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Telenovelas Are Hell

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Steve was eight years old, and for the first time that month, his family was together. His father was still in town, his next business trip not until the next week. His mother was back from Spain, and they were all gathered in the living room like one happy family. His mom was playing one of her telenovelas, and his dad was casually working on some paperwork in his easy chair. Steve’s mom ran her hands through his hair as he watched the ugly girl slowly win over the heart of her arrogant boss.

It was fun. He was happy. 

A new character came on screen. Steve didn’t really like him. He was annoying. Had a high pitched voice, he loved clothes, and he kept trying to separate Lety and Fernando. Now he had locked Fernando in a room and was trying to kiss him! And Lety could see everything through the glass, but couldn’t do anything! 

“Damn omegas.” Steve’s dad muttered under his breath, and his mom laughed a little.

“Why am I not surprised?” His mom said. “Will you ever get over Emilio?”

“I’m long over him.” His dad answered. “That’s just what male omegas are like. Don’t have any damn restraint. Catch sight of an alpha and suddenly all reason goes out the window. I bet anything this guy has a boyfriend or three in the background, but he’s going after this poor idiot.”

“Why?” little Steve asked. “Who’s Emilio?”

“Just a very bad omega that hurt your dad.” His mom explained. 

“I dated him a few years before I met your mother, but turns out he was dating a few other guys too. Dropped me like a hot potato when he found someone richer.” His dad scowled. “Look, Steve. Omegas are just like that. Sneaky, slutty―”

“Harold!”

 “--sorry. They kiss everyone. Even when they have a boyfriend. That’s what I mean. And they are after money more than anything else. When you grow up and are an alpha like your mom and dad, you gotta stay far away from them, you got that?”

Steve nodded dutifully. “Yeah!” 

____ 

When Steve got older, and failed to present as an alpha, he mostly just put the thought of omegas out of his head. When they went over omega biology, he tuned it out, instead focusing on winning over Lisa Steiner, a cute brunette that sat next to him in his freshman health class.

What was there to know, anyways? They could have babies. Big whoop. He didn’t exactly need to know all the mechanics of it to get by. He only barely paid more attention when they went over alpha biology. Pretty much just paid attention long enough to hear that they mostly all presented between the ages of twelve and fourteen, and if you reached fifteen and you were still a beta, you could pretty much guess you were doomed to be one forever.

 Not that he was too pissed about it. His parents had been a little disappointed, but then his dad went on a long rant about how betas were great in the workplace, and actually studies were saying they had a lot more management potential than alphas, because of how they were able to keep a level head.

Steve had never pegged himself as especially levelheaded, but his father’s disappointment was so easily earned, he didn’t want to argue.

He fooled around with some omega girls, but when it really came time to settle down, he found his interest piqued by Nancy Wheeler, an alpha girl in the grade below him. She was everything he could ever want: pretty, smart, and sweet with a strong independent streak and a way of putting him in his place that honestly turned him on more than any of the others. 

Nancy was just so unique. Alpha girls were rare enough, but not only was she an alpha like his mom, she also was just so considerate of him, so thoughtful of others, and so sweetly delicate--he was sure he’d never find another girl like her again. Part of the reason why he was so heartbroken when she ended things was just because of that. He’d lost his one chance with the best girl in the world. He’d be stuck with boring ones for the rest of his lifetime.

 It was part of the reason he’d fought so hard to stay with her, even when all the signs of the end were there. He’d caught her kissing Jonathan a few times, and she always seemed to prefer hanging out with him to hanging out with Steve. It was really only a matter of time.

It still hurt, though, when it finally ended.

_

“Don’t worry, man.” The new kid told him in the showers. “Pretty boy like you’s got nothin’ to worry about. 

Steve ignored him. Man, this guy was annoying. Ever since Nancy had broken up with him, this kid seemed to be everywhere. Pushing him around on the basketball court, slamming his locker shut in between classes, throwing spitballs at him in study halls. The guy just didn’t quit. Steve wasn’t really sure why he was going after Steve, of all people. There were plenty of other people to pick on. More popular people, if he was looking to make any power moves. Less popular people, if he was looking to be a bully. Either way, there was no reason for him to go after Steve.

The guy seemed irritated at being ignored, and said some line about fish in the sea before turning off Steve’s water in a total dick move.

Steve watched him as he walked away. Asshole. He had enough to worry about, without having this guy on his tail.

“What’s with the new guy?” He asked his new lunch group. When he’d fallen out with Tommy, Steve had sat with Nancy and Jonathan. Now that Nancy was ditching him for Jonathan, he had to move on to his third choice, the jocks.

Most of them were on the basketball team with him, and so it was easy to jump into their group. They all made room for him, treating him with a really flattering amount of consideration. For instance, as he asked the question, one of them was opening his milk carton for him, another was cutting his meal up into little bite sized pieces for him, and Jack Myers tensed up next to him.

“What, you want us to beat him up for you? I saw him pushing you around on the court.” The other guy nodded eagerly, ready to beat him up with a word from Steve.

And this is why Steve had always gravitated more towards Tommy, and later Nancy. It was unnerving to be treated like this. He much preferred when people would poke fun at him and treat him like just a normal person, instead of this.

“Nah, I can handle myself. I’ve just been wondering why he’s been so obsessed with me recently. Like, what did I ever do to him?”

“That’s probably just how he is.” Kev said, handing back his plate and fork. Steve took it and speared a piece of food, chewing it slowly. “I’ve been thinking we need to teach him a lesson.”

“Yeah.” Jason agreed, from where he sat massaging Steve’s feet. “He needs to learn how things are done around here.”

“Mn.” Steve murmured, looking over to where Billy stood waiting in the lunch line and talking with some girls. “I don’t really care, I just was curious. Anyways, Jason, I didn’t realize you could give such good massages. This is, like, amazing.”

Jason beamed at him, and Brad jumped up. “I can give good massages too! Let me get your neck.”

Brad took over his neck, and it felt so good, Steve was lost in the moment for a little, until Jack placed a hand on his knee comfortingly. “I heard Nancy’s been skipping school with that Jonathan kid the last few days. How are you holding up?”

Steve frowned. “It sucks, but I’m okay. I kind of saw it coming, it just sucks the way it happened, you know?”

Jack nodded sympathetically. “Yeah, when Lisa broke up with me, I couldn't get out of bed for like three days. It was miserable.” He picked up Steve’s hand, and started massaging it gently. Man, actually Steve took it all back. This was absolute bliss. He made a little noise in his throat of pleasure as Brad got a knot in his shoulders.

Kev scooted closer. “Hey, if your hands are occupied, I could feed you.” He offered, and soon Steve was living in the lap of luxury, getting his neck, feet, and hands massaged as he got fed delicately from a fork. He closed his eyes, letting himself enjoy the moment as the group assured him that he was amazing and any girl would be lucky to date him, and if he was a chick how well they would treat him.

Just as he was beginning to forget all about Nancy, and new kid, and all the rest of his problems, all of the hands on him disappeared, snatched away like they’d gotten caught. Steve opened his eyes, confused, and caught new kid advancing on them. Steve crossed his legs, acting unconcerned. He rose a brow at the other boy.

New kid just grinned crookedly, like Steve had just made his day.

“King Steve.” He said. “Tell me you’re at least putting out.”

 And that made no sense at all, so Steve just looked at him, confused. “Uh, I’m not.”

“And yet you have all these alphas whipped as hell? Impressive.”

Steve rolled his eyes. “They’re not whipped, they’re just nice.” New kid actually laughed at that.

“Sure.” He shoved Kev away, pulling his chair up nice and close to Steve. “What I don’t get, is why everyone worships you. You’re a beta. You’re not that good at sports. You’re not that good at school. Hell, you’re not even in a band. Why’s everyone so obsessed with you?”

“My question is why are you so obsessed with me?” Steve returned. “Did I kill your puppy or something? Are you out for revenge?”

“No, just curious.” New kid licked his lips in a way that was obvious enough it was obscene. He picked up one of Steve’s bite sized pieces of mystery meat and popped it into his mouth. Steve narrowed his eyes at him, then picked up his spoon and stole some of New Kid’s mashed potatoes. New kid laughed delightedly, taking another bite of Steve’s lunch before standing up. “You’re a fun one, Stevie. See ya around.” With that, he walked away, bringing his little posse with him.

“Whoa.” Jason murmured under his breath. “Wicked.”

_

So New Kid’s name was Billy, and he was basically the most magnetic person in the entire world.

Everyone in school seemed to worship him. They rotated around him like planets around a sun, trying to get any ray of his attention they could. He barely seemed to care, which made him that much more cool in everybody’s heads.

The jocks talked about him a lot.

“I heard he beat up this kid and almost killed him, which is why they had to move away.” Kev told the others.

“No way, man. I heard it’s ‘cause his dad works some secret government job or something.”

Steve rolled his eyes from where he sat, legs propped up on Kev, getting a hand massage from Brad. “It’s probably just because his dad got a new job or something. Not everything has to be a huge scandal.”

“Yeah but this definitely is.” Kev continued undeterred. “I heard him and his sister talking about it in the parking lot and something definitely went down. 

“Get this.” Jason said, and the group leaned in. “The other day, we were working out together, and he pulled his hair up, and I got a look at this tattoo on the back of his neck. Got a barcode and a number four, sickest thing I ever saw.”

 “Dude, what if he’s like, an android or something. Like the Terminator.”

 “Dude, sick. Who’s Sarah Conner though?”

The whole table looked at Steve. He flipped them off with his free hand. “Oh, shut up.” 

“He is weirdly obsessed with you, though.” Jack spoke up. “It would make sense.”

“He is not.” Steve argued, though he didn’t put any heat behind his words. Everybody knew it wasn’t true. Hell, Billy was staring at him right now from across the lunch hall. “It’s not really a big deal. He just wants to be friends or something, I don’t know.”

It made sense. Billy was always weirdly friendly with his antagonism. He would compliment Steve and call him pretty in a way that seemed not wholly sarcastic. He’d push him down, then pull him up. He’d give him tips on basketball, or the English homework, or whatever, and then temper it with a little dig.

“Yeah. He probably just doesn’t know the right way to go about it.” Jack agreed.

Because he’s a robot!” Kev insisted, then, and they all laughed.

Billy was still staring at him, so Steve gave him a little wave. If he just wanted to be friends, he’s welcome to it. Steve definitely could use some.

And then the disaster at the Byers’s happened.

 Well. Steve thought distantly as Billy laid into him, punching him over and over again. I guess he didn’t want to be your friend.

He fumbled to get the other boy off him, but he was quickly losing consciousness. His body was beginning to give out, and he couldn’t do anything to get this guy to stop. He needed to--he needed to―

Suddenly, though, Billy did stop. He paused, looking at Steve blearily. “Wait, what the―” he got out, and then Max was sticking a needle full of who knows what in his neck.

Billy slumped off of him, and Steve finally succumbed to his exhaustion and passed out.

Chapter Text

Steve took the next day off school. He figured he deserved it. He’d basically helped save the world, after all, and his face looked like a bloody pulp. He needed at least one day to recover. 

Plus, for some reason, his body was just not cooperating. He felt paranoid, his stomach hurt in this pulsing, awful way, and he was sweating like crazy. No matter how much he tried, he couldn’t get out of bed. Not to say he tried that hard. He basically woke up feeling like shit, and decided today was going to be a sick day. 

He slept most of the day until he finally got a call from his dad in the afternoon.

“What’s this I hear about you skipping school?” His dad said, voice tinny and stern through the line.

“I’m sick.” Steve answered, trying to make his voice sound as sick as he could. It wasn’t that hard.

“Have you been throwing up? It doesn’t sound like you have a cold.”

 “Fever.” Steve mumbled, feeling another wave of pain hit him. “Andmy stomach hurts.”

“Hm. Okay, I’ll schedule a doctor’s appointment for you tomorrow.”

“No! No doctor necessary!” Steve protested hurriedly. The family doctor would go nuts over his messed up face, probably tell his dad he’s getting in fights again. No, it would be better to go to school like this than have to deal with that. “I think it’s a 24-hour thing. I’m going to go to school tomorrow.”

The silence over the line was telling. When his dad spoke up again, it was to give a lecture on not faking sick, with extra attention on how bad Steve’s grades already were, and how embarrassing it would be for Steve to have to go to summer school, or worse, have to repeat the year.

Steve half listened to him, mind unfocused. He was in so much pain right now. His stomach felt like there was something clawing in it, trying to get out. Maybe a demodog. Maybe he accidentally had eaten a baby demodog somehow, and now it was inside him, trying to get out.

He gagged, another wave of nausea hitting him at that horrifying visual.

No. He was just sick. That was it. No way this was something from the upside down inside of him. Absolutely no way.

 _

Going into school the next morning was miserable. He didn’t think he could drive, so he ended up just taking the bus, which ended up being bumpy enough that he regretted it almost instantly. He pressed his cheek against the window, relishing how the cool glass felt on his face. 

Since most people liked to drive to school with their friends, the bus was pretty sparse. The only other people were a couple of freshmen and Harvey Miller, this nerdy guy that lived down the street from him. As such, Steve expected to be able to sit in an empty middle row and have twenty minutes of silence as the bus slowly made its way to the school.

No such luck. Harvey Miller sat in the seat right next to his and started talking.

“You okay, Steve?” Miller asked, and Steve nodded.

“Just tired.” He lied, inching closer to the window and curling in on himself a little more. Harvey gave him the creeps. Dude had no concept of personal space or hygiene, and the mix was deadly on his nose. Not to mention, his nose was extra sensitive today. The kid was a full seat away from him, but Steve could smell him like he was an inch away and breathing in his face.

“Aw, man, yeah. School’s the worst. I was up til two a.m. last night reading this new book that came out. Dragons of Autumn Twilight. Have you ever heard of it?”

“No.” Steve looked out the window, trying to hint with every inch of his body that he wasn’t interested. Harvey didn’t get the hint.

“Oh man, you are missing out! It’s a really good book, totally wicked. It follows these friends as they...well, actually let me just start from the beginning cause there’s so many details and it’s so good. It starts with this serving maid, Tika, and she’s a title nervous because the patrons in the bar have been pretty tense lately, and there’s this reunion happening…”

Steve tuned him out, trying to subtly cover his nose with his collar. The more the guy talked, the more Steve could smell his horrible ham and cheese breath wafting in from the other seat. He fought the urge to vomit. How did people even reach the level of dirtiness that they smelled this bad? Finally he gave up and fully put his shirt over his nose. It barely even helped.

This was going to be a long day.

When he finally got to school, he noted that Billy was conspicuously missing, his Camaro nowhere to be seen.

Instead, the entire basketball team came up to greet Steve when he walked in, taking his bags and earnestly asking what was wrong and who they needed to beat up. They smelled even worse than Harvey. They smelled strong, spicy, and pungent, like he was stuck inside a spice cabinet that hated him.

 The force of it rocked him backwards, and he sneezed violently, his nose rejecting the heavy scents. They all scrambled to get him a tissue, crowding him even more.

 He mumbled something, barely able to get any words out, before finally stumbling away to his first period class. They all followed him, carrying his bags until he got to the room. It should’ve been sweet, but mostly it just made him irritated. His backpack smelled bad now. Collapsing into his seat was a relief. He buried his head in his arms and closed his eyes against the harsh fluorescent lights.

His teacher looked at him with worry in her eyes. “Are you okay, Steve? You don’t look so good.”

“‘M fine.” Steve mumbled into his desk. “Got in a fight. ‘S stupid.”

This had the unfortunate effect of drawing the attention of Jason, one of the basketball team guys. “Who was it?” He asked. He sounded calmer than the other basketball guys had been.

Jason was just like that, though. He was one of those steady types of guys, with the kind of straightforward honesty and patience that had every girl drooling all over him. Not that he cared. He’d liked the same girl since elementary school, and even when she’d moved away, he stayed firmly attached to her, writing letters almost every day. Steve liked him probably the best out of all the basketball guys, but right now he didn’t want to talk to anybody.

“Nobody important.” Steve answered, cradling his pounding head. “My dad said he didn’t want me to take off anymore school.”

Jason’s eyes softened. “Well, he obviously doesn’t know the full story, you’re sick as a dog. We should get you home.”

“No, it’s fine.” Steve mumbled, beginning to feel his consciousness fading. He was so tired, and his arms were so comfy beneath his head...he could just…

The teacher knelt down next to his desk, startling him. “You really don’t look so good, how about you go see the nurse? Jason, would you mind making sure he gets there in one piece?”

“Of course, ma’am.” His southern drawl came out. Mmm. Steve had always liked that southern drawl. It was cool. Reminded him of the cowboy movies he’d liked as a kid. Jason didn’t smell half bad, either. Kind of like leather and nutmeg. Boot straps and apple pie.

He was so focused on his inner thoughts, he didn’t even realize Jason was getting closer until the asshole picked him up like a princess . Steve’s eyes popped open, and he reflexively held onto Jason to keep his balance.

“Whoa, what the hell, dude?” Steve yelped, But Jason only shrugged.

 “I’ll feel more comfortable if we did it this way. I’m worried if we walk, you’ll pass out on the way.” His voice held no room for argument, and Steve sighed, going limp in his arms.

 “Well you could’ve warned me.” He grumbled, leaning into the taller boy. “I feel awful.”

“I know.” Jason answered, tightening his grip. “Let’s get you to the nurse.”

Something warm curled in Steve’s heart, and the pain subsided into an itch in his gut. He felt fluttery, like he wanted something to happen. His face and body heated. Sweat flowed from his backside to the point he worried Jason might be able to feel it through his pants.

With that anxiety, the feeling began to fade again and turn back into the same pounding pain from earlier. He groaned a bit, clawing at Jason’s chest. He heard a returning growl, and didn’t know what it meant, but it vowed him into silence until they got to the nurse.

The nurse’s office was a relief, cool and free of any excessive smells or noise. Steve was vaguely aware of Jason lying him down on the bed and talking to the nurse in low tones. The pain from Steve’s head subsided and settled as a low ache in his gut. It felt like Billy was punching him over and over again inside.

Billy. The pain intensified as he remembered that night. He whined, a high, keening sound, and Jason rushed over to him again.

“You okay?”

 “He hates me.” Steve groaned, and, shit . He didn’t mean for that to come out sounding like a lovelorn 12 year old girl, but it did. Luckily, the alpha boy misunderstood.

“Your dad doesn’t hate you.” He assured. “He probably just didn’t understand how sick you were.” 

The nurse came forward again, and there was more talking, and then Jason walked out. Steve whined again at the loss of The alpha’s grounding presence, but soon the nurse came forward, patting his head sympathetically.

“Hey, sugar. Heard you’re having a rough day.”

“Mhmm” Steve nodded, squeezing his eyes shut and curling in on himself. “I feel awful.”

“When did it start?” She asked, pulling out a clipboard.

“It started yesterday, but it wasn’t this bad. I dunno,I think there’s just too many people around, all the smells are making me nauseous.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. I dunno. I keep sweating so much my butt feels raw, and I feel sick, and my stomach hurts, and I just want to curl up under my blankets and hide.”

She looked at him thoughtfully. “Are you feeling a little scared, in a way you can’t place?”

Yes!” Steve had assumed it was just the aftermath of the life-or-death situation from yesterday, but he’d been on edge all yesterday and today, convinced the Upside Down would get him if he looked away for a second. 

“Did you have an altercation with an alpha where there was a lot of skin-to-skin contact?”

Steve thought of the fight two days ago. “Yeah. Wait. Did I get some sort of weird disease cause he was an alpha? No way!”

The nurse laughed. “Not in the way you’re thinking.” She said. Let me ask a few more questions before I settle on a diagnosis. “Where is your pain?”

She asked a few more questions, and Steve anxiously considered the possibilities of what this might be. The image of a demo dog hiding inside him returned with a vengeance.

 “So? What’s wrong with me?” He finally asked. “Am I dying?”

The nurse laughed again, turning warm eyes into him. “Not at all,” she said. “I think you’re just in heat.”

Steve’s pulse jumped. “Oh! Rut, you mean. Wow. Isn’t it really late, though?” So he was finally becoming an alpha. Incredible. He smiled, excited. His dad was going to be thrilled.

“No, it’s a heat, not a rut, and it does seem like you’re a bit of a late bloomer, but nothing too unusual. The average age is sixteen for omegas.”

“I’m not an omega.” Steve answered automatically, sitting up. She just had it wrong. He was an alpha, if anything. “I think you’ve got it mixed up.”

The nurse smoothed a hand through her hair, a self-soothing gesture that betrayed her nervousness. “Sometimes it can be more difficult for boys to accept an omega status—“

 “Don’t give me that bullshit.”Anxiously, Steve followed her lead and ran his hands through his hair. He was too worked up, though, and he ended up scrambling it into a huge mess. “I’m not a fucking omega!” His hands found their way to his eyes as he felt tears welling up. No. He wasn’t going to cry. He wasn’t a fucking omega who cried about every little thing, he was Steve Harrington, and he wasn’t fucking an omega!

The nurse stood, eyeing him like he was some feral animal. “I can see that this is an emotional time for you, how about I just let you go home early? I’ll call your parents.”

Steve’s stomach dropped immediately. Fear clawed at his throat, and he choked on the air. “N-no, don’t call my parents—“ His dad would be so disappointed. He’d hate him, he’d say Steve was just like his ex, he’d call him a slut, he’d say this was why Steve was so dumb—he couldn’t deal with that right now, he couldn’t .

“Well, one of them will have to pick you up, so—“ 

“No, no, no, can’t you just tell them I’m fine? I can go back to class! It’s just a stomach bug, I’m fine!” He could handle going to class. It was just eight hours. He could do anything for eight hours, he was fine—  

The nurse was already out of the room, though. Steve slumped back onto the bed. The cramps returned, and he curled up. This was it. His life was over. A few minutes later, the nurse poked her head back in to let him know his mother would be there in an hour.

Relief flooded him, and defeat was replaced by anger at the nurse. For not listening to him, for calling his mom, for calling him an omega when it clearly wasn’t true—she was clearly incompetent at her job and deserved to be fired.

He was gonna get his dad to lodge a formal complaint. Or maybe his mom would tell her off. That would be satisfying.

 Soon he was imagining all the alphas in his life jumping up to protect him from the nurse who’d given him the bad news. He imagined Jason ignoring the lady and picking Steve up and bringing him away to somewhere safe. He imagined Billy Hargrove beating her up for him, and then daring anyone else to try and stop him. His fantasies shifted into dreams, and before he knew it, he felt hands stroking his hair. The scent of his mom’s perfume enveloped him like a blanket.

“Oh, Cariño. What happened to you?”

“Sick.” He mumbled. “Stupid nurse thinks it’s a heat.”

His mother’s hands paused for a second, then kept stroking. “That silly nurse. Why would she think that?”

“S’m’n ‘bout me havin’ contact with an alpha.” He sighed sleepily, cuddling into her hand. “Don’ mean nothin’”

“Of course not.” His mom’s voice was full of warmth. “You look pretty sick, though. How about you and I have a lie in day? Watch some telenovelas together and stuff?”

That did sound nice. Much nicer than staying at school like this. His mom’s very presence was endlessly comforting, and the idea of cuddling her on the couch while watching comfort food-type TV was endlessly appealing. “We can watch Hombres Más Que Flóres. You really like that one.”

Mhmm. Yes he did. A spunky heroine that didn’t take anyone’s shit? A misunderstood bad boy hero with ridiculous curly hair? Enemies to lovers romance? Sign him the fuck up.

 “Yeah. Yeah, I’d like that.” He said, getting up sleepily and leaning on his mom’s shoulder. “Let’s go home.”

 —-

And that was how he ended up spending the rest of the day, and then, subsequently, the week. His mom worked on paperwork as he cuddled into her lap and melted over how dreamy the lead characters were.

The main guy was just so cool, he thought. An obvious badass, the kind of alpha that everyone gravitated towards. The first scene where he showed up, flanked by his group of lackeys and soaked some kid’s shirt with his own juice bottle...it was awful, but the power in his eyes throughout it was so hot. Like, he just dumped it on the kid. And nobody did anything. Talk about a power move.

 And then when the heroine finally drop kicked him. How satisfying was that to watch? Finally, there was someone standing up to him. Steve had seen this telenovela about a hundred times, but he still clutched his blanket, waiting for the hero to fight back. He didn’t, though. He fell in love with the heroine right then and there. She was the only person who’d ever stood up to him like that, other than his family.

But the stupid idiot heroine liked the hero’s dumb beta friend. He was nice or something. Whatever. Nothing nice about leading a girl on and then ditching her for some model chick who was too nice for the heroine to even properly hate.

And then there was the hero. He was so annoying at first. Always there when the heroine wanted him the least. Annoying, teasing, always pushing her to look at him. But at the same time, he was always there. They saw through all the hard moments together. Steve’s heart beat heavily as he saw how the guy protect her from threat after threat. If he’d had a guy like that, maybe the stuff with the upside down wouldn’t have gone so badly…

He stared at the screen, denial fading. He watched as the girl went into heat while the main guy was on a trip to the US. She twisted and turned, clutching at her heart as the pain of being alone and in heat settled in.

The scene was interspersed by the hero traveling around, completely happy and unaware of the pain his mate was in. Steve sighed deeply, cursing everything that had given him the girl’s fate in this story, instead of the guy’s.

“Why did I have to be an omega, though?” He asked, not looking at his mom. “Both you and dad are alphas.”

His face felt hot, and tears stung in the back of his eyes. He held them back with difficulty. This just wasn’t the way it was supposed to go. He was supposed to be the hero in the story, the cool guy, the person everybody looked up to. And now, what, he had to be the damsel in distress? The whining nobody the hero doggedly pursued until she finally gives in?

“You know it doesn’t work that way, sweetheart.” His mom said. “But I can understand your disappointment. It’s really hard when you thought you were one thing, and then you turn out to be something else entirely. It can be a real blow.”

“It’s not that, it’s just…” Steve struggled to find the words, because it was exactly that. He’d thought he was a real guy, a beta but still a guy with his manhood intact, but now… “I just don’t want to be like any of the omegas from the telenovelas, you know? I don’t want to be like dad’s old fling. I just want to be me, and I don’t think any of that is me.”

“Oh, sweetie. You don’t have to be anyone but who you are.” His mom comforted. “Am I anything like the alpha women in those shows?”

Steve thought of that, picturing the cold and aloof business women portrayed in fiction, and then overplayed it with his warm and caring mother. “Well, you do own your own business.” He answered weakly.

She kicked him lightly from where she sat, cuddled into him. “You know what I mean. When I found out I was an alpha, I cried for two whole weeks, did you know that?”

“No.” Steve listened, curious.

“I was convinced no boys would want a girl with a knot. All of the alpha women is ever seen were either single, or they were in relationships with girly women, which was hard to stomach for me at the time. But then I met your father, and we clicked right off the bat.”

“That’s different…”

“It is, but I just mean to say that you shouldn’t limit yourself to what you see in the media. You’re you, and there’s nothing that can make you anything other than who you are.”

Steve finally let the tears fall, warmed by her words of encouragement, but even more so, warmed by her love.

She didn’t seem disappointed in him, or hateful, or patronizing, or anything he expected. She just treated him like his normal self and still told him he mattered and could do whatever he wanted in life. He was an omega, and she still believed in him. So maybe he could believe in himself.

——

Chapter Text

Steve tried to carry her words with him when he went to school a week later. It was harder than he’d thought. 

He woke up at 6:30 on Monday to his alarm blaring. His heat was over—it had broken Saturday night—but he still felt like he’d been run over by a semi-truck, and he was soaked in sweat from the night before. Apparently, even though the heat itself only usually lasted five days, he could have after shocks and other symptoms for up to ten. Omegas were only allowed five days off for a heat, though, so he basically just had to suck it up.

He groaned, turning around to hit snooze. It was way to early to deal with anything, he’d just wake up five minutes before he had to go and get ready really fast. As he moved for his alarm, though, he saw his mom had laid out an entire outfit for him to wear to school. She hadn’t done that since he was in middle school. And did it…? He squinted at it, finally giving up and putting on the glasses he only ever wore at home.

 It looked...slutty. His mom had really laid out a slutty, Sandy-as-a-Greaser type outfit for him to wear to school. 

Disbelievingly, he moved closer to get a better view. As he approached, he saw there was a note sitting on top of it. 

Knock ‘em dead, tiger! It said in cheery cursive. Ugh, his mom was a bitch.

He looked at the hanging clothes. So this was what his mom’s idea of him now. At the top, dangling from the hanger, was a black choker and a set of big clip on earrings. Underneath was a fitted leather jacket on top of a mostly see-through white crop top. Finishing off the look were some black leather pants that looked like they’d be beyond tight. They were chunkier in the hip area, and he felt along the edge. There was padding. There was padding all through the butt and hips, because apparently his mom though he’d need some help in those areas.

Great. After all their talk of defying stereotypes and forging their own path, she just jumped right back into the stereotypes. He chucked the outfit into the abyss that was his closet, and instead pulled out something completely different—a plain pullover and some sensible jeans.

 It didn’t exactly look flattering, but it also didn’t look like anything that would knock any alphas dead, so that was a plus. He pulled on a puffy jacket to guard from the cold.

Betas cared more about functionality than looks, right? So did alphas. Omegas and girls were the only ones who really cared about looking good. So Steve just had to stop caring what he looked like, and instead focus on what was practical.

And if his mom wasn’t going to support him, he’d just have to do it alone.

The drive to school was full of anxieties. Scenarios swam through his head about what everything would be like, now. He imagined Tommy coming up to him and demanding him to present, just because he was an omega now and Tommy was an asshole. He imagined Nancy jumping in with an ‘I told you so’ face and letting him know this is why they didn’t work out. Like a female alpha and male omega were somehow incompatible. As if. He imagined everyone groping him in the hallway, or treating him like a piece of meat. He imagined everybody just plain bullying him, saying he turned bitch and laughing in his face.

By the time he got to the school, he’d fully worked himself into a frenzy about all the awful things that were going to happen to him. All the way to the extent that he parked in the far corner of the parking lot, so people wouldn’t see his car arriving. When he got out, he hid behind every car that he passed, hoping no one would see him.

He got to a certain one, and looked around. Closer to the school, there were more people, and it was harder to avoid everyone. He figured he just had to avoid the important ones. He caught Jonathan and Nancy talking quietly by the door, and the basketball team sitting at the picnic tables out front like they were waiting for someone. He didn’t see Hargrove anywhere, which was a blessing. If there was one person he didn’t want seeing him as an omega, it was him.

 Steve looked between the two areas, trying to figure out a plan of action. He leaned against the car he was hiding behind, wondering if there were any other entrances. Maybe he could sneak around through the back?

Suddenly, the window of the car he was leaning against slid down. “What the hell are you doing, Harrington?” Came Hargrove’s annoyed voice.

Steve jumped three feet in the air. This whole time, he’d been leaning on Hargrove’s car?! They made eye contact, and something in Billy’s posture shifted and softened. He opened up his mouth. “Look, I—“ he started, but Steve was already out of there. He didn’t quite run, but he definitely speed walked to the entrance, trying to get away. As he approached, the basketball team he’d momentarily forgotten about ambushed him.

He came up short as they flooded over towards him, showering him with praise and saying they’d missed him. A bunch of them gave him flowers, because he’d been sick. Others took his books and his bag, insisting they carry them to his class. Jason sat back a little, not really saying anything. Steve wondered if he was annoyed with him.

Kev was a talker, though. He bombarded Steve with questions about his parents and how they’d taken the news, what it was like, if he felt any different, and soon Steve was distracted enough by that that he didn’t even notice them passing Nancy and Jonathan, forgot about Jason being annoyed with him, and plausibly ignored Billy as he got out of his car and tried to call to Steve and get his attention.

 It was nice. He felt...normal. Like he’d been on sick leave, not like his entire identity had shifted. All the team were still treating him like the same person, and he heaved an internal sigh of relief. Finally they got to first period, and he and Jason were left alone. Mikey handed Steve’s books over to Jason, and he nodded, grabbing them easily.

When they were finally alone at the entrance to the classroom, Jason blushed, looking at his feet. “I told them we shouldn’t crowd you,” He said. “But they were all really worried.”

Steve blinked, suddenly rather touched. So he hadn’t been angry. Just thoughtful “Oh. Thanks.” 

“Look.” Jason gently squeezed Steve’s hand and looked intensely into Steve’s eyes. “I know it’s probably weird for you, being an omega and everything, but I just wanted to say I don’t think of you any differently. In my book, you’re still the old Steve Harrington who spends way too much time on his hair.” He smiled, easing the tension. “I’m still on your team.”

Steve’s heart gave a huge thud in his chest, his whole body erupting into warmth. “Oh, thanks, man. I—that really means a lot.”

He was the first to break eye contact, not really knowing what to do with so much vulnerability. Jason looked at him for awhile more before nodding and looking away himself. “I just wanted you to know that,” he said. “I didn’t want you to feel like I hated you now or anything.”

Steve felt tears begin to swim in his eyes. Stupid heat aftershocks. Making him feel more emotional than usual. He nodded jerkily, turning back and walking into the classroom. Jason followed like a shadow, waiting for Steve to sit before he did so himself.

“Oooh, what a gentleman.” Carol snarked. She looked at them with the same shrewd eyes she looked at everyone with. Steve blushed.

“Fuck off.” He returned. “Nobody cares what you think.”

 —

Billy caught up to him a little before lunch. He’d tried to earlier, but Steve had been steadfastly avoiding him. He’d tried waiting at Steve’s locker, and Steve had just gone without dropping his books off. He’d tried to catch up to him in gym class, and Steve had gone to the gym teacher instead, planning on pretending to talk about basketball for awhile until Billy and the other guys left the locker room. It ended up turning into a real conversation about how Steve had to switch gym classes, though, and he’d ended up fighting with the gym teacher and the principal for over an hour about the whole situation. 

In the end, he still had to move to the girl’s gym class, because that was where male omegas went, he guessed. Like that made any sense at all. He walked too lunch in a thunderous mood, ranting to himself in his head about how secondary gender should have any say in what gym class you were in. Female alphas should just be in the female gym class, and male omegas should just be in the male one. It just made more sense that way. You just had to look at Nancy to see that female alphas weren’t always sporty. And you just had to look at Steve to know that not all omegas belonged in the fucking girl’s gym class!

 He was so consumed in his thoughts, he didn’t even notice Billy sneaking up behind him until his hand was on Steve’s shoulder. He spun around in surprise, and Billy officially had him trapped.

He looked annoyingly good. There wasn’t the slightest trace of bruising on his face from the fight, and he was wearing a leather jacket and white T-shirt. Steve had the vague thought it was like Billy was wearing the alpha version of the outfit his mom had picked out for him earlier. If he’d worn it, they would’ve looked ridiculous together.

As great as Billy looked, it seemed his whole posture radiated discomfort. Instead of looking cocky and confident like he always did, he looked nervous, like he didn’t know what to do with himself. He crossed his arms, then put them on his hips, then finally shoved them into his pockets and looked away, violently chewing on a piece of gum like he was trying to get all his anger out onto it. “Look, I thought you were an alpha. Or a beta at least.” He said finally, refusing to look at Steve. It sounded like an accusation, coming out of his mouth.

“Um, yeah. Me too.” Steve answered, not sure where he was going with this.

“I didn’t realize you were an omega.” He spat out, finally looking at Steve. “I wouldn’t have gone at you like that if I’d known. I don’t hit omegas.”

Oh. So that was it. Steve was an omega now, and he wasn’t worth getting in fights with. He was the ‘weaker sex’. He felt all the jittery feelings within himself go entirely flat. Probably Billy would say next that it was good Steve was in the girl’s gym class.

“Oh. Well, cool. Good to know. Was there anything else?”

“Well, I’m sorry, you know, for the…” He waved a hand at his face. Steve knuckled at his cheek uncomfortably. The swelling had gone down a lot, but there were still some nasty bruises. “Anyways. I shouldn’t have done it, and I won’t do it again. Just wanted to let you know that.” 

“Cool.” Steve said, voice bitter enough that it was clear that nothing about this was even remotely cool.

“If you want to swing at me ever or anything, I’ll just take it. I won’t swing back at you or anything. Figure you deserve a few free shots.”

Could he be any more patronizing? The only thing preventing Steve from launching himself at the alpha right then was the knowledge that Billy wanted him to do it. Instead, he settled for gritting out, “Thanks but no thanks. I don’t want to have to touch your greasy, white-trash self if I don’t have to.” When he got angry, he tended to get mean, not violent.

Billy shifted his stance, taking a step back. “So it’s gonna be like that?” He said, like he was testing him.

“Honestly, me punching you is the only omega action you’d get, so I’m not too keen on giving it to you. You’d probably cum the second my fist hit your face.” Steve continued angrily.

 “Sure, Stevie. You tell yourself that. There’s actually tons of omegas who beg to touch my greasy, white-trash self. I just wanted to make things right. Good to know you can’t be mature about it, though. Real telling.” He started to walk away. “Call me when you’re done being such a little bitch. Till then, I’ll stay in my own lane.”

 And that was it. Steve forced out a relieved breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. So, yeah, Billy was still an asshole. No big news there. What had he been expecting? Some heartfelt apology based on a change of heart? Steve laughed at himself. There was no way anything like that was happening anytime soon. For now, he just had to move on and forget about it, though. Holding a grudge didn’t help anybody.

 Speaking of grudges...he reflexively curled his fingers around the letter Jonathan Byers had given him earlier that day. A handwritten letter of apology. For stealing his girl. Reading it had felt like a one-hit K.O.

He started out by apologizing for hooking up so much behind Steve’s back. Which Steve hadn’t even known about. Apparently, it had been going on since Christmas. An entire year of that nonsense, and Steve hadn’t even known.

 Then it talked about his whole relationship with Nancy and how in-love with her Jonathan had been from the very beginning. How unhappy Nancy had been with Steve, and how much Jonathan had wanted to steal her away, but he respected Steve and Nancy both enough not to do it.

He talked about how he’d longed for the day when Nancy and Steve broke up, but when it finally happened, it felt all wrong. He hadn’t wanted to see either of them hurt. But it had hurt them, and he was sorry for his part in it.

He’d finished it off with another apology, and a request to talk about it in person. And, ‘if you want to come over and beat me up, I get it. I hope that you don’t, but if you do I won’t fight back or anything. Figure you deserve a couple shots at this point.’ He’d finished with.

 Great. He turns omega and suddenly everyone’s telling him they want him to beat them up. Exactly what he always wanted.

He didn’t want to talk to Jonathan about it, didn’t want to even look at Nancy. He knew if he did, he’d say something he regretted. They weren’t like Billy, where he could just say whatever he wanted, because he didn’t care if it hurt. If he hurt Nancy or Jonathan, he’d hate himself for it for a month.

But right now he couldn’t trust his mouth if either of them got near him. So he just weaved the lunch room to avoid their table, and got in line for lunch.

Nancy came up to him as soon as he got there.

“I heard you’re an omega.” She said.

“Yeah.” 

She smiled hesitantly at him. “So I was right, then? It’s not that I’m the only girl in the world for you. You just like alphas. You could date Joan Peterson and be just as happy.”

Exactly like he thought. She was going to use this as a way to get herself off the hook. He walked a little faster away from her as they got to the area where the lunch ladies were serving food. She followed persistently.

Steve slammed a plate of food onto his tray. “What is with everyone and pretending like we’re ruled by biology?” He complained before turning on her. “I don’t like Joan Peterson. I liked you. You cheated on me. You don’t get to be self-righteous about it.”

“I didn’t—“

Steve picked up his tray and walked over to the condiments table. He loaded his burger with ketchup and mayo. “You did, and I’m not in the mood. Look, I get it. You chose him. So just stick to that and stay away from me.”

“I just thought we could stay friends—“ Nancy started, and Steve rolled his eyes.

 “You can’t have both.” He answered, feeling frustrated enough that he was getting snappy. Sure enough, the claws were coming out. This was why he hadn’t wanted to talk to her. “You already picked, you don’t get to keep stringing me along after. It’s not fair to me or to Jonathan.”

She stared up at him with huge brown eyes. He angrily took a bite of his fry. She put a delicate hand on his wrist, eyes all soft and pleading. “Steve.” She said, and as soft and delicate and feminine as it was, it was her alpha voice. The one that told him to sit up and do what she wanted.

He blinked, straightening. “What?”

“Come sit with us today.” She requested. “You can’t keep avoiding us.”

It was the absolute last thing he wanted to do. And at the same time, he really had no choice in the matter. His inner omega was already squirming just because he was hesitating to obey. As a brand new omega he hadn’t yet learned how to resist it when an alpha got primal like that. He sent a panicked look at the basketball table, and made eye contact with Jason immediately. He tried to communicate his panic, and though he actually did pretty well. Jason stood up. Nancy pulled Steve to sit down with them.

Jonathan looked up from his book. “Oh, hey.”

“Nancy wanted me to sit with you guys.” Steve announced perfunctorily, glaring at the girl in question. She smiled sweetly.

“I just wanted us all to be friends again. Or at least pretend for a few minutes.” He smile took on a bit of a bite.

“Uh, sure.” Jonathan moves around a bunch of stacks of papers that had somehow accumulated there in the few minutes since the lunch period had started. “Um. So you got my letter?”

 “Yeah. It’s cool man. It’s not really you I’m mad at.” He answered, and he realized that was the truth. Jonathan had apologized. He said he felt bad. Nancy, on the other hand...she was looking between them expectantly, probably thinking if they made up, she could go back to stringing them both along.

“Oh. That’s good, I guess.” Jonathan answered, glancing over at Nancy. The silence stretched.

 Steve was usually the one who brought the energy into their conversations, but he absolutely refused right now. If Nancy couldn’t handle giving him space, she’d have to deal with his silence.

 Finally, the awkwardness was broken by Jason coming up to the table. He looked like a knight in shining armor, coming up in his backwards baseball cap and a large sweatshirt. “Hey, Steve. Coach wants to see us.” He said, and Steve jumped up, picking up his tray.

“Well, see you guys. Good luck with everything, I guess.” He said, finally giving up and playing nice. Nancy looked pissed, but Jonathan at least gave a little wave as they walked away. He waved back, a little giddy as Jason wrapped a large arm over his shoulder.

 “Thanks man,” Steve said, smiling up at him. Jason was a pretty good looking guy, actually. He was tall and built like a house, with reddish-brown curly hair and cute freckles everywhere. And he was solid, steady. The type who never go angry. Exactly what Steve needed right now.

“Any time, bro,” Jason answered, smiling back at him. “I’m here to help.”

 And Steve once again felt his heart beat deeply in his chest. Jason’s words from earlier echoed in his head. I’m still on your team

Fuck Nancy Wheeler, Steve thought. I’ve got another alpha right here, who isn’t going to cheat on me. And I’ve got no reason, not a single one, why I shouldn’t go for it.

____

Chapter Text

His Dad came home on Wednesday, and immediately went in for a hug. A hug. His dad. Steve didn’t know what to do, so he ended up just standing there awkwardly, waiting for it to be over.

“What is this?” he asked, “What are you doing?”

“My secretary told me that omegas appreciate physical touch. They like to be hugged and cuddled and such.” His dad pulled away, giving him a little supportive shake to the shoulders. Steve glanced backwards and saw his mom giving his dad a big thumbs up. “I wanted to let you know I am fully here to support you and meet your needs.”

Ah. So they’d discussed this. Great.

His dad was pretty bad at the whole emotions thing, so his parents tended to meet up and talk about how to deal with Steve when it was a more difficult time for him. His mom coached his dad through Steve’s first break up, his first time not making a varsity team, when Barb went missing. It probably should be sweet, but Steve just didn’t get how his dad didn’t understand him that much . Like, how hard could it be to just sit and listen and not lecture? But his dad had to be coached in it. Because he was an idiot or something.

He frowned, turning back to his dad. “I bet you’re disappointed.” He laughed nervously, waiting for the confirmation.

“No, no. I admit, I’m a little out of my depth, but I am not disappointed. Perhaps a little worried for you in a way I hadn’t been before.”

“Why?”

“Well, just because you’re an omega now. There’s a certain interest certain people will have in you that they wouldn’t before.You’ve always been such a bad judge of character, I can’t help but worry which people you’ll let in.”

Steve bristled. “Nobody has any kind of certain interest in me.” He said automatically. “And I’m not a bad judge of character.”

“Nancy Wheeler?” His dad asked with raised eyebrows. “And you were friends with that Tommy for so long. I just don’t think you can really say you attract the right kind of people, Stevie.”

“Nancy isn’t a bad person.” Steve said, because it was true, and also he was mad his dad had said anything when he didn’t know they’d broken up yet. His mom had found out during his heat, but he hadn’t told his dad, so he should definitely not be in ‘bash Nancy’ mode yet.

Steve’s dad opened his mouth, but his mom cut in before he could really get anywhere. 

“Anyways,” She said, “Your father is going to take you shopping tomorrow, so you two can have a little father-son bonding time. But in the meantime, how about we have dinner and catch up? Does that sound good?”

They both nodded hesitantly, and Steve’s dad held out a bag. “What is this?” Steve asked, taking it and pulling the paper out.

“I heard stuffed animals were great for nesting omegas.” His dad answered as Steve pulled out a plush teddy bear.

Steve gritted his teeth. This was going to be a long week.

—-

The shopping trip the next day was for a few things. Steve wanted sports gear, but his dad insisted on getting more practical things. Omega supplies to facilitate his ‘changes’— heat suppressants and helpers, new clothes, new perfumes, all the stuff Steve didn’t want to think about or get.

“You can’t run away from this,” his dad said, always disapproving. “You’re an omega now, and it’s time to face the facts. Your life is going to be different.”

“It doesn’t have to be.” Steve grumbled as he looked through a wide array of omega clothing. They were tackling the easiest part first, leaving the heat supplies for the very end.

“Steve, it will. Even if it’s only by virtue of you missing a week of school or work every quarter for the rest of your life. That changes what kind of place if work you need to look for. Offices like mine don’t offer a lot of benefits to omegas like a school night. More than that, people will see you differently now that you’re an omega. No matter what path of life you decide to take-“ his frown turned even more disapproving. He and Steve clearly didn’t see eye to eye on what that should be. “-there are going to be some changes. The quicker you can accept that, the easier this is going to be on everyone.”

“On you, you mean.”

“On my blood pressure, sure. It would be nice if you could wake up and see why the basketball team is always waiting on you hand and foot. It’s not because they want to be your friend. It’s because they—“

“Dad!” Steve said sharply. “Stop being gross! They’re nice. That’s all.”

His dad snorted disbelievingly. “Sure, let’s go with that. I just wish you would find some nice omega friends to spend time with, instead. I’m not around much. I won’t be there to help you if something happens to you. I’d feel more comfortable if you didn’t hang around too many alphas.”

Steve just rolled his eyes and looked through the clothes some more. “I like this one,” He said, pulling out a colorful T-shirt, trying to change the subject.

“Shows too much neck.” His dad answered. “Turtlenecks are in style, now. Let’s get you some of those. We’re getting you a new wardrobe to fend off alphas, not encourage them.”

Ugh, his dad was the worst.

Steve thought about Jason, who he had no problem with encouraging. He still had that out-of-state omega he was pining after, so Steve would have to work double time to lock him down. “What if I want to encourage them, though?” He asked, eyeing the shirt. Maybe Jason would like this sort of thing?

His dad choked on his own spit, hacking up a lung before taking the shirt out of Steve’s hand and violently returning it to the rack. “No. Absolutely not. No son of mine is going to be an Easy Stevie. Oh shit.” He said, suddenly realizing too late Steve’s name matched up with the old adage. He sent Steve a horrified look, and Steve couldn’t help but crack up laughing. His dad joined him soon after.

 

“Wow. Great name choice there, dad.”

 

“It was your mother, I swear. She’s going to be the death of me.” He wiped the tears from his eyes, still chuckling, before abruptly getting serious again. “But seriously, if I hear you’re sleeping with some alpha boy, or a few alpha boys, I will hunt them all down and rip off their arms, and then I will personally see to it that you never see an alpha again in your life.”

Steve laughed nervously, trying to make light of things, but his dad just stared him down.

“It’s for your own good. Honestly, I’m considering just not letting date anyone until you’re twenty-five. I’d like you to remain pure for as long as possible.”

 Steve thought of Nancy, now, and the omegas he’d dated before her. Calling himself “Pure” was a stretch in anyone’s book.

“Nancy was an alpha,” He hazarded, looking at a spot on the ground. “Are you going to hunt her down?”

“Do I have to? I was operating under the assumption you two were taking it slow.” His dad’s eyes drilled into him. “Was I wrong?”

“No.” Steve answered automatically. “I was just wondering if that applied to alpha girls, too.”

“Steve, you better not try to get back together with that girl. I’ve told you before, I don’t like her.”

“No! Not her, I just...I don’t know what the rules are, now.” He admitted. It was throwing him off his game, not understanding what was expected of him now.

It was the wrong thing to say, though. His dad immediately went into lecture mode as he thought of all the things he didn’t want Steve to do. 

“Well. The rules are the same for any alpha at all. Even the girls— you can’t trust them. No bringing them to the house after nine p.m. No canoodling. If anyone wants to steady date you, they have to talk to me first, and I need to approve them, or you’re never allowed to talk to them again. No wearing those ridiculous crop tops your mother gave you. Dress neat and modestly, I don’t want you accidentally giving any alphas the wrong idea. Your new curfew is at nine, not at midnight like before. Always mark your heats on the calendar so we can plan for them. You’ll be spending every one in a special heat room we’ll make for you in the basement. I don’t want that smell everywhere in the house.” He kept going, and Steve zoned out as his dad continued explaining all the dangers of being an omega, and how alphas are way more dirty than he would ever imagine.

So, pretty much Steve would carry on like before. Act sweet and obedient while his parents were home, and ignore the rules he didn’t like when they left. And they were always gone, so...wasn’t too hard to do.

 

They shopped for the rest of the day, and most of it was spent arguing about the new rules. By the end, they got a whole bunch of turtlenecks and collared shirts, a bunch of embarrassing heat supplies Steve didn’t even want to look at, and a few omega golf supplies, before they finally found themselves making their way to the video store to pick up a movie to watch when they got home.

Steve had also heard about a hundred Dateline-esque horror stories on what alphas could do to omegas, if they weren’t careful. By the time they walked into the video store, he was just wanting it to be over.

He caught sight of Billy and his sister, and inwardly groaned. He so did not need this right now. But Max had already caught sight of them. She smiled, face lighting up before she bounded over to them. Billy followed.

“Oh hey, Steve!” She grinned brightly, immediately giving him a big hug. Steve returned it, feeling his heart melt a bit. Okay, maybe she wasn’t so bad. Billy watched from behind her, eyeing up his dad like he was some kind of threat. Steve ignored him.

“Hey, Max! What’s going on with you guys?”

“Oh, just getting a movie for tonight. Neil and Susan are going on an anniversary thing, so we’re watching a movie! I’m thinking I want to see a scary one, do you have any recommendations?” She talked a mile a minute. Steve hated scary movies, so he just answered,

“That sounds fun! I’m not sure that I do, what ones were you thinking of?”

Max went into a list of all the movies she’d always wanted to see, and why each one was good, and Steve glances back over to Billy, who walked up to his dad and shook his hand.

“It’s nice to meet you, sir. I’m Billy.”

 “The pleasure is all mine.” His dad answered, shaking the hand firmly. “How do the two of you know my son?”

 “He babysat Max one time, and the two of us are on the basketball team together.” Billy answered easily, and Steve’s dad’s face darkened.

“Basketball team, huh?”

Maybe Billy could read the tension in the room, though, because he nodded and said, “I just moved here from California a few months ago, though, so Steve’s really the only person I know from the team. We’re not too close, though, honestly. He’s nice and all, but the rest of the team are kind of...” he made a growling motion and Steve’s dad perked right up.

“I was just talking to Steve about that! He’s convinced they all just want to be friends.” Both he and Billy rolled their eyes. “And I just keep telling him, alphas don’t do stuff like carry your books if they just want to be friends.”

“Or massage your feet, or feed you by hand, or stare at you longingly from afar…” Billy added, the absolute traitor.

They massage him?” Steve’s dad whipped around to look at him. Steve didn’t really have any answer that wouldn’t tick his dad off even more, so he pretended to be completely engrossed in whatever it was Max was talking about.

“It’s not that much.” Billy lied, luckily. “There’s just an intention there that I feel like is easy to miss when you’re not used to having guys be into you.”

“That’s exactly what I was telling Steve.” Steve’s dad said, then went into the same lecture mode he always went into. Steve turned his attention back on Max describing The Shining. Anytime his dad went into lecture mode, Steve’s eyes started glazing over. When he zoned back into the his dad’s conversation, they were past talking about Steve and onto talking about Billy.

“And that’s why I want to be an Air Force pilot,” Billy was saying, “It combines the two things I love the most, planes and protecting the American people.”

Steve rolled his eyes. Because he did such a good job ‘protecting the American people’ that night at the Byers’s house. 

Eventually, he was able to send Max off to look at more movies, and now it was just up to him to separate his dad from Hargrove. It looked like it wouldn’t be easy. They were talking about politics now.

“I think, ultimately, when the government gets too involved in the lives of the American people, that’s when it begins to stop being a government we use to serve us, and begins to become something that we serve to benefit it. ” Billy was saying, and Steve’s stupid dad was nodding along. “So I’m personally in favor of less control, both socially and economically.”

“I completely agree. You wouldn’t believe the amount of red tape me and Rachel had to go through to get married, just because we’re both alphas.”

Steve plastered himself against his dad’s side, deciding he needed to use maximum persuasion to get them going. “Daddy.” He complained. The more childlike he got, the easier his dad usually caved. Calling him ‘Daddy’ instead of ‘Dad’ worked pretty much every time. “I’m tired. I think I just want to go home.”

His dad looked down at him with fond exasperation. “You’re the one who wanted to get a movie,” He said, ruffling Steve’s hair. Steve used the opportunity to pretend like he was ducking to lean into it, but really just glance at Billy and make sure he didn’t think Steve was an idiot for acting like this.

He was taken aback by the intensity of Billy’s stare back at him, and his heart jumped into his throat. Billy was looking at him with all the intensity of a lion hunting its prey. Steve dropped his eyes immediately, looking back at his dad to avoid the death stare aimed at the side of his face.

“I know, but I’m more exhausted than I thought. Getting all those heat supplies really took it out of me.” He bullshitted, glancing over at Billy one more time. He stared at Steve even more intensely than before, setting his jaw in a way that gave Steve the impression that he was angry. It unsettled him, and he felt his stomach squirm.

Why would he be angry, though? Because Steve was interrupting their conversation? It didn’t seem like more than just small talk. Or did he just think Steve was really manipulative or something? That could be it. Maybe he was annoyed at how childish Steve was acting, just to get his way.

To test it out, he looked at Billy when he started talking next. What had he been saying again? Oh yeah, he’d been talking about shopping. “Daddy, I think I just want to go home and try out all the new stuff I got. I don’t really want to watch a movie anymore.”

Billy’s alpha scent spiked, and he ground his teeth hard against a growl that was surfacing. So he was annoyed at Steve’s way of talking. Jerk. Everyone acted a little different around their parents. It wasn’t anything that weird. Billy took a step forward, and Steve’s dad tensed up, curling a protective hand around Steve’s shoulder. Seeing this, Billy quickly backed off, moving three steps backwards and finally removing eye contact.

He coughed awkwardly. “Oh, wow, um, sorry.” He said, looking around. “Don’t really know what came over me.” He laughed nervously. “I better go check on Max. She’s probably picked out every movie in the store by now.”

“It’s perfectly fine.” Steve’s dad said. “This one can be a little oblivious, I’m sorry if he said anything that made you uncomfortable.”

Billy walked back two more steps. “Not at all! I do think I should be headed out, though. It was nice to meet you, Mr. Harrington. Feel free to give me a call if you ever need your lawn mowed or anything.”

“I’ll be sure to do that.” Steve’s dad answered, nodding at him before Billy walked off. When the alpha boy was gone, his dad finally turned his attention back into Steve. He seemed torn between amused and irritated, like he wasn’t sure yet what he should be feeling. He curled his arm around Steve’s shoulders again.

“So, care to explain what all of that was about?”

“What?” Steve asked, and he really wasn’t prepared for his dad’s response.

—-

“I did not!” Steve protested as he walked in the door to his house. His mom, lounging on the couch, sat up straight as she sensed the tension between them.

“Steve, you talked about trying out your heat supplies. What else could that be, but a come on?”

“I didn’t mean my heat supplies! I said that buying heat supplies was hard, and I just wanted to go home and try my new clothes on! I said nothing about even touching my heat supplies!”

“You did not! You clearly said that you had gotten new heat supplies, and you wanted to try them out. Really, if it were any other alpha, they’d be breaking down the door right now.”

“What is this I’m hearing?” Steve’s mom spoke up. “Surely my son isn’t going around saying such dirty things around alpha boys, is he?”

“I already said that I didn’t! And what do you mean, ‘any other alpha?’ Billy’s like, the worst one!”

“Because he doesn’t give you massages or carry your books?” His dad returned, and Steve groaned in frustration as his mom joined in and started grilling him about who he was getting massages from.

It took about fifteen minutes of just damage control on that before they even got to talking about the store.

“I don’t like any alphas, okay?!” Steve finally shouted. “And I especially don’t like Billy Hargrove!”

“Oh, but he’s such a sweet boy!” His mom jumped in again. “He was over at Cynthia’s house mowing her lawn when I went over there the other day, such a nice boy. So respectful.”

“Exactly what I was saying.” His dad joined in. “Came right up to me and shook my hand. He has a whole future planned out for himself, and he’s younger than Steve is. Honestly, I was so impressed.”

“Oh, Stevie, we really do have to talk about your future. You’re much too old to not know what you’re doing.” His mom added, and his father immediately jumped on.

“Exactly. That’s what I keep telling him. Honestly, though, I don’t even know why I bother. At the rate he’s going, he’s going to land himself pregnant and unmated before he even graduates. Did you know the entire basketball team gives him massages? The entire team. They just all come together and massage a limb. It’s disgusting.”

“It’s not like that !” Steve tried to insist, but his parents were too far gone. They ended up both lecturing him well into the night about his obliviousness with alphas, his lack of any type of plan for his future, his grades, Nancy, his poor decision making, and even how he didn’t like Billy Hargrove.

There was an entire hour dedicated to why him not being able to see Billy Hargrove’s positive qualities was part of a deeper issue he had in judgement about the people he associated with. 

“I just don’t see how you can fall head over heels for a girl like Nancy Wheeler , and then look at a boy like Billy Hargrove and not like him? Like what is missing in your head?”

 “He’s different when he’s not around parents!” Steve argues. “Don’t act like you know him because you had one ten minute conversation in the video store with him.”

“I might think that was true, if I didn’t know what your judgement was like with all the rest of your friends! Tommy Hall. Carol whatever her name. Jonathan Byers.”

“Jonathan is a nice guy!”

“He was taking pictures of you behind your house, without your knowledge! What part of that is nice!? You’re lucky we didn’t sue!” Steve regretted every having told them that.

 “Can you really imagine Billy doing something like that? Just think about it, sweetie.” His mom added, like the most annoying person in the world.

His dad continued to list off just about everyone he knew, and went off about why each one was the worst person in the world, essentially, as his mom punctuated each thought with some kind of praise for Billy’s character. 

Eventually Steve had enough. “He beat me up! That’s why I don’t like him! He beat me up two weeks ago, before all the heat stuff went down. You see these bruises? This was him!”

And in that moment, he’d really thought his parents would be on his side. He really did. If your kid gets beat up, you don’t take the bully’s side. You just didn’t. It was like rule number one of parenting.

 “Well, why did he do that?” His mom asked.

 “Because he’s an asshole!”

 “But there must have been a reason.”

“There wasn’t! I was just watching the kids, and he came looking for his sister—“ 

“So he didn’t know where she was?” 

“Well, no, I guess she’d snuck out. But anyways, she’d told me he’d kill her, and told me to cover, so I did, but he saw her—“

“So you lied to him about where his sister was, after he’d no doubt been frantically looking for her? Steve!”

“Well, yeah, but—Anyways he pushed me down! And then he went to one of the kids and slammed them against the wall! And so I punched him—“

“You punched him? When he was in a protective rage over his sister? Stevie, you should know better than that!”

 His dad, who had been eerily quiet this whole time, opened his mouth. “How did he react, when you punched him? Did he swing at you?”

 Thinking this was his dad coming to the rescue, Steve continued with more energy. “No! He just smiled like a total psycho and egged me on some more. So I kept punching him until he was against the counter, and then he picked up something and smashed it into my head—so totally not fair, and then he just started wailing on me.”

 “Did he ever stop?”

“Well, yeah, just for like a second, and then the kids, Uh.” Drugged him, but he couldn’t say that. “All piled onto him and choked him out.” 

“Steve.” His dad said, looking serious. “I think I’m going to have to ban you from spending time with any alpha for the rest of eternity.”

“What?! Why?!” Steve demanded. What had he done?

“Because your lack of understanding of presentation, particularly the nature of a relationship between an omega and an alpha, is a danger to yourself and others. Did you start your heat the next day?”

His mom gasped, as if in understanding. Steve looked between the two of them, clueless.

“Well, yeah, but what does that have to do with anything?”

Both of his parents let out a huge sigh.

“How did we raise such an idiot?” His mom finally sat back down on the couch in defeat.

His dad motioned for Steve to sit as well. “Steve, we need to talk to you about alphas. Right now, or you’re going to go get yourself killed.”

“What the hell is going on?” Steve asked, beginning to feel uneasy.

“First off, let’s talk about an alpha’s protective instincts towards pack, and why you should never lie to an alpha about where you are hiding their pack. Or, even worse, interrupt an alpha establishing his dominance to punch him in the face.

“Or make him feel cornered in that sort of a tense situation.” His mother added. 

“And you especially shouldn’t mistake the feelings you get around Billy Hargrove as anger or aggression, because it’s not. I need you to stop fighting your instincts here, and do what they tell you, rather than what you think you should do.”

“What does that even mean?” Steve asked, hackles rising. Who were they to tell him that he didn’t feel angry towards Billy? He did, every time!

“That night. I want to run through it with you again, and I want you to think about what your instincts were telling you to do. So, let’s start out. I’m Billy Hargrove. I show up at the house, looking for my sister. What is it your instincts are telling you to do?”

“Protect her.” Steve answered immediately.

“Okay, what else?” 

“Get Billy out of there. Don’t make him mad. So that’s why I lied!” 

“Okay, but how might you do that without lying?”

“I don’t know, like...ask him why he wants to know or something?”

“Or maybe explain that you’re feeling protective, and that you won’t let him through if he’s going to hurt her.” His mom suggested helpfully.

“What? But then he’d just get past me and hurt her!”

“No.” His dad shook his head. “As an alpha, it would set his mind at ease, knowing there was someone who cared enough about her to protect her like he would. He would calm down and try to prove himself. But let’s imagine he does push past you, he goes for the kid. What did your instincts tell you to do, then?”

Steve blushed. “My instincts are stupid!”

“What were they telling you to do?” His dad pushed.

“They were telling me to, like, hug him! And apologize and tell him it was on me, so leave the kid alone. But that’s like, damsel in distress stuff.”

“It’s omega stuff.” His dad clarified, which didn’t actually make Steve feel any better about the situation. “And it would have calmed down the situation a second time. But let’s imagine he turned around and started fighting you. You get a few punches in, and then he goes at you. What were your instincts telling you to do then?”

“I don’t know! Just like, cry or something. I was trying to get him off of me, but he just kept punching!”

Steve’s dad looked him dead in the eyes. “Think about it, Steve. What were your instincts telling you to do.”

“I don’t know! I don’t know, they were just telling me to lie still and ask for him to stop, but he was punching me! I don’t know! Nothing was working!”

“Nothing was working, so your body did a last ditch self-defensive measure. It went into heat, because a potential mate like Billy would immediately calm down when he smelled something like that.”

“Potential mate my ass! He’s not—“

“Steve, your body would never have gone into heat if the person who was beating you up was anyone other than a potential mate. That’s too vulnerable of a position. But you can have a few potential mates in your lifetime, that’s not what I want to focus on. What I do want to focus on is how you ignoring your instincts out yourself and all of those kids you were babysitting in danger.”

And so he went into lecture mode again as his parents broke the cardinal rule of parenthood. Steve and Billy got into a fight and they took Billy’s side over their own son’s.

It was miserable.

He wanted to cry, but that was stupid. So instead, he decided that he just wanted to punch Billy in the face. Or something. Wanted to make him hurt like Steve was hurting.

Billy better watch his back in school the next day. Because Steve was going to kill him.

Chapter Text

Steve really meant to go up to Billy and just sock him in the face. He did. He had a whole plan. He was going to go up to the school and just land one right on his face. Send him sprawling. Then he’d say something cool like, “that’s for sucking up to my parents.” And then he would kick him and say, “and that’s for kicking me while I was down.” And then he’d start punching him again and say, “And that’s for beating me up that night!” And then he’d land one last kick and say, “And that’s for Lucas Sinclair.” And then he’d walk off dramatically. That was the plan.

When he got to school, though, Billy had a cut under his eye, and bruising all over the side of his face. His hair, instead of being in its normal mullet, was cut jaggedly close to his head. It looked like it had been done with craft scissors. His bangs fell into his face, half-covering more bruises along his forehead. He looked like death warmed over.

And Steve didn’t actually get violent when he was angry. He got mean.

“What’s wrong, Hargrove?” He came up beside him. “Get into another fight with an omega?”

Billy snarled at him. “Fuck off, Harrington. I’m not in the mood.”

“Oh yeah? Cause you sure seemed in the mood at the video store.” Steve snapped back. “When you wouldn’t stop badmouthing me with my dad. What, Hargrove? Don’t got a daddy who loves you so you have to steal mine?”

Billy’s face twisted in anger and he growled loudly, sending Steve jumping back a few steps. He hesitated, watching as Billy’s face contorted in pain. “Harrington! I said I wasn’t in the mood.”

Steve’s instincts were telling him to drop it and ask what was wrong. Just forget all the fighting and start playing Florence Nightingale. So he said fuck his instincts, his parents couldn’t tell him what to do.

“Yeah and I’m not in the mood to have my parents lecture me for two hours about how I should’ve played nice when you were on the warpath that night. I’m not the one who was out of line, Hargrove. I’m not the one who backed a kid up against a wall and threatened him!”

“Yeah I know.” Billy answered, still pissed. “I said I was wrong for it, what more do you want? A poem or something? Just get over it already!”

“I’m not going to get over it—you fucking punched my face in!”

“Okay, fine, then don’t! I don’t care, why are you still fucking talking to me then?”

“Because my parents told me off!” Steve shot back, then paused. Oh, shit. He hadn’t wanted to say that. It made him look like a weenie.

“Well, I’m so sorry your parents gave you a little lecture about fighting. Sounds like that was really hard . You need me to give kiss your boo boo all better?” Billy mocked him, and Steve felt about three feet tall.

“No, I just—“

“You know, some of us have real problems we’re dealing with, Princess. Some of us don’t got parents who give a damn enough to take us to the video store and buy us nice things.” Billy snarled at him. Where normally he’d be crowding into Steve’s space, this time he stood rooted to the same spot a few feet away. The distance felt immense.

“Fuck you.” Steve shot back. “You think you know everything? You don’t! I have plenty of problems and I don’t need you to tell me which ones are real or not! So just fucking leave me the fuck alone!” He stormed off to his first period class.

Billy stared after him. “That’s what I was trying to do, you crazy fucking nightmare!” Steve flipped him off without looking back.

Fucking Billy Hargrove. Always had to have the last word. Always had to win every argument and make Steve feel like an idiot.

How did we raise such an idiot? His mom’s voice echoed in his head. Fuck Billy Hargrove, he wasn’t dumb!

Well, he was. He knew he was, but that didn’t mean he was wrong about everything. He was protecting those kids, he was standing up for what was right. Just because he didn’t do it how a normal omega would didn’t mean anything—it didn’t mean he wasn’t worth his parents love, wasn’t worth them taking his side.

Hot tears pricked his eyes and he changed his trajectory towards the bathroom. Being an omega was the worst thing in the fucking world. Fucking hormones were like fucking tear gas. Made him start crying like a girl any time anything fucking happened.

He kept walking as tears clouded his vision. His contacts swam in his eyes, and he closed them, rubbing frantically at his face. He wasn’t a stupid crybaby. He wasn’t. He just had to get to the bathroom and—

THUD —he crashed against a solid body, the impact jarring him out of his thoughts and sending him sailing backwards. A hand reached out to steady him.

“Whoa there,” Jason said. “You okay, man?”

“I’m fine.” He answered firmly, tears leaking from his eyes. Jason’s demeanor softened, and he brought Steve over to the emptying stairwell. Students hurried about, trying to get to their classes, but Jason just stayed there, steadying Steve until everyone was gone.

Once they were alone, he shut the door. “Seriously, dude. I can tell something’s up. You’re not a wimp—you wouldn’t cry over nothing. Could you just tell me what's going on?”

“My parents are assholes.” Steve wiped at his cheeks, trying to hide the evidence of his crying. “My dad comes home from his trip and all he can talk about is what I’m doing wrong, and why I need to be more like Billy Hargrove.”

Jason laughed. “Why do you need to be like Hargrove? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

“That’s what I said!” Steve answered, even though he hadn’t. “They think I need to have a plan of what I’m doing with my life, like I’m supposed to know anything. I’m barely eighteen. I still need a hall pass to use the bathroom and I’m supposed to somehow know what the next years are going to look like?” He slumped against the wall until he was sitting down. “And everything’s changing now that I’m an omega and it’s so stupid. I’m the same guy, but everything’s supposed to be different? What is that?”

“Bethany had the same problem when she presented.” Jason commiserated, sitting down next to him. “Everyone started thinking they could tell her what to do, just ‘cause she was an omega, so I guess that means she don’t know as much.” He rolled his eyes. “It’s all bullshit, you’re the same person you were before.”

Steve ignored the pep talk to look at him blankly. “Bethany?”

“My omega friend. Who’s out of state.” Oh yeah. The one he’d been in love with since elementary school. Steve had forgotten.

Because he was an idiot. Just like always. Starting to like a guy who had another girl. Just like he liked a girl who had another guy. Was he never going to learn? He looked at the ceiling and let out a frustrated yell. “I’m so fucking stupid.” He said aloud. “I forgot about her.”

“Oh it’s fine. I don’t talk about her too much anyways, you don’t have to beat yourself up about it.” Jason patted his shoulder. “I just was making a point.”

“No, that’s—my mom and my dad kept getting on my case for being oblivious to people’s feelings. And I kept saying they were wrong, but look at me.”

Jason moved closer. His eyes were warm, without an ounce of judgement. “I am, and I don’t see an idiot.”

“I am, though. I spend all my time pretending like nobody likes me, but I just assumed that you did for some reason. Just thought I was entitled to it, I guess. So I let myself get all excited and start crushing on you, when the whole time you like that other girl instead. I feel like a moron.” Steve buried his head in his hands. “Anyways, don’t worry about it. I don’t have to let it get in the way of anything, I’m just learning that I’m a total moron who—“

“Hey, hey, look at me.” He felt Jason’s strong hands circle over his own, removing them from his face. He looked terribly intense, face only inches from Steve’s own. He wet his lips and Steve followed the movement of his tongue before meeting his eyes. He looked terribly kind for a guy who was about to turn him down.

Jason smiled. “You’re not an idiot.”

“I am.”

“No,” Jason gently pulled Steve’s head back from where it was beginning to dip. “No, you’re not. You’re beautiful.”

“Doesn’t mean I’m not an idiot.”

“But this does.” Jason answered, and met his lips to Steve’s

And Steve felt like his world exploded.

Jason liked him back?! Jason liked him back?! Enough to kiss him and call him beautiful and—Jason liked him?!

The kiss itself was short and sweet. Steve barely registered how it felt over the roaring of his mind. The alpha held his lips there for a few seconds, finally pulling away and grinning.

“I like you.” Jason announced as if he wasn’t blowing Steve’s mind. “And I’d like to court you, if you’d let me.”

Steve blinked. “But Bethany…”

“Is just a friend. You’re a guy I like, and I think this is worth trying out. What do you say?”

Steve nodded mutely, not knowing what else to do. This entire conversation had gone so different than he’d ever expected, he could hardly believe it was really happening.

“So,” Jason said, sitting next to him again and pulling Steve into the crook of his arm. His shoulder was a warm weight on Steve’s neck. “Tell me about what’s going on with your parents.”

—-

He and Jason went to practice that night holding hands, and the entire team cheered them on, hooting and hollering and clapping Jason on the back. They enthusiastically wished them luck, called Jason a dog for jumping in so quickly, and slyly tried to give Steve dating advice like he didn’t know how to do it. He grinned, punching them in the shoulder and pretending like he didn’t love the attention. It was nice. His friends were supporting him, and it felt so good to show off that he was good enough for a guy like Jason.

He almost didn’t even notice the one member of the team standing on the outs, glaring at Jason like he’d killed his father or something. Billy always had the most intense of glares. Steve met his eyes, quirking his eyebrow into a challenge.

You got a problem with this? He tried to ask with his posture. Billy nodded almost imperceptibly, and Steve blanched, not knowing what to do. People never reacted to stuff like that in the movies. He glanced around to see if anyone else noticed it, but Kev just jostled his shoulder and Jack beat on Jason, and nobody seemed to even notice that Billy was a ball of fury behind them.

When Steve looked back, though, Billy was gone. He didn’t come back for the rest of practice, and Steve eventually got curious enough that he decided to look for him.

He figured the locker room was the best bet. So he faked having to use the bathroom, and escaped into them. While there, he looked around for Billy covertly, trying to make it look like he was just wandering around so Billy wouldn’t make fun of him if he did end up finding him. He didn’t, though. No matter how much he circled the area, he didn’t find anyone inside it.

He did find a destroyed locker, though. It was bent in the middle, looked like someone had thrown a car at it or something. Or like the Terminator has kicked it. It was almost entirely flattened, left completely trashed by whatever had done it.

And it was definitely a what , not a who. No human could do something like this.

Steve looked around, on edge. So something was out there. Creeping around the locker room and lying in wait. Something that wasn’t human. His fingers itched for his nail bat. It looked like the gate wasn’t quite as closed as they’d like it to be.

Billy hurled himself through the door of the training room, shoulder hitting the guard’s as he did so. Gene stumbled back, cursing. “Whoa! Watch it! You almost took out my whole shoulder!”

Billy didn’t answer, just grabbed a handgun and loaded it in about five seconds flat.

The other guard, Henry, looked on shrewdly. “Neil again?” He asked, tone deceptively light.

“Neil doesn’t  got shit on me.” Billy cursed, firing the gun at the dummy. A clean hole appeared in the middle of its chest. He shot five more in quick succession, eyes burning through his target, but no other holes appeared.

“Seems like you’re a little off your game tonight.” Gene joked, taking a seat nearby to watch. “What’s got you all shaken, little four?”

Billy reloaded the gun, taking a moment to point it at Gene. “I said not to call me that.”

Gene scoffed, not looking even the least bit scared. Henry stood a bit farther away. That guy’s idiocy was going to get him killed someday. You didn’t mess with guys like Billy, everyone knew that. “So what should we call you? Billy? It seems silly to use it when it’s not your real name. And when the real Billy has been eating all my pizza in the holding cell we’ve been keeping him in. Can get confusing.”

Billy threw the gun at his head— ‘Ouch!’ —and reloaded a second. “Call me fucking whatever you want, just don’t call me Four. It’s not my fucking name.”

“Neither is anything else.” Gene pointed out, rubbing his head. Billy threw the second gun at him and grabbed the first from the ground, shooting another five shots that didn’t seem to land on the dummy.

“There’s six different Henry’s in the facility.” Henry commented, trying to soothe the tension. “Having more than one Billy isn’t confusing unless you’re pretty dumb. Besides, this one is a lot better looking.”

Billy snorted. “Stop trying to suck up.” He fired five more shots that didn’t hit.

“Can’t say he’s wrong though.” Gene agreed. “Other Billy is ugly as shit. Looks like a little fat Neil. Doesn’t throw shit at me, though.”

Billy reloaded the gun a fourth time. “Not like it’s helping me any.” He said cryptically, and Henry let it go. When he was like this, it was better not to ask questions. He missed all his shots yet again. Wow. Henry has never seen him this bad.

Gene leaned back in his chair, lacing his hands together behind his head. “Mission going that badly?” He asked.

“Can’t find the little shit. Thought I had a lead with Max’s friend but it was just a fucking dead end.” Frustrated, he took the gun and threw it at the dummy. It crashed through it and hit the wall on the other side.

Henry blinked. Wow. He always forgot just how strong the kid was.

“Now it’s fucking biting me in the ass ‘cause I lost my temper.”

“You use your powers?” Gene asked, suddenly serious. If he did, there’d be hell to pay with the higher-ups.

“No, I held back with that, but—argh!!” He kicked the table and sent it flying. “I beat up this kid from school and now he’s up my ass about it and won’t fucking forgive me!”

Finally, he sat down, looking defeated. “And I don’t know why I care, he’s just a fucking high school brat, but I can’t stop thinking about his fucking face, all bloody and—I told him he could beat me up if he wanted but he said he didn’t even want to touch me!”

Henry lit a cigarette and smoked it. “Ah. You fucked up. Caught feelings on a mission.”

“You’re only twenty.” Gene commented like a moron. “It’s not that weird to like someone in high school. As long as it’s not a freshman or something. Don’t punish yourself.”

“It’s not that he’s a high schooler, it’s that he’s a civilian. He gets involved with Billy, he dies. That’s the way it works for guys like him.” Henry tapped the back of his neck meaningfully.

Billy rubbed the spot. “It’s stupid. Been in high school for like a month and I’m already getting in all the drama.” He stood again, cooling off. “And fuckin’ Neil cut my hair ‘cause he’s a total asshole. Thinks he can push me around cause he got my kill switch. Fuckin’ cum muncher.”

“He’s an asshole,” Gene agreed. “His son is too. Although he might be a better shot than you. How many shots you miss? Fifteen? Sixteen?”

Billy just patted him on the shoulder. “Zero, you idiot. I just didn’t feel like aiming around. Anyways, I’m sick of this. Have fun jerkin’ eachother off or whatever it is you do down here.” He left with a wave of his hand.

Henry blinked. Well, shit. The kid never ceased to surprise him. As Billy walked out, Gene ran towards the dummy, sticking his fingers in to the hole to find it slightly thicker than one a single bullet would normally make. “No…” he breathed disbelievingly. “There’s no way…”

Henry grinned, pulling out his own cigarette. Behind the dummy, the wall had a single dent in it from over a dozen bullets hitting the same spot over and over again. “That’s Four for ya. He’s been doin’ this shit since before he could walk. It’s a completely different level, man.”

“Those fuckin’ experiments.” Gene breathed, smiling despite himself. “Get me every time.”

Chapter Text

For how much crazy shit the kids had gone through, Steve had thought they’d be more on board with the new weirdness. They always were deeply entrenched in the weird crap way before Steve ever caught on, so he just assumed they were on the lookout all the time. 

But when he called in the code red, only four of them had even showed up—El ended up staying home, and the other little kid was in the hospital, so he landed himself with Mike, Dustin, Max and Lucas, who all complained the entire time about how late it was, and how it probably wasn’t anything, and how Steve didn’t even get the Upside Down, so why was he the one finding things?

And when he finally dragged them over to the high school Thursday night, it didn’t go much better.

“This is why we had to stay up til the middle of the night and sneak in? For this?” Lucas complained. “I have school in the morning! What part of this couldn’t wait?”

 “The part where the Upside Down is loose again!” Steve argued back, but by now he was feeling a little stupid. It was hard to stand your ground against a group of four unimpressed kids. They’d all taken one look at the locker and then fixed Steve with the entire weight of their disappointment. 

At least Dustin would still be on his side— “Look, Steve, man, I love you, but this is not worth it. If you wanna hang out, just come to the arcade with me!” Or not.

“It’s one stupid locker. Some jock probably kicked it or something.” Mike’s face was all sour—he’d never liked Steve, and had been the most vocal about wanting to stay behind.

Steve sighed, rubbing his hands over his face, before saying, “Look,” And bringing his leg back and slammed it into one of the lockers, full force. The kids all jumped in surprise. “That’s what it looks like when a jock kicks it.” He motioned to the small dent he’d made. “And that’s something that isn’t human.” He waved at the destroyed locker next to it.

“They could’ve taken a sledgehammer to it or something. Thrown a desk.” Max answered reasonably. “It didn’t have to be a kick.” 

She’d wanted to be there the most, after Dustin, but even she looked unimpressed. Wanting to prove her wrong, he looked around to see if anything could have possibly been thrown that would do that much damage. There was a  messy stack of weights by the gym teacher’s office. Oh. Oh yeah. That was an option. He started to feel just a little foolish.

“And if the Upside Down was open again, Will would probably be feeling something, butI visited him earlier and he was fine.” Mike added. “And El hasn’t noticed anything weird, either.”

“And we’d be hearing about missing people and death and whatever. Not just finding one messed up locker somewhere.” Lucas added.

Steve took a step back. “Okay, fine, fine, you’ve made your point. I guess I overreacted a bit.”

“It’s fine!” Dustin patted him on the shoulder. “It was fun hanging out with you, let’s just do it in the daytime next time.”

 “Not fun for me!” Mike snorted like the little dick he was. “Don’t call me anymore unless it’s a real emergency.”

 “It’s cool, Steve.” Max said. “Mike called us all out last week because he thought his mailman was a secret agent. We all have false alarms.” 

“He looked really suspicious!!”

Picking them all up and dropping them all off afterwards took way longer than he’d expected. Even though he’d left at eleven, by the time he got back to his house, it was well past one a.m. 

He parked his car on the street, and snuck through their back gate into the back yard. It was the easiest way to get in and out. They never locked their sliding door, it didn’t make any noise, and it was infinitely easier than trying to climb out his window. He crept through the door, closing it slowly and silently. 

Finally safe inside, he let out a loud sigh, removing his shoes by the door. So that was a total waste of time and energy. Honestly, he should’ve just waited til the weekend to talk to them. It would’ve given him more time to think about it so he wouldn’t look like such an idiot, and his parents would be gone by then so he wouldn’t even have to sneak around. Also breaking into the school would’ve been way easier, cause the theater kids always left it open and nobody really cared who went in or out.

“Care to tell me what exactly is going on?”

Steve jumped and swung blindly with his fists—his dad swatted them away effortlessly. Crap. Crap. Crap. He’d been caught! Steve looked up at his dad,trying to make his eyes as big and innocent as possible.

 “Oh dad! You scared me! What are you doing up? Wow what a coincidence that we’re both up at the same time! Don’t worry, I’m good. I just was going on a midnight jog. No worries. Nothing weird about it.”

And, yeah, that was a weak excuse. Just looking at the hard lines on his dad’s face, he could tell he didn’t buy it for a second. His face carried the entire weight of his anger, and Steve couldn’t help but shrink back a bit. He gulped. This did not look good for him. 

He ended up being grounded for an entire month, and his dad took his car keys to boot. And no matter how much he insisted it wasn’t fair, or that he needed his car while they were gone for the next two weeks, his dad wouldn’t see reason. 

“I don’t see how you’ll need a car if you’ll be staying inside the whole time.” He said, like an asshole, and Steve got angry.

 “Fine! Then I’ll just let all my alpha friends drive me around! I’m sure the basketball team would love that. Might need some favors in return though…” Steve glared at his dad. “I guess I’m just too oblivious to know what those might be.”

His dad just about lost it, then, and Steve’s punishment was extended all the way until Christmas.

He didn’t get his car keys back.

Jason wouldn’t give him a ride home, either. “Sorry, babe. I’m driving to Ohio this weekend to visit Bethany. It’s like a thing we do every weekend, we haven’t missed out once since she moved.”

“But I don’t have anyone to drive me anywhere.” Steve answered. They were dating, weren’t they? Shouldn’t he take precedence over some omega friend? And if he didn’t, what did that say about their relationship?

That it was new , the logical side of himself reassured. That he didn’t know Jason that well yet, and they both had a right to spend time with their friends and get space if they needed it. If Jason wanted to go to Ohio, Steve should let him. It was fine.

He just would ask some of his other friends.

“Your dad called my house and said if he caught wind of me driving you anywhere, he’d kill me.” Kev said, tapping his foot nervously against his chair.

“He’s in New York.” Steve rolled his eyes. “How is he even gonna know?”

“He said he has eyes everywhere. He was really convincing.” Kev looked around nervously. Coward. “Heard he called up the other guys, too. I’m just wonderin’ how he got all our numbers. It’s pretty freaky, if you ask me.”

“He probably just looked through my planner.” Steve kept all his friends’ numbers in there. “Or looked through the phone book or something. Come on, live a little!”

“I’m telling you no because I want to live.” Kev answered. “Your dad said he’d cut my eyes out with a cheese knife if I even looked at you. I don’t even know what a cheese knife is!” 

Well, at least that explained the lack of eye contact. His parents always had a way of ruining everything good he had going for himself. Half the basketball team hadn’t even talked to him today. Figured that his dad was out there ruining his relationships, even when he was five states away.

 Steve had just about resigned himself to walking home from basketball practice, when Billy Hargrove of all people walked up to him. He didn’t make eye contact.

“Your dad’s paying me to cart you around for a bit.” He said woodenly. “I could use the money, so I said yes, but if you start trying to take advantage of it, I’m gonna stop, got that?”

“What does that even mean? Like I’m gonna ask for rides just to hang out with you or something?” Steve stared at him. “We hate each other.”

Billy glared at him. “I mean using up all my time and gas to get back at me. Limit one ride per day, got that? And nothing more than twenty minutes. Also I’m gone this weekend, so don’t call me.”

 “Gee, thanks. You’re so kind.” Steve said sarcastically. Freaking Billy Hargrove, always seeming to be right there when Steve didn’t need a guy there. 

“We both know that’s not how this works.” Billy answered, suddenly serious. His eyes bored into Steve’s and Steve straightened, meeting the challenge heard on. He stared back, refusing to drop his eyes In submission. Billy couldn’t keep pushing him around. The alpha wasn’t going to let up either, so they both stood there, refusing to drop the other’s gaze.

The thing about stare downs was they got boring after about three seconds. Which was why Steve didn’t bother to get involved in them that often.  He didn’t want to give into Billy, so there was no way he was looking away, but also…what did people think of when they were doing this? His inner monologue of “this guy sucks” could only last for so long, and soon gave way to little things he noticed.

Billy’s eyes were green, for one. He hadn’t ever taken the time to notice that before. There were little flecks of gold and brown within them, but they were as green as a forest. And pretty, with darker eyelashes than you would expect from someone so blonde. Steve’s eyes trailed along the eyelashes and upwards, towards his brows. Those were dark, too, with a slit going through the left.

Didn’t that have to do with gangs or something? Steve swore he heard it was associated with the Bloods. Maybe Billy was a member of a gang. Did they have the Bloods in California? If you were a gang member of a California specific gang, and you moved out to Indiana, did you stay a member of that gang?

What was involved in gang membership? Was there like a monthly fee or something? Billy had no acne at all. What product did he use? He didn’t even have any marks or anything. Steve, personally always got a bunch of little ones in his hairline, which was part of the reason he always made sure his bangs were hiding it. But Billy’s bangs were all feathery and thin, they weren’t hiding anything, but there was nothing there.

 He was just opening his mouth to ask what kind of skincare he used when the coach, thankfully, interrupted. “Okay, ladies, you can stare at each other all you want after practice. Let’s move!”

Steve blushed, finally tuning back into the outside world. He glanced over at Jason, wondering if he’d noticed. His boyfriend was just talking with one of the guys, didn’t even seem fazed. Probably was distracted, didn’t notice anything.

“Look, Princess, meet me at my car at the end of practice. Don’t be late. Some of us have things to do.” Billy brushed past him and Steve stumbled a little.

He rubbed his arm. Couple that guy be any more of an asshole? He ran out to the court to meet him. Fine. If he was going to be like that, Steve was just going to have to kick his ass on the court.

— 

Since becoming an omega, Steve had a separate, private shower room, so after practice he made sure to take his time and lather on as much of his coconut-strawberry shampoo and conditioner as he could, singing and enjoying the hot water for as long as it lasted. If Billy was going to be a jerk to him all of practice, then he would just have to wait for him to finish up.

He only left the bathroom when his hair was fully blow dried and poofy. He usually didn’t blow dry it this much, though, so it was maybe a bit bouncier than usual. Billy noticed immediately.

 “You look like that puff ball from Horton Hears a Who.” He said. “Did you seriously spend an hour in the bathroom to look like that?”

“Shut up. You wish you had hair as good as mine, you balding fuck.”

Billy scowled. “I’m not balding.”

“Yeah, your hair’s already thinning. There’s a bald spot in the back of your head, hasn’t anyone ever told you?” Steve batted his eyes innocently through the lie. He opened the passenger side door and got in. Billy’s hair was annoyingly perfect, but he didn’t have to tell him that.

The alpha rubbed the back of his head self consciously, and Steve grinned at the show of doubt. Looked like he’d won that round.

“Hi Steve.” Max piped up from the back seat, and Steve jumped so high he hit the roof. 

“Max!! What are you doing here?!”

“Um, duh. Billy drives me home. Heard you lost your car keys. That sucks.”

Billy got in the car, immediately turning the radio on to some metal band at full volume. Steve cringed, covering his hands with his ears reflexively, before darting forward to turn it off. “What the hell, man?” He asked, but Billy was already revving his car and grinning in this forced overconfident way he had.

“What, can’t take a real man’s music? Should I play ABBA for you or something? Cyndi Lauper?”

Steve loved both ABBA and Cyndi Lauper. “No! I do like this kind of music, It’s just too loud!” He hated that metal at any volume, but he wasn’t about to admit that now. He turned it back on, and dialed the volume knob down to a more reasonable level.

Billy snorted. “Who listens to Metallica quietly?” He shut off the music entirely, obviously annoyed. He looked in the mirror. “Hey, Max! Hang out with that Sinclair kid any more recently?”

“None of your business.” Max just looked out the window. Steve took her lead, looking out his own.

Billy didn’t take very kindly to being ignored, though. “Steve, what’s it been like turning bitch? You get on your back for any of the team yet? All of them?” His grin was sharp when Steve turned on him.

“Obviously not! Can you like, not be a knot head for ten seconds of your life?” Steve growled out.

 “Heard you spent your heat with Jason Steiner. How romantic. Must’ve been good if you made him ditch his girlfriend for you.”

“He doesn’t have a girlfriend. He said they’re just friends.”

Billy scoffed. “You know how dumb that sounds, Harrington? Though I guess I should expect you to be dumb enough to believe any alpha’s lies. You in the dumb track for all your classes or is it just English?”

Steve felt his face heat, and he unbuckled his seatbelt. “Stop the car.”

 Billy acted like he didn’t hear him, so Steve yelled louder, grabbing a handful of Billy’s mullet and pulling. “I said , STOP THE CAR YOU BASTARD!”

Billy slammed on the breaks, sending Steve flying into the glovebox. He grunted. Ugh. Should’ve expected that one. He lunged forward and punched Billy in the chest. “Stop fucking calling me a slut! I haven’t even had sex with anyone since Nancy you fucking idiot, I’m not a fucking whore!”

Billy batted his hands away, not making any move to retaliate. “And what, you and Jason Steiner just—what—painted each other’s nails and did your hair during your heat? Pull the other one, Princess.”

“You—you fucking—I spent my heat with my mom, you fucking moron!”

Billy blinked.

“With your mom?”

“We watched shitty telenovelas for a week, nothing even happened, so I don’t know why you gotta be up my ass about it.”

”Oh.” His surprises face slowly turned into a grin, and he smiled like nothing was wrong. Like Steve hadn’t just punched him and had instead just given him some kind of good news or something. Steve watched him, worried about what his next move would be. You could never quite tell with Billy.“Aw, you saving your first heat for me, Harrington?”

Steve’s jaw dropped. Out of all the things he could have possible guessed Billy would say, that was not one of them. “How did you possibly get to THAT? No! No, not in a million years!”

Billy shrugged, slowly beginning to drive again. “You’re the one ranting about how you’ve never been touched before. I don’t know why you’d say something like that if it wasn’t for my benefit.” He winked at Steve, and Steve finally realized he was fucking with him.

 He shoved his arm away half-heartedly. “Fuck off.”

“Aw, look at you trying to flirt! That’s so cute, Harrington, but I’m afraid I’m married to my job. Don’t have time for any romance.”

“I’m not— Billy , can you not? You’re making me want to throw up.”

“Aw, I’m making your mouth all wet for me.” Billy snarked, and both Steve and Max screamed.

“EW!” They shrieked, and Steve couldn’t help but erupt into laughter at the ridiculousness of it. “That’s horrifying.”

 Billy smiled before reaching over and ruffling Steve’s hair. “Yeah, sorry.” He said, and Steve sounds towards him, surprised.

He’d never taken Billy as the type to apologize for anything. But there he was, hands clenching the steering wheel and eyes trained on the road. “I’m not too good at maneuvering the whole alpha thing,” he admitted. “Lose my cool way more than I want to.”

Steve stared at him, not daring to move or speak. Anything he did might ruin the moment. Billy Hargrove was apologizing. He half expected the Upside Down to just come in and swallow them all.

“Anyways, I’ve been trying to be more calm, but I get all whacked out around my rut. Sorry ‘bout that.”

“Your rut?” Steve asked, curiosity finally winning out over surprise.

“Yeah, it happened last week, right after our fight or whatever. ‘S why I wasn’t in school for awhile, didn’t see you go into heat, just heard Steiner brought you home or whatever. Kids were saying you two must’ve fucked, ‘s why you got together so quick.”

 “He took me to the nurse.” Steve answered. “But I don’t see how it’s any of your business if I did have sex with him or not. What’s that got to do with your rut?”

Billy sighed, long and deep. “Nothing, Harrington. Nothing at all.”

 —

 When he came to pick Steve up from the diner Monday, he was blasting Dancing Queen at full volume.

“Figured I’d play music that was more you, Harrington. What’d’ya think?”

 Steve couldn’t help but smile. Damn, but Billy was such an asshole.

Chapter Text

Billy liked to talk tough : Ugh. I hate carting your ass around. I can’t believe your dad is making me do this. You’re stinking up my car. He said these things and rolled his eyes and did whatever he could to cover up the truth, but it was ultimately really clear:

If he had the choice between spending time with Harrington in his car—listening to shitty music and earning smiles from the omega little by little, pretending he doesn’t notice how cute he is, or how nice he smells—or doing this, he’d choose Steve every time.

Because the truth was, his life wasn’t pleasant. It wasn’t pretty, and it was barely interesting. Guys like him didn’t get to stress about little things like homework or school dances or any stupid teenage shit like that, and they definitely didn’t get to star in some lovey-dovey romantic comedy like the one Steve Harrington seemed to be living in. Billy’s life wasn’t rose-colored, it was black. Gritty. This.

The rain poured outside the warehouse, and he could feel his hair curling under his hat. The wet, humid air clung to him like an unwelcome blanket. His socks were soggy in his boots. The weight of the gun pressed on his back, and he traced his fingers against the outline of the pistols in his belt. It felt like overkill, but you never knew when it came to experiments like himself. The more weapons the better.

Eight. That was her name. He repeated the details of her file to himself. She was a Mental, rare type. Pakistani descent, seventeen. Got out a few years ago, suspected of five deaths in the past year. Significant powers of visual illusion. The type of high ranking Mental that never left the shadowy shelter of the Midwest. They weren’t like Physicals like him that got carted off in every direction as soon as something popped up.

He lit a cigarette and smoked it. Mentals bothered him. Rare types even more so.They were sheltered, got all the special treatment and shit and then couldn’t even properly appreciate it. Kept running off and making more work for him.

She’d been in Philadelphia a month ago, killed one of the retired scientists from the lab. She should’ve stayed there. He knew the Physical out in Philly; they’d trained together as kids. Nice guy, kind of quiet. His instincts were poor, and he had a penchant for mercy.

If she stayed under his jurisdiction, maybe she could’ve lived.

He dropped the cigarette to the ground, squashing it with the toe of his boot.

“So, we waiting for anything special, or could we get this show on the road?” He asked, glancing back at Neil. The other man wore a crisp button up, a contrast to the hazmat suits the clean up crew wore. There were no other soldiers, just management and clean up.

They’d long since learned that back up on these kinds of missions were useless.

“She’s not the only one in there.” Neil said, holding the comm device to his ear. “Intel says there’s five other guys with her.”

“So?” Billy’s foot tapped impatiently on the concrete. “What, you think I can’t take them?”

Neil gave him a look, and Billy rolled his eyes. “That was one time.”

“It was a pretty memorable time.”

“Yeah, and I’ve got a clean record. Look, you took over my case—what—three years ago? You weren’t even there for any of Afghanistan. You haven’t seen me with any of my best work. I can take five guys.”

“There’s the experiment there too, though—“

“And all she’s got on her are some pretty lights. Visuals. I use my nose and they’re done. Alpha, remember?” Not the first time he was grateful for his heightened senses. It had meant the difference between life and death more than once for him.

“It’s your funeral.” Neil said, holding his hands aloft as if in surrender. The remote in his left stood out, mocking Billy. It really bit that one piece of metal and plastic could rule his life entirely. It sucked even more that it was Neil of all people in charge of it.

He gritted his teeth, looking away. “Nah,” he answered flippantly. “It’s really not.”

He heard them before he saw them. They were laughing, swearing, listening to some grunge band that probably had a ridiculous name. He could smell the beer and cheap Taco Bell from almost a mile away. A shitty last meal if he’d ever seen one.

He continued on, stopping only when he reached the open door.

Sure enough, there they stood. Making jokes and eating those shitty, 3 for a dollar tacos. They weren’t even agents, or hired thugs, or anything he’d prepared himself for. They were some washed-out drug addicts with dark makeup and crazy hair. He frowned.

They didn’t look like they’d give him even half the fight he wanted.

Staying low, he rolled behind the door, getting a better visual of the situation. Everyone in the group seemed to be betas. Good. That made things easier; less heightened senses usually made them easier to sneak up on. From where he sat, he had a good visual on the largest one, a black guy with a solid frame and confident manner.

Billy pulled out his pistol, unwilling to use the heavier artillery until things looked more serious. For now, he could—the man looked over at him, and he tensed, surprised.

Their eyes met. It was time to go. He fired, shooting the man cleanly through the head. He went down, and Billy rushed closer to the door.

Just as he reached it, a loud BOOM! shook him as the room exploded, dirt and stone flooding the door. He stumbled back, defending his face, before realizing not even one pebble had touched his face.

Visual hallucinations. He smirked. Looked like she’d gotten an upgrade. He readied his gun, stepping into the room.

It was empty, with a window open, breeze softly fluttering the curtains. The room was hot and muggy, though, and the scents of the five people were strong inside. He didn’t take the bait.

Instead, he listened carefully, walking towards the dead body. He could barely make out the sound of hushed breathing. It looked like Eight could create sounds easier than she could mask them. He glanced down at the corpse, thinking quickly. Time to test how close this group was.

Keeping his ears open and his gun ready, he leaned over the body, making a show of going through the pockets. He grinned, slapping the face a little, sticking his fingers in the nostrils and pulling them upwards into a little pig-like snout, pulling his eyes down and generally disrespecting the body.

Sure enough, a brittle sob sounded next to him. So she was close. He jumped up and grabbed the spacethe sound came from, fingers closing around a neck easily. The illusion flickered.

Well. That was lucky. It was a shorter girl, with big hair and a pale complexion. She looked up at him, eyes terrified. He grinned.

It was his right hand that held her. His veins pulsed excitedly. It would be so easy to use his powers right now. He didn’t really need to spare her, he could use the next one as bait. He glanced around the empty room. Well. It wasn’t like he had anything to lose.

He squeezed, letting the energy flow from him.

She exploded in a mess of blood and organs.

He grinned. Damn, that felt so good.

The illusion flickered once more, and he shot another two in quick succession, making it low enough that they’d survive. He wanted to feel his powers just a little bit more.

One of them managed to get a shot in, but it swung wide, and he didn’t even have to try to dodge it.

Eight summoned a tiger that he ignored, even as it roared at him. She’d have to try harder than that. He spun towards her, just about reaching her when his fingers waved through air.

Another illusion. Suddenly the room was full of copies, and the two last living misfits were hidden once more.

He closed his eyes, letting his sense of smell guide him. He took a deep breath. He just needed to calm down and pay attention. She was close—her fists met his face unexpectedly, but he recovered quickly enough to catch her foot in his hands. She glared at him, and he smiled.

“Well, that was stupid,” he said, twisting her leg so she lost her balance. He pressed his hand to her back, climbing onto her to hold her on the ground. She tried to elbow him and he caught it. “Normally, I’d do this the old fashioned way, but the higher ups want me to try this new tech. Thinks it’s more humane or something.”

It was really annoying, but he was a little bit excited to see what it could do. He’d only seen it used on rats before. He fished the device from his pocket. It looked like a particularly thick pen, but he knew it was quite a bit more deadly. Setting number five should be high enough, he thought. He stuck it in her neck. It buzzed, sending currents of electricity through her, and she stopped struggling. Her body went limp on the floor.

Well, that was anticlimactic.

He stood, turning to where the last two of the living lay, clutching their wounds and trying to reach for their weapons with weak fingers. One was inches away from his gun, and Billy took great pleasure in kicking it away at the last moment.

“Who-Who are you?” The girl asked, looking at him with a mix of fear and hate. He ignored her, focusing on the man first. He put two fingers on the guy’s temple, using his energy to swirl up the insides. The man’s face bulged unnaturally, and when Billy poked his finger in deeper, the brains flowed out like soup. Hm. Gross.

“Well. Since you’re about to die, I guess I’ll tell you.” Billy answered, advancing on her. “I’m a soldier. Number Four. Recently been going by the name Billy. Not that any of that actually means anything to you. Hm, guess it was kind of a wasted question. Oh well. Good night.”

He was really too eager to use his powers again to focus on small talk. His hand reached out and covered her face, and she screamed.

It didn’t last long.

A bullet pierced his shoulder before he could blast her with his energy, and he looked up. Kali sat there, gun smoking in her hands. He growled, sending out the blast of energy he’d been looking forward to. It stalled in his injured shoulder and sputtered out all wrong.

It still killed her, but in small spurts of weak gore, rather than the concentrated explosion he liked so much. It was really, really annoying. Eight shot at him again, but this time he dodged easily. Darting forward, he kicked the device in his pocket up to the maximum voltage. Five was definitely not enough.

He reached her before she could think to use any more mind tricks. “Please, don’t!” She said, a final plea. “you’re like me, just—just—you can stop this! You can escape! Just stop and come with me, you can be free.”

“Oh, you poor kid.” He shook his head, then shoved the electric pen in her neck a second time. Her body fell to the ground, fully unconscious. “Don’t you know there’s no such thing?”

 

Behind him, Neil arrived on the scene, arms folded and looking cross. Billy sighed, standing up slowly and letting the cleaners flood in and take care of the unconscious girl next to him.

“Looks like it wasn’t as easy as you thought.” He grumbled, looking at the bullet wound in Billy’s shoulder with a sense of I told you so . Billy only rolled his eyes.

“I don’t think this exactly qualifies as a hard time,” He answered, dishing out the bullet with his fingers, gritting his teeth against the familiar pain. When it was out, he sent a soothing pool of energy in with his left hand and sighed as the skin stitched itself together.

“Anyways, it’s over now. Let’s go back. I gotta pick up some kid for school tomorrow.” It sounded so dumb and childish, coming out of his mouth. Back to the high school bullshit.

Neil must have sensed something in his tone, because he said, “I don’t know what you’re complaining about. You’re the one who called in the favor so you could get ‘a normal life’. Now my son’s spent the last three years in a government facility so you can go to dances between jobs.”

“Oh, shut up, that fat lard never had it so good. He gets to live his dream life; eating pizza and playing video games all day long.” Billy thought about it. “And we’d have switched back earlier if you hadn’t gone and got yourself some civilian wife. Now we’re stuck til the government finds a good excuse for me to turn into Jabba the Hut.”

A sudden, blistering current of electricity sent him to his knees.

In his hand, Neil held the remote aloft. “Watch how you talk about him. No matter what his figure, he will always be worth ten of me.”

Probably could fit ten of me inside him. Billy thought as he nodded through gritted teeth. Honestly, he didn’t even have a problem with Real-Billy. The kid was a little weird, but mostly harmless, and he’d never been anything but nice to Billy. He just hated that damn remote.

Neil grinned, sending an extra current through him, just because.

He really, really hated that damn remote.

 

Chapter Text

It was a Monday afternoon, and Steve was not sure at all how to act. He’d never been on a date with a guy before, and he normally wouldn’t even recognize something like this as a date, but Jason had insisted on driving him to that diner on Main after basketball practice, had insisted on paying for Steve’s shake and fries, and then sat right across the table from Steve and told him he looked nice.

So it was definitely a date. And Steve had absolutely zero experience dating a guy, so he was completely lost. It didn’t help that Jason was the strong, silent type. Emphasis on silent. After the initial compliment, he’d just sat there wolfing down food as Steve sipped a milkshake.

He wracked his brain for how girls usually acted on these things, and couldn’t think of one original idea. “Um. So, Peanut Butter Banana?” He eventually asked, trying to make conversation.

“It’s good.” Jason slurped on his milkshake. “Bethany always used to go here with me. She’d get Chocolate Banana, and I’d get Peanut Butter Banana, and we’d mix them.” He cast a disappointed look at Steve’s strawberry shake, and Steve got the distinct sense that he’d misstepped.

“Oh, sorry. Uh, I can get Chocolate if you like? I’m not a huge fan of bananas, though.” He said, and Jason looked even more disappointed somehow. Steve bristled, discomfort making way for defensiveness. Was it a crime to not like bananas? They tasted awful if they got too ripe, and they never lasted long before that happened. And if you froze them, then everything in the freezer started tasting like bananas. They were a trash fruit, and it shouldn’t matter if he liked them or not.

“You don’t have to.” Jason shrugged. “You’re your own person, it’s not like I want you to be Bethany or anything. We just have a lot of good memories here, that’s all.”

All the anger in Steve faded away, and he nodded. “Yeah, I get it. Tommy and I always used to hang out in the parking lot by the liquor store, trying to get people to buy us beer and cigarettes. It was dumb, but it was kind of our thing. When we got in our fight, it was hard to go back there.”

Jason looked at him thoughtfully. “I always thought you and he would end up together, to be honest. I was surprised when he started going steady with Carol.”

“She’s cool.” Steve shrugged. “Tommy and I never had feelings for each other, and I didn’t even really register any feelings for guys ‘til I became an omega. It never really felt like an option.”

Jason smiled slowly. “So, am I your first boyfriend, then?”

Steve just rolled his eyes. “You already knew that.” They ate their fries, and chatted for awhile longer. Jason had a large appetite, and managed to finish two burgers, his milkshake, and both of their fries, before Steve even finished with his shake.

It was a little over-quiet between them. They’d get on a topic like basketball, or their first class, or the other kids at school and have a bit to talk about for awhile, but then someone always said something that didn’t really require a response, and the silence stretched until Steve became too anxious to deal anymore and asked something new.

He was almost relieved when Billy walked in, all confidence and swagger. Steve almost called out to him, but then Billy turned away and went to the counter, and he dropped his hand.

It was a little early for Billy to be picking him up, maybe he would just go eat something by himself while he waited for them to finish. Steve glances at Jason. He hadn’t told him yet that he’d asked Billy to pick him up, and he didn’t know how exactly he’d react.

“Um, so you don’t have to drive me home.” Steve started, and Jason grunted, stealing more of his fries. Steve tamped down the impulse to slap his hand away. Jason had paid for the fries. He could take them if he wanted.

Suddenly a hand popped out, taking the fry out of Jason’s hand and flicking it at his face. He blinked, flinching back as Billy grinned, sliding into the seat next to Steve.

“Are you seriously stealing Harrington’s food? Get your own, man.” His tone was friendly, but his eyes seemed sharply trained on Jason’s in challenge. A new carton of fries was thrust under Steve’s nose—Billy was giving him the fries he just bought—and he took one on impulse, gently pushing away the rest of the box. Billy grinned in triumph, like he’d won some sort of competition. Jason frowned.

“He didn’t want them,” He argued, but it didn’t seem that convincing. “Anyways, what are you doing here, Hargrove? If you haven’t noticed, we’re on a date.”

Billy grinned wolfishly, seeming entirely too pleased with himself. “Steve asked me to pick him up. I guess he wasn’t really feeling it. Sorry Steiner, better luck next time.” He stretched out, laying his arm over Steve’s shoulders in an exaggerated motion. A cheap joke to get under Jason’s skin. Steve rolled his eyes, pulling the arm off.

He stole another of Billy’s fries, though, because they were good and he’d barely been able to eat anything so far. He turned an apologetic look in Jason’s direction. “I didn’t know if you would be able to drive me home--I didn’t know your schedule or anything, and I thought I should have back up, just in case you couldn’t. I’m sorry.”

Jason had straightened, shoulders coming up near his chin when Billy’d arrived, but when he heard it was a simple thing like that, he relaxed slightly, pulling his hand across the table and wrapping it around Steve’s. “It’s fine. I get it. This is still pretty new. Just…” He glanced over at Billy. “You don’t have to worry about the ride situation. I can drive you home at the end of our dates.”

Steve grinned, relieved to hear it. “Thanks. I should get my car back pretty soon, anyways. My dad can’t keep it from me forever.”

“Steve.” Jason squeezed his hand and Steve felt butterflies skitter from the spot right into his heart and sit there, quickening his pulse. “I like being able to drive you home. Don’t worry about it.”

“But for today, I’m driving him, so―” Billy interrupted, much to both of their displeasure. Steve frowned, annoyed. It seemed like Billy was determined to play the third wheel here. He punched the alpha lightly in the shoulder.

“Hey, you’re the one who came early, just give us a minute, okay?” He turned back to Jason. “Thanks for the date. I had a real nice time.” He stood.

Jason followed, standing to ask earnestly. “Do you have any plans Thursday?”

Billy frowned, pulling Steve’s hand away, impatient to get him out the door. “The hell? It’s Thanksgiving, of course he has plans―”

“I don’t, actually.” Steve answered. “My parents are going to be out of town for the holiday. We can do something if you want.”

Jason smiled brilliantly. “Great! Me and my family do this huge thing every year--the extended family comes, and our neighbors--it’s great. You should totally come.”

Steve couldn’t help but smile back. “Of course!” He answered. “I’d love to.”

Billy scowled behind him, obviously in a bad mood at getting held up. “Okay, come on, Harrington. You might have all day, but I sure don’t.”

He pulled Steve away from Jason before they could do any more than a quick hug, and when they got to the car, Billy seemed annoyed enough that he didn’t even remember what had been playing before he’d gone inside. When he turned on the car, ABBA immediately blared on the speakers and he quickly turned it off.

Steve laughed, surprised. “You like ABBA?” He said, disbelievingly.

Billy gave a reluctant smile, like he was trying to be pissed, but had forgotten why. “I figured I’d play something that was more you, Harrington. What’d’ya think?”

Steve made a show of turning the music back on. “Oh, I love it,” He said sarcastically. “It’s my favorite band of all time.”

The thing was, though it wasn’t his favorite band of all time, it was definitely in the top five. It wasn’t his fault! Their songs were rad! Lay All your Love On Me? That one would be a hit for the next fifty years, screw anyone who tried to say otherwise!

And so while he was able to make a big show of sarcastically “loving” the songs, it easily turned into genuine enjoyment. He exaggeratedly sang along and danced to the lyrics, making Billy roll his eyes and snort at him, but by the time it got to the next song (Knowing Me, Knowing You), Steve was fully invested, and Billy was starting to join in.

“Walking through an empty house!” Steve pulled at Billy’s jacket dramatically, wiping away imaginary tears, “Tears in my eyes! This is where the story ends, this is gooodbyeee!” Now, he even more dramatically pushed him away, crashing his body into the opposite side of the car before turning back around, flipping his hair around like a movie star.

Billy rolled his eyes, but when the chorus came on, he pounded his hands on the steering wheel to the drum beat, and sang just as loudly as Steve did. “Knowing me, knowing you!”

“Ahaaaaaa!” Steve did a funny little wiggle as he sang that part, and they both couldn’t help but fall into fits of laughter at that, all the way until the next ‘Aha’ echo came on and Billy tried it, and then they were both cracking up laughing at every subsequent little time there was an echo.

“Memories!” Billy sang, and Steve waggled his fingers mysteriously, echoing in a stage whisper,

“Memories,”  They exploded into more laughter until the next line came, and then he was whispering more of the echoes that sent them into more helpless laughter.

By the time they got to the house, they were both cracking up as Billy sang, “Take a Chance on Me” while Steve sang all of the backup parts. Steve was having a blast, and Billy seemed just as into it. When the lines changed, though, his smile turned oddly sincere:

“Cause you know—I've got so much that I wanna do!

When I dream I'm alone with you, it's magic

You want me to leave it there

Afraid of a love affair, but I think you know

That I can't let go!” 

It seemed like his mood changed, went from delighted to just a little bit more serious, more hopeless. Steve wasn’t sure to make of it, so he just kept singing along, as they got closer together, dancing along to the music and making dramatic passes at each other. He went on to do the back up part,

“You don't wanna hurt me,

Baby, don't worry,

I ain't gonna let you”

And once again, the air felt charged. Billy grabbed onto his hands, and it didn’t feel like a joke anymore, not to Steve, at least. His smile wavered as his heart jumped, and Billy declared in song,

“My love is strong enough

To last when things are rough, it's magic

You say that I waste my time

But I can't get you off my mind, no, I can't let go

'Cause I love you so!”

And it was dumb. It was so stupid, because it was just an ABBA song, and one of their peppiest, goofiest ones at that. It shouldn’t have put Steve’s stomach all in knots, or made his voice crack as he continued to the next line, forgetting it wasn’t his part.

“If you change your mind” He and Billy both sang, and the dumb peppy chorus seemed completely at odds with the wavering mood in the car. “I’m the first in line. Baby, I’m still free, take a chance on me.”

Steve let his voice die, then, and Billy continued on with the next verse alone. “I’m gonna do my very best, Baby can’t you see. Gotta put me to the test, take a chance on me.”

The singers continued on, but they both dropped into an uncomfortable silence, brutally aware of the charged energy between themselves. They pulled away hurriedly, and Steve spun to face forward. The car idled in the parking lot. Steve coughed.

“Welp. That was fun.” He said, and Billy nodded.

“Uh, yeah.” His voice sounded deeper than usual, like he was trying to reassure them both of his apparent manliness. Probably embarrassed by the fact that he’d actually gotten into the singing. “Yeah, I guess ABBA doesn’t suck as much as I thought.”

“They’re great.” Steve answered. “I like them. Actually, though. Not just as a joke.”

“Yeah, I think I figured that out when you knew all the lyrics to that last one.” Billy answered. “I don’t mind them.” He shrugged. “For a hippie band, they’re not that bad.”

Steve nodded. “Thanks for the ride.”

“Anytime, Harrington. Let’s do it again, sometime.”

And then Steve was out of there, escaping to the safety of his home and silently yelling at himself to not freak out, it was a song, it didn’t mean anything.

________

Thursday night he finally caved and called Billy to get a ride home. He got an answering machine, and on the second time he called, Max finally answered. She told him Billy and Neil had gone on a father-son campout over the long weekend, and wouldn’t be back until at least Wednesday, which was like a double whammy, because not only had Steve wanted to leave the party early, now he couldn’t even get any rides for another few days.

He’d have to ask Jason. And Jason was willing. He was so nice, and willing, and supportive, but...

Steve felt someone poke his shoulder, and he jumped about three feet in the air. Spinning around, he caught sight of blonde pigtails tied in blue ribbons. Shit.

“Who was that?” Bethany asked, blowing a bubble of gum and letting it pop in his face. “Another alpha?”

“No.” Steve answered through gritted teeth. “What would make you say that?”

“I still talk with Carol, you know. We, like, catch up. She tells me you’ve got at least three boyfriends outside of Jay-bear. Doesn’t seem really nice.” She blew another bubble in his face.

“Carol just hates that I called her a bitch last year.” Steve answered. “I don’t have any other boyfriends.”

Bethany just looked at him disbelievingly for a few minutes, before finally finding something in his face that satisfied her enough that she spun around. “Whatever.” She said, sauntering over to one of Jason’s many aunts and immediately breaking out into a beatific smile.

“Oh, darling, you and Jason are just the cutest couple!” The aunt gushed, completely ignoring Steve’s presence. “I’m so happy to see you to together.”

“Oh, thank you, auntie, but Jay-bear and I are just friends.” Bethany’s smile was icy and said everything about how she felt about that. “Jason’s dating Steve over there.” She pointed out Steve, and they both gave him a disgusted look.

“Oh.” The aunt looked him up and down. She didn’t look impressed. “Well, there’s no accounting for taste. Don’t worry, dearie, he’ll come around. Boys can sometimes be a little stupid in these sorts of matters.”

Steve scowled, finally giving up and escaping to the bathroom. It was only five p.m.--still an hour before they’d even get dinner, and he was seriously considering just jetting. Jason had spent most of the time hanging out with his siblings or helping his dad with the turkey, and so Steve had spent the afternoon adrift, dodging Bethany and her army of disapproving family members left and right. It seemed like he couldn’t escape them.

And nothing he did ever seemed to measure up. He prided himself in his abilities in the kitchen, but when he started helping Jason’s mom, all she did was cluck and fuss about how he was doing it wrong, and how you couldn’t use any spices besides salt and pepper in her potato salad, and Bethany did it so much better--she put raisins in it, because apparently that was now something to be praised.

“But raisins are gross” Steve’d said, and had pretty much been kicked out of the kitchen entirely.

From then on, it had been just one thing after another. He didn’t dress femininely enough, he was too fat, he was too skinny, he just wasn’t as cute or as nice as dear old Bethany. Bethany was already practically family, what was this new omega doing, coming in and stealing little Jay-bear away?

He wanted to throw up. Why Jason had ever invited him, he couldn’t fathom. And even worse, in the few times he did see the guy, he was just so earnest, and adoring, and just wanted so badly for Steve and Bethany to be friends...it was worse than if he’d ignored Steve entirely.

The bathroom was on the first floor, with a window low enough it wouldn’t be too hard to climb out. Jason didn’t live too far away from Steve. He could climb out the window, and then he could just walk home...nobody would even know.

No, that was too dramatic. He could pretend he had a baby sitting emergency, maybe. Yeah, that could work. The people he babysat for, suddenly called him on Jason’s phone number and needed him.

Ugh. No. Nobody would buy it. Steve sighed, washing his face in the sink. It was fine. This was totally fine. He could totally endure it.

He stepped back out into the crowd.

“That’s him?! But you’re so much cuter! Look at his nose!’

Steve sighed deeply, going back into the bathroom. Just five more minutes. Five more minutes, and then he could deal with all of this.

______

Bethany’s school didn’t get back until Tuesday, and so Steve spent every date that weekend with her in the backseat making snide comments or reminding Jason of every little inside joke they’d ever shared. The inside joke thing was surprisingly the worst of all she said. Every time they did it, Steve just had to sit back and stay quiet as the two of them went on forever about some dumb thing that could only be funny if you’d been there.

Well, they weren’t there, so could they just stop laughing about it?

On the way back from their movie date Saturday night, Jason and Bethany both forgot Steve even existed, and when he came out of the bathroom, they’d both left him alone in the movie theater, without so much as a goodbye. And then suddenly he didn’t have a ride home.

He ended up sitting on one of the benches outside the theater next to this weird skinny girl wearing an ugly cat sweater. The theater was miles away from his house. He didn’t even know who he could call to get a ride from, so he just had to wait for Jason and his asshole omega girlfriend to figure out they’d left him behind.

Each minute that stretched on was more insulting than the last.

——

“You know, Tammy Thompson still likes you.” The weird girl next to him said finally, sounding like it absolutely pained her to admit it.

Steve blinked, glancing over at her. Her shoulders were set in this horribly determined way, like she was gearing up for the electric chair. “Um, what?” He said, not understanding at all. Why was she even talking to him?

“She still likes you, even with the omega thing. So you could date he if you want. She probably wouldn’t leave your ass at the movie theater, either.”

“I don’t really see how that’s any of your business.” Steve bristled. “And Tammy Thompson isn’t my type.”

“Because she’s a beta? Or because she’s a girl?” The girl got even more aggressive, and Steve had absolutely no idea why. Was she friends with the girl? Why did she sound so angry about setting them up? It didn’t make any sense.

“No, because she’s not that cute.” He said, and the girl completely lost it at that point. She went into some long-ass rant about all of Tammy’s good points, and why Steve was an idiot for not noticing her, and how Jason was a grody alpha knothead who thought with his dick, and if Steve thought he’d ever be a better partner than Tammy, he had another thing coming, and―

Finally Jason showed up, saving the day with a thousand apologies and a dozen kisses to Steve’s cold cheeks. The cat-sweater girl quieted, watching Steve with heated eyes before finally standing and moving to another bench, refusing to look at him.

Like he had somehow been the one to do something wrong! It was insane!

Jason escorted him back to the car, and Steve landed in the front seat. Bethany sat quietly in the backseat, and for once, just listened to Steve tell the story, and didn’t try to assert dominance in some way.

At the end of the night, Jason dropped off Bethany, and he and Steve went on a drive together, just the two of them. It was quiet. Jason wasn’t too good at speaking, but it was nice, this time. They drove through the richer neighborhoods and looked at the Christmas lights just beginning to come up.

“A little early, isn’t it?” Steve asked, quirking a brow. Honestly, he liked them a lot, but he always felt embarrassed to admit it. So he just made fun of them like his friends did.

“I like them.” Jason said, face sentimental. “They’re pretty. Sometimes I wish they could stay up all year long.”

“Yeah.” Steve murmured, surprised at the admission. He wished he could admit so evenly the things he was embarrassed about liking. He looked at the way they lit up the night with a soft glow. “I like them, too.” It was quiet, then, but it didn’t feel awkward anymore. It felt soft, soothing, like they were sharing a private moment.

Jason stopped the car at the quarry, getting out and leaning on the hood invitingly. Steve sat next to him, letting the other boy curl a hand around his shoulders. They sat in silence for a few more minutes, before Jason spoke again.

“I’m sorry.” He said, finally. “Not about the leaving you thing. Well. I’m definitely sorry about that, just--I wanted my family to like you. I wanted you to have fun, and they’ve all been jerks. I’ve been a jerk. And I’m sorry.”

“You know, you don’t have to date me.” Steve answered, hesitatingly. “I won’t be heartbroken. You can date Bethany.”

“Bethany’s like a sister to me. I love her, but it’s different.” Jason said. “I don’t…” He turned to Steve, and Steve could feel the heat of his breath on his lips. “I don’t want to do this with Bethany.” He said, and kissed Steve on the lips.

It was hesitant, slow, and steady as Jason always was.

And yes, the weekend had sucked up and down, but this? This was perfect.

Absolutely perfect.

Chapter Text

Time passed quickly. The kids (as always) freaked out about something or other--some sister of El’s they’d tried to contact and it hadn’t worked. From the sound of it, the girl just hadn’t wanted to answer the phone when some dorky kid was calling, but Steve wasn’t about to say that. El said she sensed danger around, and Hopper had her basically grounded in his little cabin until future notice. The rest of the children spent their time patrolling different areas, calling unlisted numbers in Chicago, and building spy gadgets and stuff.

It all seemed fun, but it got exhausting sometimes. Steve found himself split a lot between the various things he needed to do.

It was time consuming, being in a relationship. Jason was with Bethany every weekend, and so that meant they had to squeeze their dates in during the week, after basketball practice. Most days, they were too exhausted to do much, and so they just ended up crashing at Jason’s place and watching movies.

His grades were suffering, but it was nearly the end of the term, so he needed them to not be suffering. This meant, too often, staying up late and studying while Jason slept curled next to him.

He felt constantly like he was on the verge of crashing into sleep. Throughout this, he didn’t even have his own car, so he kept having to call Billy in the middle of the night and asking for rides home. Luckily, he was always up for it. As much as the guy’d made a big stink about how much of a chore driving Steve around was, he sure seemed eager to do it whenever Steve asked.

 

December first found Billy driving Steve to Indionapolis to do some early Christmas shopping, because Steve was excited, and Billy was almost never available on the weekend, and honestly Steve thought it would be fun. It wasn’t. They fought the whole way there, and the whole way back, because Billy was an idiot. 

“I just don’t see what’s so special about Christmas. So some virgin got knocked up a thousand years ago. Whatever. It happens. People lie.”

“Come on! You can’t just diss a whole religion just because you don’t like one holiday. It was a big deal!” Steve insisted. “And it’s not even about that, either―”

“Oh yeah, it’s about the old fat dude who breaks into people’s houses and leaves their kids shady presents made by his slave army. Yeah, much better.”

“Billy! Stop! Do not slander Santa, that is not cool!” Steve couldn’t take this. Christmas was his favorite holiday, and it wasn’t even about the lore behind it, it was just the best. His parents always made a point to stay home, he got loads of presents, he got to show his friends how much he loved them, there were Christmas cookies, and cheesy movies, and snow, and--who the hell didn’t like Christmas?!

“I’m just saying, he sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. It’s a creepy bit of lyrics, and I don’t know why we encourage this guy’s obvious criminal behavior―” Steve punched Billy’s arm, desperate to make it stop. He laughed despite himself, though, because he had to admit there was something to Billy’s argument.

“Dude! Dude, I can’t--not even, stop ruining my childhood you total ass!”

Billy just laughed, one hand on the steering wheel, and the other ruffling Steve’s hair teasingly. Steve grinned at him, taking in the moment. Yes. They were arguing, and Steve fully intended on jumping back with his whole argument on why Christmas deserved a month of celebration instead of just a few days, and as much as the argument was very real--it was weirdly nice. It was fun, in a way he hadn’t felt in a long time. The woods rushed past the windows quickly, melting into farmland, and Nat King Cole was crooning about silver bells on the radio, and the warmth of the car heated his cheeks. Billy’s scent was everywhere, smoke and iron and spice.

Steve wished he could capture the moment forever, so he impulsively took a picture on the little throwaway camera he’d brought, capturing Billy mid smile.

“What was that for, Harrington?” He asked, and Steve just shrugged.

“Just wanted photographic proof of the Grinch in person.”

“Oh, shut up.” Billy scoffed, turning fully back to focus on the road as Steve began to sing the lyrics to the song.

“You’re a mean one, Mr. Hargrove.” He sang. “Your heart’s an empty hole! Your brain is full of spiders, you’ve got garlic in your soul, Mr. Hargrove! I wouldn’t touch you with a 39 and a half foot pole!”

“Oh, you liar!” Billy said, taking his hand and rubbing it all over Steve’s face. “This is you literally every car ride we go on!” He gave some play slaps to Steve’s arm. Steve fended him off, laughing easily.

“That was before I knew you were the Grinch!” He joked, “Now, get off me, foul fiend! I cannot be touched by any servants of Satan!” He punctuated it by slapping Billy’s hand away, and then poking him in the side about a dozen times. “Ah HA! See how you like my attack of Christmas spirit!”

“Ohhh my god, you are so immature.”

Yes, they fought the entire way there, and the entire way back. It was miserable. They both hated it the whole time. Obviously.

___

December fifth found Steve on his seventh or eighth date with Jason. It had gotten a little more comfortable by now. A little less exciting. It was a Wednesday, and they were doing their normal date thing--hanging out in Steve’s living room and watching these artsy fartsy movies that Jason liked and Steve thought were boring as hell.

But Jason wanted to get him cultured or something, so there they were, watching some silent movie about robots that was supposed to be important for some reason. Steve leaned on his boyfriend, dozing off on his shoulder.

He liked Jason a lot. He was comfortable. Steady. Smart.

He liked him a lot. He did. It was fun.

He forced himself to get comfortable, and let his eyes close. This was great. It was going to be great. Soon.

____

The thing was, they never did anything. It was December twentieth now, and the only thing they ever did was watch old movies or play Mario at Steve’s house, and that was if Jason was around to do something--he spent most weekends either at Bethany’s house, or with Bethany in town and wanting entertainment.

Steve didn’t operate like that. He wasn’t a quiet, comfortable guy in relationships. He liked grand romantic gestures. Like sneaking into their room without their parents knowing, or bringing flowers, or giving them the gift they’d been wanting for ages. He hated quiet, boring relationships. He needed romance to survive. To feel like he was cared about.

And Jason didn’t do that. He barely did anything. He brought Steve coffee in the morning. He carried his books to classes. He showed up at his house after school and watched movies with him until they ended up cuddling and making out of a few hours. That was it. That was the sum total of their relationship.

And he needed more. He really did.

“Oh, dear.” His mom told him, when he talked to her. He didn’t tell her much, because his dad would go insane if he found out Steve was dating an alpha boy behind his back. But he told her to keep it quiet, and that he had a boyfriend on the basketball team, and that their relationship was pretty boring so far. His mom had still squealed excitedly at the news and abandoned the Christmas cookies she was cutting to give him a large hug.

He’d smiled crookedly, before joining her in making cookies and talking about all his frustrations about not having a real romantic relationship with his new boyfriend. How they were barely more than friends, and sometimes he wished the guy could do something, anything even the tiniest bit romantic. His mom just frowned at him. “What rule is there that says that if you want romance, he has to be the one to provide it?”

He pressed the shapes of candy canes and snowflakes into the dough, placing the newly made shapes on the cookie sheet. “What do you mean?”

“Well, with Nancy,  she never gave you any flowers, either.” His mom made her voice casual. “You initiated all of that. Who’s to say you can’t still initiate it now?”

“I’m an omega, now.” Steve answered bitterly. “It’s weird for me to do stuff like that.”

“But…” His mom hesitated on the words, as if trying to remember the exact phrase. “Screw designation stereotypes, right? You’re not just an omega. You’re Steve. And if you like to be romantic, you can be romantic, can’t you?”

Steve felt his heart well up with gratitude. His mom had gotten a lot better with the omega thing than his dad in the past few weeks, but this was way more than he’d ever expected from her. He gave her a big hug. “Thanks mom! You’re the best!”

“My pleasure.” His mom answered, hugging him back. The flour on her hands made white prints in his shirt. “And don’t worry about your father. I won’t tell him about your little boyfriend. Not until you’re ready, at least.”

“Thanks.” He said sincerely, before pulling away. “Now, I’ve got something I gotta do. Good luck with the cookies”

“Of course, cariño. You just do what it is that you need to do.”

Steve just about ran to the phone. “Hey, Billy, I need a ride to the hardware store.” He said into the receiver.

“You need a last minute hammer before Christmas?” Came the mocking voice on the other line. Steve just rolled his eyes.

“Come on. It’s a secret. Just get over here?”

“Sure thing, princess. Whatever you say.” There wasn’t any bite behind his words, though, and Steve brightened, crooning the sweetest thank you he could manage.

“Thannnnks, dear.” He laughed, and he could hear Billy’s irritation on the other line.

“Fuck you. I’m on my way.” He hung up, and Steve laughed.

His mom smiled at him from the kitchen. “Your boyfriend?” She guessed.

“Ew, no, it’s just Billy.” Steve scrunched up his nose like she’d said something particularly gross. 

His mom blinked. “Oh.” She seemed to stall, as if he’d said something particularly weird. “Your boyfriend isn’t Billy?”

“No! Gross. He’s a total di--jerk. No, I’m dating this other guy from the basketball team, Jason.” He paused. “Uh, yeah. Don’t tell dad.”

“Oh.” His mom had no business looking as disappointed as she did. Seriously. In what universe would Steve ever date Billy Hargrove? Sure, he’d gotten marginally better over the past few weeks, but he was still a massive dick with a huge anger problem, alpha or not. Steve wouldn’t touch him with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole.

The reference reminded him of their trip to Indianapolis and he smiled despite himself. “Yeah, no. I’m not interested in Billy at all. Don’t worry about that.”

His mother’s mouth twisted ironically. “I wouldn’t say I was worried about it.” She answered, and yeah. There was nothing to be worried about at all when it came to Steve and Billy. Because there was nothing there. Not even a single thing.

______

Billy was blasting “Little Drummer Boy” on the radio when Steve jumped in the car. Steve looked at him oddly.

“What, did the ghost of Christmas future visit you and change your ways?” He asked, and Billy just rolled his eyes.

“I thought you’d appreciate it.” He answered. “Since you’re Christmas’s bitch boy. Anyways, what do you need to get from the hardware store?”

“I told you, it’s a secret! You better not come in with me, I will seriously end you.”

“If it’s my Christmas present, I have to say that I don’t really want anything from the hardware store. Try the video store instead, I heard there’s some adult ones in the back.”

“Ew! I am not getting you porn for Christmas, stop being gross.” Steve punched him on the shoulder. “And I already got your present.” Well, he’d gotten more than one thing. It just kept adding on. It seemed like anytime he went shopping, he found something that just screamed Billy, and he had to get it. So far, he’d gotten him a few ABBA tapes, a Grinch sweater, a winter coat, a basketball-player tree ornament, and a pair of skates, because apparently he’s never gone ice skating before. And Steve was sure there were more that would come to mind before Christmas actually happened. “It’s just kind of embarrassing, so I don’t want you to know about it.”

“Well, now I’m even more curious. What the hell is embarrassing that you can get from a hardware store?”

“I just told you, I didn’t want to say. It’s for Jason, anyways. We have a date tonight, and I just kind of wanted to...spice it up.” Billy swerved into the other lane.

“The hell?! What the hell are you getting from a hardware store to fucking spice up your relationship?! And why the fuck are you making me drive there for you?”

“You’re my only ride! And it’s not like that! It’s perfectly normal!”

“The hell it is! Harrington, you kinky bastard, are you getting chains?”

“No! What?! Why did your mind immediately go there?!”

“Where else would it go?!”

_____

Steve finally got Billy to drop him off at his house, thankful for the trip to be over. Damn, but Billy was persistent. The guy left the conversation fully convinced that Steve was making his own sex dungeon or something, and it had taken everything in Steve not to say exctly what he’d gotten.

He almost cracked, but. Then again, even having a sex dungeon seemed infinitely cooler than the lame thing he was about to do. So he stopped himself and just made sure Billy couldn’t get a good look at the overflowing bags, and stayed silent.

And then, when Billy (finally) drove away, Steve started the thirty minute trek to the nearest park, where they’d planned to meet tonight. He had six hours. He just hoped he could be done in time.

_____

Weird cat sweater girl caught him setting up at about five p.m. It was two hours before Jason was supposed to get there, and he still had a ton of work to do. She stared at him, sucking on a lollipop.

“Is this for Jason Steiner?” She asked finally, as he was hanging precariously from the monkey bars.

“Um, yeah.” He answered, face heating. He dropped to the ground, rubbing his hands on his jeans. “It’ll look a lot cooler when it’s done.”

“He’s not going to appreciate it.” Cat girl said. “He’s got like, three brain cells and all an of them care about is sports.”

Steve huffed. “That’s not true, you don’t even know him.”

“Oh, my bad. One is dedicated to sports, two are dedicated to Bethany whatever her name is. Look, this sort of thing is cute if the other person is into it, but if they’re not, then it just ends up being really pathetic.”

Steve felt his hackles rise. “He’s into me.”

“Yeah, whatever. I just think--even if you didn’t pick Tammy--you could pick a bunch of people who’d be better for you than Steiner. But whatever. You can be dumb if you want.”

“Look, why do you even care? I don’t even know you.” Steve shot back, annoyed and done with this girl.

“I sit behind you in Click’s class.” She answered, and before he could process that, she was already moving on to the next point. “And Tammy’s my friend, and I think you’re not good enough for her, but it is what it is. So I think you’re dumb.”

“Okay. Well, I guess I’m dumb, then. Doesn’t explain why you keep following me around.”

“Don’t flatter yourself, it’s just coincidence.” She answered, throwing her lollipop stick in the trash and rubbing her hands together. “Anyways, it looks like you need some help, dingus. Want me to pull that one over to the other side?”

And sure. The girl was annoying. Steve didn’t really like her at all. And at the same time, he had two hours to finish this, and it really wasn’t a one-man job. “Okay, yeah. Sure. If you want.” He answered, and she started to help.

____

Turns out Cat girl’s name was Robin, and she wasn’t that bad once she stopped cryptically judging him. She still obviously wasn’t his biggest fan, and the feeling was definitely mutual, but she did help him finish up with a few minutes to spare, even if she did end up ranting most of the time about how designations in and of themselves were a stupid concept, and the world would be a lot easier of everyone were betas, like herself.

“Yep.” Steve agreed neutrally. If everyone were betas, then he might still be dating Nancy, he’d probably still have a car, and he definitely wouldn’t have to deal with his parents trying to set him up with Billy every five seconds.

She left about ten minutes before seven o’clock hit, and Steve was left in the dark playground, fiddling with an extension cord and trying to calm his nerves.

What if Jason didn’t like it? What if he thought it was dumb? What if he thought Steve was a weirdo for working so hard on something that (probably) just looked like something out of a little kid’s cartoon? Steve chewed on his lip nervously, trying to figure out the best place to sit as he waited. Maybe a bench? Maybe the swings? Or maybe he should stand. No, that would look really weird. He sat down on a bench. That was fine. That would be normal.

He waited.

Jason would actually probably love it, though. Steve imagined his face lighting up at the surprise, imagined him spinning Steve around in a delighted hug, and then planting a kiss right on the lips. He imagined him smiling his special smile down at Steve and thanking him for all the work he went to.

It would probably be really great. As soon as he got there. Steve looked at his watch. It was 7:19. So he was running late. It was fine. It happened. People ran late all the time.

It was just that it was pretty cold. December in Indiana wasn’t pretty, and tonight seemed especially bad. The snow on the ground that had mostly melted in the sun during the day began to freeze over. Steve shivered. He hadn’t brought his heaviest coat, and he was regretting it now. He shoved his icy hands in his pockets, leaning over himself to get some warmth. It was 8:00. Jason would be here soon, he was sure of it. He probably had just gotten the time wrong.

Steve was used at waiting for people who had forgotten about him. His mom and dad were busy enough with work that more than once before he’d gotten his license, he’d been left at the school for hours, waiting to be picked up. They’d come, they’d always come, but sometimes it was long after dark when they pulled up, apologies tumbling out of their mouths.

It was a familiar feeling, being forgotten. Steve was used to it. He was fine.

He just had to wait a little while longer, and Jason would come.

He would.

Chapter Text

Billy had had just about enough of this stupid fucking town. It’ll be easy, they said. Just find some Mental kid that had gotten out a year or so ago. Catch her, bring her back, get her to open up some gate to another world so they could explore it and sick the monsters on the Russians.

Well. So that part wasn’t simple, but the rest of it should’ve been. Billy’d made a career out of finding runaway experiments and bringing them back under the thumb of the US military. He was good at it, damn it. He’d bagged and tagged at least ten experiments in the past five years. Maybe more.

So there was no reason  for this kid to be this fucking elusive. He’d sensed little hints of her powers in a few places--the school was the strongest, but also the oldest; the scent of her powers sat like an old, rusted thing. He caught another whiff of her powers at the diner, but it was small, fleeting. There was another blast of it by the creepy house he’d beat up Steve in.

Those kids all had the scent of it drifting off of them in waves. It had been the whole reason he’d followed them around for the better part of a month, the reason he kept warning Max away from them. But somehow, no matter how strongly the scent of her powers hung off them, she never actually appeared.

He was out of leads. The kids had ended up being a total bust. A total bust. Finding all of them in that creepy house, with his sister and Harrington, just reeking of the Mental’s power--it had led him to losing control in a way he hadn’t prepared himself for.

If she was ever going to show up, it would have been when he was beating the daylights out of Harrington. But even then, it was Max who’s finally pulled him off. He still didn’t know how she’d gotten ahold of government-issue tranquilizers, but he was grateful for it. He didn’t know what he’d have done if he’d stayed in that house for much longer.

There was definitely shady stuff going on with that group of kids, but it seemed like the Mental was laying low enough he couldn’t use them. So now, almost two months later, he was left without any leads, patrolling the park on the edge of town like a total creeper for no other reason than that kids hung out in playgrounds, and she was a kid, and so maybe she was in a playground.

That was how much he was scraping the bottom of the barrel, here.

With nothing to do, his mind wandered to Steve, as it always did. He wondered what surprise the omega had prepared for his boyfriend. It was definitely something kinky. It had to be. It was either something kinky or something incredibly boring, and honestly it could go either way. He hoped he had just gotten the guy a surprise drill or something. He really, really hoped it was something absolutely mundane like that. But at the same time, Harrington had turned bright red when he’d asked about it, so there was no way it was something boring.

An image flashed in his mind of Steve blushing like that as he gave Billy whatever kinky gift he’d gotten. He’d be so cute, would avert his eyes and pretend like his cheeks weren’t pink and—Billy shoved the thought out of his mind forcefully.

He just couldn’t take Steve. The guy seemed to know how to push every single one of Billy’s buttons. Sometimes Billy secretly wondered if the omega hadn’t been specifically created by the Lab to test every bit of self control he had.

He was just so beautiful. With long, bouncy locks that seemed to frame his face in the most appealing of ways, and big doe eyes that never quite stopped looking sad. And he wasn’t just pretty, he was clever, and cared so much about the kids he babysat, and was so funny and charming...and he was so touchy. Every car ride, it seemed like he found some excuse to touch him--poking his side, punching him in the shoulder, laying a hand on his arm. It drove Billy crazy. Because with every little interaction they had, Steve smelled more like his, and he never was.

And he never would be.

Snowflakes fell on Billy’s hair, melting when he ran his hands through it. It was a cold night, one of the coldest he’d had in Indiana yet. He’d never quite gotten used to the chill. He hated the way it bit at his nose and made his feet feel like blocks of ice. He flexed his toes in his shoes, realizing he already couldn’t feel his pinky toes. The rest would be soon to follow. He growled, sinking his nose into the scarf around his neck. It had been a gift from Harrington a few days ago, to help with the cold. It was the sweetest gesture Billy had gotten in a long time (ever, really) and he took to wearing it everywhere. The whole thing smelled just like Harrington. Billy revelled in the beautiful sweet vanilla smell as he pulled it over his nose. It offered a little extra warmth, and he moved on to scoping out the park itself.

It seemed unusually dark, and he had a hard time getting a good visual on anything. The swings seemed to creak ominously. He glanced up at the streetlights, taking in the way dark paper obscured their brightness. Someone here obviously didn’t want to be seen.

His casual air began to fade, and he looked out at the dark world. His night vision was never that great. All he saw was a dark shape on the creaking swings. He squinted at it, drawing closer. Harrington’s scent filled his nose, blocking the scent of the enemy in the darkness. He pulled it down, trying to clear his nose. He couldn’t smell anything different. An enemy without a scent. Perhaps the Mental? His hand flexed against the gun in his jacket.

He hadn’t gotten more than a few steps when the figure spoke. “Hey!” It said, too loud. Billy jumped about a foot in the air before he recognized the sound of the voice.

Harrington?!” He couldn’t believe it. “What are you doing here? It’s almost midnight.”

“Just...waiting.” Steve’s voice was the type of practiced cheerfulness that made it so obvious he was sad. Obviously something was wrong. “Jason hasn’t shown up for our date yet.”

“Harrington, ditch his ass--it’s five hours after he said he’d meet!” Billy didn’t have a filter when it was this late. He knelt by the swing, pulling Harrington’s hands into his own. Shit, they were cold. Steve’s whole body seemed much too cold, and Billy tried to remember anything you were supposed to do for hypothermia besides getting naked under a blanket together. That certainly wouldn’t help anyone right now. He rubbed the boy’s fingers between his scarf, trying to warm them up a bit.

“Yeah.” Steve’s voice sounded raw, and when Billy brought his hands over Steve’s face, they came back wet. He’d been crying. Shit, but Jason was such an asshole. What was he doing, leaving his omega waiting out in the cold like this? He could get sick! He could run into some creep and could get hurt!

The images that passed through Billy’s mind weren’t pleasant, and so he was already angry when Steve said, “I just had, you know. My hardware store surprise for him. So I didn’t want to leave.”

“Your fucking―” Steve’s kinky hardware store surprise was supposed to happen in this park?! “Fucking— are you naked under there?” He demanded. No wonder Steve was so cold, he was probably waiting here for five hours with a wrench in his ass or something―

“No!” Steve pushed his hands away, covering himself up more. “I told you a thousand times, it isn’t a sex thing!”

“Yeah, sure, whatever—you know what? Whatever it is, he’s just gonna have to miss out, because I’m taking you home. This is ridiculous―” Billy took Steve into his arms, ready to pick him up and throw him over his shoulder if he had to. He was obviously doing badly, and needed some warmth and shelter. Neil was probably asleep, he could probably sneak Steve in without much trouble.

“But I worked so hard on it!” Steve protested weakly. “I wanted him to see it. Could you just wait with me for a tiny bit longer? I’m sure he’ll show up soon.”

“Steve, it is midnight. At this point, you’re more likely to find a vampire in this park than your boyfriend.” Or a secret agent on the lookout for a failed government experiment.

“But I just...I worked so hard on it.” Steve repeated, and his stupid eyes looked like a puppy’s. “I don’t want all my hard work to go to waste.”

Billy just stood there, torn. He couldn’t even respond, because he didn’t know what to do. Steve definitely needed to go inside, but at the same time...when Steve wanted to, he could bring out this omega charm that made Billy desperate to do whatever he said. And that charm was on him, full force.

Finally, though, Steve broke the silence. “Could I just show it to you, if I can’t show it to him? I don’t want it to go to waste.”

Images of sex dungeons and hardware stores flashed through Billy’s mind as his mind sputtered out for a second. “Um, sure.” His voice cracked like a fourteen-year-old’s. “You can show me anything you want.”

Steve smiled, and even in the darkness, it was beautiful. His roses and vanilla scent filled Billy’s nose, and it was clear he’d made the right choice. For the first time since Billy’d found him in this park, he seemed excited. “Okay, okay, stand here, really quick.” He motioned for Billy to stand in this circular patch of sidewalk. “This is the starting point.”

Billy awkwardly closed his coat in front of his rapidly growing...excitement. It wasn’t something kinky, it wasn’t. He chanted in his head, trying to think of things to calm him down. He felt like a middle schooler about to have their first kiss. It was stupid.

Once Billy was correctly positioned, Steve ran off to the edge of the playground, and bent down. There was some fiddling around, and then suddenly the world became brighter.

Oh , Billy thought distantly. It actually wasn’t something kinky.

Hundreds of christmas lights covered the little playground. Around him, the lights lay in a circle, illuminating the walkway, all the way to where they twisted around the swings and then outlined the playground equipment to make it look like a castle. The slide had lights dangling from it like some kind of waterfall, and over the sidewalk stood an archway full of lights, twisting and dangling down like some kind of magical gate.

It was beautiful.

Billy had been all over the world, and all over the country, and this little playground was just about the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. He looked back at Steve, who was grinning at him, and his heart hammered.

The lights shone in Harrington’s hair, a soft glow that highlighted the shine of it, but the world was still dark enough that his long lashes cast shadows on his face. His smile was bright, happy, and effortless in a way that left Billy star struck. Steve approached, and his rose and vanilla scent got stronger; his smile, more hesitant. He looked up at Billy shyly through his lashes.

Billy couldn’t breathe. His whole world seemed to expand and contract all at once, narrowing to one point. His blood pulsed within him. His hands dropped to his side, forgotten. This is it. His brain thundered at him. This is the one.

You will never feel as strongly for another human being ever again.

“What do you think?” Steve asked, awkwardly flopping his hands by his sides. A bit of his hair fell into his face. Billy’s fingers twitched, the impulse to touch it overwhelming. He shoved his hands in his pockets and tried to school his features into something neutral. It didn’t work.

“Beautiful,” He murmured, unable to look away from the way Steve’s lips were caught between his teeth. “So very perfect.”

Steve’s surprised doe eyes met his, and the same pretty blush from before spread across his face. His lips parted ever so slightly, and Billy watched, entranced, as he hid his face cutely in his hands.

“Um, thanks. It was a lot of work,” He rambled, looking away. “It took like six hours, even with Robin’s help, and I had a super hard time making the slide look exactly right. And the archway. Man, if Robin hadn’t had the idea to use string, we’d probably still be working on it.”

“Robin?” Billy asked, taking a step back. He reminded himself for the thousandth time that Steve wasn’t his. That he could never be. They came from different worlds, and if Steve knew half of who Billy really was, he would be running away right now.

“This weird girl that came and helped me out today. She’s pretty cool.” Steve shrugged. “Anyways, you probably see why I didn’t want it to go to waste.”

“Yeah.” Billy answered, still a bit taken with the mood. “Something like this could make someone fall in love with you. Glad it wasn’t wasted on fucking Steiner.” He huffed out a little laugh, trying to lighten the mood. It fell flat, undercut by the way he couldn’t keep his eyes away from the beautiful omega in front of him. Steve glanced up, then dropped his eyes. 

“Thanks. I just... I wanted to do a big romantic gesture, and Jason likes Christmas lights, and I thought…” Ugh. If Steve could just stop mentioning his loser boyfriend for five minutes, that would be nice. Or maybe it was better that way. It reminded Billy that this wasn’t for him, that Steve wasn’t his, that this wasn’t something he could keep. Steve started walking away, then, and Billy was so lost in thought he forgot to follow.

Steve turned around, cocking his head. “Come on, there’s one more part of it I don’t want to go to waste.”

Billy nodded, following as Steve went over to the slide and pulled a curtain of lights aside. Under the slide itself, surrounded by lights on either side, sat a little picnic area. Blankets and pillows were stacked up, with a little basket of food, and a bottle of wine sitting atop it all. “...I just thought this would be nice.” Steve said simply, as if this wasn’t something straight out of a dream. “I don’t want it to go to waste, so do you want to eat it with me?”

Billy nodded. “Sounds great.” His voice cracked for a second time that night.

And in that moment, Billy really didn’t think Steve could get any more appealing. He was so shy like this, with eyes still red from crying, and hair tousled by the wind. But then, as always, Steve proved him wrong. He laid down on the blankets, and Billy’s mind exploded. His omega. His Steve was lying down in a nest of blankets, with food and fairy lights surrounding him.

It took everything inside him not to pull Steve into a loving embrace.Not to join him down there on the blankets and hold him like they belonged to each other. 

He couldn’t, though. This moment, this person, this whole meal, it wasn’t his. He was borrowing it for tonight, but when morning came, the moment would be over. Billy would be back in his gritty, unwelcoming job, and Steve would be back with his normal high school boyfriend. That was the way it had to be.

He sat gingerly on the edge of the blanket, and Steve immediately rolled closer, leaning up on his elbows and perusing the selection he’d brought. “Jason is a pretty classy guy, so it’s mostly just, like, cheese and crackers and jams and stuff, but I also snuck in some cookies my mom and I made earlier. They’re really good--here, try one!”

He handed Billy a cookie and downed another, uncorking the wine bottle and taking a long swig straight from the bottle. “I forgot glasses,” he explained. “And also I was pretty thirsty.”

“Forgot water, too, I see.” Billy murmured, coming closer and pulling out some of the cheeses and snacking on them. Steve rolled his eyes.

“Come on. I can’t do everything.” He said, settling onto the blankets with exasperation. “I’m tired.”

“Makes sense.” Billy answered. He determinedly bit into another cracker, refusing to join Steve in lying down on the blankets. It would be all too easy, and then...and then he would be in dangerous territory. He stole the bottle and took a big gulp. He’d need it to get through the night.

“Oh!” Steve sat up suddenly, fishing hands flailing out of the lights. “I forgot.” He pulled out a stereo, untangling the cords around it and plugging it into one of the many extension cords. He pressed a button and smooth guitar began playing.

“Is this fucking John Denver?” If it was Country Roads, Billy was going to slap something.

“Shut up! It’s a really romantic song!” Steve stopped it, and rewound it to the beginning once more. “I like the lyrics a lot.”

“They remind you of Jason?” Billy asked bitterly, trying to make it sound casual.

“No.” Steve answered honestly. “It reminds me of my parents. I don’t know. Like what love’s supposed to be. It’s nice.”

That took Billy aback, and he actually listened to it. It was nice. Soft, a little wistful. It made something clench in his chest and stick there. Steve took another large gulp of wine, and finally laid down.

His head found Billy’s lap. Billy froze, but Steve didn’t seem to notice. He just closed his eyes as the music played on. 

You fill up my senses, The song crooned. Like the night in a forest. Like the mountains in springtime, like a walk in the rain. Like a storm in the desert, like a sleepy blue ocean. You fill up my senses, come fill me again.

Come, let me love you,” Steve sang softly, barely more than a mumble. “ Let me give my life to you. Let me drown in your laughter. Let me die in your arms….” He sleepily waved a hand, then curled it closer, letting it cradle Billy’s knee as he shifted into a more comfortable position. “ Let me lay down beside you, let me always be with you. Come let me love you. Come love me again.”

And with that, he drifted off into a light, wine-induced sleep right there on Billy’s lap. He looked so pretty there, his mouth just ever so slightly ajar, his eyelashes casting long shadows on his cheeks. His bangs fell into his face, obscuring his features, and Billy brushed them away without a thought. The strands were soft on his fingers.

Like the mountains in springtime, like a walk in the rain. Like a storm in the desert. Like a sleepy blue ocean.

You fill up my senses, come fill me again.

“Careful, Stevie.” Billy murmured, caressing the omega’s face tenderly, pulling the last hair behind his ear. His heart broke for this moment, and he couldn’t help repeating what he’d said earlier, a deep weight in his chest. “Something like this could make someone fall in love with you.”