source enough for people who doubted their relationship. Perhaps Billy was on to something. He definitely was very good at acting like Steve hung the sun, moon, stars, and everything in between.
He followed the girls into his apartment, to their room; he didn’t want to comment on why they were actually bunking together. Hopefully the boys hadn’t messed up that much. Not his business though.
He dropped their bags off and headed to his room to put his shoes away and take a moment to get himself together.
“Oh, hey man, sorry, I just, I needed some space,” Billy said from the bed.
Steve nodded, “It’s all good. I had the same thought, but I can go out on the patio. It’s what I usually do once I get home.”
Steve went through his normal routine, toeing off his shoes and putting them back in their place in his closet. He opted to change into shorts there rather than out in the open of his room. He put his button up in the hamper and cursed himself for not bringing a t-shirt with him.
He bit the bullet and just walked out topless.
Chapter 8: Word Travels Fast
shit collectively hits the fan here....you are warned...
“Hey Steve, can, can I talk to you for a minute?”
Steve turned to see Will hesitating by the door to his patio and smiled, beckoned him to join him.
“Sure, buddy, what’s up?” He asked.
Will sat down across from him and glanced down at his feet before meeting Steve’s eyes, “Is, I, Billy asked me to do a commissioned piece for him, is, is that okay?”
“Will you’re talent blows my mind, of course, it’s okay! Plus if he blasts it on his social media, that’s more exposure for you, so I’d say it’s a win-win.”
Steve realizes the face Will makes he’s said something wrong.
“I, Steve, I can’t. I, I,” Will cut himself off.
“What’s going on Will? You know you can talk to me.”
“I saw Billy with another guy on set. And no, no it wasn’t a scene. They, this, it was when I tried to talk to him during lunch. At his trailer.”
“What did you see?”
Will looked down at his feet again, “I saw them kiss. The uh, the other guy started it but I didn’t, Billy didn’t, he didn’t push him away. I’m sorry. I just, I couldn’t, I, I’d want to know so I, I figured you would too.”
Steve nodded. He couldn’t think of anything else to do at the moment.
“Thank, thanks for telling me, uh, I guess I should’ve known better, right? Once a cheater, always a cheater?”
He hated the look in Will’s face.
“How, how about I take us all out tonight? Show you guys a nice time out on the town?”
“Steve,” Will started but Steve shook his head.
“It, it’s fine. I’m, I’ll talk to him later. I would still like to enjoy you guys being here, so tell the others to get pretty. Say thirty minutes, meet me down in the lobby.”
He didn’t give Will any room for responding. He got up and walked away and headed right for his ensuite bathroom, locking the door behind him once inside. Billy wasn’t in the bedroom when he’d come back inside.
He quickly stripped and turned the shower on and stood under the spray.
He doesn’t care that Billy accepted kisses from someone else. The man’s reputation spoke for itself.
He just wishes the kids weren’t involved, but that seems a moot point as Billy’s is Max’s brother.
Small fucking world indeed.
He shook his head and let the water run over his face until he had to breathe again.
Will was the only one who knew of Billy’s supposed stepping out, and Steve would keep it that way.
He would make sure he looked good tonight. He’d wear the clothes he always wore when he was looking to pull someone. Might even send the kids home without him. If Billy could step out, why couldn’t he? It’s not like anyone would ever know.
It’s not like this was even real. If Billy could get his rocks off so could Steve.
It was only fair.
Steve blew dry his hair, styling it to perfection.
When he stepped out of the bathroom, hair done, towel around his waist, he was grateful Billy was still not present in the bedroom. He locked the bedroom door before getting himself dressed. Purposefully opting to go commando. Besides, the pants he typically wore, if he did wear undergarments, lines were visible and there was nothing attractive about underwear lines.
When he opened the bedroom door Billy had his hand raised as if he were about to knock. Steve noted the deliberate once over he gave him.
“I’m taking the kids out,” he said.
“Do you want me to come with?” Billy asked.
“If you want to come. I don’t want you to feel obligated to do something you don’t want to.”
Steve knew his tone told Billy how he was feeling.
“On second thought," he said, "I haven’t seen them in a while so I think I’d like to get them to myself for the night if that’s okay?”
Billy just nodded.
“Don’t wait up.”
Billy looked confused.
Steve headed to the kitchen where he could hear Lucas and Will talking with El. Mike, Max, and Dustin were still getting ready.
“Pretty,” said El when she glanced at him.
“You clean up nice,” Will said.
“Thanks, you guys look all spiffy. What’s taking the others so long?” he asked.
“Hair,” the three said simultaneously. Steve laughed.
He sent a call down to have a car ready for seven people.
Steve didn’t know that just because he didn’t have a social media account that that didn’t mean people didn’t know who he was. Billy had been posting enough about him on his personal account to have a lot of people dig up anything they could.
He was slightly taken back when they arrived at the bar he typically goes to, to find a line, but they were all exiting the car, the bouncer outside immediately waved them ahead, even going so far as to say, “Welcome Mr. Harrington and guests.”
He’d made his way right to the bar, told the bartender to open a tab and the kids were to have whatever they wanted for the night. He figured with the black card their ID would not be checked. He started with a few shots and then made his way to the dancefloor with Will and Max.
Max was forever documenting their outings and this one was no different. The other joined in carrying drinks, to which Mike told Steve were all virgin because Dustin opened his big mouth and the bartender took the beers back they’d ordered and handed them all virgin drinks. Steve laughed.
As the night wore on he got separated from them at one point but was glad they’d seemed to be enjoying themselves.
He turned around to find out who’d just said his name in his ear and was surprised to see Wesley Adams from the office.
“Hey, Adams,” he said still dancing to the music.
“May I dance with you, Mr. Harrington?”
Steve should’ve said no because he’d denied a date with the man since the first time he’d ever asked Steve out for coffee. But he nodded and allowed the other man to pull his body flush against his own, Steve’s back to his front. Hips moving in time together as they swayed and ground into each other with the music.
“Where’s your boyfriend?” Adams asked in his ear and Steve shrugged.
“Not here, what’s it to you?” Steve said.
“Does he know where you’re at? What you’re doing here?”
Steve shrugged again, “I could care less right now, to be honest. We’re not each other’s keepers, Adams.”
Steve knew he probably shouldn’t allow the man behind him to keep such a firm grasp on his hips, but he figured if Billy gets to fuck around, he can too.
“What the fuck is going on?”
Steve was startled at the sudden outburst and looked into the face of a furious looking Maxine Mayfield.
“Look creepazoid, keep your paws off the merchandise! He’s taken you scumbag!” She said as she yanked Steve away and drug him back to where their group was.
Steve didn’t offer Adams an apologetic look over his shoulder, he didn’t even give the other man a backward glance. He did try to pry his arm out of Max’s grip but will forever deny that he couldn’t.
“What the hell is your problem?” She snarled in his ear.
She stopped them short of the party, Steve could see them all laughing and dancing together a few people away.
“Did he, did Billy do something, Steve? To you?”
He immediately sobered.
“No! I, I just haven’t been out in a while and it’s been a long week.”
She didn’t look like she believed him but let it go.
He smiled to the chorus of his name being called when he was reunited with the kids.
Why couldn’t have been Will or none of them that found him? He danced two more songs before getting another drink from the bar.
He hated the look Max gave him as he walked off, motioning he was grabbing a drink.
Small fucking world.
He ordered another two shots while he waited for his drink, downing them both quickly, hating that he could still feel their burn.
Okay, so maybe, just maybe, a tiny, teensy, itty-bitty, little bit of him didn’t exactly like what Will told him earlier.
It’s not like it was in their contract to fuck each other, but it wasn’t written in there that they couldn’t. Which technically could branch out to other people. And it’s been longer than the month of their fake relationship that Steve’s willing to admit that he’s gotten off with himself or another person.
Maybe he should ask Nancy about it. He pulled his phone out and saw he had two messages from Billy. He frowned.
Hey Pretty Boy, just wanted to let you know that even while intoxicated you need to be mindful of what you’re doing in public.
He scrolled down and saw an image attached. It was of Steve and Adams. Steve’s arms weren’t touching Adams, but Adams’ was visibly getting his feel of Steve while he could.
That was like ten minutes ago
And then those dots disappeared and Steve didn’t know what to think.
Why did it matter if he was photographed dancing with some dude, not Bil--oh. Right.
Look man, i am not into the celibate lifestyle and it’s been a hot
minute since i’ve gotten my rocks off if you know what i
mean...i will do better. Tell nancy it was all my fault
He didn’t get a response and now he felt like an asshole. He wanted to ask the other man about the guy he was kissing at work. But then that would put the Williams in an awkward position with each other unless they told Will about the arrangement.
Steve downed his drink and turned around the find the kids. When he did he told them he was going home, if they wanted to stay he’d make sure the car was waiting for them. He’s not as let down as he thought he’d be when they opted to stay out.
I’m headed back
Can we talk
I feel like we need to talk
I feel so stupid
He never saw the dots so he doesn’t even know if Billy got his messages. He was frozen in a stupor when flashing lights greeted him exiting from the bar and calls of his name. Billy wasn’t with him why does he matter?
He ignored them all. Their questions about who the other man he was seen dancing with. Their questions about Billy. Why they weren’t out together.
He climbed into the SUV and slammed the door, blocking everyone outside.
He felt his phone vibrating in his pocket: Nance.
“Hello, Nance,” he said.
“Are you stupid? Steve Harrington, like, on what planet did it ever seem like a great idea to literally dry hump another dude in public?”
“Wow, word travels fast in your world.”
“Do you have any idea what kind of shitshow you just created for us? We’re trying to build up Billy’s reputation, not destroy what little damage had been repaired! What do you have to say for yourself?”
He shrugged, not caring that she couldn’t see him; “Uh, no and I don’t care. And I have nothing to say for myself. I was out having a good time. Besides, did you ask Billy about the guy he was making out with at work today in his trailer?”
He hated how jealous he sounded.
“Oh my god, are you serious right now? This, this shitshow is because you’re throwing a tantrum, wait a minute, you said Billy was making out with someone today? On set?”
“Will saw them in his trailer.”
Steve had no idea how she could make the sound she just made but his ear was ringing.
“Where are you right now?”
“Are you alone?”
“Yup, left the kids my open tab and instructions for the car to return and wait for them after I’m dropped off.”
“You and Billy will be going on a romantic date with the kids tomorrow. I don’t care if I have to call your bosses myself and tell them that you need a day off. You will fix this mess. You promised you’d help him, not fuck it up even more!”
She hung up and he was grateful for it. He’s not sure if he would have responded kindly. It wasn’t his fault that Billy fucked up first. Adams did ask first. Steve said yes. It didn’t mean a goddamn thing. People dance with other people all the time.
But not everyone’s in a supposedly serious relationship and if the rumors surrounding Billy’s remarks every now and then about it being serious enough to bring up marriage, then yeah, okay, maybe he did fuck up by getting photographed dancing with some other dude.
Good thing they already had plans to go out as a whole group tomorrow anyways.
He wasn’t prepared to walk into a dark apartment.
He definitely wasn’t prepared to hear his piano being played.
He made his way down the hall and stood in the doorway of his music room and watched in awe as Billy played seamlessly between pieces.
Steve knew how to play but that’s because he’d been taught from a young age.
Billy though, Billy played like his soul needed to express itself and this was the only way it knew how.
He’s probably still a little intoxicated.
He clapped when Billy paused and immediately felt completely sober when his angry blue eyes locked onto him.
“Guess you were wrong, huh?”
Billy looked at him and cocked his head.
“About who’d fuck up. It’s kind of my specialty. I, I’m sorry,” Steve said rather lamely.
“To prevent rumors and more shitshow drama, I won’t be going to the hotel, but I will be going to my room. I can’t, I don’t want to talk to you right now, but I know the kids aren’t here because otherwise, Max would be demanding I play her song, but, you do what you want to do but you keep it private. You figure out how to wear disguises because people know who you are now.”
“We can fix this.”
Steve couldn’t read the look on Billy’s face.
“Sure. In private we’re complete strangers, but when we’re out and the kids are around, we’re going to put on the greatest show anyone’s ever seen, and when this is done and over with, you can rest assured that I will never waste another moment of your time again. I’m so sorry to have done so.”
Steve feels like he’d rather the man had punched him in the face or busted his nose. He didn’t like the punch to his gut those words hit him with.
Steve just nodded dumbly--really, what could he say?
He turned and went back to his room.
He hated the second punch to his gut at noticing that Billy had already removed all of his personal things from the room. For a second time.
Steve’s not sure how or why, but he’s pretty certain he cries himself to sleep.
Chapter 9: Are You Jealous?
Steve knew the moment Billy entered the kitchen, well no, it wasn’t Billy that was in the room. It was Liam Mayfield, man in love with Steve Harrington.
He smiled softly at the other man who crossed the kitchen and placed a kiss on his cheek, and a pat on his ass as he moved to get his own cup of coffee.
“So we’re not going to talk about it?” Max blurts out, mouth full of cereal, seated at the island.
Both Steve and Billy, no Liam, turn to face her.
“What’d I tell you Maxine? My private life is my own.”
She swallowed and glared at Steve, “Um that was before my brother began dating my old babysitter and said babysitter fucked up by dry humping some douchebag on the dance floor.”
Steve took the pan off the heat and turned to face the island, scooping the eggs onto Will, El, and Max’s plates before returning to cook more eggs. They’d wanted fried hard, Bil--Liam, Dustin, and Mike like sunny-side-up and he and Lucas like scrambled. He wasn’t dirtying dishes when he could take care of all of their eggs in stages in one pan.
“Wow, you’re really just going to ignore this?” he heard her say.
“Look Max, I told Stevie he could go out. I know what happens when he gets a little intoxicated, he gets friendly. I’m not going to put a leash on him. I trust him. It was a dance and nothing more. Who did he come home to last night? Me.”
Steve just continued to cook. He wasn’t sure what to say to her. Not without blurting out that it’s all a sham and it was all bullshit and it shouldn't even matter.
“Yeah and how’d that turn out, because Mike saw you coming out of a different room this morning, so obviously it didn’t matter but you couldn’t even sleep with your boyfriend after last night.”
“I FUCKED UP OKAY! I GET IT! I get it Max. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I am bullshit and whatever else you want to hear, okay? Now I’ve fucked up their eggs.” Steve burst out at the stove. His back still to everyone.
He threw the pan in the sink, not caring about the mess. Turned the stove-top off and left the kitchen.
He made a point to slam his bedroom door behind him.
He grabbed his phone and called Edith.
“Hello sweetie, how are you?”
“Edith,” he said.
“Are you moping over last night? Are you really letting that get you down Steve Harrington? I already called Ms. Lizzie, she’s on it. Those companies will be taking all photos of you down and will no longer be allowed to print anything with your name or likeness without explicit permission. You’re a representative of their company and nobody wants to pay those fines for slandering the Loeffler’s.”
“I, it was stupid of me,” Steve said softly.
She chuckled, “Of course it was, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t do it, or you can pretend it didn’t happen. Honey, the show you two are putting on, Liam Mayfield is head over heels in love with the Mr. Harrington you’re letting that world see. You have nothing to worry about. He’s going to look at you like you hung the goddamn moon and you shit rainbows. Now, my only concern is why did you finally give into Adams? That poor boy has had the biggest crush on you from day one of his internship and even now, a year later, he’s still carrying a torch for you.”
“And don’t you dare think about saying ‘I know’ young man!”
He laughed, as did she. They both know that’s exactly what he was going to say.
“Are you and him going to talk about the elephant in the room? Or just keep on pretending?”
“What elephant in the room?”
He heard her tsk and then laugh, “Silly boys.”
“Are you going to be okay Stevie?”
“Yes, I, I think I’ll send the kids out to a show tonight.”
“Off-broadway, that way they don’t have to change out of their clothes for your outing this afternoon. You deserve friends Mr. Harrington. Good ones. I think Billy could use a friend like you.”
Steve said okay and they ended their call. He went on autopilot for the rest of his morning. He ignored the looks when he emerged dressed for the day.
He especially ignored them when he told them all to get a move on.
He didn’t think about the fact that there was an extra plate of scrambled eggs on the counter for him with a glass of orange juice.
He ignored the fact that Liam was no longer in the kitchen, but Lucas made it a point to tell him who’d made their scrambled eggs.
They were fucking delicious. But nobody needed to know that.
Except Lucas because he told him they were better than his.
“You know he fucked up too, this, this isn’t all on you man,” Lucas said around a mouthful of eggs.
Steve just looked at him.
“Max, uh, she’s protective of him. Says he’s never been like this before, or at least for this long. You mean something to him and she just, she, she doesn’t want either of you jeopardizing his happiness.”
Steve looked away and shrugged.
“Come on Steve, like, do you know what he’s like? When he’s not being a hollywood star? He’s a pretty chill dude. Doesn’t come off that way, but he’s actually a cool dude. So when he came around the house last time, which I think was before coming out for this project, he was going through all the photos Max and El have up around the house.
“I’ve, he, he kept smiling at all the photos with you in ‘em. Heard him ask Max about when you were coming to visit next. And look, we all know Max okay, we know how passionate about things she cares about she gets. I just don’t, don’t let her eat you up, okay?”
Steve always forgets how level-headed Lucas is. He smiles and nods.
“Thanks Lucas, I forget you’re so much smarter than you look.”
“Asshole,” he said with a smile.
They heard footsteps approaching and both turned to see who was joining them.
It was Billy. Or rather Liam.
Steve would have to get used to that now.
“Hey Babe, the rest of the kids about ready?” he asked the other man.
“Max said to give Mike another ten minutes. How were your eggs?”
“Amazing!” Lucas blurted out, showing off his empty plate.
Steve looked down at his plate, he’d barely taken a few bites.
“You didn’t have to make me a plate, but thanks,” he said, trying his best to sound sincere.
Liam just shrugged with a smile.
“I’m going to go on down and make sure transportation is arranged for the day. I’ll leave me key by the doors,” Steve said, leaving his plate on the island.
His phone vibrated in his pocket while he was heading down. Fucking Nancy.
Chuck’s let the vultures know Liam is going to be out and about in the city today. Mind your p’s and q’s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Or so HELP ME STEVE HARRINGTON I WILL END YOU!!!!
Lucas told me that it wasn’t all my fault. Something about Billy fucking up too.
That doesn’t negate your shitty reputation when you’re intoxicated.
I wasn’t trying to say it wasn’t my fault. It’s just not -ALL- my fault.
You UGH I can’t even deal with you right now!
Don’t text me again unless you have photos to share of your outing today!!!
He pocketed his phone and sighed. So Billy let some dude suck his face at work yesterday. Steve, in his drunken stupor, allowed some other dude to manhandle him on the dancefloor and people lost their goddamn minds because he’s “in a relationship” with Liam Mayfield.
What the hell happened to his life?
Adams wasn’t too terrible. He was tolerable, he just wasn’t Steve’s type. Sure Steve knew that if he were looking to settle down, Adams could keep him used to his lifestyle that he’s grown accustomed to, job security was practically a given working with the Loeffler’s. They didn’t ever just allow anyone into their folds, interns or employees.
But Steve had never felt anything in the other man’s presence. He wanted that spark of something with someone he would pursue a relationship with. He wanted to be happy when the person he chose to settle down with came home.
He’d never admit it to anyone, but he was a romantic at heart. He practically melted with Billy when they’d practiced their greetings that first night. Steve hated how much he wanted something like that when he finally settled down.
“Good morning, Mr. Harrington,” Henry greeted him when the doors opened.
“Hello, Henry, how are things?”
“It’s Friday, Steve, your boy’s in town, and so are your kids, enjoy your day with them.”
Steve must have made a face because he noticed the look on Henry’s face.
“Trouble in paradise?”
“Am I that obvious?”
“Enid told me that if she were allowed to come to work with me she’d have put you over her knee for stepping out on Liam Mayfiend like that. I tried to tell her it was only a dance, but that was not the right answer.”
“I don’t drink often for a reason. I can’t hold my alcohol and I get extremely friendly. Liam knows this about me, he didn’t have any problems with the pictures.”
"He's a good man, Mr. Harrington."
Steve could only nod.
Just a few months to go. He promised.
Once everyone was buckled in their seats in the van Henry had requested them for the day, Steve gave their driver their destination for the day.
He noticed that Will was sitting with the girls and Billy, and that Mike and Lucas seemed to be putting as much space between them as they could sitting in a vehicle. He didn’t want to touch that drama with a ten-foot-pole if he could help it.
“Friends don’t lie.”
Steve had desperately tried not to look at El. Knowing it was her who had spoken.
“What are you on about Jane?” He heard Billy ask.
“You’re both lying.”
Steve made damn sure not to look at Billy and give them away.
“What would we be lying about?” Billy asked.
“Love. You love and yet you hide it from everyone. Including each other.”
Steve crossed his arms, hoping it conveys his disinterest in the conversation.
“Not to mention you just let Steve dance with handsy men in public!” Max spat out.
“Will you give that a rest? Steve and I talked about it. I told you I trust him. He comes home to me!”
Steve turned and looked at Will who was looking right back at him. He was silently begging the boy to keep his mouth shut.
“Whoa guys, can we just start today over? Like, we’re here to spend time with Steve, and now Billy, and you guys just want to fight over something stupid! We’re going to have stalkers today, do you really want to give them a fuckin armada of footage that they can use against all of us?” Dustin yelled from the front seat, not even turning around to face everyone.
“I mean, nobody knew until the article came out, that Billy and Steve were dating and guess what? That’s fine! It’s their business! If Billy says he trusts to let Steve go out with friends and nothing more than dancing happens, let it go! Y'all are fucking up our vacation before school starts next month, Billy goes on press tours, and Steve does whatever he does at work, and I don’t want to let the time we have together be overshadowed by everyone’s tantrums!”
Nobody had anything to say to Dustin.
Steve pulled out his phone.
So who did you kiss yesterday?
He kept his phone out, angled away from Mike, but blocked by his body so nothing reflected on the window beside him. He watched as Billy pulled out his phone and immediately shielded it from anyone’s view.
Are you serious right now? Your kid just went mama-bear on all of us!
The guy i danced with is named wes adams. I know him from work.
He practically loves me.
Then why are you fucking around with me if you already
have your very own prince charming to sweep you off your feet?
Plus, it was a nobody. Just some dude who does tech work.
Are you jealous?
If anyone’s jealous it’s you.
You’re the one that cleared out your stuff.
And he’s not my type. I don’t drink often because I get friendly.
I’ve been in trouble before with getting friendly with the wrong people.
You couldn’t have said any of that to my face?
Would you have let me?
Point taken. I’m a shitty boyfriend because
I suck at listening and conversing about my emotions.
He looked over at Billy who was looking at him with a small smile. He returned it.
“Ugh, you two are disgusting!” Mike said between them, “Do you have to make eyes at each other while I’m right here?”
“Of course I do! I’m in love you asshole. Don’t shit on our love because you’re in the doghouse,” Steve heard Billy say.
When everyone burst out in laughter, Steve knew things would be alright.
Chapter 10: I Need to Go
sorry for this short update...life has been kicking my ass as of late and this is all i've been able to crank out for the time being.
i've got plans for this okay! don't fret! it's just been a hot minute since i've had a free moment to sit down and write...
thanks for the kudos, comments, and subscriptions! i love the love y'all have for this fic! :)
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome back."
"Hello Tom, thank you," Steve said.
"Did you all have a good time?" Tom asked; Henry’s relief for overnight at the door.
"It was an eventful day, that's for sure," Liam said.
"I'm pretty sure that you can find out about it online. People don't have boundaries when it comes to famous people."
Steve hadn't meant to sound rude, but he's not wrong.
Liam wasn't wrong either. It had been an eventful day.
He hates that there's going to be photos of them kissing.
He hates that the kids are going to be exposed now. Wonders why they hadn't been before. Then realizes Lucas had told him that morning, Billy goes to their house to get away from his life.
Everyone argued at one point. While still being mindful of the potential stalkers following them around. Max is still pissed off with both of them. She doesn't understand why we're not mad about my night out with them.
Steve wants to know what she would do if she knew that Billy kissed another guy. All her fury would shift to the other man, but Steve didn't care. It wasn't real. They could deal with her disappointment for a while.
He was grateful that the day was over.
They all crowded into the elevator. He let El put the key in for his floor.
He headed right for his room, not caring as he stripped his clothes off. He needs a shower.
He's on autopilot until he steps back into his room and sees Liam sitting at the foot of the bed.
"Hey," he says to Steve.
Steve grips the towel around his waist, making sure it's not going anywhere.
"Uh, Max uh, I'm supposed to be in here demanding you make it up to me."
"You always do what she says?"
"You don't have much experience with teenage girls, do you? They're terrifying man."
Steve hates that he smiles.
"I'm not the one who kissed another man. You tell her that?"
Steve watched as Liam lowered his eyes to the floor.
"I'm not, I, uh, I'm not a celibate kind of guy, and I am, I don't expect that from you. I just, he came on to me. Flirting all day between takes, and I just, it was nice."
Because it was real did not have to be said.
"You have a hand. You can buy toys."
Steve doesn't know why he just said that. But it's out there. He can't take it back.
He can see the other man's ears turning red.
"You, you do that?" he asked, determined to maintain eye-contact with Steve.
Steve doesn't know what prompts him to step closer to him, but he's moving until he's standing just outside the v of his legs.
"You don't?" He asks, looking down at him.
Billy looks up at Steve and the whole atmosphere in the room changes.
"I need, um, I need to go," he barely gets out before he gets to his feet and leaves the room.
Once the door shuts, Steve stares at it for a while.
He’s not sure what prompted him to do what he’d just done.
The guy obviously didn’t care about anything other than the appearance of a happy relationship with Steve. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have let another guy kiss him.
It really wasn’t in their contracts that they had to sleep together.
But Steve was starting to feel the effects of being intimate with someone and not having the complete follow through to more .
He knows he’s a big softy at the heart of himself.
He likes that they hold hands every time they go out.
He likes that his space gets crowded as they wait in line at the grocery store.
He enjoys when doors are held open for him.
He enjoys the feeling of a hand at the small of his back.
He has grown used to the feeling of someone else in his bed.
Maybe he should ask to see if the firm has any consulting appointments and if he could take a few. Get away. Get out. Not be around his “boyfriend” for a while. Nobody can say anything if he’s not around to fuck up anymore.
He doesn’t remember falling asleep, but he’s very aware that he fell asleep with his towel around his waist and said towel is no longer secured tightly, and someone is climbing into his bed. He starts swinging his arm before he freezes as the lamp clicks on.
“It’s me!” Billy doesn’t quite yell.
Steve tenses for an entirely different reason now. Billy has Steve’s arm in a grip to prevent him from swinging more, one knee on the bed and said towel is doing minimal to cover up Steve’s lower half.
“Sorry man, I just, I don’t even remember falling asleep.”
Billy lets go of his arm and shrugs, “My fault, I should’ve, I mean I did knock a few times but I didn’t hear you say anything. Uh, Max, she’s determined that I sleep with you tonight. She doesn’t want to hear about me coming out of another bedroom.”
Steve doesn’t know what to do. He’s not sure the towel will save him dignity if he were to try to get up now. He’s flashing Billy one way or the other, just with his dick or his ass is the choice he has to make.
“I’ll go brush my teeth so you can get dressed,” Billy says, not looking over Steve below him.
Steve just nods and watches him move off the bed and then around to the bathroom. Noticing the small bag in his hands. He’s putting his things back in the bathroom.
He bolts to his dresser the moment the bathroom door shuts behind Billy. Because it was Billy just now. Not Liam who came back into his bedroom.
He just shrugs on a pair of gym shorts, not bothering with underwear.
He climbed back into bed and began to fiddle with his phone. Searching through emails and his gallery. They really did have a good day today.
Max sent him a few of the pictures she snapped. Will sent a few of the ones he posted to his Instagram.
His breath caught when he heard the bathroom door open.
Billy coughed softly as if he were trying to get Steve’s attention.
Steve put his phone down on his nightstand and glanced up at the other man still lingering in the doorway.
“Can we talk? Or would you like me to give you some more space?” Billy asked.
“We can talk. I think we need to at this point.”
Steve motioned for him to join him in the bed. Sitting himself up against the headboard. Watching Billy from the corner of his eye.
Once Billy sat down, cross-legged at the foot of his side of the bed silence lingered. Steve would wait. He wasn’t starting this.
Billy seemed to register that it was his suggestion so he had to be the one to start talking.
“Uh, I’m sorry. Like really sorry. I, it was a moment of selfish weakness and I really don’t have anything else that’s not going to sound like a shitty excuse.”
“I think, I think I’m going to see if their New York branch needs some help. Get out of your hair for a while. We can’t cause ripples in your reputation if I’m not around to screw things up.”
He didn’t look at Billy while he said that. He didn’t want to know if the other man would be relieved.
Billy couldn’t for the life of him understand why he was feeling disappointed.
“It’s cool, I get it.”
Steve doesn’t mean to pick up on the disappointment in the other man’s voice.
“Obviously you can still use the room and whatever while I’m away, I’m not, I won’t, you’re image is still expected to be in my home regardless if I am in it or not.”
“You, you don’t have to be the one to run away, I, I can, I mean, I have a few press tours coming up now that filming is wrapping and we’re going to be promoting the film for the release, so I can be out of your way for a while. I mean, still making date night appearances and whatnot, but at least that way, if, if you, you can, you can bring whoever you want back to your apartment and I won’t be in the way.”
Steve felt his face shift into that look of questioning the stupidity of another person.
“My public image is still in the game here man, I can’t have potential slip-ups of my photo being taken with some guy who is not you,” Steve said in a rush. Not sure why he suddenly felt a little panicked.
“Well, the kids head out in three days, so we just have to get through two more nights sleeping together. I’ll move back to my--the other room after we drop them off at the airport.”
Steve nodded, unsure of what would come out of his mouth if he tried to speak.
Chapter 11: I'm Not Fancy
“Can I help you, El?” Steve asked from his piano bench.
“Will told me the truth. About the other night. When we all went out. Why didn’t you say something to Max?”
“I didn’t want all that anger redirected to Billy. He and I talked in private, as it is a private matter, and we’re okay.”
“He loves you, you know. It’s the way he looks at you when he thinks no one can see him. You make him smile too. A real one. The kind we see at the house only. Not the ones in his movies or in the fake reports.”
“Thanks, El, but that’s private too.”
She looked at him and tilted her head a little.
“He doesn’t hide his mistakes with headphones like you do,” she said, gesturing to the piano, and more or less the headphones around Steve’s neck.
“Come on, sit with me and tell me what you really want to talk about,” he said, patting the bench beside him.
She smiled and crossed the room, sitting down beside him.
“Max and me, we, we weren’t surprised when it came out that you and Billy were together. In fact, we’d been planning on playing matchmaker for the two of you. You both were coming out to visit around the same time and, and we were going to see if Billy could change his days around and you’d be there together.”
She smiled, “You compliment each other. You’d balance each other. You do balance each other out. Dustin says he hasn’t seen you this happy in a long time.”
Steve hated himself in this moment.
They were going to hurt the kids when all was said and done. He didn’t even think about any of the fallout of them ending their “relationship”
“You know it was almost all over right? That sometimes people don’t last? You’ve seen how many times Max and Lucas have broken up and gotten back together. And don’t think I haven’t noticed you and Mike have been a little distant this trip. Billy and I have been down this road a few times, it’s just that this was the first time I was the one accused of stepping out.”
“He’s betrayed you like that before?”
“Some of those trash rags were telling the truth kiddo,” both he and El startle at the sound of Billy’s voice from the doorway.
At least he looks a little sheepish at having barged in on their conversation.
“You, you chose someone over Steve ? Multiple times? But why ?”
Billy moved into the room, pulling up a chair, making a point to sit close to Steve.
“Because kiddo, El, sometimes people make stupid choices. They get caught up in moments until it’s already too late. Sometimes it takes losing something before you realize how good for you it actually is.”
Steve’s glad Billy had a response. He had nothing.
He watched the emotions cross over her face, and a fury settle in her eyes as she looked at Billy.
“I would never have forgiven that kind of broken trust. You’re lucky Steve has, more than once. And you let Max point all of her anger at him when it should have been directed at you.”
“Hey, hey, El, calm down. I told you, we talked about it. His, his upcoming press tours are going to be a big test of trust. He, he’s promised that he’ll be on his best behavior,” Steve interjected.
“I’ve promised Princess to call him every day. Plus Nancy will be with me, you honestly think that after my last mistake and putting Steve’s reputation out there like it has, she’d let me do something to ruin him?”
“She’d kill you and not regret it.”
“Exactly kiddo. Steve and I have had some bumps, all my fault, but we’ve also grown from those experiences. I don’t pretend to, nor do I actually take Steve’s trust lightly. I used to, but not anymore. I know how lucky I am to have him in my life. He makes me a better person.”
He held his arms open as if asking or offering a hug. Steve smiled when she maneuvered herself into an embrace and he pressed a kiss to the top of her head.
“Alright kiddo, I’ve come to steal my man away for the night. You can go gossip with Max, I know you two don’t have secrets between each other. In fact, I’ve left some cash out on the island, you guys can go out again without adult supervision, just let Tom know you need transportation.”
Steve watched El look at Billy as if she were reading his soul, then put a hand on his cheek, “If you hurt him again I will not hold them back like I did this time.”
Billy nodded, “I would expect nothing less. Thank you.”
She nodded and then tossed Steve a smile before getting to her feet and leaving them alone. At least she closed the door behind her.
“Damn Harrington, those kids are super protective of you. I think all of them except Lucas has given me a shovel talk.”
“I’ve missed seeing that genuinely on your face. Your fake smile makes my insides go ice cold. I, I’m sorry. I’ve been an asshole.” Billy said, a little hint of shame in this tone.
“Thought that was part of your charm?”
“Maybe I’m realizing that there’s more to life than being an asshole all the time.”
“Look at you, finally growing into a real boy! Now, what did you actually want? El doesn’t come to me often and I’m kinda annoyed you cut that time short.”
“I uh, I thought about what you said last night.”
“Which part? I said a lot of things.”
Billy sighed, his ears were turning pink, “About having intimacy without the follow-through.”
“Are you here to tell me you bought your first sex toy, Billy? Because that would shock me.”
“ No ! I, uh,” Billy sighed, looked down at the floor before meeting Steve’s eyes, “I was going to ask you if you would like to rewrite our contracts. Or add an addendum that is mutually beneficial for both of us.”
“Are you propositioning me? You want a contract for sex?”
“Man, you said it yourself, we both have needs and if we’re both consenting adults what’s the big deal? It’d just be sex right? Plus if our bodies are used to that kind of intimacy it might sell our public outings a bit more.”
Steve raised a brow, “You, you’ve actually thought about this? Like through?”
“As embarrassing as it is to admit, yes. Uh, I, I, if you don’t want to I get it, I’ll just take your other advice and retreat to my old room, kids be damned.”
“What would your rules be?”
Steve’s not sure how or why those are the words that came out of his mouth but now that they’re out there, he can’t deny he’s curious about what the other man would say.
“No kissing behind closed doors. That’s strictly for public outings. Condoms are an absolute must. Mostly because I find clean up is much easier with them. If you want to use toys, I am not, uh, I’m not opposed to them, I’ve just uh, I’ve never, they’ve never been involved with my um, my experiences before.”
Steve started laughing. He couldn’t help it.
This man was seriously outlining rules for a mutually beneficial arrangement .
“I, I’m sorry, I didn’t, well I did , but that wasn’t nice of me to laugh at you,” Steve got out between laughs.
He took a deep breath and leveled Billy with a stare that left no room for a bullshit answer, “What have your experiences with men been like?”
He noticed Billy looked down at his knees before making eye-contact with him again. All fast and shameful then.
“Well, my first boyfriend was in high school. We fought more than we got off. It, I, we, we were both toxic for each other.”
“But he wasn’t your first .”
Billy’s entire face flushed red before quickly tapering off into a delightful shade of pink.
“I’m going to go out on a limb and say that your first set the tone for how all your following encounters with guys went. I mean, you tell me you have relationships with men but you still resort to quick and dirty to get off with them. It makes no sense.”
“Yeah well, you grow up with a dad stuck with a shitty mentality when it comes to couples who aren’t man and woman, well, mostly white and man and woman. I couldn’t really bring boyfriends home as boyfriends. Sure one of the guys, but even that got old. College allowed me to get away with it more often than not, but there wasn’t any intimacy during visits home and that kind of caused a lot of relationships to peter out after they’d beg me to bring ‘em home and meet the folks.
“Sue, she uh, she’s not like my old man but she’s never told him to stop saying the shit he does. She did say something the first time Max brought Lucas home. Max called me hootin’ and hollerin’ about how awesome it was to see her mom chase the old man out with the treat of getting his revolver should he ever think about talking to or about Maxine like he did when they opened the door to see Lucas stood beside Max.
“Sue offers to come out to meet my boyfriends now. She uh, she’s probably going to ask that she visit soon to meet you. I’m rambling now, sorry.”
“Your old man sounds like he’d get along just fine with mine, if the asshole could take his head out of his own ass and realize there’s other people who think just as shitty as he does. Sure, she can come out. She can even stay with us, play up the whole scenario. Just give me a heads up so I can let work know I need to take at least a day to show her around,” Steve said, watching Billy get himself together.
Steve knows that Billy hadn’t meant to let his hand show that much, so he doesn’t make a big deal out of it. Let’s the other man get himself together and thinks he understands him just a little bit more than he did before.
“So, you’re supposed to be kidnapping me this evening, what are we doing?” Steve asks.
“Right, uh, it’s a wrap party, and I was asked to bring you. I mean, everyone who has someone will be bringing their person to the party, which is more of a dinner than a party, but since we’re finishing up tomorrow morning with just a few scenes, they wanted to get us all together before production gets underway and we all start going on tours and breaks and whatnot.”
Steve smiles, “Sounds like a nice time. What do I wear to this not party?”
“I’m wearing jeans and button-up, nothing fancy. I’m not fancy. I know you are, but you can wear whatever you’re comfortable wearing.”
“What time are we supposed to be there?”
“An hour,” Billy says a little sheepish. “Sorry for springing it on you. It was sprung on me too.”
Steve waves him off and gets to his feet and stretches. He feels Billy’s eyes on him as his shirt lifts to expose his midriff.
“I’ll meet you by the elevator in fifteen. Should I bring some wine?”
He catches Billy’s eyes as they’re quick to move up from where they were just staring.
“Uh, if you want. They already think I’m your kept boy because Nance let your building name slip and that you’re my sugar daddy or something stupid.”
“Is Nance bringing Jon?”
“He’s out east. One of his former professors asked a favor and he couldn’t say no to the exposure or something like that. I get it.”
“Alright. See you in a few then.”
Steve made his way to his room, quickly going into his closet and pulling out a pair of his trousers and one of his favorite button-ups. He’d refreshen his hair, maybe add a pop of tinted chapstick to darken his natural lip color.
They’d have to be in each other’s pockets all night. This was an intimate event. Small crowd. People, Billy’s people, who have no doubt followed all the tabloids on their little relationship.
Steve does want to meet the guy that kissed Billy.
He doesn’t want to touch how he feels about that with a ten-foot pole though.
When he gets to the elevator, phone in his back pocket--he’d had two missed calls from Nancy and a few texts about how tonight’s supposed to go--Billy’s already there. He freshened up a little too.
Steve might have to invest in his own bottle of Billy’s cologne. It really did smell fucking divine.
“I’m assuming all these people have read the exploits on our little relationship?”
Billy presses the button to call the elevator and nods.
“I did tell them to play nice, but we’ll see how well that goes over. I will apologize now.”
Steve just nods. He gets it. Sometimes work and home do mingle and it’s not always a great experience.
Some coworkers are a little off-center but you grin and carry on.
The ride down is quiet, and just before the doors open Steve feels Billy’s hand grab his and give it a slight squeeze.
“Evening gentlemen, will you be needed transportation?” Tom asks.
“Hello Tom, and yes. Please. Also, we’re not sure if the heathens will be going out on their own, but if they do, can you please make sure they have transportation arranged?”
“Not a problem Mr. Mayfield.”
They wished him a good night and headed out to meet their car.
They made small-talk with their driver, Gary. Steve asked him about his two kids. One just graduated high school and the other was going for their learner’s permit. It was a pleasant drive.
Billy made a show of getting out on his own and walking around to open Steve’s door when they pulled up out front of the restaurant they were going to.
He held the door open for Steve, offering his hand and pulled him up to his feet, pressing close.
“There’s at least three paps, and a handful of fans loitering across the street,” he whispered into Steve’s ear.
Steve just smiles the dopey smile he usually puts on when it’s time to show off their relationship and lets Billy lead them towards the door.
They follow the hostess as she leads them through tables and booths and up a set of stairs that has signs promising the privacy of a party room.
Steve hears laughter and chatter before they get to the doorway. He’s glad he thought to bring his own wine. This place looked like they put the cheap stuff in old bottles. He knew for sure that the three on the shelf near the hostess stand cost more than the rent this place paid to use the space.
The chorus of people calling out Billy’s name brought him out of his thoughts and into the moment.
Steve took in the table full of Billy’s people before him. Nancy waved to the two seats near her and they made their way around to her.
“Everyone this is Steve, Steve this is everyone,” Billy said as he gestured towards the table.
Steve smiled and waved, “Hello everyone.”
They all resumed their conversations rather quickly and Steve was grateful for it. He began taking in everyone around the table as Nancy was admonishing Billy for something or other.
However, as he took in the people around the table, about twenty or so in all, he finally met the eyes of the person sitting across the table from him and knew it was the asshole that kissed Billy in his trailer.
Chapter 12: To Looking
hey guys....how's it going?
it's been a hot minute and for that i am sorry!
school starts up tuesday and it's been a biotch getting prepped and ready to go at work...especially when your co-teacher opts to do jack all and you're left to do EVERYTHING yourself...but ya know, it is what it is.
my hubby is on the mend! he is getting back to himself.
anywho...uh...this chapter is kind of all over the place....the warning of M is uh, met at one point...
but y'all, lemmie just say i am so blown away by the love you have for this!
hope you like this update!!!
He held his hand out for a shake, smile still in place, "I'm Steve."
He watches the PA's face tighten before he reaches out to limply shake Steve's hand.
"I know. Liam can't shut up about you."
Steve leaned over the table, "I would like to know why you thought it was okay to put your mouth on my boyfriend."
The man mirrored Steve's position over the table, "I, like a lot of people, don't believe that Liam has a boyfriend. Dude has a reputation and I took a shot. You're lucky if you're getting kisses like that."
Steve knew that was not the expected answer and reveled in the shame that started to creep onto the other man's face.
He watches for a few seconds and when he knows that the PA doesn't have a response he sits back in his chair, feeling Billy’s arm draped along the back of it.
He glances over at Billy who grins in return. Steve smiles back at him.
“Hey, Steve!” Nancy says from the other side of Billy, leaning forward to see around him. He waves in response.
“You never told me how pretty he is Liam! Do you have a sister?” A woman across from Nancy says across the table to Billy.
“Cassie, don’t pretend that you haven’t stalked every photo imaginable that has his face in it. You followed Maxine just to find more,” Billy said fondly.
“I’m gay asshole, not blind. Steve, you’re like stupidly pretty,” Cassie said.
“Thanks and sorry, only child. And Hello Cassie, I’m Steve, since Liam never has manners.”
“And you’re a gentleman to boot! You’ve got the whole package, Mayfield. Lucky bastard!”
“That I am Cas, that I am,” Billy said and pressed a kiss to Steve’s cheek.
The warmth that erupted within Steve was genuine. It felt nice.
It always did.
“So what do you do on set, Cassie?” Steve asked, looking at the woman across from them.
“I make your boyfriend’s ugly mug camera ready and his wardrobe look fantastic.”
“Behind the scenes, I like it,” Steve replied.
“If I ever put myself on that side of the camera the world wouldn’t know what to do with itself.” She said with a smile.
“Cam, you’re awfully quiet,” Nancy said, addressing the man across from Steve.
Cam. The fuck kind of name is Cam .
“I see you people daily, I’ll be glad when it’s all over and I don’t have to look at your faces so often.”
“Ouch Cameron, I’m hurt!” Cassie said, playfully smacking the guy on the arm.
Steve felt Billy tense for a moment when he saw the two of them make eye-contact across the table.
Steve can understand the appeal of someone like Cam. The guy looked like a hipster twink and someone out there had to like that. He couldn’t imagine that that’s what Billy went after in real life.
“So Liam acts, Cassie does costumes and makeup, what do you do Cameron?” Steve asked with enough feigned interest that it seemed genuine to those around them.
“He’s our bitch!” Cassie blurted out with a laugh.
Steve watched Cameron flush in embarrassment. Good.
“She means I’m one of the PA’s, which unfortunately does mean I’m everyone’s bitch. They tell me to do something and I do it no questions asked.”
“Got to start somewhere, even if it’s the bitch seat,” Steve said, looking Cameron in the eye.
Steve maintained eye-contact until Cameron gave up and excused himself as he moved to another section of the table.
“That wasn’t very nice,” Billy whispered in Steve’s ear.
“Oh, did you want me to get you guys a room for later?”
“You know ,” Billy said, pulling back to study Steve’s face.
“That you willingly chose to suck face with Cam , yeah, I know .”
“Pretty Boy, I ha--”
“If the next words out of your mouth are have needs, this ends right here and now, your reputation be damned.”
Steve kept a stupid smile on his face that let anyone watching them think Billy was just being disgustingly romantic and whispering sweet nothings, rather than their actual conversation.
“Are you saying you’re up for adding sex to our arrangement?”
“Do you only think with your dick?” Steve hadn’t meant to sound so much like a petty bitch but it was out there. He couldn’t take it back.
Billy looked at him before pressing close again, “Cassie’s not wrong, you are pretty, probably the prettiest thing in this whole room right now.”
“But what about Cam , Billy? He your type ? I mean you let him get you alone in your trailer and apparently you didn’t even hesitate to respond when he kissed you. Was it the first time you two kissed?”
Before Billy could respond Steve pulled back and smiled up at the pair standing across the table from them.
“Ah, Liam, your partner is beautiful, how come you hide him from the world?” The male of the pair said.
“Everyone’s going to inflate his ego telling him he’s pretty tonight,” Billy said in jest. He stood and Steve did the same.
“Colin, Alice, this is Steve, Steve these are my directors, Colin and Alice.”
Steve held his hand out, both shook it. Alice’s more firm than Colin’s.
“I hear that everyone’s been filling you in on what they do around here, but Liam’s been mum about what you do if you don’t mind us prying?” Alice asked, taking Cameron’s vacant seat.
“I uh, I’m a lawyer. I uh, I work for Loeffler and Loeffler.”
Alice’s grin turned predatory. There was no other word for it.
“How in the world did you manage to snag him if he’s way out of your league?” Alice asked Billy.
“I’m not, it’s not a big deal. Really,” Steve tried to say but it fell on deaf ears.
“My kid-sister is to blame really.”
“Colin does love a good romance story, can’t blame him, I do too, spill!” Alice demanded.
Billy looked at Steve and Steve nodded. He wanted to see how he’d spin their love story.
“Ugh, this is going to completely ruin your image of me,” Billy said with a smile before continuing on, “Like I said, I put all the blame on my kid-sister, Maxine. She uh, she met Steve here years ago when my family moved east. I’d remained behind, newly eighteen, told the old man to fuck off, you know how it goes. Steve here babysat Max’s group of friends.
“When they all headed out here for college, they have a house together, and Steve's like their mom. He visits a lot. I kept asking Max who the pretty boy is in photos that kept popping up around the house, and she called me out. She was very protective of him. Told me that I was not allowed to meet him. I was not allowed to corrupt him.
“Well, it just so happened that we ended up mixing dates up, or rather I needed to get away so Max and I were on vacation and we run into Steve. I mean, we’re in Greece, so really, what kind of sign did I need to meet him for the first time on the other side of the world? Max hated that we hit it off immediately. Steve’s a good guy, one of those genuine ones. Rare to find.
“We kept it secret for a while, mostly because he’d just gotten his own office and I’d gotten stuck in my current situation with work. Flying back and forth was torture. I am not cut out for long-distance.”
Steve excused himself while Billy continued to embarrass himself. He headed to the restroom.
When he came out of the stall he wasn’t as startled as he should’ve been to see Cam leaning against the sink counter, as if waiting for him. He went about washing his hands, ignoring the other man because he could.
“Look, man, I,” Cam started but Steve cut him off.
“You look, man , I don’t give a fuck who you are or what you think you mean to Liam. And if that’s the only name you get to call him, you’re not shit to him.”
“Once a cheater, always a cheater. It’s only a matter of time before he does it again, and what if it’s a guy this time, instead of a lady?”
Steve hadn’t actually thought of that, but that wasn’t the point.
“Then he knows that our relationship is null and void. You honestly don’t think we communicate with each other about his transgressions? You think I didn’t know about you?”
Steve could tell Cameron was floundering. He’d admit the other man was good at holding his composure, but Steve could read his body language and right now, Steve had the upper hand. He stepped closer to Cameron, putting himself very much into his personal space and pressing as close as he could without touching.
“He came home and told me everything. How you kept pushing the issue, telling him that you didn’t care he had a partner. That he’d denied you three times before that day you pressed close and didn’t give him a choice. I could go after you for harassment, but Liam has asked that I spare you.
“So here’s what’s going to go down, Cam, you will offer an apology to Liam. He’s very much a slut those wastes of spaces report him to be but he comes home to me. I’m the one that satisfies his needs, his every whim, his every fantasy. You do not stand a chance. Never have. You never will. You’re not his type .
“Furthermore, consider this your final warning, you come into his trailer or personal space outside of your professional capacity and you will never find a job in this field again. You’d be lucky to work a fry stand at some shitty fast food place. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes.” Cameron barely whispered.
Steve tisked, “Try that again, I didn’t hear you.”
“Yes, yes, uh, sir . Mr. uh, Steve.”
Steve patted his cheek in the most condescending way before abruptly turning and walking out of the bathroom. He paused at the door, looked over his shoulder, “Nice chat Cameron, see you around.”
Nancy caught his elbow as he crossed back to the party room, “Who did you just tear a new asshole into?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said.
“I know that look on your face. Who pissed you off?”
“Cameron. But I took care of it. He thought it was more than okay to put his hands on what doesn’t belong to him. I made it perfectly clear what will happen to him should he even think about doing it again.”
“You’re very protective of him, aren’t you?”
“You guys had me sign a paper that tells me I have to be. His directors know the weight behind the firm I work for. I’m out of his league, remember? Plus, Cam’s a creep. Someone had to put him in his place and none of you all seemed to be willing to do it.”
She looked at him. That look she’d give him way back when. She’s seeing through the bullshit. She always could.
“You like him.”
Steve rolled his eyes, “Nance, you and Jon, and everyone else forget that I’m pretending to like him, love him apparently.”
“You punched Tommy when he called me a slut, but you’re threatening legal action for Billy. You threatened Cam in the bathroom, where nobody could see or hear you do it.”
“Let me stop you right there Nance. Cameron forced himself onto Billy one evening in his trailer. Billy and Will told me. Billy didn’t know Will saw. I couldn’t give two shits what that man does in his free time, but when I’m supposed to be his doting boyfriend, bet your ass I’ll threaten legal ramifications for harassment for putting your hands and body on someone who repeatedly told you no.”
“ Oh , that, that’s,” she started to say but Billy calling Steve’s name interrupted their conversation.
“There you are Pretty Boy, you ready to head home? I’ve made our goodbyes unless you want to go in and do it yourself? Hello Nance, Goodbye Nance.” Billy said, gently pulling Steve from her arm, draping his own around Steve’s waist.
“I could go. We’ll see you later Nancy!” Steve said, letting Billy guide him away from her and down the stairs towards the exit.
“Cam confronted me in the bathroom,” Steve said as they descended the stairs.
“What?” Billy almost shouted.
“He was waiting for me. Something about how he doesn’t believe you and me are real, that you’re just the slut the tabloids say you are.”
“That’s, that’s what he thinks about me?”
“I’m sorry, are you not aware that that’s how a lot of people see you?”
Steve watches Billy roll his eyes.
“I thought, I’d hoped, I mean, I thought this, we , we were doing something good. We were fixing that opinion. Of me.”
Steve shrugged, “I took care of it though, in case you were wondering how it went and all. I threatened to file a harassment lawsuit against him should he ever touch you outside of a professional capacity. You’re welcome.”
“What if that’s not the legal favor I want from you though?”
“You’re delusional, man.”
They both smiled at each other.
“Good evening sirs, I hope you had a pleasant evening. Are you returning home or do you have another destination in mind?”
Steve was momentarily stunned to see their driver already waiting, but when he glanced over at Billy the other man smiled. So he had called their ride to come to collect them.
“Home sounds wonderful, Ken,” Billy said, waving the man off to open the door for Steve and himself.
Steve climbed in first.
“What did you say to him?”
“To who?” Steve asked, not looking at Billy, instead opting to look out the window.
Steve heard the car’s privacy divider go up.
“You really threatened to sue Cam?”
Steve couldn’t identify the tone in Billy’s voice. He wasn’t sure what would happen if he did.
“On paper, you are my boyfriend, and I am a lawyer, so it wouldn’t be too far fetched to tell someone to keep their hands to themselves and no means no.”
“Have you thought about amending our agreement?”
Steve whipped around to look at Billy. That tone said everything.
“Are you really that hard up to get off without doing it yourself?”
“Maybe I think you’re pretty and want to put your dick in my mouth as a thank you.”
Steve hoped he didn’t just choke on his spit. He’s not sure though.
“As pleasant as that sounds, I’m going to have to pass.”
“No, you heard me. I said bullshit. We get along great, we have people believing we are a legit relationship, why not get something out of it?”
“I’m not ashamed to get off on my own so, again, no thank you,” Steve said, turning to look back out of the window.
He heard Billy shuffling beside him and tuned him out for a few moments. Until he heard the distinct sound of skin on skin. More precisely, a hand on a cock.
“I have your attention now, don’t I?” Billy asked.
Steve was determined not to look. He listened as Billy spit into his hand and began to move in earnest.
“How’s this for ashamed to get off on my own? Huh?”
Steve closes his eyes and tries to keep his breaths even. He can hear the sounds of Billy getting off in the seat right next to him.
He wants to look.
He wants to look. And touch.
“You know Princess, this is exactly what Ken thinks we’re doing back here. Fooling around because I put up the privacy screen. I bet he thinks I’m bent over with you buried balls deep inside of me,” he cuts himself off to moan.
He’s putting on a show.
“Or he thinks I’m sitting on your lap, bouncing up and down on your cock, filling me up, splitting me open, god, Stevie .”
Billy moans and whimpers some more.
Steve’s grateful he’s stopped talking.
He just listens to the other man jerk himself off in the seat right next to him.
He gives in though. To looking.
Billy’s head is thrown back, eyes half-closed, locked onto Steve, as his hand works up and down.
“Took you long enough Princess,” Billy breathes out.
Steve looks up into his eyes; if he’s to be honest with anyone, he likes watching the other person’s face as they orgasm. Billy’s offering so he’s going to take what’s being offered.
He watches as Billy bites his bottom lip, breaths coming out faster, his chest visibly heaving trying to keep up as he’s getting closer to his release. His pupils are huge, there’s a thin ring of bright blue still visible.
He can tell he’s close. He hears his hands falter a little.
Steve bites his lip, glances down just for a moment, then back up to meet Billy’s eyes.
He smirks, “You’re cleaning up any mess you make in here.” Then presses the button near the door that signals he’d like to pull over.
The car smoothly pulls up to a curb and he quickly exits, not worrying if anyone got a quick eye-full of Billy jerking himself off before he shut the door. He waved off Ken in the mirror and started to walk. He doesn’t look back as he hears the car pull away from the curb leaving him behind.
He can’t lie.
He’s half-hard himself in his pants.
But he knows better.
This kind of arrangement would change things. And he’s not sure if he would survive it.
It’s not that Nancy’s right and he likes the other man. It just means that he’s got to be careful.
Billy has the only other spare bedroom in the apartment. At least until the kids leave.
Billy would be treated like every other one of Steve’s one night stands, or fuck buddies because this wouldn’t be his first one of those, which means his bedroom is off-limits.
He sends a text to Dustin telling him not to wait up for him. Billy should be home soon and might be in a mood. He doesn’t wait for a reply.
He quickly glances at the next cross street and recognizes the area and heads to a local bar he used to frequent before he got his own office.
He needed a goddamn drink.
He finds a seat at the bar easily and orders a beer and two shots. He downs the shots immediately and then takes his time on the beer.
He makes sure to keep his body language set to “back off” and “leave me alone” which promptly attracts three different people asking if he’s looking to get out of there.
The thing is he wants to tell each one of them yes, absolutely. Wants to emphatically say yes and let them lead him away from here and go somewhere they can just fuck.
But he can’t .
Because what he really wanted to happen in the back of that car was for Billy to get on his knees and suck him off as he’d suggested.
He wants to know what Billy would look like split open on his lap, or underneath him for that matter.
So he nurses his beer, watching some shitty sports recap on the screen with equally shitty captions.
He’s not blind. He’s not stupid.
Billy Hargrove is fucking beautiful and shows off more of his body than any one person should. Steve appreciates that.
He needs to go home.
So he pays his tab with more than enough for a tip the bartender doesn’t deserve.
He hailed a taxi and gives the man the address. He watches the fare climb as they travel across town to his building. Throws, again, more than enough money at someone.
He lets Tom usher him inside and then call the elevator, remembering Billy has his keys.
The kids are out. Some band is in town and they decided to go since he and Billy were out. Tom says there’s a car waiting for them outside the venue.
He fidgets the whole ride up to his floor.
Is Billy home? Tom didn’t say. He probably would’ve if he wasn’t because he’d said something about the kids being out.
It’s dark when the doors open.
He doesn’t turn any lights on.
He slowly makes his way to Billy’s room.
The door is open but he’s not in there.
He hates that he feels a little devastated at that.
He heads towards his room, unbuttoning his shirt as he goes.
He freezes in the doorway.
Billy is sitting at the foot of his bed.
He wants to yell at him. Scream really.
But he doesn’t.
He just stares at Billy.
They both open their mouths to say something and then quickly clamp shut.
He’s not sure who moves first, but the next thing he’s aware of is they’re in each other’s space, breaths mingling they’re that close.
“Do, do you, uh, is the offer still on the table?” Steve gets out.
“For you, always ,” Billy blurts out in a way that tells Steve this is dangerous territory they’re going into.
Liam is in love with Steve, but Billy , Billy likes him.
Billy has feelings .
He closes the distance between them anyway.
Their mouths met in a clashing of teeth, noses bumping, hands grasping at whatever they could touch and feet tripping over each other trying to push the other back towards the bed or pressed up against the door.
In the end, Steve ended up pressed up against the door. Billy’s hands moved between their bodies, between Steve’s legs, spreading his things and lifting him up, forcing him to wrap his legs around his waist.
Steve had missed this kind of intimacy with another person. This basic need to be carnal and just give and take whatever you wanted from another willing body.
He felt Billy’s hands and arms shift between them, one arm reaching around to hold Steve up with one arm while the other fiddled with the buttons of Steve’s shirt.
Their hips rolled into each other. It wasn’t enough. Steve wanted more.
He pulled back first, throwing his head back, which caused Billy to latch onto his exposed neck and throat. Kissing and biting.
“We, we need to stop,” Steve gets out between breaths.
Billy places another bite to Steve’s adam's apple in response.
Steve’s hands grasp at Billy’s shoulders, but trying to push him off right now is like trying to move a mountain.
“I don’t have feelings for you! That, that’s not why I’m doing this,” he half yelps and shouts.
Billy abruptly stops. Pulling away from Steve, not bothering to allow him to catch himself as he slides down the door.
Steve looks up at him. Billy’s trying to catch his breath and he’s flushed but it’s not in arousal. No, it’s shame.
“What, uh, what, what are you talking about?”
Steve slowly gets to his feet, not taking his eyes off of Billy. He’s not sure how to read the other man in this moment. He’s bouncing between fight or flight and Steve’s not sure if he can handle fight mode right now. Billy has at least twenty pounds on him, which he’s pretty sure is all muscle.
“You have feelings. For me. I, I don’t return your sentiments.”
It’s a long moment before he hears Billy respond. And when he does it’s a quiet, reserved, “I know.”
"Then, then why are you doing this? I told you I don't expect anything from you."
Billy moved back to the foot of the bed and sat down. He looked at the floor near Steve's feet.
"I should, I, I should go," Billy said, not even trying to get up.
Steve will forever hate the broken laugh that erupted from Billy.
"For what? Being the only decent human being I've ever met? God, Steve, I didn't think people like you existed.
"I'm not, like, I didn't grow up with this notion that people were nice for free. But kindness tossed my way has always come with a price."
"I'm not, don't, I wasn't always the nice guy. I was just like everyone else in the car earlier. I wanted you to get on your knees for me."
"You think I didn't know that? I know that you wanted it, but you still didn't follow through because you were trying to spare me and my feelings."
"I didn't realize that you had feelings until you answered me asking if the offer was still valid. I ran away from the car situation because for how often you call me pretty, I'm not blind, you're beautiful. But I won't lead you on. I can't give in to you because you are going to hurt yourself."
"You think this is the first time I've had unrequited feelings for someone? I'm a big boy Stevie, I can handle this."
"Are, are you seriously trying to use excuses to justify us continuing where we left off? Because if that's the case, I refuse to take advantage of you. One-sided feelings fuck up these kinds of arrangements and I like you enough not to treat you like everyone else does. My kindness doesn't have a price. Ever."
Steve watches Billy get up and take a few steps closer to him.
"I'm sorry to have wasted so much of your time, Mr. Harrington."
Billy is out the door before Steve even registers what he just said.
What? What does he mean by that? Is he done with this whole thing or just that he has feelings?
He wants to go after him. But he doesn't. He goes out to his deck and sits down and just takes in the city nightlife drown out his thoughts.
He's not sure how long he just sits there, but he's startled by a hand touching his shoulder.
"Shit, Lucas, warn a guy!"
"Max got an SOS text a while ago. Look, Steve, I'm not going to lie, Max and Billy are," Steve cuts him off.
"I'm not talking about this with you."
"I'm the only one here who understands what you're dealing with. As much as she refuses to admit it, she's a lot like Billy. They don't, they don't know how to accept that they can be loved without strings attached.
"Billy's dad is an asshole of the largest proportions, and growing up in a shitty environment like that, well, his kindness came with a huge price.
"Steve, man, she’d tell me that you guys meeting would end in disaster because you are everything Billy likes. You are his type to the fullest. She would always skirt around his questions about you when he’d start poking his nose at the new photos El or Will would have put up around the house after you came for a visit.
“Like, she, she told me the first time he’d ever looked at your face he loved you a little. She knows him. She can read him better than El can and that says a lot. Dustin waxes poetic about you and Billy learned quickly that’s who he had to butter up to learn information on you from.”
“Wait, wait, wait a minute, you’re telling me that he’s known who I am this whole time?” Steve blurted out.
Then realizes what he’s just said and how strange it will sound to someone who doesn’t know that their entire relationship is fake.
“Steve, what are you talking about?” Lucas asks.
“I, uh, the thing is, um, Lucas,” Steve starts.
“WHAT DID HE DO?!”
Both Lucas and Steve turn towards his door and see a fuming Max stomping towards them.
Both tried to talk at the same time and she cut them both off with a look that had them clamping their mouths shut.
“Steve, you better tell me why I get a text from my idiot brother telling me that he’s not going to be around, but he’ll be sure to see me off at the airport. He runs away when he fucks up, so tell me what he did so I can get the idiot’s head out of his ass!”
“I’m going to give you guys some privacy,” Lucas said and darted back into the apartment.
Steve had never felt so helpless.
But he now understood why Billy was terrified of teenage girls. If this was a Max he’d had to deal with during her adolescence he’d be terrified too.
“I don’t, I don’t know what he did, to be honest.”
She just looked at him.
“Look, Max, I, he’s not the one to blame this time. It, it’s all me, okay. Lay off of him. I’m the one that sent him running this time.”
Steve watched her entire demeanor change and understood why Billy tried to keep her ire locked on him rather than directed at Steve.
“He, I think he broke up with me. I don’t know where he went, he won’t respond to any of my calls or messages. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry Steve, so sorry. I, I tried for so long to keep him out of your life. You know how El and Will love to decorate the house with photos, they’re everywhere. The first time he visited after one your visits he stopped talking like mid-sentence stopped talking because he was looking at your face.
“I just, I knew that he’d do what he always does with a pretty face. He gets obsessive and falls way too hard way too fast. I, I didn’t want either of you to deal with his relationship style bullshit. He’s never, he’s never been good at relationships.
“Honestly, I’m surprised you guys have lasted as long as you have. Even with all the off and on in your history, and I don’t, I don’t blame you guys keeping it a secret. But he loves you, I know that for a fact. I could see it every time Dustin, or anyone really gave him information about you. Especially how much you’ve grown into a better person than that douchebag I never got to meet.
“Like, if, if you had any kind of social media account he’d probably have liked every single thing you’ve ever posted. I think, no, I know that for me, you were one of the first to show me that kindness doesn’t come with a price. And, and I think that was the same for him as well. Steve, you, you’re probably the best thing that could’ve ever happened to him.”
“Max,” he says a little breathless because come on, how, how are you supposed to react to that kind of information? Especially when it’s not hers to tell?!
“It’ll be okay. I’ll, I’ll go find him and bring him home.”
“I think, I think he should have his space, at least for tonight.”
She looked like she wanted to say more but just nodded.
In the morning both of them will wish she had. They’ll wish she had gone out to search for Billy.
Instead, they woke up to headlines and photos of Liam Mayfield cheating on Steve with some woman.
Steve’s favorite headline: Liam Mayfield: We knew his boyfriend was just a phase!
i give you full permission to scream at me for this!
Chapter 14: Asshole, in an endearing way.
“This still doesn’t excuse your participation for the premier.”
Steve just stared at Nancy across the table.
“Are you serious right now? The whole goddamn world thinks our shit relationship was a phase, like, like a grown-ass man had a mid-life-gay-crisis and just brushed me off for the next available vagina . And you, you want me to still obligate our contract and be his date to a very publicized event?”
“It will show that you two are serious about working through his problems and that you support this career endeavor for him.”
“That’s bullshit, Nancy. Fucked up bullshit!”
She glances down at her phone that hasn’t stopped buzzing with notifications, but she’s only checking the time.
Steve rolls his eyes, “He’s not going to show. Not with the shitstorm that’s social media right now. Not after last night.”
“If he doesn’t show up, Steve, he’s forfeiting any and all future potential jobs. This, this could very well end his career, Steve.”
“You guys would just drop him like that? Because of stunts a lot of actors pull?”
“It wouldn’t be my choice, but yes. This project and rouse of a relationship was a last-ditch effort on his management team’s behalf to test his desire to continue with acting. It, it wasn’t just about his constant flings, being a ladies man is apparently still a thing for some people.
“It, Steve, he’s reckless. Honestly, I, I’m surprised none of his flings have come back to us with an STD or a baby. My bosses are grateful that he's not doing drugs. They figured that fixing his slutty reputation would be easier than helping an addict."
Steve makes a face.
"Full offense, your bosses sound like a bunch of assholes. And you just follow their lead."
"I, I, I'm not like them ! Do you, do you have any idea how hard I fought for this chance for him? Steve, I think outside of Max and the kids, I'm the only person in his corner. He's very good at what he does. People will be blown away by this project."
Her eyes were glossy, meaning she was holding back tears. This is, he , is important to her.
"Nancy, you haven't even asked me what happened. You don't, you don't know why he went out last night."
He knows that's a weak point, but he can tell that she's trying not to ask him about it.
"I'm waiting for him so I don't have to repeat myself."
Steve rolls his eyes.
He looks around the park. She's smart to choose a public place for this kind of conversation.
He watches as people go about their lives.
He doesn't mean to but he finds himself focusing on couples. Some are holding hands. Others have linked arms. A few have one arm around a waist.
Steve thinks back to the last few grocery store runs and how Billy would walk around with his hand in Steve's back pocket.
He thinks back on the last almost three months and realizes that Billy was always so obvious with his affections.
Hindsight is a bitch.
"He knew who I was," he blurts out.
"What? Steve, what do you mean?"
"Lucas and Max, they, both of them told me that he, he would ask about me whenever he visited them. You know how much El and Will update photos around their house, well, it was after one of my first handful of visits that Billy stopped by.
"Oddly enough, we never were at their house at the same time. I, I, I learned that was because Max, uh, she didn't want me to get hurt by him. She, she said that the first time he saw my face, in one of the pictures, he stopped talking mid-sentence. And she knew that he would be interested. But he is apparently really bad at relationships.
"I'm pretty sure that I am the only person who has been trying to consider his opinions on this whole situation."
"You were, are ," Steve heard from behind him.
Neither he nor Nancy says anything, they just wait for him to make a move.
Billy takes a seat next to Nancy.
Steve can't look at him. Not yet.
"You're late," Nancy said.
Steve finally looks at the other man as he tries to make an excuse for his tardiness.
He looks rough. Though, he supposes, that's what you look like after you get rejected and then go on a bender.
"I should have our contracts voided. I don't want to do this anymore."
Steve hears his unspoken I can't .
"Can you at least do the premier together? It's a little over a month away. You guys can use that time to get your heads on right."
"Just let him go, Nance," Billy says, "he, he's done enough. It's me that's the problem."
Billy hasn't looked at Steve once since he sat down.
“Just, just let me know what kind of fees I need to pay for them dragging Steve’s name through this shitshow and I’ll make sure he gets them.”
“Uh, hi, Steve is right here, man.”
Billy finally looks at him.
Steve feels gutted. The amount of self-loathing that he can read in Billy’s eyes is astounding.
“I’m not, I’m not worried about what they’re saying about me. I just, how, how are you doing?”
He sees a brief flash of disbelief cross his face.
“Me? You’re worried about what they’re saying about me? It’s nothing I haven’t heard before. Liam Mayfield is a slut.”
“I’m not asking about Liam Mayfield, I’m asking about Billy Hargrove.”
“Tell you boys what, I’m going to go find us some coffee, and while I’m gone how about you two talk out whatever it is that caused last night to happen,” Nancy said leaving no room for discussion.
Steve just watched Billy watch her walk away.
“I don’t get you, man.”
“I told you my kindness doesn’t come with a price, Billy. Now tell me how you’re doing?”
“Well, pretty shitty to be honest. I hear all about this awesome guy named Steve from kids who hold him in very high regards. I hear all about him from his ex-girlfriend/best friend and then I get to know him. Granted it’s for a pretend relationship, you know those never work out in anyone’s favor. And it’s true.
“I just, I think I needed a little bit of you in my life to show me genuine goodness in another person exists and it doesn’t need to be bought or bribed. Like you just, you agreed to pretend to by my boyfriend and didn’t care if your name was dragged through the mud alongside mine.
“So yeah, I fell for you and I have the bad habit of falling hard and fast. Why would you be any different? You’re beautiful, inside and out. I hate to sound cliche but you are. I wanted you to tell me to get on my knees yesterday in the car because I am an idiot. I kept hearing everyone tell you that this wasn’t real, it was all pretend, and here I am, the idiot whose heart gets broke.”
“Billy,” Steve says.
“No, don’t, you don’t have to placate me. I, I told you I’m a big boy, this isn’t my first rodeo. I, I’d like for you to accompany me to the premiere next month, but if you don’t want to, I completely understand.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you knew who I was? Is, is that why you chose me off Nancy’s desk?”
Steve can see the other man’s entire demeanor change with those questions.
Billy runs a hand through his hair before meeting Steve’s eyes, “Because I’d figured the brats would’ve told you all about how much of an asshole I am. Or that you’d have Googled me or something equally stupid that I’d be walking into a rejection, but you legit just don’t care about that stuff.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“I couldn’t walk up to you and say, Hello, my name is Billy and I’m pretty much crushing hard on you because I’ve bribed all your kids to tell me everything they know about you and you seem like a really awesome dude. Because that would’ve gone over so well.
“And I did tell you, a little. I told you that Nancy doesn’t keep people in her life as friends that she doesn’t deem worthy of her time. You must be someone important to maintain your besties status with each other.”
“You could’ve just said ‘hey, so I know you from the kids, they like you a lot;’ that would’ve been a decent start, or even a ‘hey, so I’m the asshole brother Max is always talking about.’”
Steve watched the other man for a few moments. Watched as his ears tinged red, his cheeks flushed a deep pink, and he looked everywhere but at Steve. Watched him take a few deep breaths before turning his focus back to Steve and holding out his hand, as if offering to shake.
“Hello, Mr. Harrington, my name is Billy, Billy Hargrove. I’m the asshole brother you’ve heard so much about from Max. Those kids really like you and from what I’ve heard, I’m inclined to agree.”
Steve takes the offered hand and gives it a shake, “Hello Billy, I’m Steve. Just so you know, Max has always called you an asshole in an endearing way.”
Steve would forever cherish the smile that Billy gave him just now. He’s pretty sure it’s the first, genuine one since he met the man.
“Well, since you know so much about me, I think it’s only fair that I let the kids tell me everything they know about you over dinner tonight. We did promise them a good last night in town before they fly home tomorrow," he said.
“You, you’d let me come back?” Billy asked.
Steve shrugged, “I’m pretty sure Nancy has a clause somewhere in her own version of our contracts that makes getting out of this pretty ironclad not going to happen. Besides, my kindness is free remember?”
Hours later, after the kids have had their last day of sight-seeing, and Nancy chewed both Steve and Billy a new one, Steve was in the kitchen while Billy played the piano. Steve had asked him to keep the door open and turn the sound on.
The kids, which Steve supposed one day he’d have to stop calling them that because they weren’t those little twerps he met way back when, they were becoming their own grown ass adults and he just didn’t want to admit it yet, were sprawled across the living room. Will was doodling. Lucas and Max were going through Steve’s music collection. Dustin and El were flipping through all the tabloids. Mike was cutting out every single photo El demanded of Billy, Billy and Steve, and some just Steve.
He put the finishing touches on the chicken and rice bake before putting in the oven and then made his way to the back room where Billy was playing.
He stood in the doorway and watched him.
He supposes if he were, to be honest with himself, it wouldn’t be so bad to get serious about looking for someone to settle down with. He had three more years until the kids graduated from college, and then who knows what would happen. They’d start dating and settling down and possibly have kids and lord knows he’d spoil the fuck out of a mini-Party member.
“You’re lost in thought, Pretty Boy,” Billy’s voice broke through.
The other man hadn’t even stopped playing to tease Steve.
Steve just rolled his eyes with a smile and crossed the room and sat down beside him on the bench.
“What’s your plan for after the premier?”
For the first time since he’d started Billy’s hands faltered in their playing.
Chapter 15: You Knew
“So why did you guys have to leave us to go have lunch with Nancy? Couldn’t she have just joined us?” Dustin says around a mouth full of food.
Steve pauses, his own fork just about to touch his lips and looks around the table. He takes in all of their expectant faces.
They want answers.
He doesn’t look at Billy. Or he tries not to.
He focuses on the other man’s right shoulder.
“Uh, boring, uh, boring details about our premier outfits. She wanted us to be matching but we convinced her that complementary suits would be better.”
“Lies,” El says looking between the two.
“El, that, that’s not, this is not the time or place for that conversation, okay?” Billy pleads.
“Friends. Don’t. Lie.” Max says.
“What, we can’t call you out on your shitty behavior? You left Steve to fo fuck some mouth breather, and you just want us to what, pretend that everything’s fine because we’re having a family dinner?”
“Mike,” Steve tries.
“NO! You know what, I, I noticed something was off since the first night we were here. I didn’t say anything because I know how both of you can be painfully awkward around people and thought you that’s just how you interacted with each other.
“But then I watched you on outings. I watched you in the grocery store and you acted like every other lovesick couple I’ve ever seen in my life. So why, why when you’re home do you act like complete strangers around each other? It doesn’t add up.”
Steve was panicking. He could feel his chest tightening and his breaths shortening, getting harder to get air in. He could feel his face heating up.
He was briefly aware of the sound of chairs moving and a few dishes falling to the floor. They would stain the carpet, it’s why he didn’t want carpet in the dining room.
“Hey, hey, Steve, focus on my voice, I need you to breathe Pretty Boy.
“Stevie, I’m right here, and I need you to breathe for me. Breathe with me, okay? We’re gonna go on three, ready, one, two three,”
Steve could feel arms around him and chest pressed against his back; when had he been manhandled into Billy’s lap?
He tried to mimic the breaths the chest pressed up behind him was making. He could feel himself miss a few.
“Hey, you’re doing great, just a little bit more, that’s it, one, in, two, hold, three, out. There we go. Let’s do it again.”
He did a few more breaths.
“Good, now tell me something you hear.”
“Good. Now tell me something you smell.”
“You’re doing great. What’s something you see?”
“One more, what’s something you feel?”
“You. Your breaths.”
Steve blinked a few times and looked around the room.
Billy had maneuvered them down to the floor, Steve between the v of his legs.
He could see all the kids looking down at them in various expressions of worry, shock, and in Mike’s case, more suspicion than before.
“I’ve, I’ve never seen him come back so fast from an attack before,” Dustin said.
Steve could feel Billy chuckle behind him, the other man’s chest moving up and down as he laughed silently.
“What can I say Henderson, it’s a gift,” Billy said.
Steve could feel his chest rumble with laughter.
“Uh, thanks Billy,” he said lamely, trying to get himself out of his arms.
“Anytime,” he heard softly in his ear as Billy finally let go of him.
Steve glances up around the room, grateful the kids gave them some space, but he doesn’t know what to make of the mixture of emotions in their facial expressions.
Dustin holds his hand out to help Steve get up, “Up we go Buddy, let’s all have a seat and take a nice long drink and then you two can tell us what’s going on, sound doable?”
Steve just nods, not really sure what to say.
“Was, was Nancy right? When she asked me, what she asked me, those few months ago?”
Steve turned to Mike, not sure where he was going with that line of questioning.
“Why don’t you tell us what you think you know Wheeler?” Billy said.
Steve felt him step closer, his body heat registering closer than the other man should probably be if Mike knew from the start this was all pretend.
Mike looked between the two of them like he was studying them. For as loud and brash as he could be normally, he really was the observant one in their group.
“I’m pretty sure that what you two thought was just fun turned into something else ,” Mike said.
Steve heard a tiny sharp intake of air behind him. At least he wasn’t the only one feeling like he’s sitting in the hot seat.
“What is he talking about?” Max asked.
“Friends don’t lie,” El said again.
Lucas and Dustin both looked like they wanted to say something, but if the face Lucas was making it looked like he was very close to catching onto what Mike apparently knew the whole time.
Steve was still not prepared for them to know this whole thing was a sham. He’s not even sure how to process the fact that Mike knew from the start.
“You haven’t said anything?” Billy asks, to Mike, because Steve watches Mike’s focus shift from him to Billy.
“You think Steve’s the only one who’s met her co-workers ? Unlike you and your shitty treatment of your sister, I get along fairly well with mine.”
Steve hates that the kid made co-workers sound like a dirty word.
“HEY!” Max shouts but Billy just waves her off.
“Max and I have a very different upbringing than your perfect little life in suburbia Wheeler. Don’t act that just because you’re in the know here you have one-up on me or Steve.”
“Um, hello, yes, the rest of us are still here and would like to be clued in on what’s going on!” Dustin said.
Steve felt Billy move, putting himself in between Steve and the kids.
“Look, what I’m about to say, I need you to promise that you guys will take it out on me, not Steve.”
They all opened their mouths like they were trying to say something at once, but Billy put his hands up.
“No, I need you to promise me right now that whatever comes out of my mouth, you will not hold it against Steve. He’s important to you guys and I don’t want to fuck that up.”
Steve wasn’t sure what his face was doing but he knew his eyebrows were up near his hairline because if he were being honest, regardless of the outcome, he’d always thought Billy would’ve tried to throw him under the bus.
The kids said a collective “Promise,” and Billy took a deep breath and nodded.
“Let’s sit down and take that drink before we get started,” he also said.
He kept his back to Steve as everyone made their way back to their seats, still acting as if he were protecting Steve from the kids. But he followed suit, making his way back to his own chair and once seated drained the rest of his bottle of some cider the kids had requested he try.
He fiddled with the bottle, not sure what Billy was going to say, or what direction this whole evening was going to go in now. They leave tomorrow and this was not how Steve had wanted to spend their last night together to at the most, until Thanksgiving when they had a break in school.
He heard Billy clear his throat and watched as all their heads immediately turned to the other man.
“As you know I have a reputation, one that I have a hard time breaking away from, and uh,”
“You cheated on Steve, numerous times!”
“Henderson, you want the facts or not? Don’t interrupt me again!”
Steve didn’t look up but he assumes they nodded because Billy started talking again.
“Nance told me of a plan that my management team put into motion to help curb my reputation. She uh, she was big in supporting that I better myself. They’d apparently talked to a bunch of guys that were willing to help me better my reputation by staging a relationship.”
Steve didn’t look up. He couldn’t. He didn’t want to see their faces. Not of their gasps were any indication of their reactions.
“But I realized sitting in her office, looking over photos of a bunch of guys who would be heavily compensated for pretending to be my boyfriend, I reached over her desk, over all the photos laid out before me, and I picked up Steve’s picture.
“Why, I’m sure you’re wondering, well, it was selfish of me. See, I know you guys remember me asking you all about the Pretty Boy in the photos around the house whenever I’d visit. I watched how you guys talked about him and I begged Max to let me come by just once when he’d be there but she always told me no. Said I wasn’t allowed to ruin someone so important to you.
“I wanted to meet this person who was so important to you guys. I wanted to see what was so special about him.”
Steve can’t believe what he’s hearing.
“Nancy threatened death if I hurt him, but ultimately she arranged for us to meet with Steve and left the choice up to him. If he’d said no well, I had options, but I wanted him to agree. I wanted, no, I needed his goodness to impact and influence my life in the way he was able to light up your lives.
“Pictures don’t do him justice because I remember the first time we came here I couldn’t move. I was frozen in place and thank fuck I had my glasses on because I’m pretty sure my eyes were bugging out my head because, I mean, look at him.
“Anyway, he yelled at Nancy, he yelled at me. Said this was stupid. Why would anyone agree to do something like this? So I told him why I was. I told him the truth. I told him that I’ve made plenty of shitty choices and I have to face the consequences of those choices.
“This film, when it premieres next month, will make or break my career. I know that now. But I’ve already broken our contract. No, I didn’t break them, I did the one thing we weren’t supposed to do. I went into this with something of a schoolgirl crush on Steve and getting to know him, pretending to be in love with him, I learned that you guys weren’t lying when you told me the kind of person he is. I learned that he really is a genuinely good human being.”
Steve’s eyes are closed. He refuses to open them.
“You love him,” El says from across the table.
“Wait, you guys were just faking this whole time?” Dustin asks.
“That’s why you weren’t that upset when I told you about the PA in his trailer,” Will said. Steve knew he was addressing him.
“You let me shit on Steve for dancing with some asshole in a bar and you did something with one of the PA’s on set?” Max said in a tone that left no room for redemption.
All Steve can focus on is El’s statement, you love him. Billy hasn’t addressed anyone, but Steve heard his head snap in her direction, his neck popped from turning so fast.
“Yes,” Billy finally says and Steve’s not sure who he’s answering.
He hears him clear his throat before talking again.
“I went into this for selfish reasons and its backfired. I’m the one with the feelings. Steve, he’s amazing, you guys have never been wrong about that. I just, I crossed the line somewhere along the way to getting to know him from you guys and spending time with him.
“I fucked up, big time, going out the other night. I can’t be selfish anymore so I’ve terminated our contracts so just, please, remember you promised not to give Steve shit for this.”
Steve still refuses to open his eyes. He doesn’t want to know what the kids look like. How they’re looking at him. At Billy.
“So you’re what, telling us that you’re just going to give up on Steve, just like that?”
Steve’s eyes snap open and he lands his gaze on Mike. Mike, who is looking at Billy as if he’s a goddamn coward. Steve’s been on the end of that gaze enough to know it.
“It’s not giving up on him if he’s told me he doesn’t feel the same,” Billy says softly.
Everyone glances at El. She’s looking between Steve and Billy.
“Language, Janie,” Billy tries for humor but falls flat.
“No. There is love between you. Both of you,” she says.
Friends don’t lie. That’s what she’s always said.
“Janie, I already told you that Steve doesn’t return my feelings. It’s okay. I, I’ve liked people before who didn’t return the sentiments.”
She looked at Steve, the look on her face dared him to look away.
“Steve, Steve has always needed a push. You giving up on him isn’t giving him the push he needs.”
He knows she said those words to Billy despite not taking her eyes off of himself.
“Just stop! STOP! Guys, I get this, this is a lot to take in and all but, we need to respect both of their feelings,” Lucas burst out.
“There’s nothing to respect about Steve being in denial of his feelings,” Mike spits out.
“HEY! I told you and you promised not to shit on Steve,” Billy said.
“I’m sorry,” Steve says so quietly and lamely he’s not even sure anyone hears him.
He feels all their eyes on him. They heard him.
He finally looks around at all of them.
“I promised Billy, just as I’ve always promised you guys, my kindness is free. It doesn’t come with a price. To go back on that now, with him, to do that to him, that’s not who I am and you know it.”
“You’re still not addressing how you feel about him,” Will stated.
“Regardless of how I feel about Billy, that’s between me and him. There’s a reason we allowed this farce to play out as it did, nobody knowing about us, not even you guys, because of how it would, how it was received, until we were ready to deal with that kind of backlash.
“I’m not perfect guys, I love that you guys love me and want to protect me from all the bad stuff life has, but I’m grown up enough to know my limits. Regardless of my feelings for Billy, or anyone who I might have in my life as a partner, I need you guys to at least respect my choices.
“Billy needed help. You know I can’t say no to people who need help. Nancy knows this about me and took advantage of that, but that’s on her. I didn’t take that out on Billy. I took it out on her.
“Look, this isn’t how I wanted your last night here to go. We have a bunch of games in the other room for you guys to obliterate us with. We both wanted you guys to have a great last night with us, regardless of this farce of a relationship because you guys are important to both of us.”
“He was quite heated when Nance told him that you guys had to be involved when you came to town,” Billy injected.
“And you , you knew this whole time and didn’t think to clue any of us in?” Will said looking at Mike.
That set off a whole lot of yelling and words that should’ve come off as hurtful but Steve knew they were all reeling emotionally.
Trust had been toyed with.
That’s not an easy thing to deal with.
It wasn’t until everyone was trying to yell or speak over someone else that El got to her feet so fast her chair fell over behind her.
“I want to go. Now. Thank you for having me Steve, I will see you in November,” and she turned and walked off towards the room she’d been staying in.
Max got up and followed her, then Will, and then Lucas.
Dustin and Mike still remained at the table, both wanting to say something but Steve could tell they didn’t know what to actually say to either of them.
Steve let them go.
He listened as they slammed doors, gathered their belongings and headed to the elevator.
He listened as Billy got up and flustered Max, begging her not to go, to hear him out.
She told him to fuck off.
He wanted to be angry at Billy. Wanted to yell at him, ask him why he couldn’t have kept it in his pants for one more month. Why he couldn’t respect Steve not wanting to take advantage of him by not sleeping with him knowing he had feelings that weren’t returned. Steve’s an asshole but he’s not that kind of asshole.
He starts gathering dishes before he gets up himself and takes the first arm-full to the kitchen to deposit in the sink.
“You know, I thought keeping him away from you would be for your benefit, I never thought that you’d be the one to hurt him .”
Max stood in the archway between the kitchen and dining room.
“Max,” he started but she cut him off.
“No, Steve, don’t apologize. I realize now that we were all so protective of you and your habit of falling hard and fast that I completely ignored the same in Billy. Get yourselves together because you’re both invited to Thanksgiving this year. I’ll let you know when we land tomorrow. Take care of yourself.”