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Stranger Things Have (not) Happened at the Hawkins Country Club

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Night of High School Graduation, May 1985

“Listen, Steve,” I pinched my lips together tightly, knowing what was about to come. My dad was about to give me a pep talk about starting a summer job and deciding what the hell I’m going to do with my life now that high school was over, and I had bullshitted my way around college all senior year. I didn’t feel like it was right for me; even my old man tended to agree with me even though he had constantly begged me to at least tryout classes at the community college. I said maybe, and he took it as a win.

“What, dad? Can I just enjoy a nice dinner and go out with my friends tonight?” I knew I shouldn’t have snapped at him, but I did it anyway and he huffed, annoyed. Mom took a sip from her glass of white wine and dabbed at her dated pink lipstick-ed mouth, smiling sweetly.

“It’s good news, Stevie,” she cooed, setting her hand on top of my dad’s, prompting an eye roll from me. “Go on, David.”

My dad gave me a look and I sat back in my seat with a sigh, dropping my fork and crossing my arms over my chest. “Rand up at the Country Club said they need an assistant tennis instructor this summer. Remember when you used to be so into that a couple of years back? I told him you were a little rusty, but he said there’s a week-long training program next week that will get you back up to par. I accepted on your behalf.”

Of course, I was annoyed. What the hell did my dad think, just getting me a random job at the fucking country club of all places? I wasn’t as mad as I thought I would be, though. I did miss playing tennis…kind of. Plus, what else was I going to do this summer? Tommy and Carol weren’t exactly about to invite me to hang out and party with them anymore, and Henderson would be at that camp until the end of June.

Mom and dad stared at me, waiting for a reaction. I leaned forward and grabbed my fork, shoveling another bite of spaghetti into my mouth. “Isn’t it exciting, baby?” Mom lifted her shoulders and grinned, taking a delicate bite of salmon.

“Yeah,” I said halfway through my bite, making both of my parent’s cringe. “Pretty exciting.”

~
“Jesus,” Dustin wrinkled his nose, shoving another t-shirt into his suitcase that was reaching overflow level. “You’ve got to work at that stuffy ass club all summer?”

I laughed and plopped down on his bad, rifling through a random X-Men comic he had lying on his nightstand. I was technically supposed to be helping him pack but I didn’t know what the shit to put in his suitcases, so I kept him company instead.

“It can’t be that bad, right? Lots of chicks, plenty of sunshine and free food…” I trailed off when Dustin took in a sharp breath. “What? Forget something? We can run to the mall if you want.” I offered, setting down the comic.

“No, no, I didn’t forget anything,” Dustin grimaced, adjusting the cap on his head. “I just remembered that Max was telling us at the arcade yesterday that Billy got a summer job. As a lifeguard at the country club pool.”

I stared at him, hoping he would break out into a silly laugh and tell me it was just a joke. He didn’t. “You’ve got to be shitting me,” I groaned, covering my face with my hands. “Please tell me you’re pulling my leg!”

Dustin grinned apologetically. “At least he can’t kick your ass while he’s on the job?” He tried to make me see the bright side, but I gave him an annoyed look at he giggled a little. “It’ll be fine, Steve. The pool and the tennis court are like two buildings apart. If you’re both doing your jobs, it won’t seem like he’s there at all.”

It was my turn to giggle, but this time it was a self-pitying laugh. “Bullshit. That guy makes his presence known everywhere,” Dustin nodded slowly, starting to attempt to zip up his suitcase. “And don’t forget; he didn’t really kick my ass. It was just a little drunken spat at that New Year’s party.”

“Steve, you had a split lip and a black eye. What about that means he didn’t kick your ass?” Dustin deadpanned, hands on his hips. He’d been hanging out with me too much, he was catching on to my habits.

I fumbled for a second before coming up with a somewhat decent response. “Hey, he had a split lip too. Besides, it was a dare. Tommy dared him to kick my ass, I just didn’t think he would actually do it. He caught me off guard.”

Dustin nodded, unconvinced. “Sure, sure.” I rolled my eyes and threw the comic book at him, making him exclaim that it was a prized possession and that my greasy hands should never touch it again. I laughed and so did he, and I lay back on his twin bed hoping that Billy Hargrove would stay as far away from me as possible all summer.

~
“WELCOME,” I wormed my way through the sea of teenagers and adults to find a seat as the first day of training week at the country club began. “Please find a seat in your assigned area so we can get started on the best HAWKINS COUNTRY CLUB SUMMER YET!” The man yelling into the microphone obviously expected a huge reaction, but at most he got a few whoops and isolated claps. His grin didn’t falter though, and the year-round club employees started to drag the teenagers to their respective groups. I didn’t miss the bright red lifeguard station near the front of the stage, nor did I miss the bright grin Billy tossed in the direction of the pretty girl sitting down next to him. He didn’t see me, thank God, but I rolled my eyes anyway, finding my team after another couple of seconds wandering through the auditorium.

“Hey,” The guy with a clipboard standing at the edge of our row smiled at me and I returned it. Black hair combed back neatly, a bit of a salt and pepper beard. He looked to be in his thirties, maybe. He seemed friendly enough. “I’m Reese, the yearly tennis instructor for the club. You Steve Harrington?” He asked, pointing to my sticky nametag that read STEVE in block letters.

I gave a little wave and nodded. “That’s me.”

He marked something off on his little board and looked back up at me after a second. “Just pick a seat in our section. We’ll talk more about your position after the rally is over!” He gestured to the seats and I smiled awkwardly and gave a nod, deciding to scoot all the way down at the end of the row so anyone else on our team could file in without having to climb over me. I hated that.

“Alright, alright,” the same announcer from before picked up the mic again when he noticed that most everyone had found their group. “My name is Arthur, I’m the activities administrator here at the club. As I’m sure all of you know, Hawkins Country Club has an incredible reputation all throughout the state and beyond, and since we installed bungalows for on-campus stay a couple of years ago, our summer business has been totally excellent!” Some of the teens snickered. I hid my smile but admired the guy’s ability to be enthusiastic.

“With the arrival of Starcourt Mall this year, we’re expecting even more Hawkins residents and out-of-towners. So, without further ado, let’s get down to some serious training!” This time, since Arthur was bounding off stage, everyone clapped and cheered and stomped their feet. A whistle blew and another more serious looking man climbed up onto the stage, motioning for quiet as he settled himself behind the makeshift podium.

“Good afternoon, boys and girls. My name is Rand Jenkins, you can call me Mr. Jenkins,” I recognized him as soon as he said his name. His father had had many a stuffy dinner with Rand and dragged me along. The occasional Saturday morning on the golfing green wasn’t as bad as the fancy dinners. This was the man that took David Harrington’s word on how hard a worker his son would prove to be. As much as I dislike my parents, I still love them and ultimately want to make them proud. Ugh. “I am the owner of this fine establishment and it is a joy to see so many enthusiastic young people ready to make this summer the most successful summer our club has had yet. Now, as much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, our employees here at Hawkins to adhere to a strict code of conduct.”

A groan echoed through the crowd and I laughed lightly. What did these doofuses expect? As much shit went on at the country club, there had to be rules. Rules that would make you think twice if you didn’t want to lose your job.

“Now, now, don’t be too upset,” Mr. Jenkins grinned an odd grin, waving his hands in peace. “There are only three major rules. There’s no drinking on the job, no foul language in front of guests, and most importantly: no fraternizing with members or guests of Hawkins Country Club. And remember: if you’re involved,” he placed special emphasis on the word, “with another employee, that stays OFF company grounds.”

Quiet conversations surfaced in the auditorium as he paused, making sure that the rules sank in. All of them seemed pretty normal and simple to me. No drinking? Got it, I’d do it off the clock at parties. No foul language? That one might be a little tougher seeing as how people who weren’t good at tennis but thought they were, annoyed me to no end. And the relationship rule? I doubt I’ll have any issue with that one.

~
“Dammit!” I yelled as I stretched my racquet to no avail. “Sorry,” I said sheepishly afterward as my outburst was met with a frown from Reese and snickers from the other tennis team members.

“You’re a little rusty, ay King Steve?” A kid I didn’t recognize called out and made some of the others laugh. I squinted to read his nametag. It said Danny. I then recognized him as a new recruit to the Hawkins basketball team, he had been benched most of the season.

“Still better than you, Danny,” I responded smoothly as I adjusted my tennis shorts, bending down halfway and twirling my racquet in anticipation for Reese to serve from the other side of the net. He made his move to throw the ball and connect, and I hopped up, running to where the ball hit center in the service box. I shifted my feet, the rhythm of moving on a tennis hardcourt instead of waxed gymnasium coming back quicker than I had expected. This time my racquet connected, and I sent a backhand shot down the line, making Reese hesitate and miss the shot.

A couple of the trainees watching us practice clapped and I sent a look Danny’s way. He shrugged and looked back down the court. I fought off a smile and got ready to take the game back from Reese. I fought hard, but he ended up winning the trial set 6-4. He clapped me on the back afterward, commending me on my continual improvement throughout.

“Seems like you’ll find the tennis running back in your veins before the week is over. You’ve got some good talent there, Harrington,” I nodded my thanks as he took a sip from his water bottle. The sun was beating down overhead and I swiped my hair out of my eyes, making a face at how sweaty my hand was when it came away. “You a sportsman?”

I shrugged. “I guess so. Tennis was my favorite as a kid, but baseball was fun. Basketball and track are all Hawkins High has time for anymore; did both of those and didn’t do well with either. Golfing is nice for a change.”

Reese nodded and eyed the other tennis instructor who was talking to the ball kid recruits. I had met the guy before we started practice; he was nice and seemed close to Reese. His name was Harry and he was a tall, good-looking blonde guy. Almost looked more like a surfer than a tennis player, but he and Reese played a little warmup before I got tossed in and I knew he was there for a reason.

“You’re light on your feet, that’s a good thing,” Reese remarked, fingering the strings of his Wilson. “Be prepared to be playing endless matches, though. You’re the assistant, which means you get to play the game while I coach your opponent.” He winked and I grinned. With any luck, I’d be in the shape of my life within a couple of weeks – not that that mattered, there was no one on my radar at the moment.

I glanced over at a couple of girls who were involved with the tennis team. Robin, a pretty tom-boyish looking girl who I vaguely recognized from Hawkins High was listening to something Harry was telling her about the fresh ball cans. She didn’t seem like the type to want to chase down tennis balls all day, but I mean, a summer job is a summer job. The other girl’s name was Rachel and she was the exact opposite of Robin – poufy blonde hair in a wildly teased half-ponytail, blue eyeshadow and pink lipstick applied, sneakers that matched. The bright blue t-shirts all of us on the tennis team wore was a perfect match; I assumed that had been the goal. Definitely not my type, but when she turned around and her ass threatened to peek out of her tiny gym shorts, I sighed and wished I could at least get some action.

“Stop ogling, Harrington,” Robin startled me, and I jumped, making her laugh. “Fancy seeing King Steve here. Couldn’t get your parents to let you laze around all summer?”

I rolled my eyes and settled my hands on my hips. “I actually agreed to get a job, thank you. What about you? School band, punk type. What makes you want to chase balls all summer?” She grinned and I couldn’t resist a smile.

“Little thing called money,” she whispered the word and stuck out her tongue. She was cute, I thought. Silly, funny. Goofy like me. I looked at her for a second and the idea of asking her out wasn’t totally repulsive. Obviously now was not the right time; we barely knew each other, but maybe. Maybe if this friend thing worked out, my old Harrington charm would pull through. One could hope.

“STEVE,” I pulled myself out of my thoughts and located the voice. It was that other trainer, Harry, on the opposite side of the net to me, Reese behind him. “Let’s get some doubles work in. Rachel, grab a racquet. Robin, get the damn ball when these novices inevitably fail to hit it.”

Robin laughed and Rachel scoffed stretching side to side quickly before running up to the service box. “Don’t head me in the head, Stevie,” She smiled at me before bending over to take her stance. I sighed, letting myself take a quick look before Robin bounced a ball my way, grinning at my obvious stare.

I made a face at her and focused on the ball for a second before tossing it up and arching my back, smoothly lifting my racquet to connect and launch the ball over the net. I came back into the court and silently cheered for myself when the ball landed squarely inside the service box. A decent volley started, and we settled into a decent doubles match, not noticing as a crowd of employees began to gather around the fence surrounding the two courts.

“COME ON!” I jumped excitedly as Rachel hit a perfect backhand that was out of the reach of both Harry and Reese, earning us the final point of the set. “You are awesome, Rachel,” I laughed and we high fived, finally noticing the crowd clapping around the fence as Robin flipped the scorecard from 6-5 to 7-5.

I pushed my hair off my forehead, wiping the sweat off on my blue shorts as I tucked my racquet underneath my arm. I grinned at the surrounding crowd and jumped out of the way as Robin threw a ball at me. It was then that I noticed that stupid smirking mullet-wearing douchebag named Billy Hargrove was front and center leaning against the gate, arm wrapped around fucking Heather of all people. They looked like a perfect pair with their almost matching lifeguard uniforms. I made me want to throw up.

“Finally something you’re good at, Harrington,” he smacked his gum obnoxiously and grinned. Heather raised her eyebrows, blowing a bubble with her own piece of gum. “You haven’t seen me play tennis, though, so maybe we’ll get up a match sometime, yeah?”

“Book a session with me, and then we’ll see,” I quipped, turning away from him and bending down to fix the lace on my Adidas shoe. A red converse came into view and I glanced up to see Robin crouching down in front of me. “What?”

She wiggled her eyebrows before answering. “Hargrove’s totally staring at your ass.” She pushed my shoulder and I fell back, making her laugh as she stood up. I turned my head to see Hargrove still looking in my direction. Robin was obviously pulling my leg, but he was looking at me. Definitely only because I had just fallen over, though. Nothing else.

~
I woke up Tuesday morning with soreness everywhere. My arms hurt; my legs screamed for relief when I pushed myself out of bed towards my bathroom. “Shit,” I muttered shucking my boxers off as I fumbled to turn the shower on, wiping the sleep from my eyes with my free hand. “Gotta do this every day all summer. Oh god.”

I finished getting ready to go to the club for the second day of training about thirty minutes later, pulling on an old pair of Hawkins High Phys Ed shorts and a country club t-shirt, lacing up the same Adidas I had worn yesterday and pulling up my socks before running out the door to drive my baby to the club before nine a.m. I yawned as I rolled to a stop at a stop sign.

A honk startled me out of my daydream and Billy’s blue Camaro roared through the intersection, some kind of heavy rock blaring through his rolled down windows. He stuck his hand out his window in a wave as he turned to go down the road I was also taking to reach the club. I huffed and pressed the gas, following him the rest of the way, barely keeping sight of his car that perfectly fit his personality as he sped down the backroads of Hawkins.

The perfectly manicured trees and lawn of the country club came into view and I shuddered, still not coming to terms with the fact that this was going to be my life for three whole months…possibly more. I pushed that thought away and reluctantly slid into the empty spot next to Billy. I wasn’t about to look like a crazy dude milling around the parking lot looking for a spot when there was a perfectly good one right here.

“Morning sunshine,” Billy’s eyes were hidden behind his sunglasses but that signature smirk that always seemed to be playing on his lips when he looked at me was in full swing. “Get enough beauty sleep last night?”

He laughed as I winced when I stretched my long legs out of the BMW, my own sunglasses keeping my damp hair out of my eyes. “I’m just fine, Hargrove.” I ignored how he just paraded around shirtless, white flip flops smacking against the pavement, whistle bouncing against his already sun-kissed chest.

“Sure you are, Harrington. See you around,” We parted ways as the path split between the pool and the courts. See you around? I was planning to avoid most people besides maybe Robin and the kids this summer. Billy fell into the category of most people.

I approached the courts to see our small team of five moving into the tennis lounge area, the shelter where there were some seating and a couple of vending machines and a towel exchange. “Good morning Steve,” Reese greeted as I plopped down into an empty seat next to Robin. “We’re taking the first part of our day today to talk rules and schedule.”

Rachel and I were the switching assistants to Reese and Harry. Robin and Ethan, the other ball kid would also be switching shifts.

“The first week Robin, Steve, and I will be on morning duty, 8-12. Rachel, Harry, and Ethan,” Reese looked up from his clipboard and smiled. “You’ll take 1-5 the first week. Every other week we will switch out, and after five we sometimes get special bookings from guests that want an extra session. Rachel and Steve, you can also be requested for those sessions so don’t forget to keep evenings free from 6-8. We usually hear about extra sessions by lunch every day. Robin and Ethan, you are off every day whenever your shift ends, but stay around the club until your day officially ends at six p.m. Got it?”

“Got it,” Robin answered, twirling her leather bracelet around her wrist.

“Great,” Harry took over this time, accepting the clipboard Reese handed to him, flipping the page over and reading something before looking back up. “I won’t go through the 3 employee rules again; they’re posted in every employee break room and bathroom around campus if you need a reminder. However, I will let you in on a couple of new things. We are to only promote the Hawkins Country Club. You stay on this campus every day from 8-6, you get an hour lunch break from 12-1, 5-6 is clean up time. We make sure the towels are in the bin, racquets are in their place, balls returned to their cans, the court is swept, etc. There are no employee games during this time unless paid for and booked – no friends unless paid for and booked.”

He went on this way for a few more minutes, informing us of rules only to end with, “And to finish it all off, I’m going to let you know that most of those rules I have to read because it’s company policy, but on slow days, the majority of them get broken anyway.” He grinned, making us laugh.

“In conclusion,” Reese joined back in, standing up from the wicker chair he’d sat down in when Harry started his speech. “It’s pretty fun here at the tennis courts. We pretty much get to play tennis all day and use the other country club facilities whenever we want. Just follow the three main rules and no one will be in trouble.” Reese and Harry exchanged a look and all four of us nodded in agreement.

“What else are we doing today?” Ethan asked, checking his watch to see it was nearing ten o’clock.

Harry smiled brightly. “Practice, Ethan. We’re off at two today, so we’ll get a couple of hours of practice in before a lunch break. 1-2 is another meeting in the auditorium with Mr. Jenkins, so prepare for that. Come on,” He grabbed his personal racquet from where it was sitting on the towel bar. “Let’s hit the courts.”

~
I was sweaty and red-faced when I walked off the court towards the snack bar in the middle of the country club. A flip of my employee ID and I would be shoveling a burger and fries into my mouth within a couple of minutes. The thought made my mouth water.

“How long have you played tennis?” Robin walked alongside me, eyeing a cut on her elbow from where she had skidded to a halt trying to catch a ball. Her arm had taken the fall for the rest of her, and a few scrapes littered the side of her right elbow. “You’re not half bad.”

“Thanks,” I pushed her shoulder lightly with mine. We were becoming close, fast. I liked it. She was pretty damn cool, and I knew the second Dustin got back from camp he would be telling me I was stupid not to ask her out. He was probably right. But it was way too soon. Gotta keep it calm, Harrington. “I started playing when I was a kid. Used to go to sports camp every summer and tennis was my favorite. Then high school happened, and I started playing basketball because that’s what Hawkins High had to offer. It’s been almost a year since I played tennis, actually. I’m surprised I’m getting back in the groove so quickly.”

She nodded and skipped ahead of me to reach the snack bar first. “Hot dog, ketchup and relish please and thank you. Also, a bag of chips. And a coke.” She smiled childishly at the bored looking guy and flashed her ID. He grabbed a can of coke from the fridge behind him and set it on the counter before yelling her order to the small kitchen area behind him.

I placed my order next and winced when he yelled again after setting my own can of coke down. “We’ll call your name when it’s ready,” he deadpanned, sighing as a few more employees in various country club uniforms came bounding up, laughing and talking their way to the counter.

Billy was among them, skin glistening with water droplets and hair dripping down his shoulders. Obviously, his curly mullet wasn’t the most practical hairstyle, but even wet he wore it good. I hated his confidence – it reminded me of how I was a couple of years ago. I didn’t want to be that person again and it bothered me to see someone else going down a road that led nowhere, just like I had been.

“Can I ask you a question?” Robin shoveled a chip from her bag of Lays originals in her mouth and licked the salt off her index finger afterward. I nodded and chugged half of my coke in one sip. “What’s this weird rivalry thing between you and Billy about? You two are in completely different places, like friend-wise and personality and all that shit.”

I shrugged. “His stepsister is one of my kids. That connects us a little bit. He came into town just as I started realizing how much of a shitty person I was, and he’s proud of how he swooped in and claimed the new douchebag title right from his first day when he pulled up to the school blaring Rock You Like a Hurricane.” I rolled my eyes at the memory. Nancy and I had been in the car discussing my first attempt at a college entry essay. She was trying to be nice, but I knew she was faking.

“You remember what song was playing on his radio when you first met him?” Robin said through a mouthful of the second chip she shoved in her mouth.

I scoffed and tried to look relaxed. “It was a memorable moment, okay?”

She smirked. “Okay, if you say so, Harrington. Don’t think that conversation is over. But speak of the devil, he’s coming this way.” She lifted her head in a small nod as she looked over my shoulder and I turned my head to see Billy with that stupid lifeguard girl who I vaguely remember being a friend of Nancy’s walking to our picnic table. I hid my grimace behind my can of coke and took another long swig. It was almost empty now.

“Howdy,” Billy grinned, sliding down next to me on the bench, letting his arm fall from Heather’s back so she could sit across next to Robin, who looked mildly uncomfortable. I didn’t blame her. “How’s training going so far?”

Robin avoided having to answer the question by getting her name called up at the counter. I stared between Billy and Heather, my gaze bouncing back and forth between the two until I realized that Billy was actually expecting an answer.

“Oh, uh,” I stammered, pulling the tab on my coke can until it came off. “It’s good. I’m excited.” That was the most typical response I could’ve given, but it seemed to satisfy Heather, who nodded and smiled, pushing her sunglasses up on top of her head.

“Billy’s going to be a great instructor,” she reached her hand out on the table, almost as if she expected him to take it, but didn’t seem surprised when he didn’t. “He’s a great swimmer.”

“Guess I’m as good in the water as you are on the court, Harrington,” Billy leaned forward, head cocked to the side to look at me. Sunglasses blocked his gaze and I realized how much expression he conveyed through those startlingly blue eyes of his now that I couldn’t see them. “The tennis court, that is.”

I smirked sarcastically, which made his grin grow wider. The almost awkward quiet that started to settle over the table Robin and I had staked out was relieved when she came back and sat down just as they called my name. “Hurry back, dingus.”

I laughed and rolled my eyes at the nickname and scooped my basket of glorious burger and fries up from the counter with a thank you in the direction of the workers behind the counter. Robin was shoveling hot dog into her mouth when I came back and Heather was observing her with what looked to be curiosity.

 

“How do you eat that?” She asked, sounding genuine. Robin almost choked on the bite and I thumped her hard on the back, prompting a devil’s glare as I sat down across from her.

“It’s simple,” Robin responded a couple of seconds later after she had finished her gargantuan bite of the hot dog. “I put it up to my mouth,” she mimed the action. “And chew.”

I heard Billy snicker beside me and was surprised. “She’s not wrong,” he muttered, arms crossed over his chest. Most of the water that had been sticking to him was dried after sitting in the heat for a few minutes, but I found myself staring at his golden skin for no reason. Sure, I was a tiny bit jealous. I mean, Billy could get literally any girl – or woman – he wanted in this town and probably any town he went to. But something nagging in my stomach was telling me that I didn’t know if I wanted to be him or just wanted him in general.

I wiped the silly thought out of my mind as Billy strolled the counter to pick up his sandwich. He said something to the cashier and walked back to the table with two cokes in hand. “On me, Harrington.” He slid the can to me across the table.

“We get them free,” I said, a little dumbfounded. “Uh, sorry. Thanks.” He just grinned and lifted his sunglasses up, revealing his eyes that were squinty from adjusting to the brightness, even though we were underneath a covering.

“No problem.”

The rest of our lunch went quietly, some small talk being exchanged here and there, but mostly me and Robin exchanging looks that we somehow knew what each other meant by as various people stopped at our table to talk to Heather or flirt with Billy. I briefly wondered if Billy ever got tired of being seen like the freshest catch in Hawkins. A glance over at his charming smile told me probably not.

Chapter Text

“As soon as I get back from camp, I’ll come to the country club every day and keep you company,” Dustin was piling his suitcase and duffel bag into the back of his mom’s station wagon, pillow clutched underneath his arm as he closed the trunk. He turned to grin at me, and I smiled back. “Max said Billy is dying to give her swim lessons again, so maybe you’ll see the rest of the party at the club.”

I looked at him with a confused expression. “Doesn’t Max already know how to swim?”

“Yeah,” Dustin laughed. “Lucas thinks its some sort of a trap. Max thinks it’s Billy’s way of trying to make amends by giving her free pool time or whatever.”

I shrugged. “Who knows what Billy has up his sleeve.”

Mrs. Henderson came bounding out the door with her giant black purse slung over her shoulder, keys dangling out the side. “Come on Dusty, we better get going. See ya, Steve. Thanks for helping!” I nodded and gave Dustin a quick hug before opening the passenger door for him to climb in.

“See you soon, buddy,” Dustin yelled out the window as they backed down his driveway. I watched them go before I walked to my car parked by the curb. The first half of the summer was sure to be boring without Dustin around to keep me on my toes. But then I thought of the club, and Robin, and knew the time would fly by faster than I could expect. It was already Saturday, the first week of training over and done, and the club was hosting a summer opening party tomorrow night to kick off what Rand Jenkins was sure was going to be their best summer season yet.

My parents were out of town today, but my father assured me they’d be back for the grand opening tomorrow, so I had the house all to myself. There was probably some party I could go to if I wanted to get shitfaced or maybe pick up a girl, but I decided against it. The video store was calling my name, so I decided to drive downtown and grab a few movies to laze around the house and watch. Maybe I’d order pizza or Chinese or something.

I pulled into the small lot and climbed out of my car, waving at Keith as I walked into the shop. Movie connoisseur by day, arcade manager by night. That guy knew what was up. “Hey, Harrington,” he mumbled, leaning against the checkout counter.

“Come on,” I heard someone say from behind a few rows down. It almost sounded like Billy, but I hadn’t seen his car out in the lot. “Just pick something already. We’ve been here for ages.” As I walked closer, I realized it definitely was Billy. His voice was lacking the bravado it usually had; the deepness of his voice that I heard girls constantly call sexy was more on display when he talked quietly. I bet if they heard him now, they’d faint with delight. I darted behind a display and peeked over the top as I investigated the aisle. Sure enough, Billy and Max were standing there. Max kept grabbing movies and reading the box before setting them back in their place.

“I just want to get a good one, Billy. And calm down, we’ve been here for five minutes.” He huffed and leaned back against the shelf. I ducked down before he could see me, but he’d already looked in my general direction, there was no way I’d be able to discreetly move away from the display I was hiding behind.

“What are you doing?” Keith’s voice came up behind me and I turned to give him a death stare, only to see Billy peering down over the top of the display, grinning widely as he saw me crouched down, obviously caught in my stupid little scheme.

“Uh,” I hopped up, ignoring the soreness in my thighs. “Just checking this out. Seems cool.” It was a display for old Elvis Presley movies. Keith gave me a weird look and Billy laughed.

“Wouldn’t have pegged you as an Elvis guy, Stevie,” Billy teased, pushing a curl out of his eye. I walked around the display and shrugged.

“Who doesn’t love the king of rock n roll?” I questioned, making Billy raise his eyebrows. “What are you doing here?”

“Can’t a guy visit his local video rental store once in a while?” He followed me down a random aisle and I looked over my shoulder to see him still smirking at me. My eyes quickly darted up and down his figure, taking in a very Billy outfit of a white short-sleeve button-up, not even halfway buttoned, tucked into tight blue jeans. Even in 90+ degree weather, he wore those black leather boots. He might’ve noticed me giving him a once over, but I turned back around before I could notice any shift in his facial expression. This is not what I had been planning to deal with when I decided to rent movies for a night in.

“Billy,” Max came bounding into view and I smiled at her. “Oh hey, Steve. I think I found the perfect movies!” She held up all three Star Wars films and grinned widely at Billy’s disdain.

“Dustin’s made me watch all of those with him numerous times,” I laughed. “They actually pretty great.”

“We’re having a movie night since Neil is taking mom out for their anniversary,” Max explained, wrinkling her nose. I heard stories about Neil from her and I can’t say I care for the guy.

“Funny,” I remarked. “I’m doing the same thing. Except my parents are out on business, as usual.” Max grinned and looked over a Billy. She gave him a wide-eyed glare and then cocked her head towards me. Something was going on.

“Uh, Harrington,” Billy cleared his throat, giving Max a death glare. “Why don’t you join us for our movie night? The more the merrier. Plus, Lucas is coming over too. I could use some extra chaperone help.” Max shoved him and he smiled sweetly in my direction.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this. I mean, Max and I were close. I was surprised that Billy seemed to be fine with chaperoning. But maybe if I came that would be an excuse for him to jet off and do whatever he wanted for the night. At least if I was there, he wouldn’t get bored and leave Max and Lucas by themselves – not that they would do anything, but if either of their parents found out it would be no good.

The look on his face told me that he was expecting me to say no. Honestly, when the question (obviously forced by Max’s wide-eyed death stare) tumbled out of his mouth I almost rolled my eyes and said no immediately. But Max and Lucas would probably appreciate having me there.

“Okay,” I said, putting the movie I had randomly grabbed back on to the shelf. “I was going to get Chinese food for myself tonight, but I’ll order pizza if you’d prefer that.”

“Nah, I like Chinese,” Billy interjected although I was looking in Max’s direction. I glanced over at him and he raised his eyebrows with a smile. “What?”

“Nothing,” I answered, looking back over at Max who was eagerly reading the backs of the movies she held in her hand. “Max, since I’m providing dinner, you’re in charge of snacks, okay?”
Max laughed and nodded, and I ruffled her long red hair as we walked up to the counter where Keith was now shoveling nacho cheese Doritos into his mouth. She pushed my hand away with a grin and I could practically hear Billy’s eyes rolling behind me.

“Gross,” Max made a face. “We want these, please,” she slid the boxes across to him and he grabbed the three with his non-cheesy hand. Billy was propped up against the end of the aisle we had just left, and I could feel his eyes on me as I batted Max’s cash away and handed Keith my parent’s credit card.

“I’m infringing on your movie night, Max. The least I can do is let my parents pay for it,” I ruffled her red hair again and this time she let me, scrunching up her nose and flattening her hair back down immediately. Keith handed her the movies in a plastic bag and we left, Billy trailing behind us. “Where’s your car, Billy?” I asked, scanning the parking lot.

“It’s waiting for me to put a new battery in it,” he flicked his wrist and checked his watch. “Which I should be doing right about now. C’mon Max.” He motioned her to follow him and she waved at me as they started walking through the parking lot.

“Hey! Wait!” I called, making Billy turn around. “Let me give you a ride.” Max bounded over to my BMW before I had even finished my offer.

“Nah,” Billy said, shaking his head. “We’ve got a few stops to make before we go back to the house, don’t need you to chauffer us around town or anything.” His arms were crossed over his chest and he stood in the middle of the lot looking at Max with an expression I couldn’t decipher.

“It’s no trouble, man,” I didn’t know why I was offering this. I mean, for Max’s sake, obviously. She glared right back at Billy and I looked back and forth between them before saying something else. “I was just going to go home and do nothing anyway. Let me be a good neighbor!”

Billy scoffed and walked a little closer to me, sunglasses perched on the bridge of his nose. “Don’t need your fuckin’ charity, Harrington.”

I rolled my eyes and heard Max huff from behind me. “It’s not fuckin’ charity,” I muttered. “It’s called being a friend, douchebag.”

Billy reared back and looked at me over the top of his sunglass frames. His blue eyes were brighter than the cloudless sky overhead. “Alright, King Steve. No need to get snippy.” He wandered over to the passenger side of my car and tugged gently on the handle. “Open up.”

I looked at Max and she just shrugged and copied his actions, tugging on the door handle to the backseat. I shook my head in disbelief and unlocked my car, climbing in and blasting the A/C as soon as I started the engine.

“Where to first?” I questioned after I turned down the radio. Billy had made a face at the sound of the regular pop station blaring a Madonna tune and Max had protested, but I changed the volume anyway since passengers were riding around with me.

“Auto store,” Billy answered at the same time I heard Max say Melvald’s.

“Okay,” I shifted the car into reverse and pulled out of my spot. “Main Street it is.”

To pacify the two kids in my car, I parked as equidistant as I could between Richardson’s Auto and Melvald’s general store.

“If we’re not back at the car when you finish getting your shit, come to Melvald’s,” Max dragged me with her towards the general store before Billy or I could protest. “Come on, Harrington, we gotta pick out good snacks!”

That made me pick up the pace a little. I followed her into the general store and waved at Joyce when I noticed her stocking something in a back aisle. “Hey you two,” she smiled and walked over to us, holding her pricing gun. “What brings you in today?”

“Getting snacks for movie night,” I answered as Max bounded off down the candy aisle, eyes turning into hearts as she eyed the “buy one get one” sign posted above the boxed candy. Joyce laughed and handed Max a basket before Max could load up her arms and drop everything.

“You know Billy’s weakness is chocolate,” Max said matter-of-factly as she grabbed a box of nerds.

“Oh really?’ I replied, laughing. I never really pictured Billy having much of a weakness for anything, except maybe his car. The fact that it was chocolate, of all basic things, made it even better. “Does he have a favorite?”

Max laughed and looked at me kind of funny as I bent down to look at the various types of chocolate bars.

“He likes the fancy shit,” she pointed to the Dove chocolate and I didn’t figure that I should mention that Dove isn’t really fancy shit. If he wanted fancy chocolate, he should taste the truffles my mom brought back from Paris or the assortment of bars my dad had given me for Christmas from Germany a couple of years ago. “Sometimes if he’s being a bitch, I’ll hand him a three musketeers bar from my stash, and it shuts him right up. Three Musketeers are a big hit with him too.”

I bit my lip to keep myself from laughing. “Does he know that’s Dustin’s favorite candy?” Max looked at me to see if I was serious and busted out laughing herself when she saw the look on my face.

“Jesus,” Billy’s voice startled both of us and I jumped, almost dropping the two Dove bars in my hand. “What are you two cackling about?”

He was clutching a brown paper bag that I figured had his new battery in it. “Just, uh, chatting,” Billy rolled his eyes at my response and a look over at Max almost had me losing it again. “Any special requests for candy?”

I shouldn’t have asked since Max already revealed to me what his favorite was, but out of the need for conversation, my big mouth asked the most reasonable question my brain could come up with.

“Three Musketeers,” he muttered after a minute of watching Max toss dozens of different bags, boxes, and bars of candy in her basket. She giggled once and that’s all it took for us to lose it again. “Fuckin’ hell. I’ll be waiting outside for you two hyenas to finish your shopping spree.”

Joyce waved at Billy as he walked out the door and smiled when he managed to lift his hand back in response.

“He thinks we’re crazy,” I said after we caught our breath. Max’s basket was almost overflowing so I carried it to the register for her. Joyce gave us a very mom look when she realized the only things in the basket were candy. “He’s probably right.”

“A little more than probably,” Max agreed, smiling at Joyce as she rang up the candy. Max didn’t notice when Joyce gave her the employee discount Melvald still let her use, but I did, and I mouthed a silent thank you to her as Max stuffed her change back into her jeans pocket.

“Have a good one,” She called, walking back to the aisle she had been on earlier, pricing gun back in her hand.

I carried the bag full of snacks back to my BMW, almost dropping it when I caught sight of Billy leaning up against the side, cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth, shirt now untucked and completely unbuttoned. He waved with a grin at some lady that dropped her keys when she saw him as she left the beauty parlor across the street.

“Billy,” Max whined, stomping over to my car. “You’re so disgusting. Why can’t you ever just wear a shirt like normal people?”

“Because then the poor ladies of this shithole town would have no one to feed their fantasies, Max,” Billy responded like it was common knowledge. I rolled my eyes and opened the backseat door, shoving the bag in beside Max after she had climbed in. “I’m doing everyone a favor, really.”

“You’re so full of shit, Hargrove,” I shook my head and purposely did not look over at him in my passenger seat, legs spread wide, torso shifted so his back rested on the corner of the seat, chest nearly in my direction. Should be a sin to flaunt yourself the way Billy did. “Put your goddamn seatbelt on.”

Max laughed and Billy held up his hands in mock surrender. “What’s got your panties in a twist, Stevie? Can’t handle someone looking better than you?”

“Shut up, Billy,” Max butted in, poking her head through the space between the drivers and passenger seats. “Don’t listen to him, Steve.”

I didn’t respond to either of them, I just drove down Main Street and turned left in the direction of their house. The short ride to their house was mostly quiet with the exception of Max and Billy making faces at each other the whole time. I really felt like a parent dropping her two kids off.

“Come back around five, okay Steve? Lucas has to be home before midnight so we’re starting the movies early to make sure we finish all three.” She grinned and waved, clutching the Melvald’s bag close to her chest as she ran up the sidewalk.

Billy didn’t say a word to me as he got out of the car and ambled inside after Max. I watched him go in but didn’t notice him turn around to look at me as I drove off.

~

There were two different shirts laid out on my bed, and I was debating between the two of them. One was just a regular black t-shirt, but it fit me incredibly well. Hugged me in all the right places, that type of shit. The other was a shirt that I hadn’t worn in a while, a navy polo that was worn-in and super comfy. I thought about what Billy had said earlier and reached for the black t-shirt.

I hadn’t planned on changing before going back to Max and Billy’s, but boredom had overcome me not long after I got home, so I had jumped in the pool and done a few laps and took a nap before realizing I was now sweaty and covered in chlorine. I had showered and roughly towel dried my hair, which led me here, picking out an outfit.

Throwing on a decent amount of deodorant, I let the towel around my waist drop to the ground and pulled on the briefs and my comfiest pair of jeans that were waiting next to my shirt options.

I checked my watch and noticed it read 4:55. I stood in front of my mirror and debating tucking my t-shirt in versus keeping it out. As soon as I realized that I was trying to look good for no feasible reason, I rolled my eyes at myself and let it hang loose, not bothering to tuck it in and certainly not checking how my ass looked in my pants and I left my room to go downstairs and pull on my tennis shoes.

“Keys, wallet,” I listed everything I needed to take with me out loud to an empty house and finished tying the laces on my Nikes right as the huge grandfather clock in my parent’s living room struck five. “Great.”

I left my house and made good time over to the Hargrove’s. Lucas’s bike was stashed in the front bushes and Billy’s Camaro sat sparkling in the driveway. From the way she gleamed, I assumed he had given her a wash after he changed the battery. I pictured myself trying to change a battery and almost laughed out loud at the image. I didn’t know shit about cars, except how to drive them and check the oil every once in a while.

As I walked up to their door, I noticed all the lights were off. I prepared myself to get yelled at by Max for being late as I lifted my fist to knock on the door.

“You’re late, Steve!” Max screeched from the living room as Billy answered the door. His normally loose-hanging curls were knotted at the nape of his neck, damp bangs pushed back off his face. He looked like a fucking model even in sweatpants and white tank top. I suddenly felt really stupid for debating over what shirt to wear and basing my jeans pick on how good they made my ass look.

It’s not like Nancy or Robin or Rachel or any other girl I’d consider going out with or making out with was here. Billy licked his lips impatiently as he waited for me to come in and I forced myself to stop thinking about making out.

“You just gonna fuckin’ stand there?” He finally snapped, a stray curl coming untucked from behind his ear. Not all his hair was long enough to fit in the red elastic I was assuming he swiped from Max. It made him effortlessly attractive and I kind of hated myself for loving Farrah Fawcett hairspray and Faberge Organics volume enhancing shampoo when this douchebag could look good without anything helping him out.

“Uh,” I stammered, making him roll his eyes. “No?” I wandered through the doorway and he slammed it behind me, Max yelling in protest from the living room. I pushed my still damp hair out of my face as I walked through the short hallway to where Max and Lucas were laying on a fort of blankets, staring in awe at Luke Skywalker as he stared longingly at the two suns going down upon Tatooine.

“He’s so pretty,” Max sighed as the camera zoomed closer on his face. He did have pretty eyes. They were still nothing compared to the douchebag’s who pushed past me to flop back down on the couch.

“Hey,” Lucas pushed her shoulder gently and she laughed, saying something back to him that I couldn’t hear. Billy made a face and I laughed at him. He looked over at me and I swore he almost smiled.

“Sit down, Steve! Watch with us,” Max urged, pointing haphazardly toward the couch where Billy was taking up almost all the room. It was only a loveseat, as their living room was kind of small, but there was also a recliner in the corner. Billy looked over at me and sighed, pushing himself upright so the other seat was completely empty. I assumed the recliner was off-limits and walked over to the couch, plopping down next to Billy who had his arms crossed, leaning to the opposite side. His legs were sprawled out as usual, and he knee knocked against my thigh as I sat down.

He didn’t move his knee away. I didn’t move my thigh, either. It didn’t mean anything though; we both had plenty of space and were just getting comfortable. It wasn’t weird or warm or making me want to shift a little closer at all, it was just a thing. One of us would move to a different position in a minute and it would still be just a thing.

The room was completely silent besides the movie and some occasional whispering from Max and Lucas’s fort on the floor. Billy hadn’t shifted once and neither had I until the credits rolled, and Max surfaced from underneath her blanket, nose scrunched up in that distinctly Max way.

“I heard a rumor about Chinese food,” Lucas said as he yawned and stretched, reaching forward to take the VHS out of the VCR and put it back in its box, reaching for the Empire Strikes Back which was sitting on the coffee table in front of me and Billy. “Is there any truth to this rumor?” He prompted, making me grin.

“Are you saying you’re hungry, Lucas?” He grinned back and Max nodded. “Fine, I’ll call for takeout.”

I got up from the couch and climbed over Billy, who looked up at me weirdly. I wanted to ask him why he was looking at me like that but decided not to, instead of reaching for the phone hanging on the wall and rifling through the various takeout menus on the kitchen counter until I found a Chinese menu. They ended up having the number to the place I always ordered from and I greeted the worker on the other end by name when they answered.

“You must call there a lot,” Billy remarked with his trademark smirk as he stood up from the couch, stretching. My eyes wandered down to where his tank top rode up his stomach. A delicate trail of golden hair that matched the sunshine color of his curls disappeared beneath the low-riding band of his sweatpants.

Why the fuck you looking, Harrington? I screamed at myself in my head. If Billy ever knew…God, he’d kill me. My dad would kill me. His dad would probably kill me.

“It’s my favorite Chinese place.” I finally managed to answer.
He didn’t respond, he just padded off down the hallway, into what I assumed was the bathroom. He was barefoot, too, and for some reason that made my face flush even more. It was a completely new thing seeing Billy relaxed and not putting up a front for a bunch of girls or laying on the charm for those stupid moms that actually thought they could get him to fuck them.

“Steve,” Max poked me in the arm, a pack of Skittles in her hand. “We’re starting the second movie, come on.”

Lucas pushed the tape into the VCR and as soon as theme music started playing, a door flung open and light flooded the hallway.

“Damn, can’t let a guy know you’re starting the movie?” Billy exclaimed, stepping over Max and Lucas’s fort to get to the sofa. I scooted over a little more towards the armrest, but Billy didn’t notice, he just flopped down like usual, knee banging mine carelessly, and I forced myself to not look over at him once. Harrison Ford was on the screen and he was nice to look at anyway.

“Thought you weren’t interested,” Max sneered, popping a handful of skittles into her mouth.

Billy sneered right back and upped the level by sticking out his tongue. I laughed at him. If anyone at school knew he was like this his tough guy image would be ruined. Maybe Hawkins was softening him or maybe summertime made him more tolerable. Either way, I liked it. But wasn’t about to let myself get used to it.

“It ain’t half bad,” Billy muttered, grabbing a three-musketeer bar from the bowl of candy Max had set on the coffee table. “Solo’s pretty badass.”

“He is, isn’t he?” I agreed without thinking about it. Han was currently stuffing Luke inside a Tauntaun in the middle of a snowstorm. I turned my attention back to the screen before Billy could really notice my interest. I was saved by the bell, though, as a knock sounded at their front door. “Must be the food.”

I scrambled up from my seat on the couch and nearly tripped over my own two feet as I walked towards the door feeling Billy’s eyes on my back. God, I hoped my ass looked alright. Jesus, Steve, he ain’t even looking! I shouted at myself in my brain as I fumbled in my back pocket for my wallet and I twisted the doorknob open with my free hand.

The delivery guy read out my order and total and I handed him enough to cover the total and tip, saying thank you as he handed over my bag full of lo mein and orange chicken and everything else Max had pointed at the menu for me to order. I shut the door and turned around to see Billy in the kitchen, reaching up into a cabinet to grab plates.

“Food’s here,” I said like a dumbass, setting the bag on the counter and starting to take the containers out one by one. Billy laughed at me and I told myself he was definitely doing it in a mean way, not in a boy-you’re-cute-Harrington way. Why would I even want him to laugh at me like that? I wanted to smack myself for thinking these things, especially about my fellow Hawkins Country Club employee, but my brain was not easily controlled.

Lucas paused the tape and he and Max bounded into the kitchen, grabbing ridiculous amounts of food and taking cans of soda from the fridge without so much as a word to Billy and Steve who watched them, amused. They resumed the movie as soon as they got back to the living room with their overflowing plates.

“Help yourself,” Billy gestured to the layout as he filled his own plate. More of his curls were tumbling out of that red elastic now that his hair was getting dryer. My own hair was dry and fluffy now, Farrah Fawcett hairspray doing a decent job of holding my shorter pieces out of my eyes. Usually, I did more puffs of the spray than I had after today’s shower, but I hadn’t felt the need to.

“How are you three completely different people rolled into one?” The question tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop it and I closed my eyes, cringing hard at my own word vomit.

“What?” Billy asked, an amused look on his face. It was softer than his usual Steve Harrington smirk.

I figured since I had started it, I better finish it. And from the way he had set his plate on the counter and leaned back, he was expecting an explanation. Han and Leia were arguing in the background on TV and I heard Chewy roar.

“Uh, well. A few months ago, you treated me like shit. Now you just treat me like I’m annoying, which is probably fair,” Billy grinned. “According to Max, you used to treat her like shit too, now you’re acting like an actual brother, sort of.”

I had almost expected him to interject with stepbrother, but he didn’t, he just crossed one leg over the other and folded his arms over his chest, looking really interested in what I had to say.

“You’re just different, I guess,” I didn’t really know where I had been planning to go with that. It just felt like something I should acknowledge out loud, maybe make him realize what he was doing. But then again maybe I shouldn’t have acknowledged it and he would’ve kept being sort of nice and everything would be hunky dory.

“I’ll take that as a compliment, Stevie,” Billy turned back around and piled orange chicken atop the little bed of white rice on his place.

“Um. Okay,” I said eloquently, finally moving towards the last plate on the counter that was begging to be used as a vessel for as much lo mein as I could fit on it.

Billy paused and shrugged. “I guess I’ve finally accepted that I’m stuck here in this little backwoods town. Neil’s been gone more lately with his promotion at work and Susan has finally learned how to make a decent lasagna. I’ve got a job, girls, parties. Finally decided that I better make Hawkins worth my while until I save enough money to go back to Cali.”

It seemed like too much information and not enough at the same time. I liked hearing Billy talk without screaming or being a general douche for once.

“Well. You’re not half bad to hang around right now, Hargrove. But I’m betting that’ll change once Max and Lucas aren’t around,” I wagered, picking up a piece of chicken with my fingers like a savage and popping it into my mouth.

Billy grinned and grabbed a can of coke from the fridge. I assumed the shitty Miller Lite I saw was his dad’s and therefore completely off limits. I briefly wondered if that was the deal with the recliner in the living room corner, too. I didn’t mind sitting by Billy if he wasn’t being an asshole, though, so it was okay.

“You’re pretty funny, Harrington,” Billy lifted his coke in my direction, almost like a toast. “Don’t let me forget to snag you for a tennis match next week at work, okay?”

~

“I gotta go, Max,” Lucas looked up at the clock. Return of the Jedi was nearly over, Luke and Leia were discovering their relation to each other and Billy was exclaiming his disgust about their kiss in the last film which made me and Max and Lucas all bust out laughing.

Max protested Lucas leaving and gave me and Billy a stink eye when she noticed how closely we were watching them from the couch. “Steve can give you a ride home. Can’t you, Steve?”

I was extremely comfortable slouched down on the sofa, stomach full of Chinese takeout and those new Sour Patch Kid things that Max bought at Melvald’s. Billy’s knee had nudged up against my thigh almost all night and it had been kind of distracting, but I kept telling myself it was just a thing.

“Uh, yeah, sure,” I mumbled, rubbing my eyes. The final scene of the movie was playing out as we exchanged goodbyes. Max and Lucas hugged awkwardly with Billy glaring at them from his seat on the sofa. Lucas thanked him for letting him come over and Billy shrugged it off with a nod. I said the same and Max rolled her eyes.

“You’re a member of the party almost, Steve. And you paid for all the shit tonight,” she grinned. “So, thank you.” I smiled at her and ruffled her hair, prompting a look of disgust from her and a laugh from Lucas.

“Goodnight guys,” I called as I shut the door behind us. Lucas grabbed his bike from where it was stashed in the bushes and carefully loaded it into my backseat. Three blocks over, I dropped him off right as the clock on my dashboard flashed midnight. He scrambled up his uphill driveway and I watched him lean his bicycle carefully underneath his family’s carport before running up the front steps and disappearing inside his house.

Not a bad night, I thought as I drove back home, the emptiness of my parent’s too-big house startlingly familiar. I walked slowly up to my bedroom and stripped off my clothes, falling into bed wondering if Billy would act like a new version of himself tomorrow at the Hawkins Country Club grand opening.

Chapter Text

“We’ll be there a little late, honey,” Mom had said over the phone earlier this morning. “Go up there when it starts without us, we’ll come to find you once we reach town.”

She was, of course, referring to the kick-off party at the country club. And here I was, pulling into a parking spot at the edge of the already full employee parking area. I didn’t see the gleam of a fancy-ass blue Camaro anywhere; not that I was looking.

My slim-fit khakis and tropical button-down made me fit right in with most of the other guys my age who were milling around the party. The sun was burning down on us still at 5 pm, and I could feel sweat beading on my upper lip within a minute of being out.

“Why Steve Harrington,” Rand bounded over to me from where he stood at the Clubhouse entrance, a large Cuban cigar hanging out of the corner of his mouth, a glass of whiskey in his hand. His paunchy figure was wearing a hideous white linen suit and a straw fedora was resting on his balding head. His skin was red, but it wasn’t all from the heat; his complexion usually looked a little flared up. “You beat your mom and pop here, ay? Got a call from David earlier sayin’ they’d pull up around 7 from Indianapolis.”

I put on the smile I reserved special for these times when I had to be the polite Harrington pretty boy mom and dad always wanted me to be. The one that ate up golf and country clubs and business classes. The one that tagged along with his ol’ man to get a head start on connections for his life-long career in marketing. I almost laughed at the thought. No way.

“Yes sir, that’s what I was told as well,” I kept the smile plastered to my face. It kind of made my cheeks hurt. I preferred smiles that didn’t make my cheeks hurt.

Rand laughed even though there wasn’t anything funny going on. He waved as a few couples passed us to enter the clubhouse but from the way he was turned towards me, I figured he wasn’t done talking.

“Saw you practicin’ with Harry during training. He’s our best instructor,” Rand raised his eyebrows. “You kept him on his toes, though, yes sir. Good to know we hired some talent this season.”

I nodded and pushed my hair back, shoving my hands in my pockets afterward. “Thank you, Mr. Jenkins. I’m glad you decided to let me join the team.” It was just he wanted to hear; I could tell because he laughed again.

“Well go on in and find your friends, Steve. Enjoy the party,” Rand waved me inside and I thanked my lucky stars he hadn’t wanted to talk longer. Sometimes he could go on and on for hours; especially when he and my father were discussing politics or golf or who knows what else.

I walked in the Tiki-themed Clubhouse area and raised my eyebrows in surprise at the number of people just inside the opening area. The two lounges that overlooked the golfing green to my left and right were filled with ladies who sat in their cocktail dresses, gossiping over glasses of champagne while their husbands stood in circles, talking loudly about everything under the sun.

The twin sets of double doors that led to the patio and the paths to the rest of the country club amenities were propped open and I could see more people spilled out on the lawn; by the refreshment stand that had been decorated like a Tiki bar, sitting in the sets of Adirondack chairs that lined the walkway to the pool and hot tub area.

So far, I hadn’t seen anyone that I wanted to talk to. Robin was nowhere to be found; I was ninety percent sure that the Wheelers were around somewhere since their family obviously had a membership here too. Nance had probably made Jonathan tag along. Oh well.

“Lookin’ festive, Stevie,” the deep voice I instantly recognized was way too close to my ear and not close enough. I turned my head slightly to see Billy rather close to my face; grinning widely. His chin could’ve comfortably rested on my shoulder with how close he was, but I didn’t think about that. I was too caught off guard by his blue eyes being framed with smudgy black eyeliner. It wasn’t very much, but it was enough to make him look very badass.

And very attractive.

I stuttered out a greeting and he rolled his eyes, stepping back from me when Max came bounding up beside him in a navy party dress that looked really cute on her. “Hey Steve,” Max made a face. “It’s your lucky night; you get to meet our parents.”

I looked behind them to see red-haired Susan and military-looking Neil ordering a drink at the inside bar. Max resembled her mom quite a bit; the hair, the face shape. Billy looked nothing like his dad, except maybe height. I assumed Billy got all the pretty from his biological mom who didn’t seem to be in the picture.

“Can’t believe he fuckin’ let you out with eyeliner on, Billy,” I heard Max hiss before taking a drink from the can of coke in her hand. “He’d probably pitch a fit if I wore anything besides Chapstick.”

Billy rolled his eyes. “Believe me, he didn’t let me get off scot-free. Guess you didn’t hear him slam me up in the hallway and call me – oh what was it? Yeah. ‘A goddamn queer.’” I shifted uncomfortably because it felt like they had forgotten I was there. Max was looking at Billy with big eyes and shook her head fiercely.

“I think you look like Billy Idol,” Max responded, flicking her hair off her shoulder. “Neil knows better than to slug you anymore, at least, after Hopper caught him last month.”

“Hopper threatened your dad?” I couldn’t help but interject and wince at calling Neil Billy’s dad. I mean, he was, but he wasn’t exactly living up to the warm title of ‘father.’

Billy looked over at me, jaw clenched. “Keep your fuckin’ voice down, Harrington. It’s none of your business, anyway. Right, Max?” He looked over at her with their trademark sibling death glare and she returned it before looking at me and shrugging.

“Right, Billy,” she agreed reluctantly. “I’m going to go find Mike and see if Will tagged along with Jonathan.” She bounded off through the open patio doors and I lost sight of her as she weaved in and out of various bunches of people. Billy was still standing next to me; the smell of his spicy cologne overpowered the citronella scent coming off the rows of Tiki torches bracketing the sidewalks.

I ignored how I liked the smell of the cologne and instead cleared my throat lightly before saying, “Didn’t mean to butt in on you and Max’s discussion,” He turned to look at me with an amused expression. “I think the eyeliner looks badass.”

He smiled slowly like he wasn’t sure if he should or not. “Thanks, Stevie,” He caught my eye and winked, long eyelashes creating a small shadow on his cheek before he turned away from me and walked out onto the patio. It may have been me dreaming but I could swear his ass was swaying a little more than usual in his tight-ass acid wash jeans.

~

“Come on, darling, just one mambo!” My mom was having the time of her life in the gazebo, dancing to every song that came over the loudspeaker. It was true country-club music; old swing, some sixties dance class music, every now and then a top 40 hit or a western song that made all the old fogies get up and pretend they knew how to line dance.

My mom was currently finishing her third glass of white wine, and I didn’t know how her feet weren’t killing her in the hot-pink high heels that matched her white dress that was dotted with strawberries of the same color. She was attempting to drag my father out on the floor for something besides a slow dance; she had had to dance the fast ones with the dance instructors or other old men that told her how “ravishing” or “heavenly” she looked. My dad always looked amused when other men flirted with her.

“I’ll dance with you, mom,” I offered, taking my hands out of the pockets of my khakis. I hadn’t danced the mambo since advanced cotillion back when I was fourteen or fifteen, but my mom was having so much fun, it couldn’t hurt to at least let her take the lead on the dance floor for two or three minutes.

Her face lit up with the widest grin I’d seen in a while and I couldn’t help but return it. “Thank you, Stevie! Come on, let’s show ‘em what we got,” she pulled me to the middle of the dance floor, which I wasn’t too crazy about, because that where everyone’s attention usually went when the song started. Of course, that loudmouth announcer Arthur recognized both me and my mom and had to make some smartass comment before switching the records for the next song.

“My, my,” the microphone squealed and echoed through the gazebo as his voice carried all over the lawn. “If it isn’t the fabulous Harrington mother and son duo shining in the middle of the dance floor! We’ve got some Perry Como coming up for you now, so I hope you two know how to mambo!”

My mom laughed in delight at being recognized and set my dancing form upright as Papa Loves Mambo started blaring over the dance floor. I had to look down at my mom’s feet to remember the combination pattern, but once I did, the flow came back to me.

I didn’t realize it, but the area around my mom and I had mostly cleared out, everyone watching the dynamic “mother and son duo” mambo around the dance floor. I was awkward at first, but my mom was practically glowing (mostly from the white wine, I assumed) and it was funny. Plus, if it was any kind of dancing I knew how to do, it was this kind. I had been going to these parties since I was one year old. You don’t watch people mambo and cha-cha and meringue for nineteen years and not learn something.

Twirling my mom around, I noticed Billy looking at me with amusement from where he was leaning up outside the gazebo against the railing. With mom spinning me in return to complete the step I didn’t exactly get to make eye contact, but I could see that little smirk. I bet he thought I was a real preppy boy, knowing the mambo and dancing with my mom.

I kept right on moving; knowing the song was coming to a close in the next few seconds. One last step to the left, then to the right, and the final chord of Perry Como’s hit rang out. Everyone around us clapped and we bowed jokingly together, both out of breath. Me more so than my mom which was a little embarrassing, but the way she squeezed me with a hug as we left the dance floor was more embarrassing.

“Looking good out there, honey,” my dad wiggled his eyebrows and I looked away, disgusted. Billy was still leaning against the outer railing, smirking at me. I decided to go see why he looked so smug and left my parents to whatever it was they were doing.

Billy laughed out loud when he saw me step out from under the gazebo covering to walk towards him. His already smudged eyeliner was even more smudgy now; I assumed the heat had made the makeup run. It didn’t look bad by any means; it was smoky and sexy. In combination with his black halfway buttoned shirt, long gold necklace, and acid wash jeans he looked like the cover of a dirty magazine or erotic romance novel that I hated knowing Mrs. Wheeler read constantly in her spare time.

Nancy had told me she found a whole box of them in the linen closet and a week later we had spent an afternoon laughing at the cheesy writing. The way Nancy’s cheeks pinked, though, told me that she’d probably read more later.

“Watchin’ me dance, Billy?” I questioned, smiling. I was surprised he wasn’t snuck out behind the bushes on the golf course making out with somebody now that the sun was down, and festivities were in full swing.

“It was pretty amusing, Harrington,” Billy crossed his arms over his chest. “With that fancy footwork, it’s no wonder you dance around the tennis court.” He grinned when I laughed at his lame joke. It wasn’t the typical shit-eating grin that usually rested on his face when he makes a joke at my expense, it was some grin I hadn’t seen before.

Wait, no. I’d seen it before. I’d seen it when he not-so-discreetly flirted with Mrs. Wheeler or the new young mom in town, Taylor something-or-other. It was his charming, I’m-sexy-and-you-know-it grin. Why he was grinning that way at me, I wasn’t sure. Maybe the heat or dancing was getting to me. I had to be seeing things.

“Don’t see you out there on the dance floor,” I remarked, falling into step beside him as he started walking off, looking at me like he expected me to tag along. “Where you been?” I hadn’t meant to ask, wasn’t sure why I wanted to know. Hargrove and I hadn’t talked much at all until recently it seemed. Last October when he and Max showed up out of nowhere a silent rivalry had been established. Then when we both made the basketball team in January; we’d had to work together a little bit even though all our exchanges were still sarcastic.

Then suddenly school ended, and the hierarchy of high school disappeared along with it. Tommy, Billy’s number one guy, had dropped him sometime in April when Billy’d yelled at him for calling some girl with a pixie cut a derogatory term I couldn’t remember. I remembered hearing them argue about it in the locker room and remembered the black eye Tommy had for a week more.

I was dragged out of my thoughts when Billy waved his hand in front of my face. “You hear anything I just said?” His charming grin was replaced with the Steve-is-funny look again. When I didn’t answer he rolled his eyes. “I said I was by the pool mingling with Heather and a bunch of girls that claim they’re taking swim lessons from me.”

I snorted. “The line of people that want to fuck you is just endless, isn’t it?” The way he threw his head back in laughter, exposing the golden column of his throat and making the chain he always wore glisten against his collarbone made me think I wanted my name on that list.

“Seems that way,” He said smugly after he stopped laughing. “I know all the best swim techniques, anyway.” He grinned at me and stopped walking.

“What?”

“You know. The butterfly,” he looked off at the sun that was setting real pretty, streaking the sky with pink and soft hue that reminded me of a melted orange cream-sickle. “Backstroke,” I tried not to admire the way his golden hair shone with the orange cream-sickle hue surrounding him like a halo. He looked at me with big blue eyes that sparkled mischievously. “Breaststroke.”

His gaze flicked down to where my button-up shirt lay open, only my top two buttons were undone revealing what chest hair I had that I was proud of, unlike Billy who of course had four buttons undone, showing off his perfect bronze chest to the world.

It was then that I finally realized what he said and what the implications were, and I made a face. He threw his head back in laughter again, making some people that were near us look over, amused.

“Took you long enough to get that one, Harrington,” his cheeks were flushed, and it matched the sunset. I briefly wished we were inside or that Billy would stop being good-looking enough to compare to things universally accepted as beautiful. “Shoulda seen your face. Now that was funny.”

Before I could respond, Mike and Max and Will bounded up to us, Nancy and Jonathan hand in hand behind them. I smiled in their direction and Nancy smiled back, the crinkles around her eyes letting me know she was concerned to see me standing with Billy Hargrove. It almost made me laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Max demanded, crossing her arms over her chest. Billy just grinned at her and shook his head, saying some shit like ‘Harrington’s just goddamn hysterical.’

“You should come with us to get snow cones, Steve,” Will said, looking off at some vendor parked in the distance by the golfing green. “If we get one now, we’ll be in a perfect spot for the fireworks that Mr. Jenkins announced are going off at nine!”

Jesus, he had gone all out for this. I bet he had begged Hopper to let him set off commercial-sized fireworks without getting a fine. The idea of Mr. Jenkins begging Hopper for anything made me grin.

“Wanna come see fireworks, Billy?” Max asked as our little group began walking towards the snow cones.

Billy glanced over at the clubhouse to our right and shook his head. “Nah, in fact, I’ll be going my own way now. I have a girl to meet,” Max made a face and Mike rolled his eyes, making Nancy thump him on the back of the head, to which he yelped and pinched her arm in return. I was fairly certain I didn’t look disappointed or anything, but I did turn to look at him walking down the other pathway after he broke off from us. I squinted and saw a dark-haired figure waving at him.

Oh. Heather. Should’ve figured.

~

“Wow,” Max breathed as an explosion of green and white lit up the clear velvet sky. “Haven’t seen fireworks like these since California.”

I frowned. “You miss Cali, Max?” Sometimes it seemed like she would get real homesick. Then Lucas would say something to cheer her up and everything would be okay again.

She looked over at me, a smaller red firework lighting up her pale skin. “Not really. I like it here, even if there isn’t much to do,” she paused and smiled. “California was really big. Life is small here. I didn’t like it at first, but then I realized how much homier a small town feels. I wave a people walking down Main Street and smile at kids I don’t really know at the arcade. Didn’t do that in Cali, everything was just…bigger.”

I smiled at her and ruffled her hair in the way that made her grimace. “Well, we’re glad you’re here, Max.” She smiled back and didn’t look too annoyed as she flattened her hair back into place.

“Yeah, me too.”

Nancy looked over at us and smiled. She looked pretty, her green dress matched Jonathan’s shirt. Her prettiness was different now, though. We hadn’t even been out of high school for two weeks and she looked more grown-up. Maybe a week with an internship at Hawkins local paper could do that to you.

Dustin gave me shit for still talking to her and Mike gave me weird looks sometimes; I knew they both thought that I was still moony for her. Most people in the town of Hawkins that knew about us and how abruptly we’d ended after a year of dating also still thought I was head over heels for her, but really, we were just friends. I knew she felt bad about how things ended with us, but I had told her it was okay.

Billy and Max’s entrance into town had helped distract me immensely from our rough break-up, and after seeing how she looked at Jonathan how I’d hoped she’d look at me someday, the moony-ness I felt in the wake of mourning our relationship was gone. I couldn’t bring myself to hate her or Jonathan for it; that’s just how life went sometimes, and that was okay.

My attention went back to the night sky when a loud pop sounded, sending an explosion of bright blue and purple in a starburst shape into the air. All the kids cooed in wonder and I smiled.

“DID YOU SEE THAT ONE?” I turned my head to see Heather and Billy walking up over the hill. Billy was clutching Heather like his life depended on it, and I could see his eyes wide as saucers from my seat on the ground several yards away. She laughed at him as she continued walking in our direction and I heard her respond a lot calmer that yes, she had seen it.

“MAX! STEVE!” Billy waved like a loon and I bit my lip to keep from laughing. What the hell had he gotten into?

“Oh no. She let him drink margaritas.” Max sighed, pressing her hand to her forehead like she was going to get a migraine. When I heard the sentence come out of Max’s mouth I guffawed loudly before I could stop it. She looked over at me weirdly and got up from her position on the grass.

“What’s his deal?” Mike said, his trademark disgusted look making me want to laugh even more.

“Apparently margaritas make him crazy,” I grinned widely, tucking that embarrassing fact away for later. “Hey, Billy,” I remarked as he approached closer, Max saying something to him that he clearly wasn’t paying attention to.

“Pretty boy Stevie! Did I tell you I saw you mambo earlier? You actually were good,” he started babbling incoherently and Heather was giggling uncontrollably which made Max roll her eyes. He called me pretty boy sometimes; I didn’t know if it was an insult or compliment.

“Steve,” Max said kind of urgently, looking at her watch. “Neil told us we had to meet back at the van at 10:00. It’s 9:30 and I cannot bring Billy back to the van intoxicated, Neil already wanted to punch his lights out for wearing my eyeliner!” She hissed the last part in my ear so Heather and our group wouldn’t hear but Billy was talking too loud for anyone to really hear anything.

Another pop sounded and a firework lit up that sky. That stopped Billy’s babbling for a minute. “What am I supposed to do?” I asked with a helpless look. Max returned it.

“You’re the sort-of adult, here! Haven’t you ever had to sober up fast before your parents caught you or something?” Most of the time I got a friend to slap me and chugged a bottle of water or two and walked around for a minute. Billy had obviously walked a decent distance and I didn’t think slapping him would be the best method to bring him out of his drunken giggly mood.

I looked down at the snacks we had gotten from the snow cone vendor and snagged Jonathan’s bottle of water without asking. He gave me a weird look, but I told him I’d grab him another one if he really wanted it, he just shrugged. I assumed it had really been for Nancy. I also grabbed the soggy container of nachos Mike had bought earlier and plopped down next to Billy on the grass where he was watching the fireworks with child-like glee.

“You see this shit, Harrington?” He accepted the water from me without hesitation. “Shit’s crazy!” I grinned. The kind of smile that didn’t make my cheeks hurt. I watched him down the bottle in seconds and devour the nachos even though they were cold, and the fake cheese sauce was kind of congealed now.

“Billy,” Max knelt down by us. “We need to be back at the car before Neil and my mom. We better start walking.” She glanced at her watch again.

“But the fire! In the sky!” He protested, pointing up at where a huge white blast of sparkle lit up the sky. Looked like millions of shooting stars.

“I know,” Max rolled her eyes but smiled fondly. Maybe Billy wasn’t as bad as everyone thought. “We can see them on our way back to the van, okay?”

He pouted and I wondered how a boy’s lips could look that good. “Okay.” He let Max help him up and looked down at me when he stood. “Enjoy the rest of the fire, Harrington.”

I waved at them and the rest of the group yelled their goodbyes as they walked off in the direction of the main Clubhouse entrance. I assumed Max was taking the long way so the fresh air would maybe sober him up some more.

Heather was now sitting with Nancy, no longer giggling but chatting away about something that was probably not very interesting.

The biggest firework of them yet exploded overhead, signaling the end of the show, and I swore I could hear Billy’s exclamation from across the field. It made me smile. He seemed to be doing that an awful lot lately.

As soon as those girls lined up for swim lessons instead of tennis matches with me, I was sure he’d get back to his normal smartass self, telling me about how “there’s plenty of bitches in the sea,” so I checked myself. Billy was just high off summertime; I was ninety percent sure.

Chapter Text

“Where were you yesterday?” I questioned Robin at 7:30 on Monday morning. Way too fucking early. By the way she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, she agreed with me. She picked up the bucket of tennis balls that she was to guard for the morning and placed it by the net of the first hardcourt before answering my question.

“Went to a party,” She shrugged and adjusted her nametag. “My older sister Bethany is in college; they have real ragers at her friend Travis’s house every weekend.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Well thanks for inviting me. Sounds better than the tiki party they threw out here.” By the looks of the club when I had driven up this morning, you’d never know that they’d thrown a party with well over a thousand people the night before. It was spotless and perfectly manicured and the main employees (not us summer hires) who were definitely drunk at some point last night pasted beaming smiles on their faces like it wasn’t the fucking crack of dawn on a Monday, no less.

She laughed and I smiled. “Shoulda knew it would be a tiki party, Jesus,” she looked over at me and placed her hands on her hips. “I don’t know you’d feel about my sisters’ parties, Harrington, you are kind of a square.”

I placed my hand on my chest in mock hurt. “Me? A square?” Is that really what people thought? If Billy was here, he’d probably agree with her wholeheartedly. I frowned a little.

She laughed again. “I’ll know if you’re cool soon enough, buddy. You forget that even though I sat behind you in Click’s class we barely exchanged five words your entire time in high school, and most activities you engaged in mostly consisted of a lot of douchebaggery.” That kind of made me feel bad. High school me had mostly been a huge asshole, and I wished a lot that I could change it and realize how much of an entitled jerk I had been. But when I really look back and think about where I am now, I guess I realize that everyone learns to change and evolve and find themselves in their own way and on their own time. People like Robin made me really wish I’d opened myself up sooner.

“Yeah,” I wanted to say sorry, but I wasn’t sure how she would take it. “Did you really know who I was?” She rolled her eyes and looked at me sideways as she started untangling the net so we could roll it up into place.

“All I heard about all the time was Steve ‘The Hair’ Harrington,” She looked at me kind of funny. “No girl would ever shut up about you long enough for me to get a word in edgewise. Even when Billy came into town and all the girls got wet for some random bad guy, they’d still talk about how cute you are.”

She talked so freely; so honestly. I liked that about her. It made me want to talk to her more, even though for a lot of people it would be the other way around. “I’m cute?” My nose wrinkled up when I asked, and she gave me a deadpan look that made me laugh. “No one calls me cute, Robin.”

“You’re kind of an idiot, Steve,” Robin raised one eyebrow and finished getting the net ready.

I huffed and put my hands on my hips. “So I’ve been told.”

~

“Good job, Mrs. Wheeler!” Reese commented from his spot on the sidelines as he watched her attempt a new serve at me. I couldn’t believe Karen Wheeler was across the net from me in some little tennis outfit; it made me want to hurl a little bit. Sure, moms can be attractive and all, but not after you’ve dated their daughters. Also, it was obvious she was trying real hard to be something she wasn’t. I was convinced it had something to do with one of the pool boys next door. Just thinking about him ogling her in her tennis get up or a swimsuit made me want to hurl.

I returned the serve without a problem; Mrs. Wheeler wasn’t bad, but she wasn’t stellar either. Not like her husband, Ted, whom I’d had the pleasure of playing a few times when I was still with Nancy. The guy knew how to serve a tennis ball.

She attempted a backhand return and it landed right in the net. She made a face and Reese bounded over, making some comment about how they could fix that up really quick. He took over and I got to rest at the baseline for a minute.

“Do you think her husband knows she’s out with that on?” Robin elbowed me in the side. “Not that she needs his permission, but come on, this is Hawkins. Everyone around here seems to have a thing for hot moms.” I grimaced and looked down at her for a second.

“Not me,” I shook my head. “No thanks.”

“Right, you prefer the young smart ones,” She rolled her eyes and I did the same, shoving her shoulder and making her rub it like I’d injured her or something. “Jesus, calm yourself. I’m just joking.” She glanced over at me and looked back across the court at Reese and Karen.

I bet she thought I didn’t really like her. After all, I’d ignored her in high school and was basically the opposite of her. She was a bit geeky, but not the same way Henderson was slowly training me to be. In the cool way that girls like Nancy frowned at. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if a girl like Robin was what I really needed. A girl that wasn’t afraid to be honest with me.

I filed that thought away for later and turned my attention back to what Robin was saying. “She looks pretty damn good though, I’ll give her that. I’d never know she had three kids.” I laughed at her and she grinned.

“Alright, Steve,” Reese called over the net, raising his voice to be heard over the couple that was playing over on the next court. “Your serve!”

I caught the ball Robin tossed my way and adjusted my shorts before launching myself into a full-body serve. Probably wasn’t the best decision seeing as how Karen was still learning, but sometimes it just happened. She surprisingly caught it with her racquet, though, and sent a forehand shot sailing down center court directly in line with me. I had several options as to how to play the shot, but I purposefully shifted to hit towards her backhand side.

Reese let out another encouraging cheer when she sent a wobbly backhand up the court, landing in the service box. I ran up and delicately popped it over the net – there was no way she was running fast enough to return it back over the net.

She sent me a look and I grinned. “Sorry, Mrs. Wheeler – a point’s a point.” She waved me off and laughed. I’d always liked Nancy’s mom, even if she had been kind of weird lately. Nancy had always been real standoffish about her, always thinking she needed to be secretive and never let Karen in on anything. Once Mrs. Wheeler and I had become acquainted for real, I thought she was a nice lady. Always welcomed me with a smile and never failed to make me feel welcome at their house, even when Mr. Wheeler would glare at me over the dinner table or Mike would make kissing faces to annoy Nancy.

I’d never talked to Karen about much of anything personal, but there were some days when I’d go over to Nancy’s after school and she’d offer me cookies while Nancy changed upstairs or took a phone call from a friend. She would dish about her day around town with Holly or whatever recipe she’d tried last week that failed miserably and whenever Nancy came bounding down the stairs she’d always wrap up her talks with, “come talk to me whenever you need to, Steve!” All friendly and mom-like. It was nice for a change; not that I didn’t love my mom, but we’d never had that kind of relationship. Even if she had been home to have that closeness with, most of me thinks it wouldn’t have been that way.

Even now, after Nancy and I were very much in the past, a smile from Mrs. Wheeler made me think I could talk to her about anything.

We finished up the training session and I walked over to her side of the net, where she was wiping the sweat off her forehead and changing from her tennis shoes into flip-flops.

“You’ll be able to beat me in no time,” I commented, sitting next to her on the bench. Her usually fluffy blonde hair was pulled up into a ponytail that was kept in place with her teal visor that matched the dress she was wearing. “Your serve is getting really good.”

“Thanks, Steve,” she smiled, her hot pink lipstick still perfectly in place even after our 45-minute training. “I forgot how good you play. Seems like you’ve gotten better.” I smiled back at her and shrugged.

“I guess I’ve been working hard to get myself back up to par,” I bit my lip when I saw her push aside her swimsuit to shove her tennis shoes back in her duffel bag. I wondered if she was really trying to land a date with Billy. “If you bring Ted around some time, we’ll play doubles, okay?”

It was kind of a shitty thing to do, but she didn’t know that I knew about her flirting with Hargrove. She glanced up at me with an almost guilty look on her face and I immediately felt like putting myself in the trash can behind us. I couldn’t really blame her for wanting a taste of Billy. I had almost convinced myself that I wanted a taste too, and God only knows Billy would prefer Karen 100 times over me. For obvious reasons.

“Sure thing,” maybe I’d imagined the guilty look. She responded with a smile and an agreement like it had been the most normal thing in the world for me to suggest, which in all honesty, it kind of was. “I’ll see you around, okay?”

She stood up and walked off the courts, heading in the direction of the pool. My morning shift ended in an hour; I wondered if she’d still be at the pool by then. By the looks of the three other women that crowded around her on her walk to the water, I assumed she would be.

“Harrington,” Robin whistled and caught my attention. “Your next client is here.”

~

“Day one; over,” Robin marked it off the calendar in the office of the Clubhouse where we clocked in and out every day. “Only like sixty left to go.” She rolled her eyes and pulled herself up on the counter, examining a new scrape on her knee.

I glanced out the window to see Billy and Heather walking up the sidewalk to do what Robin and I had just done. No arms around each other, no holding hands. I was pretty sure everyone thought they were a thing; maybe people were wrong.

“Hey guys,” Heather said brightly when they walked in. “How was your first day?” Robin answered the question for me, saying something about how all old men seemed to think they were experts and little kids shouldn’t be allowed to run around while other people were training – then she made a comment about my shorts.

“And, I mean, I have to watch Harrington parade around in those tiny shorts all day. Who wants that?” I shoved her and she laughed. I shifted my stance and suddenly felt like pulling my shorts down some, but that would only draw attention to them. Sure, they’re a little short, but I have long legs.

“Yeah, who wants that?” Billy echoed, laughing along with her. He really didn’t have much room to talk; his red lifeguard shorts didn’t hide much, especially when they were still damp and clinging to his thighs like they were now. Before he could catch me looking, I glanced over to Heather who was watching Billy with a smile playing at her lips.

“Hey Robin, before I forget,” Heather started, “Is your sister named Bethany? It just occurred to me that I think I know her.” How could Heather possibly know Bethany? I didn’t even know Bethany; she had moved out of Hawkins and off to college before I got to high school.

“Yeah, that’s probably my sister,” Robin paused and thought about it for a second. “You’ve probably been to one of her parties. Do you know Travis Costello?”

Heather squealed loudly, making Robin rear back and almost hit her head on the cabinet above where she was propped up on the counter. I hid my smile.

“Yes! I knew it! I go to their parties all the time,” Heather nodded excitedly. “I was going to go last night but my parents would’ve killed me since they’re members here and all.”

I huffed indignantly. “How the hell is Heather cool enough to go to Bethany’s parties but I’m not?” Heather narrowed her eyes at me, and Billy laughed. “No offense.”

“Heather wasn’t a douchebag in high school, dingus,” Robin pinched my arm and I made a face. “As I said earlier, I don’t know you well enough yet to let you tag along.”

“What about me?” Billy asked, that dumb signature smirk playing on his lips. If his eyes hadn’t been hidden behind his aviators, I probably would’ve seen that mischievous sparkle. “Am I cool enough?”

Heather answered before Robin could. “Yeah, Billy, I think you’d love Bethany and Travis’s parties.” She exchanged a look with Robin, and I thought I detected a slight nod from her. What the hell was going on?

“Okay, well, this has been fun and all,” I looked down at my watch to see that it was past six. “But I’m not that into ‘Harrington-isn't-cool-enough’ talks, so I’m gonna head out.”

Robin rolled her eyes and hopped off the counter. “Stop being such a dingus, dingus.” She strolled past me out of the office and Billy stepped out of the way for her to walk past. “Bye guys.”

I hurried out after her, ignoring the way my shoulder brushed Billy’s. From how he stepped aside for Robin, I shouldn’t have brushed against him. I decided to ignore it and stepped up my pace to catch up to Robin.

“Hey,” I called after her, making her turn around. “I uh. Just wondered if maybe you want to go to Mario’s. The pizza place.” She bit her lip and made a little bit of a face. Well, maybe she didn’t like me. Jesus, I’m stupid. Stupid Harrington.

“You mean as friends, right?” She started, making my stomach turn. I regarded her for a second and made myself think clearly. Just as friends, I’d be okay with that. “Because I’d really like to talk to you some more about how you remember what song Billy was blaring in his car the first day he came into town.”

I rolled my eyes and walked ahead of her, ignoring her cackles behind me. “Step off, Robin. Let’s just get some damn pizza, okay? Friendly pizza,” I placed emphasis on the word friendly and she laughed some more.

~

“So tell me about Bethany’s parties,” I prompted as we slid into a corner booth at Mario’s. She rolled her eyes at me and gave me a look. “I’ll tell you anything you want to know about Billy.” I made a face, but I knew that was the only way I’d get anything out of her; I had to say something of import in return.

“Ha! Okay, fine,” The waitress came over to our table and took our drink orders before she could start. “What exactly do you want to know about the parties? They’re just parties.” I narrowed my eyes at her, and she shrugged.

“Why do you think I wouldn’t like them? I mean, since you hear girls talking about me all the time and apparently couldn’t keep your eyes off me in Click’s class, you must know everything there is to know. What about me wouldn’t fit in?” I prodded, propping my elbows up on the table.

She huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. “It’s not that you…oh my god. I can’t believe I’m about to tell you this shit.” She ran a hand through her short hair and smiled up at the waitress when she set down our cokes.

“What shit? Are there some like…hard drugs going down there or something?” I lowered my voice and Robin grinned, shaking her head. “Come on,” I whined.

“Steve,” the grin dropped from her face and she looked down at the menu like it was very interesting. “Travis is, um, gay? Like he likes other dudes. He’s my sister’s best friend, so they’re kind of like hippie-ish, I guess. It’s not a big deal, it’s completely normal, love is love ya know, but you kind of have a reputation for being a little bit of an asshole and –“ I cut her off before she could continue.

“Yo, Robin. You honestly…” I trailed off and shook my head. “I’m not like that. I mean, I used to hang around with people that were and sometimes I’d get carried away, but I ditched those guys. I know I have a; a bad rep and I definitely deserve it but trust me, I don’t care. Things like that don’t mean anything to me.”

The waitress looked like she was about to come over to see if we were ready to order but when she saw us deep in conversation she turned back around.

“Steve,” she said my name again and finally looked me in the eyes. I stared at her for a second. She looked small huddled up in the corner of the booth. I took a deep breath and nodded my head slowly. “Don’t hate me, okay?”

I almost laughed but knew that wasn’t exactly an appropriate reaction. “Jesus, Robin. Did you hear anything I just said? I don’t hate you. I won’t hate you. Friends tell each other shit, and we’re friends, right?” She sniffed and nodded.

“Now can I hear about Billy?” She said, the grin slowly making its way back to her face. I rolled my eyes and nodded reluctantly. “Maybe I underestimated Hawkins.”

“What do you mean?” I questioned, taking a sip from my drink.

“I think there are more gay things happening here than I thought,” I winced, and she fell back against the booth, laughing. “Okay, okay, sorry. Honestly, though. Billy stares at you, like a lot.”

I shook my head and took another sip from my coke; my throat was very dry for some reason. “He does not. It’s just this weird thing, man – like, he showed up when I was going through a rough time with Nancy, so Tommy just took him under his wing. That automatically made us some sort of rival. Nothing ever happened, it was just there, you know?”

“Until the New Years party,” Robin confirmed, leaning forward all interested. “When Tommy dared him to hit you and he did and then you stumbled off the porch into Tommy’s pool.”

“How the hell did you know that?” I sputtered. “Were you there?”

“No, I wasn’t there, dingus. But I’ve been following this story for a while. Go on,” she waved her hand for me to continue.

“Uh, there isn’t much else to tell. He punched me, I punched him back, yes, I fell in the pool and that stopped the fight. We haven’t even talked about it; pretty sure we were both drunk that night anyway,” I stopped my story when our waitress finally came back. Robin ordered a pepperoni pizza and looked at me eagerly. I kept going. “Um. We made the basketball team. Coach yelled at us a lot for pushing each other around during practice, but I’m sure you know the record we ended with last year. Me and Hargrove work well together when we have a mutual cause.”

She grinned and nodded. “Okay, what else?” I looked at her sideways.

“There is nothing else,” She scoffed. “I’m being serious, man. The first time I talked to Billy for real, besides like trash talk or locker room talk was literally Saturday.”

She raised her eyebrows. “And what was Saturday?”

“I, uh. Went over to his place,” I shook my head at the look she gave me. “Not like that. I ran into Max at the video store – you know, his sister – and she made me come over for movie night.”

“You are friends with a lot of children, Stevie,” She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. “Better be glad you have me now.”

“Yeah, yeah, okay,” I shifted in the booth, trying to get comfortable. “You happy now that you know about Billy?”

Robin laughed. “Steve, you know that’s not what I meant when I told you to tell me about Billy. I meant what do you think of him. Everyone and their mother know about the little rivalry you two have going on; it’s high school drama that people thrive on. Now that you two are graduated, of course, no one cares. But I’m talking about the personal stuff!” I thought of how Billy was wearing eyeliner at the party yesterday. How his lifeguard shorts should be a sin. How he looked with his hair tied back. How his necklace chain fell down the center of his chest. Shit.

“Oh shit,” I muttered to myself, slumping back in the booth, pressing a hand to my forehead.

“What?” Robin asked as she sipped her coke through a straw. “What’s the matter?”

“I think I have a fucking crush on fucking Billy Hargrove,” I looked up at her to see her grinning widely, nodding her head.

“Yeah, I think you do too.”

~

I got home from Mario’s later than I had expected. Robin had gotten real chatty after I exposed myself and my goddamn crush, and I had just let her gab on and on, quietly considering my life and what the hell I was going to do about my little problem.

No one was home; the lights were all off and I hadn’t seen the shape of my dad’s BMW in the garage when I pulled into the driveway. I wandered up to my bedroom and flopped down on my bed. I knew I needed to shower and whatever, but my mind was just begging me for some quiet thinking time.

My crush on Billy hadn’t been hard to admit. I think I had known about it for a while and just didn’t let myself think it or dwell on the attraction. After all, there were girls to look at too, and that was much easier. I wasn’t disgusted with myself or worried; I was just concerned. Hiding crushes once I discovered I had them wasn’t my strong point. And who knows what Billy thought about all this.

I pictured him flirting with Mrs. Wheeler; he probably held her back or something to show her how to float in the pool; like she didn’t already know.

“You’re so stupid,” I muttered to myself, shoving my face in my pillow. I kind of felt like screaming, but I didn’t.

Robin had voiced her full support of my crush and I appreciated it, it was nice knowing I had someone I could talk to about the stuff most people wouldn’t ever want to approach. I briefly thought of how Karen told me I could tell her anything and laughed out loud. She would probably never speak to me again or let Mike near me or Nancy either if I talked to her about this.

Finally, I pushed myself up from my bed and walked into the bathroom, ignoring my reflection in the mirror as I stripped down the step in the shower. Even if Billy was into guys or was willing to experiment or some shit (which is what Robin said I need to do), there was zero chance I’d be the one he’d chase after.

Sure, I was okay, but nothing like him. He literally made Hawkins look better just by being in it. He oozed confidence and probably had a goddamn reason for it; one besides his abs and sunshine curls and tan skin. I swallowed thickly at the thought and turned the temperature of the shower towards cold.

I scrubbed my hair and skin and face until I turned pruney and stepped out of the shower, wiping the condensation off the mirror. My hair was dripping onto my skin, making me colder. I shivered and looked at my reflection. It hit me again.

I had a crush on Billy. Of all the people in the world – or in Hawkins, I guess – it had to be Billy goddamn Hargrove.

Chapter Text

The first week of work at the country club went by astoundingly fast; and as I had suspected, there wasn’t much interaction with the other employees at all. Other employees meaning Billy, of course. Robin tried to get me to go hop in the pool whenever we got a break or switched out with the other tennis team members, but the one time I had gone with her, Billy wasn’t on duty and the four moms laid out by the pool checking their watches every two seconds were annoying the hell out of both me and Robin.

“And the first week is OVER!” Robin high fived me, putting another big red X on the calendar. Every day when we came into the office to clock out, she marked off the date. Someone had left a post-it note on the counter asking whoever was drawing on the calendar to “please stop.” Robin had tossed the note in the garbage and said it never happened.

“I’m going to sleep all day tomorrow,” I commented as we walked out of the office, walking around the other employees who were all coming in to clock out and talk about the first week on the job. “Maybe I’ll go play D&D at Mike’s. They don’t do that much anymore though.”

“Yeah, maybe you should not do that,” She snorted, walking backward in front of me on the sidewalk. “Maybe you should see if Max wants to have another movie marathon. Except for this time with her not there. And you and Billy don’t watch movies.” She grinned and wiggled her eyebrows; if she hadn’t been so far in front of me, I would’ve shoved her, but I just rolled my eyes instead and shoved my hands in the pockets of my gym shorts.

“Not gonna happen, Robin,” I remarked, trying not to think about what Billy was going to do or not do this weekend. He’d probably go to a party with Heather and have a great time; whereas I was going to sit alone in my parent’s empty house and watch Bonanza reruns. “I have barely seen him this week as it is.”

Robin frowned. “Which is why you need to find an excuse to hang out. I’m telling you, Steve, there are signs all around you. You just don’t seem ‘em because you’re a dingus.” She pulled on the handle of passenger’s door when we reached my BMW. I had found out she was getting rides from her mom in the morning and then walking home, so I decided to be her chauffer at night. She didn’t seem to mind.

I rolled my eyes again. They’d probably get stuck soon. “Yeah, okay. Billy is literally the last person in the world that would want to hook up with me,” she gave me a sideways look. I briefly remembered the conversation we had about boob types the other day and breathed out a laugh. “Besides you, of course.”

“I’m tellin’ you, Steve, he really isn’t,” She pulled her seatbelt on and crossed her arms over her chest. “I haven’t been hanging around too long but the few times I’ve seen you two within talking distance the sexual tension is just thriving.” She laughed when I squirmed uncomfortably in my seat. I hadn’t backed out of my parking spot yet.

“Shit,” I muttered when I put my hand on the back of the passenger’s headrest to turn and back up. “Billy’s fucking walking this way.” Robin grabbed my arm and pulled it off the back of the seat as she turned around.

“He’s walking to his own car, doofus. It’s parked right there,” she motioned to two cars over and I slumped down in my seat. “You should go say something to him.”

I turned to look at her incredulously. “Like what? I’m not exactly Casanova, Robin, I can’t just talk to him like that, especially because well he’s a dude and I’ve never liked another dude and there’s no way I can just sweet talk him like I try to do to girls and come on, he doesn’t want to talk to me –“

She clamped her hand over my mouth and regarded me with a wide-eyed death stare. “Go. Talk. To. Him.” She took her palm away and looked disgusted as she wiped it on her shorts. “GO!” She pointed out the window to where he was starting up his engine and some weird need to see him came over me. I slung open the door, barely remembering to take my seatbelt off, and marched around the car parked next to me, watching Billy’s window roll down as he prepared to take off who knows where.

“Billy,” I called out, already wanting to smack myself. I could swear I heard Robin giggling behind me in the BMW. “Hey, wait a second.” I jogged over to where he was, looking at me over the top of his sunglasses. He slid the frames up to rest in his hair and the trademark Hargrove smirk rested on his lips.

“What can I do for ya, Harrington?” He asked with mock sweetness, his right hand casually resting on his steering wheel. The left was hanging out the window. I pushed myself to walk closer.

“Just, uh. Figured I’d ask what you and Max are up to this weekend,” An amused look crossed his face like he was trying not to laugh. Jesus. “Had fun watching Star Wars last time.” God, I wanted to die. I sounded like a complete and utter loser.

“Sure, it was a fun time,” Billy grinned and sat up a little straighter in his seat. “I, uh, think Max is having a girl’s weekend with her mom seein’ as how Neil’s out of town on a business trip.” I waited for him to continue and tell me what he was up to. He didn’t.

“Oh, well, okay. I’ll – “ he cut me off before I could say anything else, lifting his gaze from looking out his windshield to looking at me. I couldn’t breathe for a quick second; his eyes always made me a little weak in the knees. Even before I had let myself admit attraction or think about him too much, I had always noticed his eyes.

“What about you, King Steve? Any royal plans?” His voice was quieter and the smirky, amused look was gone. For a minute I was thinking Robin was right; maybe he was…no. Billy was many things, but…no. I always got to thinking ‘what if’ whenever I had a crush and ninety percent of the time my ‘what if’s’ never happened, so I wasn’t going to let myself ‘what if’ this one.

“Uh, nah. Me and Robin might catch a movie Sunday, but we aren’t sure yet. That’s about it,” His eyes darted away and looked down at his seatbelt as he fiddled with a spot where it was twisted. “I don’t get around much anymore.”

He laughed and looked back at me. “So,” he started, clearing his throat. “Is Robin, like your girl or somethin’ man? Finally getting back in the dating game?”

I laughed loudly without really meaning to and then coughed to try and cover it up. Billy gave me a questioning look and I shook my head. “No, uh, Robin’s not my girl. We’re just friends.” I grimaced a little and leaned against his Camaro, propping my arm up on top of his car. I knew Robin was watching my every move from the BMW.

“Well,” Billy said slowly. I didn’t notice how his eyes settled on the spot where my shirt rode up when I stretched out against the Camaro’s frame, or how his eyes flicked to my lips whenever I said something. “I’m going to a party at Casey Trenton’s tomorrow night since Neil’s out and everything. You should come.”

Casey was a cheerleader for Hawkins High; I remembered the rumor that went around about how she and Billy had fucked after one of the games last year. Every time someone asked Billy about it in the locker room, he just laughed it off and never gave a straight answer.

“Maybe,” He smiled at me and glanced at the clock on his dash.

“I better go, Harrington, good ol’ Susan gets dinner on the table right at seven,” I stood up from where I had been leaning against his car and nodded. “Come to Casey’s, okay, Stevie?”

“Um, okay,” He grinned at me and waved as he backed up and roared out of the country club, barely braking at the stop sign posted at the edge of the drive. Something told me that he knew I’d definitely be showing up at the party tomorrow night just because he’d asked me to.

Robin had a goofy grin on her face when I got back in the BMW. “So? Got a date or what?” I gave her a look and started up the car, backing out of my spot before saying anything.

“He wants me to come to Casey Trenton’s party tomorrow night. Also, he asked if we’re dating,” She laughed immediately like I knew she would.

“Good, he’s interested. He wants to know if you’re AVAILABLE, Steve!” She pushed my shoulder and I made a face. “God, it’s like you physically can’t read the signs or something. Anyway, you going to go to Casey’s? She’s alright; one of the few cheerleaders that actually tell the band we sound good and shit at pep rallies.”

I remembered the way Billy had grinned at me when he drove off. The I’m-sexy-and-you-know-it grin, not the Harrington-is-amusing grin. “Yeah, I’m going.”

~

I felt incredibly stupid.

I was standing in the middle of my room, naked except for briefs, practically all my clothes were strewn out around me on the floor. Groaning, I put my head in my hands and wondered why I was like this. Whenever I went out with the kids or whatever I’d just throw on jeans and a random shirt and be done with it.

But something was nagging at me; telling me I must look good, that if I looked appealing maybe Billy would notice me. He did ask me to come to the party, after all.

I bent down to grab a t-shirt from the floor – it was plain white with cuffed sleeves. My best jeans, the slightly worn-in ones that did wonders for what little ass I had, were crumpled on my bed from where I’d thrown them earlier.

“That’ll have to do, Steve,” I muttered to myself, piling deodorant on my underarms before pulling the tee over my head. I tugged on my jeans and tucked the shirt in before stepping over my piles of clothes to judge my reflection in the mirror. I shrugged. Not bad. A couple more puffs of hairspray on my mane that wasn’t wanting to cooperate and everything would be fine.

Robin had phoned me earlier today, saying that her mom had been called into work at the last minute, therefore canceling their plans to watch Little House on the Prairie (her mom loved Michael Landon). She asked me if I thought Billy would be annoyed at her tagging along to Casey’s party. I had answered that I had no clue, but if he did, oh well.

I knew I was getting myself into a bit of a conundrum liking a guy who had the reputation of ‘bad boy.’ There had been little to no interaction on a personal level for me and Billy; and yet I felt like I knew him. Then I thought of the weird relationship with Heather and how I was so unsure of every action he would take and thought maybe not. But sometimes, like with him and Max and Lucas watching Star Wars, I felt comfortable.

The doorbell sounded downstairs, dragging me away from the mirror in my bedroom. I clambered down the stairs and caught the door just as the bell started dinging multiple times.

“Hey,” I pushed Robin’s hand away from the doorbell where she kept pressing it. “Come on in.” I stepped out of the way so that she could enter. I could tell by her facial expression that she was trying not to say anything.

“Nice house you got here, Harrington. All to yourself, too,” she smoothed her hand over the small table in the hallway where mail piled up and keys got thrown whenever someone came home. “This is really an ideal situation.”

Confused, I shut the door and followed her into the living room. “What’s an ideal situation?” She plopped down onto the couch and sighed as she sunk into the cool fabric.

“Don’t you get it, dingus? You’re home alone almost all the time.”

I made a face. “Gee, thanks for reminding me.”

She rolled her eyes and continued, “I mean, when you seduce Hargrove,” I raised my eyebrows and let out a self-deprecating laugh, stopping her midsentence.

“I’m not about to seduce anyone, Robin,” I walked over to the couch and sat down, leaning over to put on my white sneakers. “Just because I finally admitted I have a crush on Billy doesn’t mean I’m going to do anything about it.”

She scoffed. “Dude, you literally tripped over yourself to talk to him last night and caved the second he asked you about this party. You’re obviously attempting to do something. I don’t know what, exactly, but something.” She examined her chipped black fingernail polish before setting her hands in her lap.

I slumped back against the couch and sighed. “I’m just trying to be his friend, Robin. We’re both out of high school now, there’s no use pretending like we’re still there with all that rivalry bullshit.” She grinned and shoved my shoulder.

“Look at you, trying to be all cutesy with this friend shit,” I stuck my tongue out at her. “He’s not gonna go for that and you know it. He doesn’t strike me as the type of guy that has friends…more like people he hangs out with occasionally, you know?”

I nodded somberly. “Yeah, I know.”

“So,” she stood up upon hearing the grandfather clock chime eight times, signaling the hour. “You hang out with him. Infiltrate his space. Make him notice you. Hargrove’s not nearly as straight as everyone in Hawkins thinks he is.”

“Oh yeah?” I questioned, following her to the front door. I slid my sunglasses down over my eyes as we stepped outside and walked to my car. “How do you know?”

Robin sighed and looked at me. “You’re hopeless, Harrington. Really hopeless.”

~

When we got to Casey’s place on the edge of town close to thirty minutes later, there were cars lined up on the curb and a few pulled into her yard. Some kids were outside sitting on the hoods of the vehicles; beers in one hand, cigarettes in the other.

Robin laughed in delight when we pulled up. “I’m going to make a deal with you, Steve,” I didn’t like the sound of that, but I turned off the ignition and looked over at her so she would continue. “If I can find a girl in there for myself tonight, you have to get off your high horse and kiss Hargrove.”

I busted out laughing immediately. “Robin, you’re hilarious.” I snorted and had to make myself stop when I noticed the serious expression on her face. “What?”

“I’m dead serious, dingus,” she raised her eyebrows. “I will buy you dinner at Mario’s for a week if he doesn’t kiss you back. Or if he punches you or something, which is a total possibility but honestly not likely.”

I breathed out a laugh and rubbed my temples. “Uh, Robin, him punching me is actually probably what’s going to happen if I so much as try to kiss him. I have no doubt that you’ll find a girl in there or whatever but dude, that’s just not happening.”

“You telling me you don’t want to kiss him?” She questioned, narrowing her eyes.

“No, that’s not what-“

“Then are you scared?” I made a face. “Oh my god, you’re scared.”

“Of fucking course I’m scared! I know how that guy punches, Robin, and I don’t fancy having another black eye or busted lip for the next two weeks.” I glanced out the car window as the music from inside the house apparently got turned up; I could hear it almost clearly from my seat in the BMW. “Liking guys or whatever is very taboo here, Robin, as you know, and this could very well end up badly for me.”

Robin sighed and slouched down in her seat. “I know. I just don’t want you always wondering about what if, you know? I think that about Tammy Thompson almost every day. I think about what if I’d tried to be friends instead of hoping she’d look at me or what if I’d just sat next to her in the cafeteria sometime or – or I don’t even know, just something. The way you look at Billy, man, I can see it from a mile away.”

I looked at her, bewildered. “What?” I stuttered out, wondering just exactly what she meant by ‘the way’ I look at Billy.

“To someone like me, who spent half her life trying to read people’s facial expressions, it’s not hard to read you, Steve. You wear your heart on your sleeve.”

“Yeah, so I’ve been told. But that’s not what I meant,” I paused, running a hand through my hair. She interrupted me before I could say anything else.

“You look at him like you want him, Steve,” Robin half-smiled. “And I don’t mean sexually,” She butted in before I could make a comment. “Although sometimes that too.” She laughed when I rolled my eyes.

“Alright, alright,” I huffed and finally turned to get out of the car. “Tammy Thompson, though? Really?” I said as we started walking up to the house together. She shoved my shoulder and I laughed, pushing her back.

“Make a move tonight, Harrington,” Robin gave me a pointed look as we entered the party.

I just shrugged and stuck my hands in my pockets. I needed a drink.

~

Starting my third red solo cup of Casey’s homemade ‘mystery drink,’ I maneuvered through a crowd of dancers and managed to find an empty spot on the couch. There was someone I didn’t recognize laying backwards on the other end, giggling to herself uncontrollably. She seemed to be enjoying the party.

I tried to not think about how I hadn’t seen Billy yet. He was probably one of those guys who always came fashionably late to parties; you know, saying ‘the party don’t start till I walk in.’ In my case, it probably wouldn’t, but somehow, I doubted that it would even when he did show up – the amount of girls here sporting short leather skirts was astounding. I was ninety percent sure the minute he walked in he’d be all over them. Not all over me.

“Harrington,” I heard Robin call my name and I looked up to see her pushing through a throng of dancers, clutching a can of beer in her hand. “What the hell are you doing?”

She eyed me, a disgusted look on her face. “Is this what you always do at parties?” She motioned to how I was sitting alone nursing my cup of who knows what and I grimaced.

“Not usually,” I said meekly, tipping my cup back and finishing it in one go. I set it aside on the table and stood up, eyes widening when I wobbled slightly. “I feel pretty good though!”

Robin rolled her eyes and grabbed my elbow. “You’re coming with me, buddy. We’re playing truth or dare downstairs and SHOTS are involved!” I grinned and yelled the word ‘shots’ with a fist pump, nearly decking some dancer in the face. I yelled an apology to him, giggling as Robin pulled me through the living room and kitchen to a set of stairs that presumably went down into the basement.

“Robin,” I whispered rather loudly into her ear, making her cringe and turn away. “Billy’s down here, Robin!” She pushed my face away harshly and bit her lip to keep from laughing.

“I know that, dingus. You’ve been so sulky on the couch that you didn’t even see him come in,” She hissed, pushing me when I almost tripped over a stair on the way down. “Thank me later.”

“Are y’all joining in?” I recognized Casey’s megawatt cheerleader smile and greeted her a little too enthusiastically.

“Hell yeah, Casey! Woo!” A few of the others sitting in the circle on the floor laughed and were obviously just as tipsy as I was. I felt my cheeks heat up when I noticed Billy staring at me. He had that knowing look on his face and I immediately looked away, hoping the red flush on my face just seemed like it was from me being a little drunk.

“C’mon, Steve,” Robin tugged me to sit directly across from Billy and she plopped down next to me. “How’re we doing this?” She prompted, eyeing the shot glass and bottle of Vodka that sat in the middle of the circle.

“Okay,” Casey started, the smile still in place. “Regular rules of truth or dare, except you can opt-out of your turn if you take a shot. To keep the game interesting, you can only do two truths in a row! No one is pulling that truth bullshit tonight, kids. Also, we have two buckets – one truth, one dare,” She held them up. “We’re picking from these buckets to keep the game moving unless someone thinks of a very special addition.”

I surveyed the group as she was talking. I knew Casey, Robin, Billy. There were about twelve people in the group, and I noticed Heather sitting next to some guy I didn’t know. Huh. I recognized Tracey from one of Nancy’s study groups and Matthew and Charles, twin brothers that played on the basketball team. The few others I couldn’t place seemed like they didn’t go to Hawkins High, but then again, I didn’t notice many people in high school.

“Let’s get started! Any volunteers for first?” Casey glanced around the group, a now mischievous smile taking over her cheerleader grin. One of the girls I didn’t know jumped right in with a ‘sure.’ “Truth or dare, Kelsey!”

The girl played out her turn, answering a truth about her most embarrassing period. The question made all the guys groan, but the story ended up being kind of funny. I mostly tuned it out, trying not to squirm at how Billy would glance over at me every few seconds. Why did he do that?

The next couple of turns passed quickly; one guy licked the bottom of his girlfriend’s shoe, and then Charles, who was sitting next to Billy, had to confess who he’d had a crush on the most in high school. I almost thought the question was rigged seeing how his answer was Casey, but the bright blush that bloomed on both their faces made me think it was just coincidence.

The token “oohs” went around the group, making everybody laugh, but the circle settled down when Casey approached Billy with, “Hargrove! Truth or dare?”

He grinned widely and acted like he was thinking about it. “I know all of you think I’m just a daredevil,” a couple of the girls looked all swoony. I bet they were hoping he’d get dared to kiss them or something. Billy clutched at his heart and continued, “but I’m a real softie. Give me truth, Casey!”

She laughed and twirled her hand around in the bucket, wiggling her eyebrows as she pretended to search deep for the perfect truth. Billy was sitting crossed legged in the floor, and I couldn’t help but notice that he actually seemed to be enjoying himself. Truth or Dare, the ultimate party game that usually only involved dares concerning kissing and truths about crushes, amused him. Who would’ve thought?

“Oh, my,” Casey covered her mouth, laughing silently. “Okay Billy, your truth is: who in this group would you most want to give a,” she giggled again and set the truth aside so it couldn’t be picked again, “a blowjob to?”

Laughs erupted around the group and Billy’s cheeks pinked slightly, but he threw his head back in laughter along with everyone else and bit his lip as he started to look around the room at his options. Robin elbowed me roughly in the ribs when he smirked and laid eyes on me. My eyes widened and his smirk shifted into a grin when he turned away from me.

“Well,” he sighed, playing into the question. “There’s a lot to consider, here. First, who do I think is going to enjoy it the most? It’s no fun to give a BJ if the recipient isn’t having a good time.” I briefly wondered if he’d had experience with that before. The chuckles and surprised looks circling the group made me think most everyone else was thinking the same thing. “Second, I mean, it’s gotta be a good dick. I’ve seen a few of these guy’s dicks in the showers, and it’s only fair to keep that in mind.”

Robin was not doing a good job at holding in her laughter. She was almost doubled over beside me. “I can’t believe he’s doing this right now.” She whispered, looking at how the girls were blushing madly, and the guys were laughing at him bringing up the locker room. I had seen Billy’s dick before, I guess, in the showers. But I had never really taken it into account – now I was trying to recall and only succeeding in making myself blush harder.

“Third,” Billy’s eyes sparkled when he caught me looking at him. “Can’t give a guy a blowjob if I don’t think he’s just the tiniest bit attractive.”

I could feel Robin roll her eyes. “We get it, Billy, you’ve got a lot of thoughts about blowjobs,” everyone laughed but I was surprised that no one was having a coronary about a guy giving another guy head. Maybe it wasn’t as taboo among friends as I thought it was. “Just tell us who your pick is, or take the shot, man.”

Billy licked his lips and smiled. Everyone right now had blowjobs or oral sex on the brain, and him licking his lips with that sinful tongue of his wasn’t helping me any. I squirmed when he opened his mouth to answer. “Come on guys, you know the reputation. If I’m sucking any cock, it’s gotta be King Steve’s.”

I felt myself turn red as a tomato and everyone erupted in claps and laughter as the big reveal went down. “Got anything to say to that, King Steve?” Matthew yelled, obviously drunk out of his mind. I had sobered up quite a bit since we had started playing, but there was a fluttery feeling in my stomach of want and it grew the more I looked at Billy.

“I mean, I’m never one to turn down a blowjob,” I said casually, cocking my head to the side. I grinned, feeling confident when everyone whooped and continued the general tomfoolery of the game. Robin elbowed me roughly in the side again, and I gave her a sharp look. She wiggled her eyebrows at me and I could feel Billy’s gaze on us. I just kept on smiling and caught his eye for a minute. Usually, Billy winked at me, but this time, I was the one that winked at him.

~

“Amazing what a little booze can do, isn’t it?’ Robin cooed after the game of truth or dare dispersed. She had successfully kissed Kelsey during the game but had taken a shot to avoid a dare concerning something about seven minutes in Heaven with Matthew or Charles. “Billy basically asked if he could suck your dick, dude!”

I rolled my eyes at her and accepted the can of beer she thrust my way. I hadn’t taken any shots; I got lucky with lame dares like talk with a British accent until your next turn and truths like have you ever smoked marijuana. Popping open the tab, I lifted the beer to my mouth and chugged it, eyes closed. I felt good; I wanted to party. I wasn’t moping around anymore wondering where Billy was; I had seen him and gotten an inkling of hope that he might be interested. More than I thought would happen tonight.

“Impressive,” Billy commented when I finished, chucking my can into the trash bin by the kitchen island. His arms were crossed over his chest as he leaned against the doorway. I let my eyes sweep down his body to fully take in his appearance for the first time that night. He was in those leather boots as usual, but the jeans were ones I hadn’t seen before. Extremely tight, and black. He was wearing a Motley Crue t-shirt that had obviously been cut off; it hung off his trim figure and stopped right as his belly button. His always perfectly placed curls were a little off-kilter tonight, messier like he hadn’t bothered to hairspray them or style them any certain way. One side was tucked behind his ear, showing off his spike earring. I’d always found that incredibly attractive for some reason; most guys I knew didn’t have a pierced ear. It was a good look on Billy, though.

“Thanks,” I replied awkwardly, the brief bout of confidence I had experienced downstairs completely gone when in close proximity, almost alone. Robin was staring out the kitchen window, and people were constantly coming in and out to get drinks or grab a snack. “You, uh. Look good tonight.”

Billy smiled. A soft one. One that made me want to really, really kiss him.

“Thanks, Harrington. Same to you,” He paused, his eyes sweeping up and down my form. “Not nearly as dorky as those polos you usually wear.”

He laughed when I made a face. “Don’t knock the polo till you try it, Hargrove,” I teased.

“You gonna let me borrow one of yours to try it out, Stevie?” He questioned, straightening his stance, dropping his arms from where they were crossed over his chest. I tried to picture Billy in one of my polos and it made me grin.

“If you want,” I answered, watching him as he grabbed a cup of the mystery drink and downed it.

“Ugh,” He set the solo cup back on the counter, and I couldn’t resist thinking about how the way his nose wrinkled was incredibly cute. “That shit is disgusting.”

I agreed with him, and then our conversation came to a halt. I wanted to say something and keep talking; I wanted to keep him near me. I came to this party for him, the least he could do was keep me company.

“Wanna dance?” I asked, immediately wishing I could put the words back in my mouth. Guys didn’t dance with guys; things didn’t work that way. But he looked up from where he had been trying to discern what exactly was in the punch and smiled, biting his lip.

“You don’t mind?” He asked, glancing to the living room where bodies were pushed together, randomly jumping or swinging to the songs streaming from Casey’s tape deck. There were so many people grinding and mingling on the makeshift dance floor that no one would care or notice if Billy and I danced out there.

“People usually dance at parties, right?” I raised my eyebrows. He breathed out a laugh and grabbed my hand. I hoped it wasn’t too sweaty as he led me out of the kitchen and into the middle of the crowd bopping to what I thought was Hold the Line by Toto.

I felt kind of silly now that I was attempting to dance; it was like I suddenly remembered that the only dancing I knew how to do was ballroom dancing. The mambo wasn’t exactly what people did when they danced to Toto.

“Relax, Harrington,” Billy laughed when he noticed how stiff I had gotten. He had dropped my hand once he got us out onto the floor, but now he set his hands on my waist and leaned in, tilting his head up as he whispered in my ear, “just do what feels right.”

My mouth went dry and I looked down at him as he pulled away from me, hands leaving my waist. I wanted them back, so I made myself reach out and touch. I grabbed his wrists and settled his hands back where they had been seconds ago. He half-smiled and tightened his grip a little, making me inhale sharply.

My shoulders were still stiff, my movements a little shaky, but the song played out and another one came on and the feeling of swaying with Billy made my head swim. It was only us on the dance floor; at least it felt like it was only us. We managed to make it through the next song, and I was finally ready to move my hands from where they’d been gripping his at my hips to maybe pull him closer or something, anything when a loud crash sounded from outside.

“Shit!” Someone yelled, opening the sliding glass door that led to the porch. “The neighbors called the cops; everyone needs to clear out!”

There weren’t too many houses around Casey’s since she lived so far out; someone must’ve wandered around drunk or stoned and gotten the attention of the old folks that lived a couple of acres down.

“Well,” Billy backed away, the warmth of his hands leaving my hips immediately noticeable. “Better go find Robin, Stevie. It’s been fun. Thanks for the dance.” He turned before I could say anything and I felt a little like Prince Charming, about to run after Cinderella because the clock struck midnight. Except there was no shoe and I couldn’t run after him; I needed to get Robin before the cops showed up.

I pushed my way back through to the kitchen where she had been last, but she wasn’t there. Casey was hurriedly shoving evidence away and having someone help her clean up what little she could, though.

“Where’s Robin?” I asked, helping Charles load random beer cans into the trash bag he was holding.

“She went upstairs like ten minutes ago. Had some girl in tow,” Charles grinned, and I snorted. Of course she did.

“She’ll be okay here, Steve,” Casey commented, pushing a lock of her blonde hair away from her face. “Kelsey’s sleeping over, so Robin can crash too.” Ah, Kelsey. The one she’d been dared to kiss a while ago. I smiled and thought about the deal she’d tried to make with me earlier. I hadn’t quite kissed Billy, but I got pretty damn close. Close enough for me to think that he’d kiss me back if I tried.

“Thanks, Casey,” She smiled at me and I returned it. I immediately felt regret about not bothering to know my classmates and fellow students better. Casey had been in high school with me for four years, cheering me on at every basketball game and track meet and whatever, and here I was, barely knowing her.

“You better go, Stevie,” she looked outside the kitchen window. “Cops’ll probably be here soon.”

I nodded and tossed one last can into Charles’s trash bag before jogging out of the house and making it to my car. I heard sirens faintly wailing in the distance and I turned the key in my ignition quickly, zooming out of the secluded neighborhood in seconds.

Tonight had been…unexpected. I thought of Billy immediately. How he’d looked down there in the basement, tipsy and confident. How he’d accepted the fact that I wanted his hands on my hips – how he’d accepted a dance with me at all.

I bit my lip and grinned, zooming down the highway with the windows rolled down. Robin, it seemed, was right. Billy was interested. And I couldn’t have been happier about it.

Chapter Text

“Hey!” Billy barked from his lifeguard stand as a couple of tweens ran around the edge of the pool. He blew his whistle to get their attention. “No running!” The girls stared at him for a second before walking to wherever it was they were in such a hurry to get to.

“Good at his job, isn’t he?” Robin poked me in the arm, grinning, as we walked through the gates of the pool area to find a couple of free chairs to set our towels down on.

We had managed to get a couple of free hours the next Tuesday afternoon, and Robin had immediately encouraged a trip over to the large Hawkins Country Club pool. Eagerly I had agreed; not only wanting to jump in the water and cool off but hoping I’d catch sight of Billy, whom I hadn’t seen since Saturday night’s festivities.

“Better put some sunscreen on that fair skin of yours, Harrington,” I hadn’t noticed that Billy had climbed down off his perch. He was standing shirtless in those little red lifeguard shorts, whistle dangling off his neck, sunglasses drawn over his eyes. “If you need help, just holler.” He jerked his thumb towards the lifeguard stand, smiling.

“Okay,” I said like a dumbass. “Thanks.” He just kept on smiling as he backed away and climbed back up, surveying the pool and guests coming in and out of the area.

Robin plopped down onto the white chair, slathering her arms and legs in sunscreen, and tossed me the bottle when she was done. “Go get your boyfriend to help you out.” I pushed her shoulder and she wiggled her eyebrows.

I glanced at Billy, who was sitting with his legs spread wide in the stand, chewing a piece of gum. Biting my lip, I set the bottle of sunscreen on my chair and yanked the Hawkins Phys Ed t-shirt I had on over my head before starting to apply the SPF to whatever parts of my body I could cover myself.

I had just finished smoothing it into my arms and chest when I felt eyes on me. I knew whose they were without a second thought, and sure enough, Billy was eyeing me from his perch, sunglasses pushed up to reveal the glint in his blue eyes. I didn’t call out his name, I just walked towards the stand and held up the sunscreen like an invitation.

He climbed down without a word and grinned, showing the piece of gum. From up close it smelled harshly of peppermint. I briefly wondered if his mouth would taste like it just a little bit or a lot.

“Where d’ya want it, Stevie?” Billy finally broke the silence between us as he took the sunscreen from me, shaking it before squeezing a generous amount into his palm. The overly coconut scent penetrated the air around us, and I wrinkled my nose.

“Uh, my back. Shoulders, neck, ya know,” I waved my hand in the air flippantly. “Anywhere I can’t reach myself.” He nodded and motioned for me to turn around, so I did. Anyone observing us would just see a lifeguard helping a patron with sun protection. But the feeling of Billy’s palms smoothing over my skin was unexpected and a little overwhelming.

There was no way this was how he applied sunscreen to everyone that asked for help; if he did, he’d no longer be a lifeguard and just be the token SPF guy. He didn’t press the sunscreen into my skin like I did to myself, he massaged it in, ghosting his fingertips over any spot he covered with the sun cream as he reached every part of my back. When he pressed on the small dimple close to the band of my shorts, I had to choke down whatever sound threatened to leave my throat.

His hands weren’t soft; the tops of his fingertips were calloused when he dragged them over my skin. I could feel how big his hands actually were when he pressed his palms into my shoulders, and I was having a rough time not getting turned on. I couldn’t believe this, of all things, was turning me on, but I guessed when I came to Billy most things did make me a little too excited.

“You’ve got so many little freckles,” Billy commented as he handed me the bottle like nothing special at all had happened. “They’re cute.”

“Thanks,” I managed, the feeling of his hands still lingering. If only Billy could always be the one to apply my sunscreen.

“You’re welcome,” He responded, winking before sliding his sunglasses back down over his eyes. He climbed back up into the lifeguard stand and I stared up at him for a second before trotting back over to my and Robin’s chairs.

“Did you have fun?” She asked from where she was laying down, soaking up the sunlight.

I groaned and tossed the sunscreen onto my chair. “Sure did. Let’s go swim now before I pop a boner, okay?”

“Ew,” she sat up, grimacing. “Didn’t need to know that, Jesus. What did he do with the fuckin’ sunscreen that makes you think you’re going to pop a boner?” She considered her question and then held up her palm. “Wait, no. I don’t want to know.”

I laughed at her and grabbed her hand, helping her stand up. “Nothing special. Let’s just say that Billy probably has magic hands.”

She let out a “eugh” sound and pushed me, making me laugh again. “I said I didn’t want to know! Go jump in the pool before I push you in, dingus.”

I raised my palms in a mock “I surrender” gesture and walked over to the diving platforms along the edge of the deep end. Most of the kids and adults were relaxing in the shallow end; a group was playing volleyball and a collection of moms were sipping from their cocktails. A few people that were actually interested in swimming were doing laps in the far end of the pool.

Robin launched herself off the platform next to me into the water and didn’t come up for air until she was a decent way down the pool. “What are you waiting for, Steve?” She questioned before turning over to swim around.

I had seen Karen Wheeler doing laps in one of the sectioned off areas. Naturally, my vision drifted over to Billy whose eyes were trained on her, and my gaze narrowed. Despite the shift in mine and Billy’s relationship, I guessed that I didn’t know much about him at all. His reputation was to fuck and flirt, and fuck and flirt some more.

There were butterflies in my stomach at the thought of Billy being interested, but I could feel jealousy rising in me when I remembered that one person can be interested in two people at the same time. I’d experienced it before, even, and it made me that much more annoyed because I knew how it felt.

Well, two can play at that game, I thought to myself as I finally stepped onto the diving platform. I took my eyes off him and stared into the blue water for a second before launching myself smoothly under, popping back up to swim all the way to the edge without stopping.

“Hi Steve,” Karen smiled at me warmly when I popped up from my lap. She had hoisted herself up on the edge of the pool and was kicking her feet gently in the water. I looked up at her, in her fuchsia and teal bathing suit, and felt a wave of envy crash over me. I laughed at myself in my head; I never thought I would see the day when I was jealous of Nancy Wheeler’s mom.

“Afternoon Mrs. Wheeler,” I said before launching myself backward, pushing away from the wall to backstroke around to the opposite end. I tried to let the rhythm of swimming move me away from my thoughts, but it wasn’t really working. Goddamn it.

“Yo, Steve,” Robin swam over to me when I paused at the wall, pushing my hair back from where it had fallen into my face. “You training for a swim meet or something?”

I huffed and moved over to the side, away from another swimmer doing laps. Robin followed.

“No, why?”

She raised her eyebrows and floated onto her back, a little smile on her lips. “No reason. You’re just swimming like the devil’s chasing you or something. Thought we were supposed to be relaxing.”

“Maybe that helps me relax,” I snapped, immediately regretting it. She righted herself from her position on her back and stared at me. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to snap at you.”

She shook her head and replied, “What’s up your ass all the sudden? Thought Billy just gave you the sunscreen massage of your life.” I breathed out a laugh and forced a smile.

“Well, yeah,” She rolled her eyes. “But he was…” I trailed off, suddenly feeling very stupid. I couldn’t believe I was jealous of Karen Wheeler, mom extraordinaire. I eyed her giggling with some other young mom and glanced up at Billy who was doing his job; observing the pool.

“He was what?” Robin prodded after a second of silence.

“It’s nothing,” I responded a little too quickly. She gave me a deadpan look and I sighed. “Fine. He definitely has a thing for Mrs. Wheeler.”

Robin laughed. She actually downright belly laughed, and I stared at her while she just erupted into a fit of giggles, arms flailing wildly as she pushed herself upwards to stay afloat in the deep end. A couple of people in the pool looked at us weirdly and I just smiled, waiting for her to be done. She wiped a tear from the corner of her eye, and I looked at her, annoyed.

“You finished laughing at me now?” I questioned, swimming over to the ladder to climb out of the pool.

“Oh, come on Steve,” She called after me. I heard the water slosh as she swam towards the ladder and got out of the water. “I’m sorry, honestly!”

I plopped down on the beach chair after moving my towel and slid my sunglasses down over my eyes. “It’s fine Robin, I get it. I’m just hilarious, that’s all.”

“Steve,” Robin slapped my arm gently and I rubbed it like she’d injured me. “Stop being stupid. He’s just trying to get a rise out of you.”

I slid my sunglasses down to the edge of my nose to make eye contact with her. She was still smiling, squinting in the sunlight. “How do you know?”

She stopped smiling and rolled her eyes heavily, “Harrington! You gotta stop asking me that, dingus. Go find out for yourself. Tell him you need a good dicking and get your little crush over with, man.”

I winced at her words and bit back a smile at her outburst. She was right. As usual. But my insecurities were many, and the Wheelers happened to be where most of them laid. First Nancy, the first girl I’d fallen in love with, practically cheating on me and breaking my heart, making me think I was doing something right for once, only to have it all thrown back in my face. Then Mike, the still wary child I’d been forced to take under my wing after falling into step with his party, and now Karen, the hot mom who’d stepped up her game this summer in an effort to get the sexiest catch in town to look her way.

“Robin,” I started, looking down at my hands. “I don’t think I could be someone he just fucks around with. I don’t think I can start something – anything – with him if he has something else with somebody else.”

She furrowed her eyebrows and regarded me carefully. “Are you saying you actually like him?”

I paused before answering. “I don’t know. Honest. But something about not being the only one,” I made a face at my own romantics, “doesn’t feel right.”

Robin smiled softly and shoved my shoulder gently. “Maybe the girls at school are right about you, Harrington. You’re a real softie. Can’t even pull off a one-night stand.”

I shook my head, smiling. “And is that a bad thing?”

She grinned over at me, “No, Steve. It’s not,” the smile faded from her face for a second. “But I told you something before the party, remember? I told you life is too short for what-ifs. Sometimes you gotta take a risk, man. I know you’re scared you're going to get hurt, but maybe this crush will fade as soon as you kiss him or whatever.”

I looked over at her and nodded. “You’re right. I know you’re right. It’s just…it’s been a while, and I am scared like you said. But at the very least I’ll have attempted a summer fling, right? And found out something about my sexuality in the process.” I grinned and she laughed.

“Right. The summer of discovery,” She laid back on her chair and grabbed her own pair of sunglasses to shield her eyes from the burning sun overhead. “Go get your man, Harrington. Before Karen Wheeler does.”

~

“Hey, Steve,” Reese called out to me Thursday during our first break, looking at the booking clipboard. “You’ve got your first night match request.” He grinned down at the page before looking up at me. “Your lifeguard pal, Billy Hargrove.”

I tried not to look surprised. He had promised me at the beginning of the summer he would book a match with me, after all. And he finally had. “Oh, cool. You’ll be there for training, right?” I asked nonchalantly, messing with the strings on a Head racquet that had been restrung earlier today.

He glanced down at the clipboard again and shook his head. “Nope. Says here just a match; requested assistant Steve Harrington.” He showed me the piece of paper and I nodded an okay. “So, you’ll be here by your lonesome. Whatever balls you use, toss in the bin, and like we talked about during training, don’t lock up – the custodians do all that at night.”

He clapped me on the shoulder and walked off to greet a couple that had come to get doubles training. Harry and Rachel were also out on the courts, so I took a second to run to where Robin was restocking water bottles and towels in the lounge area.

“Robin,” I hissed, getting her attention. A few members were sitting down, cooling off, so I walked behind the counter where she was.

“What, dingus? Shouldn’t you be playing a match or something right now?” I put my hands on my hips and shrugged.

“Billy requested a private match with me tonight.”

She looked up from where she was stacking unopened tennis ball containers, eyes wide with excitement. “Steve!” She hit my arm and grinned. “This is totally your chance. You’ve got to make your move. Tonight!”

I laughed at her excitement but rolled my eyes. “I don’t know about all that. But I will at least get some alone time with him.”

She hit me again, this time a little harder. I wrinkled my nose at her, and she stuck her tongue out. “Alone time, Harrington! Don’t squander it!”

I raised my hands in surrender and backed away from the counter, knowing my break was definitely up by now. “Okay, okay. Jesus.”

Walking back out onto the court, I glanced at my watch to see that it was only 11 in the morning. And night requests didn’t start until 6. The whole day lay ahead of me, and I could already feel that it would be torture waiting until tonight.

~

“Alright, Harrington,” Harry zipped his personal racquet into the custom Wilson leather cover and slipped it inside his duffel bag. “This is where we leave you. Have fun with your match; remember the courts close at 9!”

Ethan, the other ball kid, had already left, but Robin had taken her sweet time folding clean towels and smelling the other random towels to determine the dirty from the clean. I knew she wanted to stay until Billy got there and it made me more nervous than I already was.

“Have fun,” Reese smiled and slapped me on the shoulder before walking out after Harry, leaving the green gate to the single hard court reserved for night sessions open.

“Thanks,” I called back meekly, turning back around to see Robin grinning widely from where she was folding up her last towel. “What?”

She laughed and shook her head. “Nothing, I guess. This is just exciting, that’s all. Nothing good ever happens here in Hawkins, man. This is some good shit,” I made a face and walked over to the counter, hauling myself up to sit on the edge. She closed the cabinet behind the countertop and climbed up to sit next to me.

“Robin, nothing’s going to happen. It’s just mindless flirting here and there,” I flushed, knocking my shoulder against hers. “Not like we’re going to fall in love or some shit.”

She grimaced and put her arms over her chest, looking out onto the empty walkway to see if anyone was coming this way yet. “Didn’t say you have to fall in love, dingus. Sucking his dick would be a good start.”

I coughed loudly and she looked over at me, grinning wickedly. I knew my face was as red as a tomato and it made her grin wider. “Jesus. Warn a guy, would you?”

“Oh, come on,” She rolled her eyes at me, dragging out the word ‘on.’ “You’re telling me that you’ve had a crush on Hargrove for who knows how long and not once thought about sucking dick?”

Of course, I had thought about it. Nancy hadn’t liked doing it when we were together, hadn’t necessarily liked me going down on her either, even though I loved it – all of it. Sex had kind of been a chore with her; as much as I loved her, we just didn’t work together well in bed. She loved making out; I did too, so that came easy enough. But after that first time of me being slow with her while she gave her virginity to me, I thought it would click. After almost a year of both of us being horny and wanting to get off with our partner, it was never electric. Never left either of us completely sated or satisfied.

That toyed with my self-esteem a little bit, but since it was the same way for her with me, I figured it was just a thing. Other girls I had hooked up with never seemed to have any problem with the way I did things; on the contrary, they seemed to like it.

My mind drifted off to think about Robin’s question: dick. I have one; obviously, I know how it works and what I like. I wondered what Billy might like and thought back to him looking at me and saying if he had to give someone a blowjob, it would be me. I swallowed at the thought and tried not to picture how he’d look on his knees, waiting for me to let him suck my dick. Tried not to picture what he would look like towering over me while I kneeled for him. Definitely didn’t wonder what the weight of him might feel like on my tongue; in my mouth.

“Earth to Harrington,” Robin pinched my shoulder and I jumped, almost falling off the counter. “Stop thinking about dick and look outside. The object of your desire is striding this way, my dude.” She hopped off the counter and grabbed her little backpack from the employee cubby behind the towel counter.

“I wasn’t thinking about dick,” I lied, blushing. She grinned and shrugged. “Fuck off,” I muttered as I hopped off and grabbed my racquet from where I’d set it down on the couch inside the lounge.

She laughed as we walked outside together, eyeing me sideways as Billy grinned widely once he reached the court, eyes sparkling already. Jesus.

“Hi Billy,” Robin said with a wave. “Bye Billy.” He only responded with a laugh and a wave of his own as she walked off, shutting the gate behind her. She wiggled her eyebrows at me before turning around and jogging down the pathway to clock out and go home for the night.

“She’s charming,” Billy stood across the net from me, his hands resting on top of the plastic gingerly. “A good friend of yours or just a work friend?” I wondered why he wanted to know. He already knew we weren’t dating, but he didn’t know that it would never happen. I thought back to Karen Wheeler at the pool and how he was supposedly trying to make me jealous. Two could play at that game, I remember thinking earlier. I hid my smile and ignored the warning sign in my head that flashed BAD IDEA in red letters.

“Good friend,” I said nonchalantly, bouncing a tennis ball with my racquet. “So what’s the plan for this session? Want to do a couple of games and get pointers or go straight through with a match?” I had to ask; as much as I just wanted to look at him and talk to him, I wanted to let him know I wasn’t falling for whatever trap he was attempting to set.

“It’s been a while since I played,” He grabbed the Wilson waiting for him on the bench and twirled in around in his grip a couple of times. “Why don’t we go for the first option?” The tone of his voice sounded like he genuinely wanted to play and learn. I smiled to myself; maybe Billy did want to be friends. Friends didn’t flirt, but maybe there was a level between friends and partners that I didn’t know about.

As much as I didn’t like the idea of him with someone – anyone – else, there was a part of me that shied away completely from the idea of dates and parents and the whole relationship shtick. The last time I’d thought my relationship was real it turned out to be horseshit. Or bullshit. I cringed at the thought and forced myself to put those memories away. It was time for training; I was on the clock, and Billy was here, waiting for me.

“So, uh,” I walked up to the net, standing across from him, trying to ignore how good he looked in his Hawkins pool tank top and shorts. The white flip flops he usually wore around the club were replaced with the high-top sneakers that he usually wore around the basketball court. Not the best for the tennis court, but hey. It didn’t really matter. “Let’s start by just hitting the ball around a bit, an easy volley so I can judge which side you’re stronger on and which side needs work.”

“Side?” He questioned, fingering the racquet strings before looking at me. His curls whipped around his face as a gust of wind picked up, and an annoyed look crossed his face before he grabbed the red elastic from around his wrist that I hadn’t seen earlier – he clamped his racquet between his legs and shook his head back, tying his hair into a knot at the back of his head. The shorter curls in the front flopped back down onto his forehead. He cleared his throat and I realized I had just been standing there, staring. His smirk was settled onto his face now, and I felt a flush creep up my neck. “See something you like?”

“Uh, your forehand side versus your backhand side,” I ignored his second question and finally answered the first, walking backward to just behind the service box line. “Just hit the ball.”

“Whatever you say, Harrington,” He grinned and twirled the racquet in his right hand again.

I tossed the ball up in the air but didn’t do a full serve, I just hit it gingerly across the net, and he volleyed it back. We kept up a good, easy back-and-forth until I switched it up and hit a little more of a cross-court shot, forcing him to go to his backhand, which he managed to lob back over the net. The way he shaped his backhand needed work; I stopped the volley by hitting the ball down into the net.

“Okay,” I called out, grabbing the ball and walking around the net. His chest heaved lightly from moving around for a solid couple of minutes, there was a small sheen of sweat on his upper lip. He squinted at me and set his hands on his hips. “Let’s check out your backhand for a minute.”

“Lets,” He smirked, agreeing. I rolled my eyes at him and he chuckled. “So, what’s the matter with it?”

“There’s nothing the matter with it, per se, it’s just not strong. You’re not used to hitting the backhand side – which is fine,” I explained. “Take your stance.” He did as I asked, crouching down slightly and looking across the court like there was someone there, about to serve. I didn’t look down at his ass stretching the material of his shorts; not at all.

“Imagine the ball coming to your backhand and reach out, hold the position,” I switched into trainer mode without really thinking about it, and I was kind of surprised that Billy wasn’t a) teasing me nonstop or b) just wanting to play a match.

Once again, he did as I asked, and I walked in front of him, having an excuse to rake my gaze up and down his body as I took in his position. “Okay,” I thought to how Reese usually handled his training sessions and remembered how he was helping Mrs. Wheeler out with her backhand. He hadn’t touched her, but he could have. It would’ve gone a lot quicker if he would’ve adjusted her movements manually.

I bit my lip, wanting to reach out and touch. He hadn’t seemed to mind at the party, so I went to my instinct.

Billy didn’t shrink back when my hand clamped down lightly on his wrist, he just looked up at me and I pretended not to notice how his Adam’s apple bobbed when he swallowed. His skin was warm to the touch, soft, and I immediately wanted to know what other parts of him would feel like in my hands. I blinked and made myself focus on what I was supposed to be doing.

“Relax your wrist, first of all,” My voice was a little gravelly; I cleared my throat. I slid my hand back to his elbow and pushed it down. “Don’t let yourself push your elbow out when you’re returning a normal shot, just let your arm float out.”

He nodded and I let my hand fall away from his arm even though I just wanted to touch him. When I dropped my hand, he let his arm move down out of the backhand position.

“Hey,” I looked up at him from where I had started to walk back around the net. “Do you – can you show me what my backhand is supposed to look like, exactly?”

I was a little confused, but I stepped closer to him, and held my racquet across my body, showing him what my typical shot would look like, and he shook his head.

“No, I mean what mine should look like.”

Our eyes met and I tried my hardest to decipher exactly what was going on here if there was something going on. I had always seen Billy be a straightforward guy; he went after what he wanted and got it without a second thought. So, if he was trying to get me to touch him again without really asking me to touch him, it was out of character. But the way his head was slightly cocked to the side, his lips parted, almost inviting, I hoped for once in my life that I wasn’t overthinking.

I dropped my racquet and walked over to him, keeping eye contact as I reached for his arm again, lifting it and softly angling his elbow and wrist into a natural crossing position. “Like this,” I spoke softly, breath quickening as his gaze softened.

“Harrington,” his other hand came up to grip my wrist, which was holding his. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking or not?”

I let myself smile and forced myself to take a step back, letting his wrist go. He dropped his hand from mine and bit his lip. “What are you thinking, exactly, Billy?” I wanted to hear him say it. There was no way I was going to let myself get into whatever situation this was without knowing that he wanted it.

“Oh come on,” he snapped lightly, dropping his own racquet and stepping into my space. The inch of height difference between us seemed like a lot more when he tilted his chin upwards to look at me. A stray curl fell from his messy knot. I wanted to reach out and touch so bad, but I wasn’t going to. Not until he said what he wanted.

“Come on what?” I raised my eyebrows and crossed my arms over my chest. “We’re supposed to be training, you know.” I couldn’t resist a little bit of teasing, and I smiled when he rolled his eyes.

“You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you?” He questioned, mirroring me as he crossed his arms. “I literally said I would suck your dick, Harrington. What else do you want from me?”

I couldn’t resist a little laugh, and he grinned. “Well, I’ve been told I’m kind of stupid sometimes, maybe you should just…tell me everything you want.”

“Fuckin’ hell,” he muttered, traces of his grin still present. “I tell you what I want. You.”

Fuck. “Really?” I had to tease him a little bit more; he had teased me enough times.

“Yes, really,” he rolled his eyes again. “For some fuckin’ reason, I’m attracted to you, and I want you. So if you’re not pulling my leg right now, which I fuckin’ hope you aren’t because I will literally kill you, you should stop the teasing and do something about it.”

“If you insi-“ I had been stalling because my nerves were boiling over, my stomach was filled with butterflies, my mind was racing a million miles an hour at the change of events, but everything came to a sudden, heart-wrenching stop, when he closed that small distance and pressed those perfect red lips against mine, effectively cutting off my sentence. It was a short kiss; he pulled back almost immediately when he realized where we were, out in the open, where anyone could stumble upon the tennis court and get an eyeful of something most people turned their nose up at.

Although the kiss had been short, I had gotten a taste. And that little taste was all I needed to know that I wanted more.

Chapter Text

I couldn’t believe what was happening. I had Billy fucking Hargrove pressed to the towel counter inside the dark tennis lounge, his tongue in my goddamn mouth, my arms wrapped around him, fingertips pressing so heavily into the small of his back there would probably be evidence of it later. If the way he moaned into my mouth every time I gripped harder was any indication, he liked it.

“Fuck, Harrington,” He breathed out when I broke away from his lips to trail light kisses down his jaw, making my way under his chin to nose at the long column of his neck. I nipped at his skin gingerly when he said my last name, and he shivered under me, making me smile against his skin. “The rumors about the way you kiss are true. Wonder what else is.”

I looked at him, his smirk back in place on those lips I had learned quickly were soft, plush, and inviting. “Rumors about me?” I was still catching my breath from how we had devoured each other as soon as the dots connected.

“You know,” his fingers played with the hair at the back of my neck and it drove me crazy. We’d made out for two minutes and he already found out ways to tease me even more. “They say you’re a generous lover. Know how to use your mouth in more places than one.” He blinked slowly, long eyelashes dragging over the top of his cheek, gaze low as he looked me in the eyes.

“Mm,” I agreed, dipping down to press my lips to his again, eyes fluttering shut as I caught his bottom lip between my teeth and tugged gently before smoothing my tongue over the bite, his mouth eagerly opening to mine. I wasn’t exactly sure who the ‘they’ he was walking about was, but I assumed he’d heard girl’s locker room gossip somehow. One of the reasons I’d been nicknamed King Steve was because of the rumors that circulated about my ‘sexual prowess’ after I’d lost my virginity to a senior when I was in 9th grade. I smiled a little bit, our lips separating with a soft sound. “Guess you’ll just have to find out sometime.”

Billy grinned, tongue swiping across his teeth in that predator way that made me weak in the knees. “Oh, I hope so.” I laughed, noting how his grin grew from that sexy smirk into a real, genuine smile, reaching his eyes and making him squint.

“So, uh,” I pulled back from him slightly, hands settling on his waist, trying to ignore how his hips curved up in the general direction of mine with the way he arched his back when he relaxed into my touch. “Wanna tell me where we’re going with this…thing?”

I didn’t want to drag out the inevitable awful “what are we” talk any more than it needed to be; I wanted my mouth back on his and as much as I hated asking stupid questions, it was in my nature. My nerves wouldn’t be quelled until I was sure he was on the same page as me.

“I think,” Billy licked his lips, leaning forward off the counter a bit, “We’re going to have a great time and not be worried about stupid shit like labels. I know I’m attracted to you and I’ve got the strangest idea you’re attracted to me too.”

I quirked an eyebrow, smiling. “Really? Where’d you get that from?”

He grinned again; the one that reached his eyes. I felt my stomach clench at knowing I could make him smile like that; I hadn’t seen it much, but I’d already seen it twice tonight. I was a lucky guy.

“Oh, I don’t know,” his fingers dipped into the neckline of my country club polo, tugging on the collar so I bent down closer to him. Our foreheads touched and this seemed instantly more intimate than what I had originally pegged it as and what he just claimed he wanted it to be. I let myself revel in the feeling for a minute and waited for him to finish his thought. “Maybe because you look at me all the time when you think I don’t notice…or because you kiss me like you’re worried I won’t kiss back.”

My heart lurched and I opened my eyes to meet his. “But you will,” his eyes fluttered when he looked down at my kiss-bitten lips.

“I sure will,” he agreed, hands smoothing down the front of my polo, resting on my pectorals. I bet he could feel my heart racing underneath the soft blue material. The way he tilted his chin towards me with a small smile indicated I was right; I closed the gap between us again and captured his lips in a sweet kiss, one too sweet for all the dirty thoughts running through my head and I’m sure his too. “We should probably get out of here. You’re on the clock and not getting paid to make out with me.”

I laughed. “I’m getting paid for training,” I pointed out, hoping he’d catch the joke. He leaned back, pouting, the crazy glint in his blue eyes showing even though the only light in the room came from the floodlights over the hard court outside.

“You saying I need training in how to kiss, asshole?” He seemed surprised at my teasing and I loved surprising him. It made me smile; you know, the genuine kind.

“Well…” He dropped his hands from my chest, and I laughed, grabbing them in my own. “I’m just kidding.” His palms were rough against me, but I loved the feel of it; the slip of his fingers with mine was obviously different than the usual delicate touch of a girl; Billy wasn’t intimidated. He intertwined his fingers with mine immediately and pulled me towards him, backing himself into the counter again.

“Maybe I do need some training,” Billy whispered, cocking his head to the side. “A crash course in King Steve. Harrington 101.” He bit his lip, smiling. I rolled my eyes but smiled too, a piece of hair flopping down onto my forehead. He reached up, letting go of one of my hands, and pushed it back, letting his hand run through my thick hair. My eyes fluttered shut at the feeling and he breathed out a laugh. “Okay, lesson number one. He likes getting his hair played with.”

I blushed a little bit, glad he couldn’t see it in the dark. “Come on,” I spoke after finding my voice. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Where do you suggest we go, Harrington?” He prodded, letting me lead him out of the tennis lounge, my hand still holding his. I touched him for five minutes and didn’t want to stop. Jesus.

I let go of his hand, sadly, for a minute while I cleaned up the court – tossing the tennis ball into the bin, lowering the net, grabbing the racquets and setting them inside the lounge. He watched as I did it all, eyeing my every movement, making me feel as if the flush creeping up my chest and neck might be permanent if his gaze from now on felt like all he wanted to do was devour me.

“I suggest we go to my place,” I said as casually as I could even though we both knew what my motives were. He grinned, licking his lips in that special way, and I thanked my lucky stars for a minute that somehow the hottest guy in town happens to have a penchant for guys. Or maybe just me. Probably not though. “And get to know each other better.”

Smirking, Billy walked over to me and bumped his hip against mine. “You better go clock out then, Harrington.”

~

We walked to the clubhouse in comfortable silence, our pinky fingers brushing casually as we walked along the sidewalk. The dancing studio was alive with salsa music and there were still random couples walking around here and there even though technical working hours were over.

“Billy,” We entered the clubhouse and Billy was immediately greeted by the secretary, Joan Reed, who manned the front desk and stayed late whenever Rand asked her to. “Just the person I was hoping to see. Hello, Steve.” She greeted me second-hand, rushed, and turned back to Billy. Something was up.

“What can I do for ya, Joan?” He leaned on the desk and flashed that sexy grin, which, of course, made the single woman in her thirties blush and let’s face it, Billy would probably be the object in her dreams tonight. I rolled my eyes but couldn’t blame her. I thought of how my tongue had been in his mouth not long ago and hid my smile. She’d never know what that felt like.

“Well,” She stammered, clearing her throat and glancing down at her notepad to remember exactly what it was she had been so excited to see him for. “I was just about to page you over the intercom system. Your father called, real worried. Said you should have been home by now, that if you were still working you need to remember what he’s told you and call him as soon as possible.” She looked up from the message, over her cat-eyeglasses, blue eyeshadow sparkling in the lamplight.

The way Billy’s figure went rigid at the message told me that the seemingly simple, concerned parent note was something different entirely. His jaw clenched and I felt the need to soothe it, to calm him down. That wasn’t my place or responsibility. I looked down at my Nikes and signed the form to clock out quickly, barely keeping up with Billy’s long strides out into the parking lot after he tersely thanked Joan for the message. He hadn’t managed a wink at her tonight, and she frowned as he walked out, hoping everything was okay.

“Billy,” I called after him, nearly breaking into a jog to catch up, narrowly avoiding getting hip-checked when he carelessly slung open the driver’s door of the Camaro.

“What?” He turned around and snapped at me, chest heaving. I knew this was his sore spot. The wound was deep; his dad an asshole, it made him act out. Max had explained to me in roundabout ways but part of me didn’t want to believe it or believe that it was physically damaging. I remembered the bruises he used to show up with at school sometimes, I particularly remembered a very ugly ring-like cut beneath a black eye at the New Years party that stuck out like a sore thumb against the rest of his pretty face. It made me wince just picturing it.

“I-I don’t know,” I mumbled, really not knowing. There wasn’t anything I could do; he had to go home. Just because we had stumbled upon chemistry didn’t mean personal lives were involved, and clearly, Billy’s personal life was something he didn’t aim to bring anywhere. “Just. Be careful.”

He snorted but his eyes softened from steel to an ocean when he met my gaze. My eyes were wide open, shocked when he glanced around before darting up and pressing a kiss to my cheek.

“Let’s take a rain check on that trip to your house, okay?” His voice was deep and soft. I nodded; words stuck in my throat. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Stevie.”

He slid into the driver’s seat of his Camaro and I stepped back as he moved to shut the door, Whitesnake blaring from his speakers the minute he turned the key in the ignition. His left hand rested out the rolled down window and he lifted his palm in a wave as he tore down the country club driveway, leaving me standing there confused and horny and kind of happy all rolled into one.

~

“You gotta be kidding me,” Robin popped a chip into her mouth, eyes wide as she eagerly ate up my recount of last night’s events. “You got cockblocked by his dad, dude. That sucks.”

She didn’t know the full story with Billy’s father; it sucked a lot more than she thought. I pushed that away and hoped Billy was okay; I hadn’t seen him yet today.

“I know, Robin,” I sighed, taking a long drink from my can of Coke. “What if he gets, like, nervous or something and pretends like last night didn’t happen? Or what if he did it all as a joke or some shit?”

She contemplated it for a second and then shook her head. “Nah, he doesn’t seem like the type. He might be a jerk sometimes, but I doubt he’d go all gay on you if he was just doing it for a joke.” She nudged my shoulder with hers, noticing the far-off look that had gathered in my eyes.

“You’re right,” I agreed, running a hand through my hair. Sweat was beading on my forehead; it was hotter than usual today even though the sun was partially hidden behind dark clouds that threatened a summer thunderstorm. “Guess I’m just nervous. Never done this before, you know.”

“What? A guy or a relationship that’s just fucking?” I made a face at her lewdness and she grinned, chomping down on another chip.

“Both,” I put my head in my hands, trying to remember what it felt like to have a one-night stand or a go-to fuck at those dumb high school parties Tommy and Carol would drag me to. I hadn’t had one since before Nancy, and now, Billy was the first person I’d kissed since her, let alone wanted to go farther with. The thought almost made me cringe. “I just need to stop thinking, don’t I?”

Robin nodded immediately. “For once, yes. Usually, you need to think harder, Harrington, but as far as this goes, just roll with it. Really.” She stole my can of coke and drained the last bit of liquid from it. “Where is lover boy at, anyway?”

She asked the question quietly as Heather appeared in the snack bar, clutching a bottle of water and smacking a piece of gum.

“Hi, guys!” Heather chirped, grinning when she saw us sitting in the corner. “How’s the summer? Wasn’t Casey’s party just a blast last weekend?”

Robin found Heather’s exciting personality amusing; and the tell-tale smirk was on her face, making me hide a smile. “Oh boy, it was so much fun!” Heather missed the slightly mocking tone in Robin’s response, just smiling away and nodding in agreement. She glanced over at me and her smile widened.

“That game of truth or dare was pretty wild, right?” The glint in her eyes made me wonder if she had known about Billy apparently having the hots for me. I wanted to ask her but didn’t. “So much fun.”

“Oh yeah,” I agreed, wishing I had another can of Coke as my mouth suddenly got very dry.

The conversation stalled for a second and Heather fiddled with the whistle dangling around her neck. “Well,” She began, starting to back away. “I just came to get some chips for me and Billy. He’s been teaching extra swim classes today since our instructor Dave got sick.”

Robin kicked me gently under the table after hearing the information, and I nodded to Heather as she started to turn away. “Tell him I say hi, okay?” The thought blurted out of my mouth and Heather smiled brightly in my direction.

“Sure will. Bye guys!” Robin watched her walk out of the snack bar after flashing her employee ID at the always bored cashier. Heather waved once more at us before disappearing down the sidewalk back to the pool.

“So lover boy is actually a good teacher if Dave trusts him with extra swim class,” Robin mused, tossing the empty can into the garbage bin as we stood up to go back to the tennis courts.

I shrugged and nodded. “I mean, when he wasn’t busy being a jock at school, he always seemed genuine to me.” I knew it seemed incredibly biased of me to be defending him, and Robin confirmed that by rolling her eyes.

“Of course you think so, Steve,” She smirked, twirling one of her many leather bracelets around her left wrist. “You also think he’s sexy and want to get in his pants.”

“That’s beside the point,” I argued, laughing a little bit. “He’s changed since he got here last fall, you have to admit. He showed up brooding and angry and after settling in during the spring semester, something changed.”

Robin snorted. “Uh, yeah. You realized you’re attracted to him, that’s what changed.” I huffed and opted not to respond as we reached the courts where Rachel was hitting a ball back and forth with a little girl, who, upon closer inspection, I realized was Holly Wheeler.

“Hi, Steve,” Nancy’s syrupy voice almost frightened me, and upon seeing Nancy walk up Robin made a face and went to her post at the towel counter, waiting to be called for tennis ball service. “How are you?”

Nancy was decked out in a little pink tennis outfit and I swallowed nervously. I wasn’t in love with her anymore, but so much history was clouded between us that every time she was near me some switch just went off in my brain that said, “oh boy! The girl who broke your heart! You still want to love her, right, Stevie?” And I hated it. There had to be some way to forget about Nancy, I just hadn’t found it yet.

“I’m pretty okay, Nance,” I smiled lightly, wondering where Jonathan was. They never went anywhere separately anymore; any time I saw one of them the other appeared within seconds. “How about you?”

She bit her lip and the big eyes that had made me weak in the knees once upon a time gazed up into mine.

“I’m okay, I guess,” That was a cue for, ‘I’m not great and I want to talk about it.’ Wheeler speak.

“Wanna talk?” I ventured, knowing she would agree. She nodded almost immediately and I set my hand on the small of her back – it was too easy, too familiar a gesture – and led her into the tennis lounge, ignoring the wide-eyed stare from Robin when I took her into Reese and Harry’s office, shutting the door behind me.

“Me and Jonathan,” she breathed out, voice wobbly. “We’re on a break. We had this huge argument over the Hawkins Post, and I just…I was wrong, I know, but I hurt him, and he hurt me.”

The office was silent for a few minutes as I took in what she said, and she contemplated whether she wanted to give more information.

“Surely you two can patch things up,” I said a bit awkwardly, leaning against the large oak desk. “You two are strong together.” The look she gave me was a little pitying, and I hated her just the tiniest bit for it. She still felt bad about what happened between us, but there was no use. I was a better person because of it and that’s all I could ask for.

“I know,” she almost wailed, sitting down in a chair across from me. “Thank you for saying that, Steve. It means a lot coming from you.”

I shifted uncomfortably under her gaze before answering, “No problem, Nance, you know I’m here for you whenever.” It was true; as much as it pained me to be around her sometimes or to think about what happened, Nancy was still a true friend to me – she helped me discover things about myself that otherwise I never would have known. Like how much I have in common with Henderson, or how much easier it is to be nice to everybody than to ignore someone I didn’t know by reputation.

“Thanks, Steve,” the smile on her face was genuine, I returned it. “I just…I took a couple of days off from the internship because those guys there are absolute dicks and Jonathan told me that it didn’t matter, that a job is a job and I have to make the most of it.”

I furrowed my brow, thinking it over. “Well,” I started slowly. “Jobs outside of Hawkins are probably going to be even worse, so if you can learn to stay strong here, which I know you can, you’ll be able to make it through anywhere. And I’m sure Jonathan hates that those guys are dicks, but you know him, Nance. He loves working and being able to have a job and help his family. That’s just his nature.”

I had gotten to know Jonathan better after the whole break-up thing went down. He was actually a decent guy, even though he had his weird moments, and I wouldn’t necessarily choose him to hang out with, but I knew he was good for Nance, definitely better than me, and it was all okay. Just okay.

“Yeah, it is,” she smiled down at the ground, crossing her small arms over her chest. “You’re totally right, Steve. I’m going to talk to him as soon as Holly finishes her lesson.” She reached out and pulled me into a hug and I nearly melted into her touch, but something stopped me.

The feeling of her small figure and soft hands touching my back was replaced by the memory of a strong body against mine and calloused fingers tracing my shoulders, and as my chin rested atop her new curls, I remembered the feeling of soft golden waves against my cheek. Inwardly I cheered for myself; holding Nance in a hug was no different than any other friend I usually hugged. But the sudden surge of want for Billy to be in my arms was enough for a small alarm to go off in my head – I ignored it, though. One step at a time.

We pulled back from the embrace at the same time, and she looked at me gratefully again, lifting her hand to wipe a stray tear that had escaped. “I better go back out there,” I said sheepishly, knowing I’d probably get a lecture from Reese later about how my breaks always ran overtime.

As we walked out of the room, my breath caught in my throat upon sight of Billy leaning against the counter, smiling at something Robin was yapping about. “Hey, Harrington,” he greeted upon seeing me. I could have sworn I saw a frown develop on his face when Nancy appeared behind me, ignoring Billy in favor of walking back out to the courts where Holly was.

“Hi,” I responded after a second, ignoring the glare Robin was sending my way. “What are you doing here?” Billy raised his eyebrows at my question, the playful smirk I was used to seeing nowhere in sight.

“Am I not allowed to be here?” He answered my question with another, and I suddenly felt annoyed. I was fucking tired of everyone being mad at me for talking to Nancy or Jonathan; they babied me and automatically assumed I was still a little puppy lost in love, just asking to get hurt again.

“You can be here if you want, I can’t stop you,” I mumbled, defensive. Robin’s mouth dropped open a little bit and I knew I was going to be in for it with her later.

Billy nodded slowly; lips pursed. “Okay. Forget I was here, King Steve,” He turned to leave the lounge, calling over his shoulder, “Bye, Robin.” I watched him walk out, the usual swing of his hips gone and replaced with tension because I’m sure he felt my eyes on him.

“What the fuck, Steve?” Robin hissed, pushing my shoulder. “He came over here to see you, idiot! And you treat him like that? What is going on in your head, man?” I rolled my eyes at her and ignored the rapid-fire questions, partly because I wasn’t sure of the answers myself.

“Just calm down, Robin,” I said, grabbing my racquet and adjusting the strings. I heard Reese call my name for a match outside and I started to leave the shelter when she grabbed my arm. “What?”

She furrowed her brow at me and left my arm go. “I think you’re the one that needs to calm down, Steve.” I huffed and walked out, the sun beating down, sweat already making my shirt stick to my back. A whole lot of shit just happened in twenty minutes and I hadn’t wrapped my mind around it yet. I had been in a perfectly good mood and then…Nancy.

Nancy always left me feeling insecure and defensive even if I did consider myself friends with her now; especially when other people were around to stare and go, “oh shit Steve’s with Nancy again.” Robin didn’t have the right to get mad at me for talking to her, and Billy certainly didn’t, not when he flirted with her goddamn mom at the pool every day. Annoyed, again, I barely registered Reese’s directions at me from the edge of the court, I just whipped the ball angrily whenever it came my way and launched it too quickly whenever it was my time to serve.

~

At the end of the day I walked to the clubhouse to clock out alone, Robin had left a few minutes ago and I wasn’t sure if she was waiting on me for a ride home today or not since we had that little spat earlier. I took my time walking to the office, the sun starting to set behind me, the sound of splashes still coming from the pool across the way. I wondered who was on night duty tonight; Billy or Heather or one of the older lifeguards.

Dammit. Billy. After seeing me come out of Harry and Reese’s office with Nancy, after me brushing him off like a pesky fly, I could only imagine what he was thinking. Heather had obviously relayed my simple message of “hello” and he walked over on a break to see me, to greet me, and I just ignored him and acted like he shouldn’t be around me.

He probably thought I had just played up last night for kicks to see what would actually happen, but it wasn’t that – I wanted to kick myself for placing any sort of doubt in Billy’s head, but I couldn’t deny that there was doubt in me, too. My head still wouldn’t wrap about the idea of what was going on, and it wasn’t because Billy had a penis instead of a vagina, it was just because it was Billy and Billy is dangerous and the complete opposite of everything that should work for me on paper.

I thought back to hugging Nancy and how I’d wished it was Billy pulling me close instead; that was dangerous territory. Billy and I hadn’t done anything but hastily make out for a few minutes and just thinking about touching him had my fingertips tingling and cheeks flushing red, like how it had been when I first started crushing on Kim Sanders back in third grade when I decided girls no longer had cooties.

Finally, I reached the clubhouse, passing the empty secretary desk and going into the little room to sign out for the day. Robin was sitting on the counter in the room when I walked in, still looking annoyed at me from earlier, and I expected nothing less.

“I’m sorry,” I said quietly, not looking at her in favor of signing my name on the clock-out sheet. “Something always happens when I’m around Nancy that I don’t like. I feel like everyone is just watching to see when I’ll have another break down over her.”

Robin sighed and kicked her converse-clad feet against the cabinets. “You pined over her for a long time, Steve. You didn’t go to senior prom, didn’t ask anyone to the Valentine’s dance, didn’t participate in make-out games at spring parties. It’s easy to see why everyone thought – or thinks – that you’re just biding your time and waiting to run back into her arms.”

I swallowed and leaned back against the counter, looking out the little window at the dark clouds gathering in the distance. “I know. For a little while, I think I was. But I’m not anymore – haven’t been for a long time, I just. She is my friend, Robin. I’ve known her for a long time.”

She nodded. “Right. But Billy doesn’t know all this shit, does he?”

Sighing, I answered, “No. Billy doesn’t know much about me at all.” The road I had seen Billy and me going down didn’t involve much personal knowledge anyway, so to know that he was possibly upset by the idea of Nancy made that dangerous territory warning go off in my head again. I shook it away and looked back at Robin. “Do you think he’s upset?”

“Not about Nancy,” she countered, hopping off the counter. “But about the way you shoved him off this afternoon, yes. He probably thinks you had a gay panic or something, Steve, and don’t want anything to do with him.”

I winced; that’s exactly what I didn’t want to hear. “Well, I didn’t. I just…I don’t know.”

Robin regarded me with a strange look. “Okay, well, he doesn’t know that. But unless you’re going to go find him, he’s not here anymore, he already came in and clocked out.” She pointed at the timesheet.

“I’m supposed to go hang out with the kids tomorrow at the arcade,” I mused, trying to think of how I could talk to Billy privately. I didn’t have his phone number and showing up at his house when his dad was in town, not on a business trip, was probably not a good idea. “He’s probably going to be dropping Max off.”

“Can I come?” She brightened at the mention of the arcade and I laughed. “I can keep an eye on the kids anyway when you and Billy inevitably make-up and sneak off to the bathroom to make out or something.”

“Yes, you can come,” I bumped her shoulder with mine as we walked out to my BMW, ignoring the comment about us making up and making out. “Will thinks you're super cool, he’ll be stoked that you’re there.”

She looked surprised. “Wow, someone thinks I’m cool. Even if it is a twelve-year-old, I’m honored.” She grinned and I laughed again, feeling better now that I had explained myself to Robin and had a plan to fix things with Billy. I crossed my fingers that he’d show up with Max tomorrow and hoped that he was thinking of me as much I was thinking of him.

Chapter Text

“Steeeeeeeve,” Robin groaned, dramatically flopping down on the couch as I toyed with my hair in the mirror for the millionth time that morning. “It’s raining outside anyway, why does it matter?”

I frowned and looked outside the window – sure enough, it was starting to mist and the grey gloominess that had just seemed to settle over the outdoors threatened a torrential downpour before long. “I guess you’re right.”

“Are you picking up any of the kids?” Robin asked, pushing herself off the couch after I grabbed my rain jacket from the closet by the front door and picked up my keys from the bowl where they always sat when I was home.

“No, Mike and Will spent the night at Lucas’s last night, so his mom is dropping them off on her way to the mall or something,” I answered, darting out to the car just as thunder rumbled overhead. Robin shrieked and tugged on the passenger door, drenched by the time I unlocked the doors and we climbed in. “Shit.”

Robin pouted and turned on the heat as soon as I started the engine; turning it off just as fast when it began to resemble the daily humidity of Hawkins summer. “I take it your boyfriend will definitely be bringing Max to the arcade, now.”

I rolled my eyes and flicked my wipers to a quicker speed when it started raining harder. “He’s not my boyfriend, Robin. He’s a boy, that’s a friend, that I happen to be attracted to. That’s it.”

Robin breathed out a laugh and crossed her arms over her chest. “Sure thing, dingus.”

I made a face at her, checking the clock on the dash to see we were already a couple of minutes late. For my sake I hoped Billy wasn’t on time today; if he had been, there’s no way he’d still be at the arcade by now. He always let Max off at the door and sped off like he had to go put out a fire somewhere.

Duran Duran filled the car the rest of the way to Palace, and I felt my heart rate speed up just a touch when that flashy blue Camaro pulled up behind me as I turned in. I parked close to the back and tried to be nonchalant when Billy slid in right next to me.

The rain had slowed down to a small drizzle, but Robin insisted on taking my mom’s giant umbrella from the backseat anyway. Max was in her usual green jacket and she pulled the hood up over her bouncy red ponytail when she got out of the car to dart inside. Robin followed closely behind her, giving me a sharp look that said, “you better talk to him,” before she slammed the passenger door of the BMW.

I couldn’t see Billy in the Camaro because my windows were fogged and covered in raindrops, so I took a deep breath before getting out of the BMW and walking over to Billy, who was still sitting in the car. The hood of my raincoat was pulled over my head, and I shoved my hands in the pockets but took one fist out to rap on his window even though I know he saw me.

“You look ridiculous, Harrington,” Billy drawled, rolling down his window. “What do you want?” He looked at me with those sharp blue eyes, a little hesitant despite the typical Billy smirk he was trying to keep up. I leaned in close to his car, not missing how his eyes flicked down to my lips for a millisecond as my head ducked into his space, arm resting on the hood of the Chevy.

“I want to say sorry,” I said quietly. “Didn’t mean to brush you off like that yesterday, I just. Well, I don’t know exactly. But I’m sorry.”

Billy regarded me carefully for a second and then turned to look out the windshield. “We aren’t involved, Harrington, don’t need to apologize for shit,” His voice turned a little gruff and I let a huff out of my nose, feeling that frustration rise up in me again.

“Hargrove,” the use of his last name made him look at me sharply. “I want to be involved. Whatever you want, I – this is stupid. We’re obviously attracted to each other and a little messing around never hurt anybody, did it?” A small smile curled at the edges of his lips at he shook his head slowly.

“Not that I know of, pretty boy,” My cheeks pinked at the nickname and his smile widened. “No bullshit, okay? Don’t come crying to me with your problems; don’t think I’m going to share mine, and don’t treat me like shit.”

I nodded quickly; seemed about like Billy. But I was perfectly okay with that because Billy was all I wanted. “So…you gonna kiss me or what?”

Billy grinned wolfishly and grabbed the front of my t-shirt, pulling me through the open window until my lips met his, instantly working his tongue into my mouth and making me let out little noises I never knew I could make before. He pulled away after a second, leaving me dizzy, cheeks flushed.

“We should take this somewhere, else, Stevie,” Billy glanced around the parking lot, but it was mostly empty, and our cars were parked near the back anyway.

“That’s what you always say,” I mumbled, smiling at him, thinking of how both times we’d been about to do something good, whether it was grinding at the party or going back to my place Thursday night, it got interrupted. “The kids are inside waiting on us.”

Billy groaned and slumped back into his seat and I ducked my head out of the cab of the Camaro. “Correction: waiting for you. Not waiting for me.”

I rolled my eyes and opened his door, pushing my hood back now that the rain had stopped for a minute. “Come on, Billy,” he pouted, sticking his rosy bottom lip out, and I grabbed his arm, hauling him out of the seat before he could protest. “You can buy me a coke.”

He laughed and I almost wrapped my arm around his waist but remembered I couldn’t do that, at least, not yet. Other people at the arcade would probably ignore it if we did, but the kids wouldn’t. And, I reminded myself, this wasn’t an arm-in-arm, hand-in-hand relationship. It was just a thing.

~

“Pac-Man ain’t half bad,” Billy kicked his boots up in a booth at the pizza place after we’d spent nearly two hours at the arcade. Max wrinkled her nose and made him move his legs so she and Lucas could sit down.

“That’s because it’s the only game you’re good at,” I smirked, making him laugh. Max gave me that weird look she did sometimes, and I ignored it in favor of ordering a chocolate milkshake when the waitress came over to see what drinks everyone wanted.

Mike regarded Billy carefully across the table. He had pulled me aside in the arcade as soon as we’d stepped foot in together, and I had reluctantly followed Wheeler into an empty corner. Mike had asked me why Billy was there and if we were friends now and shit like that and I’d been forced to answer. Well, not really, but I felt I owed it to him for some reason.

“Billy may be an asshole sometimes but he’s an okay guy,” I shrugged, making Mike give me that disgusted face. “Seriously. You know he apologized for getting defensive over Max and told Lucas about all that family shit. I think he just wants to be considered normal, man.”

Mike hadn’t been too crazy about my response but didn’t seem all too upset either, even though by the look he was giving Billy now he was still a little apprehensive.

“So, Billy,” he started. “You into video games?”

Billy shifted uncomfortably, obviously trying to hold back some sort of smart-ass comment. “Not really, little Wheeler. But I came to support Max today. Had nothin’ else to do.” He gave Mike a tight-lipped smile and I hid a smile of my own. He was sort of trying; it was almost cute.

Lucas and Max started arguing about some new movie that they’d seen a couple of weeks ago and Robin kept Will talking about his latest D&D campaign, telling him stories about the campaign she did at band camp a couple of years ago. Mike randomly talked about his girl, Jane, and how Hopper had finally adopted her whenever someone bothered to listen, and Billy kept making moony eyes at me that I forced myself to ignore because if I didn’t I was scared I’d start getting hard or something and this was not the time or place for that.

Luckily, before too long, the couple of pizza’s we’d ordered showed up at the table and most conversation was lost amidst devouring the pies.

“Are you going to come to Dustin’s welcome home party, Steve?” Max asked through a mouthful of pepperoni. I nodded immediately and winced when Robin elbowed me in the side.

“Jesus, dingus. How many children are you friends with?” Billy laughed at her comment and she grinned.

“Ha-ha, Robin. Very funny,” I stuck my tongue out at her and she reciprocated.

“There’s obviously a reason you are friends with kids,” Billy teased, taking a long sip from his glass of coke. “Need to act a little more grown-up sometime, Harrington.”

“Oh yeah?” I challenged, smiling. “And how do you suggest I do that?” Robin elbowed me in the side again but that wasn’t what almost made me choke on my bite of pizza – it was Billy’s foot, somehow out of his fucking boot, finding its way under my jeans to feel my ankle and calf.

His grin was wide across the table and I made a face at him, but he just grinned wider. Jesus, he was going to be the death of me.

“Mrs. Henderson is going all out with this surprised party,” Lucas chimed in, none of the kids aware of the very inappropriate thing happening underneath the table. “She’s getting a cake and my dad is going to grill burgers and she said Hopper is going to bring a bunch of sparklers for when the sun goes down.”

Mike beamed. “Yeah, Jane’s going to come too, finally,” Max and Lucas rolled their eyes in unison and I had to laugh at how in sync they were. I know Dustin had a thing for her, but it had just been a crush on the new girl, nothing serious. It was obvious Max and Lucas had chemistry going on.

“Ah,” Robin nodded. “One of the two Harrington children I haven’t met yet.”

The rest of the lunch flew by; Billy eventually stopped teasing me when I kept kicking him in the shin, but I didn’t miss the sultry wink he gave me when he subtly leaned down to pull his boot back on. Everyone disbanded after pizza; Lucas’s mom pulled up and told me she would give the kids a ride home, so Robin was the only passenger in my BMW.

“You going to see Billy tonight?” She asked once we were safely alone, turning down the radio so we could talk.

“Not that I know of,” I frowned, wishing I was. We hadn’t exactly gotten much of a chance to talk about doing anything because we had been surrounded by kids at both the arcade and pizza place. “Think I should go over there or something?”

Robin considered it for a second. “You should call him.”

“I don’t have his number,” I reminded her, knowing how persnickety Max was about using the phone thanks to Neil.

Robin rolled her eyes. “You can get it somehow, Steve. Call him up. Tell him you’re lonely. Ask for some company, dingus, and get the fucking ball rolling!” She punched me in the arm, grinning and wiggling her eyebrows.

I couldn’t help but laugh even though she was being a little ridiculous. My parents weren’t home, though, and I was about to drop Robin off at her house because she had some sort of sister thing tonight, so I would be alone…the thought of being alone with Billy in a private place, having him all to myself, made me shiver. God, I wanted it.

“You’re right. I’m sure Mrs. Henderson has Susan’s number or something, they’re in the same quilting class downtown,” Robin gave me a weird look and I shrugged. “I have a weekly dinner with Dustin and his mom, okay? She tells me all sorts of shit.”

“Right.”

~

My house was deathly quiet when I got back after dropping Robin off at home. I sighed at the feeling and eyed the telephone sitting on the side table in the living room, knowing Mrs. Henderson’s number was right in the drawer, and Billy’s phone number was probably no more than one call away.

Looking around at the emptiness and knowing that there was only more of it to be had upstairs, I stalked over to the phone and picked up the receiver, flicked through my mom’s address book, and located Henderson.

“Hello?” I smiled upon hearing Dustin’s mother’s voice; she was sweet and nothing but nice to me. Dustin’s relationship with her was very relaxed and sometimes I couldn’t help but envy how easy it was for them to get along or work out differences – but everyone has their qualms with parents. I know other kids who would kill to have their parents give them a debit card attached to an account without having to worry about overspending. But for me, that came with having parents’ home only once or twice a month and meant no relationship whatsoever. I missed being a kid and having at least my mom around.

“Hey, Mrs. Henderson,” I answered, flopping back onto the sofa. “It’s Steve. How are you?”

“Oh, Stevie! I’m great. How about you? Missing Dustin yet?” She laughed a little and I breathed out a laugh of my own, nodding even though she couldn’t see me.

“I’m good, thanks. And as a matter of fact, I am,” I responded as I fiddled with the curly phone cord. “I actually have a question for you.”

“Well go right ahead,” She prompted. I heard something clank over the phone and wondered if she was making brownies – sometimes if I hung out with Dustin on Saturdays I’d come over and she’d be gabbing away on the phone to Mrs. Wheeler or Mrs. Sinclair and baking the best brownies I’d ever had.

“Do you happen to have the Hargrove – or Mayfield, I guess – household number?” I thought Max and her mom still used the last name Mayfield, which I’m surprised Neil didn’t mind – he seemed like a rather possessive type of guy. “I’m looking to get in touch with…them.”

“You mean Susan?” She asked and I gave a noncommittal “mhm” as she prattled on about how she had it in her address book which was somewhere in the living room. “Give me just a second, Steve, I’ll go find it.”

I thanked her and propped my feet up on the coffee table as I waited, nerves in my stomach growing by the second. What if Neil answered? Or Max, who would no doubt have thirty thousand questions about why I wanted to speak with Billy? What if they had more than one line and someone picked up and heard me tell Billy that I was dying to see him, alone?

I squeezed my eyes shut. No. Robin had lectured me on it more than once – no what-ifs. I won’t know until I find the answer for myself.

“Okay, hun, you got some paper and a pencil? I found the number,” Mrs. Henderson listed off the digits two times and made me say them back to her, so she knew I got the phone number right. “Anything else I can do for you, Steve?”

Telling her no, I thanked her again for finding the number, and said I was looking forward to Dustin’s welcome home surprise party. She agreed and excused herself from the phone as I heard the kitchen timer dinging, signaling the doneness of the brownies I had guessed she was baking.

I hung up the phone and stared blankly at the phone number I’d written down on a new contact line in my parent’s address book. I eyed the receiver back on the hook but didn’t pick it up; I wasn’t going to call him yet, we’d barely been apart for thirty minutes – but we weren’t alone, I reminded myself, biting my lip as I recalled his suggestive smirks and grins that had been thrown my way all morning. The casual way he leaned against whatever game I was playing at the arcade, trying to throw me off and get me to look at him instead of the screen…or how he’d purposely brushed my hand whenever he got the chance or pressed his palm against the small of my back when he walked by me as if to move me out of his way even though there was plenty of room around us.

Thinking of his teasing, I almost convinced myself to go ahead and call, but I shut the address book and shoved it back in the drawer. I turned on the TV and tried to get myself to focus on the Magnum P.I. episode that was replaying from last night but I couldn’t focus – my gaze kept drifting to the fucking phone, drawer practically pleading with me to get the address book back out and dial the number I had just hastily scribbled down.

“Shit,” I muttered to myself, pressing mute on the TV remote. I huffed to myself as I grabbed the receiver off the hook and started dialing the telephone number I had procured from Mrs. Henderson only five minutes ago.

Butterflies danced in my stomach as the phone rang and rang, reaching the fourth time before someone answered. It was a pleasant, soft-spoken voice. Female, so not Billy or Neil, and Max was anything but soft-spoken, so it must have been Susan.

“Hargrove residence,” The voice answered. I didn’t know what to say for a minute, my words caught in my throat. “Hello?”

“Oh, uh, sorry. Is Billy home?” I smacked myself in the forehead – I should’ve introduced myself.

As I suspected, there was a small silence on the other end of the line. “May I ask who is calling?” The voice was a little timid, now, and I swallowed nervously, hoping I hadn’t made a giant mistake by phoning Billy because I was too horny and lonely to wait and see him again on Monday.

“This is Steve Harrington,” She probably didn’t know who I was. “I’m a friend of Max and Billy’s.” Ha. Not really, but kind of. Susan didn’t need to know that.

“Oh, yes. Steve, I’ve heard about you,” I made a mental note to ask Max or Billy what had been said about me in family conversations later. “I’ll go see if Billy is free, hang on just a minute.”

I responded with a “sure thing,” and shifted on the couch, taking a deep breath. No roadblocks yet, and I doubted Susan would be yelling for Billy if Neil was home, so I took that as a good sign that maybe I’d gotten lucky with my timing. There was some shuffling around on the other end and I heard a familiar voice ask who the hell was calling him and that made all my nerves come back in a snap. Susan said my name calmly and the receiver, I assumed by the scratching noise that made me pull back from the phone, cringing, had been yanked out of her hand.

“Harrington?” Billy breathed through the phone. Goddamn it, he sounded just as sexy as he did in person. Fuck me.

“Hey,” I got out, kind of quietly, as I forced myself to keep it together. “Uh, I got your number from Dustin’s mom. Sorry if that’s weird or something.”

I heard him chuckle and I smiled a little bit, biting my lip. “Nah, I’m irresistible. You just couldn’t wait to talk to me, could you?” His voice was deep, a little soft, and I pictured him leaning against the kitchen wall where their phone was, speaking directly into the phone so Max and Susan couldn’t hear. Jesus.

“Guess not,” I could almost hear him smirking through the phone. “I, uh, well. I’m alone –“ He started laughing a little and I flushed, glad he couldn’t see me.

“So, is this a booty call, huh? You tryin’ to get me to come over to your place?” I thought I detected a hint of hopefulness in his voice, but that was probably just me imagining that he wanted me as much as I wanted him.

I cleared my throat before answering, “Seems about right.” He laughed again and practically purred into the phone. My dick was definitely beginning to get interested.

“Well, well, well,” I could tell he was grinning. “As much as I would love to come over and satisfy your every want, pretty boy, Neil is taking the family out for dinner and a fucking movie tonight and there’s no way I can get out of it.”

Shit. “Is…is he there now?” I pressed my dick down in my jeans, trying to stop myself from being too needy. Billy telling me that he would love to satisfy my every need was enough to make me very, very interested in what all he would do for me. To me. Fuck.

“No, thank fucking Christ,” His breath caught in his throat for a second and I waited for him to continue. “I can’t help you out in person today, King Steve, but I may be able to help you out now if you’re interested.”

“Yeah,” I agreed all too quickly, and he breathed out a laugh. I could hear him inhale and exhale, and I wondered if he was about to try and get me off through the phone in the middle of his fucking kitchen. “Are you alone?”

“Max and Susan are outside planting flowers by the mailbox,” He replied. “So I have a few minutes if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Okay,” There was a pause as I wondered what to do now. I’d never had phone sex before, what the hell was it supposed to be like?

“Oh Stevie,” His deep voice jarred me out of my thoughts, and I bit my lip to hold back a moan at how sexy he sounded. “You’ve never done this before, have you?”

“Uh,” was the only response I could get out, my cheeks red and embarrassed even though he wasn’t in the same room and wasn’t about to judge me if the pleased way he sounded was any indication.

He laughed quietly and did that little purring thing again. I closed my eyes and let my hand drift over the obvious bulge in my jeans, palming it carefully. “I bet I’ll be your first for a lot of things, huh, King Steve? Some guys might hate that but fuck, I love it. Knowing I’m the only one.”

I almost choked, his voice turning me on beyond belief. He kept talking and I let myself drown in his words.

“Even if you have done shit before, baby, I’ll be the best you’ll ever have, and you can fucking believe it when I say I’ll make you forget about everyone else,” He practically growled at me, and I whimpered without thinking about it, popping open the button fly on my jeans and shoving my hand into my briefs, desperate for contact.

“Yeah,” I urged him to continue, my breathing picking up as I smoothed the wetness from my tip down the length of my shaft, my head falling back against the couch pillow. “Tell me about it, tell me how you’ll make me forget.”

“Fuck, Harrington,” Billy’s voice was a little rougher. He was probably glancing out the window every five seconds to keep an eye on Max and Susan, maybe hard in his jeans, maybe rubbing one out just like me. “First thing I want to do is get that fucking cock of yours in my mouth,” my own mouth dropped open as his filthy words, and the image of Billy on his knees for me made me moan straight into the receiver, not embarrassed anymore. I wanted him too much to care.

“You want to suck my dick that bad, huh?” I was barely aware of what I was saying, the words just tumbled out of my lips as I stroked myself a little rougher, a little faster.

“You have no idea, Harrington,” He replied breathily. “It’s so pretty, I bet it would be even better flushed and hard for me. Is it hard for me now, Stevie? You fuckin’ touching yourself to the sound of my voice?”

I nodded and then remembered he couldn’t see me; I had to use words even though it was incredibly tough. “Yeah, Billy,” A bit of precoma dribbled out my tip when he responded with a moan as I said his name. “Your voice is incredible, fuck. And the things you say, Jesus,”

He laughed breathily, “Just wait till you see what else this mouth can do, baby,” Him calling me "baby" was almost too much; I could feel the fire building, and I whined. “Oh, you like that, huh, baby?” His name escaped my lips in a moan again and he purred appreciatively into the phone. “I’m so hard for you right now, Stevie, you have no idea.”

I didn’t want to have to hang up the phone; I didn’t want this – whatever it was to be over too fast, so I slowed my pace and tried to force myself to draw out my impending orgasm. “Can’t wait to feel you, Billy, see you – fuck I want it all,”

“Do you now?” I could hear the smile in his voice. “We’ve established that you want your cock in my mouth, what about me, huh? What do I get from you?”

I couldn’t help it; my hand increased its speed again. “Whatever you want, Billy,” He responded with an “mhm,” clearly wanting me to go on, and I thought about it for a second before letting myself answer with whatever felt right. “I wanna touch you, know what you like – want to see you touch yourself for me. Fuck, I’d like to know what my mouth would feel like stretched around your dick, Billy.”

Billy outright whined into the phone, “You think about that a lot, Harrington? You’ve got a dirty mind, don’t you,” I swallowed roughly, feeling that fire start to build up again, this time stronger, and I knew I wasn’t going to able to last much longer. “I feel you staring at my ass, Stevie, I know you want a piece of that too.”

“Jesus, Billy,” I groaned, biting my lip. “Fuck yeah I do. I want all of you, baby – shit, I’m close,” I gripped my dick a little tighter, the image of Billy in my head doing wonders to speed up the process.

“When we finally get the chance to fuck, Harrington, I’m gonna blow your goddamn mind,” Billy spoke, making my head spin. I wished he was here; I wanted to kiss him, feel his body intertwined with mine. “Come on, Stevie, baby, come for me.”

That was it; I was done for. I came with a long moan; the way I’d stopped myself from almost coming halfway through making the orgasm that much more powerful, and I floated off into dreamland for a minute – if masturbating to Billy was that fulfilling I could barely wait to know what actually fucking Billy would be like.

I slumped further into the couch, my right hand covered in my own spunk, dick spent but still twitching interestedly as I imagined fucking Billy again, coming down from a high I hadn’t ever thought could come from phone sex.

“You good, Harrington?” I realized how long I had just been sitting there, basking in the afterglow, and I picked up on a hint of amusement in Billy’s voice. I smiled and let myself laugh a little.

“Yeah, I’m fucking good, Hargrove,” I responded, grinning. “Uh, thanks for that.”

“Anytime, pretty boy,” I pictured him smirking, running that dangerous tongue across his perfectly white teeth. “But, uh, for future reference, don’t call me unless I give you the okay, okay? I’ll call you; how does that sound?”

I hummed in agreement. “Got it. Sounds good.”

“Well, I better go, before Max and Susan come back in to see me standing here with this fucking come stain on my jeans,” I raised my eyebrows and stopped him before he could continue.

“Wait – you came in your pants?” My dick gave another weakly interested twitch and I winced at the realization that my come had dried on my hand and was now sticky and cold.

Billy laughed but answered, “You’re fucking sexy, Stevie, what can I say?” I didn’t know quite how to respond to that, so I was glad when he continued. “Thanks for the distraction, Harrington. Talk to you later, okay?”

“You’re welcome,” he chuckled, and I smiled. “Bye, Billy.”

“Bye, baby.”

Fuck me. I was completely gone on Billy Hargrove.

Chapter Text

Monday rolled around, and with it, the last week of June. Dustin’s surprise party was scheduled for Saturday and the kids were eagerly counting down the time until their party was complete once more. As excited as I was to see Dustin, it was not the first thing on my mind. The top priority for me was figuring out how I could consistently make what happened with Billy over the phone on Saturday happen in person, for like, the rest of time, maybe.

When I passed by him walking to the clubhouse on Monday, he gave me an obvious once over and pulled down his aviators just enough for me to catch the sultry wink directed my way. Heather had been walking with him and had grinned at me with a wave in passing.

“You what?” Robin exclaimed, pushing me excitedly when I told her something had finally transpired between ol’ Hargrove and me. “What happened? Did he come over? Spill, dingus, I need details. But don’t get graphic.”

She grimaced and I blushed, thinking of his dirty words – and my own, Jesus. I adjusted myself discreetly in the tiny tennis shorts that had pretty much become my entire wardrobe thanks to the country club job and cleared my throat, looking around to make sure the lounge was empty before I told Robin about Saturday afternoon.

“Okay, so, he didn’t come over,” She frowned but I held up my hands, motioning for her to wait for me to finish. “But we, uh. Talked on the phone for a little while and may or may not have had phone sex.” The last part came out all like one word, sounding more like mayormaynothavehadphonesex, not a distinct phrase, but Robin’s eyes nearly bugged out of her head and she clamped her hands over her mouth in an attempt not to dissolve into giggles.

I rolled my eyes and bit back a grin, ignoring the look we got from old Mr. Harris who had wandered in the room to grab a fresh towel. “Steve, you aren’t serious? Tell me you’re not serious.”

I nodded slowly, trying not to think about it too much for fear that I’d abandon my post on the tennis court and run over to the pool just to drool over Billy. “I’m serious as a heart attack, Robin. It happened. It was magical, to say the least.”

She made a face but was still mostly grinning, beaming with something that may have resembled pride. “So, he didn’t scare you away with dick talk, huh? That still all good with you?”

It was my turn to make a face, but I thought about how he said my dick was pretty and I was willing to bet money that his was too, and that was pretty much all I needed to know about that.

“All good with me,” I confirmed, swaying on my feet, wondering when I’d finally get the chance to do it all in person.

“Earth to Harrington,” Robin punched me on the shoulder, and I shook myself out of my mini daydream. “You’re really gone, dude.” She shook her head but was smiling a little. “Be careful.”

I scoffed. “I’m always careful, Robin.” I didn’t know exactly what she meant by that, but I responded nonetheless – I considered myself a careful person, especially after what I’d been through with relationships in the past year. I’d be a-okay with whatever went down between me and Billy, and if nothing much besides a couple hookups went down, well, at least I discovered something new about myself and (hopefully) got laid spectacularly in the process.

~

The rest of the day at the country club passed quickly, now that summer was really in full swing everyone’s schedules were filled up and the club was so busy everywhere that time seemed to go by in the snap of a finger. 6pm rolled around and Robin and I waved a goodbye to Rachel and Harry who were staying for a night session on our way to clock out for the day.

“I’m taking Will and Max and Lucas to see a movie tonight,” I mentioned when Robin asked if I was just going home for the rest of the evening. “But not until like, 8. Mike’s mom planned some kind of family dinner with Nancy and Jonathan, he called me all pissed about not being able to go yesterday.”

Robin laughed a little. “I can picture it. He’s kind of sassy.” I agreed and was about to respond when Billy and Heather came walking our way, laughing about something. Billy stopped in his tracks and that little grin lit up his face when he laid eyes on me.

“Harrington,” Billy greeted, pushing his sunglasses up to rest in his curly hair. His eyes seemed brighter today; the tan from being out in the sun was doing wonders to accentuate his features. “Robin.”

“The club was so busy today, wasn’t it guys?” Heather exclaimed, falling into step with Robin and leaving me to share the sidewalk with Billy as we traipsed to the clubhouse. “So many kids yelling all day at the pool, almost made me want to tear my hair out.”

Robin laughed at her and started telling some story about old Mr. Harris that had Heather clutching her side from giggling so much. I watched them, amused, trying to keep my mind off the delicious boy that kept staring at me as we walked.

“So, uh,” I finally began, shoving my hands in the pockets of my shorts. “You know I’m taking Max and Lucas and Will to a movie tonight. Are you gonna, um, join?” Billy smirked at me and ran his tongue over his bottom lip. God, it had only been two days since I’d had that tongue in my mouth, but it felt like forever.

“Only if we sit in the very back corner and make-out like horny teenagers,” I grinned widely and shoved against his shoulder with mine, loving the way his own smile reached his ocean eyes.

“I’m pretty sure we are horny teenagers, Billy,” He bit his lip at my response, still smiling, and shook his head slightly.

“I guess so,” He agreed, a pretty blush decorating his cheeks. I made Billy Hargrove blush. That was definitely a big accomplishment. “So are you gonna pick me up or you gonna make me drive?”

I pretended to think about it for a second but answered honestly. “I already told Max I’d pick her up, so I guess you can bum a ride too, Hargrove.”

He rolled his eyes a little as we entered the clubhouse, sending a wink the secretary’s way when she greeted us. “Gee thanks, Harrington. I appreciate it.”

The playful banter between us was so easy, so effortless, that I almost found myself thinking that it was more than a byproduct of our attraction to each other and something deeper. But I pushed the thoughts of that away, deep in the recesses of my brain, and reminded myself that we’d always had a frenemy thing going on since day one.

Robin and Heather were still chatting away about something, which was kind of unlike Robin – but when someone got her talking about a subject that she was passionate about, she could talk your ear off. I signed the time sheet and tried to hide a shiver when Billy discreetly pressed himself against my side to reach for another pen so he could sign out too.

“Did I mention that I enjoyed our phone call the other day, pretty boy?” Billy murmured, eyes flicking up at me dangerously, daring me to look at him.

I set my pen back in it’s respective place on the desk and acted more confident than I actually was, meeting his gaze with a smile, leaning back on my elbows against the counter, hoping no other employees were about to bust into the office to clock out in the next minute or so.

“You haven’t mentioned it, no,” I started, licking my lips, watching his eyes flit down to watch the action. “But since you brought it up, I must agree that it was very enjoyable.”

The corner of his mouth lifted in a little smile, the pretty red flush I’d seen a couple minutes ago spotting his cheeks again. “If I could, Harrington, I’d be on my knees for you right here and now,” He smirked upon seeing my mouth drop open and the way my body went slack against the counter – which, if I hadn’t been leaning against, I may have fallen over. “But we both know that can’t happen. Soon, though, baby.”

He whispered the last part dangerously close to my ear and I swallowed heavily, watching him walk out of the office, hips swaying as he went over to Robin and Heather, who were waiting for us by the exit.

“Shit,” I said to myself, quickly trying to gather myself before walking out to join them.

I overheard Billy asking Robin if she was going to come to the movies, and she shook her head no.

“My sister is in town this week, I’m chilling with her,” She responded, giving me a look. I grinned and I could tell she was resisting the urge to roll her eyes. “But I’m sure you guys will have plenty of fun without me.” Heather giggled and I looked at Billy, who shrugged. Maybe she knew something.

~

As soon as I got home I hopped in the shower, washing the day’s sweat off my body, and took a minute in the mirror, admiring the slight tan my skin had taken on due to my outdoor job but making a face when I noticed the line on my shoulders, marking off the clear difference between my uncovered arms and t-shirt covered chest. The contrast between milky white and sun-kissed was very noticeable; the complete opposite of the golden sheen that seemed to surround Billy 24/7.

I threw on a clean pair of worn-in khakis that Lucas would probably make fun of and laced up my Adidas sneakers before pulling a navy hoodie over my head – the movie theater in Starcourt Mall was always freezing, and with the sun going down outside, the temperature wasn’t blazing hot anymore.

Putting my watch back on my left wrist, I glanced at the time and noticed that it was nearing 7:30. I had just enough time to spray a few more puffs of hairspray on my mane that needed a little bit of a trim, and then I’d be out the door to pick up my kids.

I drove to get Lucas first, since he was the closest, and he climbed into the backseat before I could even honk the horn – Erica had been driving him crazy today, apparently (“What else is new?” I asked him) and he was desperate to get out of the house even just for a couple of hours for the movie.

“Why are you wearing khakis to the movies?” He joked, gesturing to his holey jeans. “You need to get with the times, old man.”

I scoffed and turned on my blinker, going left on a backroad to the Byer’s house. “I am far from old, grasshopper,” he rolled his eyes at me and I grinned. “I am obviously in my prime.”

Lucas laughed and shook his head, “You drive a burgundy BMW,” he put emphasis on burgundy, “And you wear khakis and polos for fun. Come on, Steve.”

I made a face and tugged on the collar of my sweatshirt, “This doesn’t look like a polo to me, Sinclair! And come on, this was my mom’s car last year. I’m not about to turn down a free BMW just because it slightly resembles a grandma vehicle.”

Glancing in the rearview mirror at him, I noticed him smiling and I couldn’t help but notice the surge of warmth rush through me as I considered the random group of kids I’d become – oddly enough – friends with over the past few months.

I remembered driving to the Wheelers after a particularly rough day at school when I was just miserable, not seeing Nancy in the hallways, and then noticing that Byers was nowhere to be found either – and I put two and two together and that was it, my little idea that I had built up thinking that we could get back together completely fell apart.

In a blind rush, I had driven to the florist, grabbed the first thing of roses sitting in wait for someone to buy them for a loved one, and made my way to the Wheeler residence at the end of a peachy cul-de-sac, Mr. Wheeler’s car in the driveway, and one Dustin Henderson wrinkling his nose in disgust as he turned away from the door.

Dustin had eyed me with my slightly red eyes (from the flowers, I told him, not crying), and muttering practiced apologies under my breath, until he stopped me from going up to the front door with a shout of “HEY!”

“What?” I said, the miserable feeling in my stomach growing. Dustin was young and hadn’t experienced true heartbreak yet, I wanted to warn him never to get involved.

“What are you sorry for, Harrington? I mean, you’re a douchebag, sure, but not so much anymore. And let’s be honest, Nancy might be sweet but she’s not exactly Miss Perfect,” Dustin threw up his arms in exasperation at my confused look. “She cheated on you, Steve. And she knew exactly what she was doing.” It still stung. He saw me visibly winced and reached out a hand to pat me on the shoulder.

“Thanks for reminding me,” I said sarcastically, looking down at the dozen roses I had spent too much cash on, desperately wanting to throw them and say good riddance.

Dustin hesitated and shrugged. “I’m just saying, Steve. She doesn’t deserve an apology. You do.”

I felt tears prick my eyes as, for the first time, someone had consoled me and offered reassurance after the stupid drama shit that I had been through – first dealing with realizing that Tommy and Carol were not very nice people, then having to redeem myself constantly because some people couldn’t accept change, and finally realizing that Nancy hadn’t really been in love with me, it had just been some kind of cover because I used to be the popular guy and she was a nerd and that kind of cliché was exciting for her.

Dustin’s eyes widened as he noticed my brown eyes welling up, threatening to spill over, but he patted my shoulder again before embracing me in an awkward hug, which, although I recognized was weird, felt so friendly and nice that I had just hugged him back, furiously blinking away any evidence that I had almost cried in the arms of a thirteen year old.

“Thanks, man,” I whispered, having to talk quiet to get out the words over the lump still present in my throat. “You’re right.”

Henderson had given me a knowing smile and then grabbed the roses out of my hand, taking a sniff before letting them fall to the ground. “Come on,” He walked towards my BMW like he rode in it all the time, and threw himself into the passenger seat, patting the door like he was signaling the driver he was ready to go. “I’m meeting Max and Lucas at the quarry, you can drive me, so I don’t have to walk.”

Without a second thought, I had driven him and ended up staying, having Lucas teach me how to use his slingshot thing, and learning more about Billy by default through Max, who was very defensive and a bit abrasive, a force to be admired, and Lucas was clearly smitten by her. That had been the start of a great bond between Dustin and myself, and the rest of their party soon followed – I wasn’t considered a true member, but was considered a step-member, and that was good enough for me.

I drew myself out of my memories and laughed at Lucas as he attempted to sing along with Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean that was currently playing out of the pop station on the radio, the song ending as I pulled up into the Byer’s driveway, waving to Joyce who was standing on the porch smoking a cigarette, Will sitting on the step below her, obviously waiting for me to pull up.

“Home before midnight, please, Steve,” Joyce said to me kindly, a smile on her face. She seemed to appreciate that I liked being with the kids, and she was always accepting of me – in a different way from Mrs. Wheeler. Karen loved chatting with me and made me feel welcome, but Joyce almost felt like another mom to me – one I could actually tell anything and get solid no-bullshit advice from that didn’t have the inevitable parent warning coming after it. She always advised me carefully, of course, but never held back her true feelings. It was what I admired most about her.

“Sure thing,” I responded with an easy smile, winking at Will through the rearview mirror as he slid into the backseat, pushing Lucas to the middle. Joyce waved to us as I u-turned and left the drive, ready to make one last stop at the Hargrove residence before we got to our destination. “Hey, uh, just so you guys know – Billy is coming along too.”

Lucas wrinkled his nose and Will shrugged, looking out the window. I waited for a response, which I had a feeling was going to come from Lucas – and after a couple of seconds, it did.

“Is he – like, a friend now? It’s okay if he is, I mean the guy probably needs some friends to keep him sane,” I eyed Lucas, who I know got tons of stories about family life from Max, and noticed that the frown on his face resembled one of sympathy, not annoyance about Billy tagging along to the movies. “You’re a good guy to invite him, Harrington.”

If only he knew, I thought briefly, but pushed it away. None of the kids needed to know anything about the little fling Billy and I had going on; it was going to end soon anyway, when the summer came to a close, and he wouldn’t be around anymore – they might question it but I decided to push that thought away for a later date.

“Everyone needs a friend,” I said, thinking back to how Dustin had realized my need and inserted himself, not caring about the age gap or anything, not that it truly mattered but it wasn’t an expected thing. “That includes Billy, even with his ego and slight anger issues.”

Will giggled a little and Lucas grinned. “We know you’ll protect us if he goes rogue, Steve,” Will agreed, and I nodded emphatically, finally rolling to stop outside the little house on the edge of town, Billy’s blue Camaro parked in one side of the driveway, a white pickup truck on the other.

I pressed against the horn once and the screen door swung open immediately, Max’s red hair making an appearance before the rest of her, and Billy bringing up the rear, in an outfit different from the ones he usually wore – jeans were in place, as always, but no barely button short sleeve shirt or black boots, tonight it was a worn red sweatshirt that was a couple sizes too big, the neckline cut down making one of the sleeves slip to the edge of his shoulder, the word CALIFORNIA printed on the front in white block letters. His feet were clad in the white high tops he used to play basketball in, and his curls that were turning blonder everyday from being out in the sun were pulled back into that low bun I’d seen once before when movie night had happened.

He looked downright delectable, and I felt my jaw go slack and any words I was considering saying to the pair were stuck in my throat. Billy didn’t smirk at me sexily when he got into the car, it was a genuine smile, small but there, and Max eventually thumped the back of my seat impatiently because I was still trying to process the fact that Billy Hargrove was sitting in my front seat, willingly, and I was probably going to kiss him at some point tonight.

“Let’s go Harrington,” She whined, leaning her head between the front seats, eyes darting between me and Billy for a second. “We’re going to be late for the movie!”

I muttered a quick apology and put the car back into drive, going a little faster than necessary down the highway to the mall, the kids idle chatter in the backseat going in one ear and out the other because every now and then I could feel Billy’s baby blues staring at me and it was making me squirm a little in my seat.

Within five minutes, we had reached the mall parking lot at the movie theater entrance, found a parking spot close to the front, and were running towards the entrance like we were going to be late even though we had a good ten minutes before the movie was set to play.

“What are we even seeing?” Billy finally questioned as we watched the kids wait in the concession line with the ten-dollar bill I just given them so they could get snacks for all of us.

I pointed to the poster plastered against the wall. “Back to the Future.” Billy huffed a little but shrugged. He seemed okay with it.

“You’re not going to forget your promise from earlier, right?” His gaze flickered down to my lips, biting his own bottom lip, and I wanted to make a comment about how insatiable he was, I mean we were here with the kids and were technically supposed to be chaperoning, but…who was I to resist Billy Hargrove?

“Of course not, Hargrove,” I replied, saving my smart comments for later since the kids were bounding towards us with three sodas, two buckets of popcorn, and three boxes of candy. “Geez, got enough there?”

Max thrusted the Whoppers in Billy’s direction, which he took without argument, handed a large Coke to me with one straw already stuck in it’s cap, and set a tub of popcorn in my free hand. “We’re sitting in the front, you two can sit wherever you want.” She ordered and turned towards the theater with the Back to the Future poster plastered by its side, leading the way with Lucas and Will on either side of her.

Billy grinned at me and winked, leaning over to take a long sip from the soda I was holding in one hand. “Come on Stevie, we’ll miss the previews.” He sauntered ahead of me, and I could see little dark freckles decorating his neck and the top of his back where his hair was lifted off for once, the sweatshirt with the cut-out neck sliding down one side of his shoulders again even though he consistently tugged it back up. I desperately wanted to kiss every inch of his skin but pushed my horny thoughts back, because as we entered the movie theater, it was nearly full – Billy and I managed to get a couple of seats in a corner, but it wasn’t in the back, only halfway up, and despite the aisle separating us from the rest of the row, it was definitely too dangerous for any serious making out to be going on. Unfortunately.

Billy made a face as we both came to that conclusion at the same time, and as we sat down, a shared Coke resting in the cupholder between us and the bucket of popcorn resting between my legs so Billy and I could both grab handfuls, it felt kind of like a date. I bit my lip and wondered if he was feeling that same way – if he was, his face wasn’t showing it, and as he had referred to our thing before as being a “no-bullshit” fling, I doubted he would say it even if he was thinking it. But Billy was smarter than me, had probably done this whole fling thing before, and definitely knew better than to catch feelings.

Not that I was catching feelings, I told myself as I glanced over, the light from the movie screen illuminating his face. He struck me as beautiful, in that the moment, shorter curls framing his face, accentuating his cheek bones, lips red from the saltiness of the popcorn, full dark lashes framing the perfect eyes that darted over to look at me when he finally felt me staring.

I yanked my gaze away even though I knew I had been caught, and didn’t catch the smile playing at the corners of his mouth or the blush that rose in his cheeks as the movie theater finally emerged itself into complete darkness as the previews ended.

Billy and I both respected the rules of a movie theater; neither of us talking throughout the whole film, no apologies being exchanged even though our fingers occasionally brushed in the popcorn bucket and we reached for the coke at the same time frequently. He poured Whoppers from the box into my open palm like he just knew I liked them as much as he did, and I found myself incredibly sad when the credits started rolling and the dim lights came back on.

“That wasn’t a half-bad movie,” Billy spoke first, letting other people start filing out of the theater before we stood up to leave, gathering our trash to take with us. “What did you think, Harrington?”

This small talk was just screaming “date” to me, because it reminded me of several I had been on before, but I, again, pushed the idea away and answered his question. “A little confusing, but good. I’d watch it again.”

Billy nodded in agreement and waved at the three kids I almost forgot we had brought with us. They were standing outside waiting for us in the lobby, chatting away animatedly about what I assumed was the flick we had all just seen.

“We should go to Scoops,” Max suggested, making me groan.

“Ice cream? After candy and popcorn?” I had to admit, a butterscotch waffle cone with whipped cream did sound good, but my stomach was also full of movie snacks. But it was ice cream.

“Come on, Harrington,” Billy elbowed me in the side, that pretty smile that didn’t usually rest on his face seeming to come easy tonight. “Their curfew isn’t until what, 11:30? Neil is out on another business trip anyway, so Max here can push the limit a little. We’ve got an hour to kill.”

I raised my eyebrows in Billy’s direction and Max also looked surprised, but delighted. “I want a fudge sundae,” she declared in Lucas’s direction, grabbing his hand and dragging him in the direction of the exit that led out to the mall that was still bustling with mall rats.

“Ice cream it is,” Will grinned, running after them and accepting the arm Lucas threw around his shoulder as they stumbled toward Scoops, obviously in good moods. I stared after them proudly for a second before nodding my head in their direction.

“Come on, Billy,” I almost grabbed his hand like Max had done to Lucas, but at the last minute stopped myself. “I bought the movie snacks; you buy the ice cream.”

Billy’s laugh filled my ears and he fell into step with me. “Sure thing, pretty boy. I’ll buy you all the ice cream you want.”

~

Max and Billy were the only two left in my car, having dropped Will and Lucas off at home, and as I approached their house, the sad feeling settled in my gut again. Tonight had been so good, so fun, and I didn’t want it to end. I was afraid I’d never get another night like this with Billy, even though there was obviously so much chemistry between us – I feared I was making it up, and that he was going to snap his fingers and say ‘just kidding.’

“Well,” I began, shifting the BMW into park. “Here we are.”

“Oh shit,” Billy said suddenly, looking over at me with a twinkle in his eye. “Harrington, I hate to ask this of you, but can you drive me up to the gas station to get some cigs? Hopper’s already ticketed me once for my Camaro being a night disturbance.”

Max looked dubiously between us for a second before lifting the lock on her door and climbing out. “Mom won’t care if you’re out later than me since Neil’s gone. See ya, stupid.” She shut the door and walked up the path to the front door, not looking behind her as she walked in the dark house, Susan probably already asleep.

“Smooth,” I got out, smile widening as I looked over at him, the picture of leisure, the streetlight above my BMW making interesting shadows dance across his face. The light dipped in the curve of his collarbone that wasn’t covered by the sweatshirt and I resisted the urge to lean over and suck a dark mark right on the beautiful patch of skin that I bet tasted like a mixture of his spicy soap and chlorine from the pool he practically lived in daily.

“That I am, Stevie,” His showed his teeth with that sexy grin of his. “Now…I think that backseat of yours looks pretty promising,” He made a show of looking behind the console back at the empty row that was probably going to be very uncomfortable with two guys smushed together. But smushed against Billy would make it all better. “What do you say you drive on out to Lover’s Lake and…I don’t know, let me finally get a real taste of you?”

“If you insist,” I managed to respond, clearing my throat. He laughed lightly and turned up the radio, switching the station from pop to the underground college rock station, letting his elbow hang out the window as I drove off into the night, already feeling myself getting hard in my jeans knowing that Billy and I were actually about to hook up for the first time.

Chapter Text

The spot overlooking the lake on the edge of town was, as usual, a little busy – several cars were parked on the front spots that directly looked out onto the lake, but I knew the little path off to the side that would tuck my BMW into a perfect camouflage of trees and still have the amazing night view of stars and the crescent moon reflecting off the water.

Not that I was interested in that view; it had nothing on the boy sitting in my front seat. As I put the car in park, I turned the keys to the position that shut off the engine but kept the radio running – I turned the volume down and as I did, Billy reached out and grabbed my hand in his own, turning my attention towards him. He could feel my nerves, and I wanted to believe he was nervous too, but all those thoughts went out the window as I let myself lean forward and capture his lips in a kiss, my free hand coming up to cup his cheek. I felt him grip at my wrist, pressing into my touch as he keened in the kiss, letting me lick into his mouth without hesitation.

I was truly seeing stars behind my closed eyelids, already feeling like I was floating in another world, the hand that still held mine against the radio dial letting go in favor of settling in my hair. He tangled his fingers in the long strands, tugging gently, making me whimper against his lips, my crotch stirring uncomfortably in the khakis I was wearing.

Finally, we broke apart, lips slick with spit, his mouth red and so inviting still, his chest heaving slowly as he caught his breath. The sweatshirt had slipped down his shoulder again, and this time I immediately dipped my head down to nip at the skin, preening as he pressed up into me on contact, a pretty moan echoing in my car as I sucked gently, soothing with my tongue after I bit, working along his collarbone and licking a line up his neck, pressing small open-mouthed kisses along his jaw before I reached his ear and took the small hoop he was wearing between my mouth and tugged gently.

“Steve,” he moaned my name – my real name, not my last name, not “Stevie,” not pretty boy or any of the other numerous nicknames he had for me. I slowly let the earring fall from my mouth and my breathing quickened as I drew back a little to look him in the face. His eyes fluttered open, mouth slack, and he regarded me carefully, blushing once he gathered why I was staring at him.

“Say it again,” I murmured, pressing a chaste kiss to his open mouth.

He looked blissed out, a truly beautiful sight and I hadn’t even touched his cock yet. He was pliant under my touch and responded to whatever I gave him and hearing him moan my name with no pretense gave me a rush like none other.

“Steve,” he whispered against my lips, a small smile forming. He ran a hand down my chest, reaching the hem of my hoodie and tugging. “Take your shirt off and get in the backseat.”

I grinned and scooted back into my seat from where I had been leaning over the console. “As you wish.” I opened the drivers door and let myself into the back, tugging my navy hoodie over my head as soon as I sat down on the leather, smiling appreciatively when Billy climbed into the back through the other door, pulling me down into a quick kiss before he left my lips to trail down my neck and chest.

“So pretty,” He said quietly against my skin as I shivered under his touch, eyes watching him as he pressed kisses to each of my freckles before letting his hands slide up from my hips to my chest, thumbs carefully flicking over both my nipples to judge my reaction. My hips jerked up at the feeling, my head falling slack against the top of the seat, a pinched moan leaving my lips. “Like that?”

I forced myself to look down at him and nod, and he grinned prettily up at me before sticking out his tongue and letting that do the work on my left nipple, still casually caressing my right with his thumb. He blew gently over the wetness his tongue had left and I pricked up at the feeling, his teeth immediately coming in to tug at the peak, my back arching off the seat, mind completely blown over how sensitive I apparently was.

“Mhm, Harrington,” he breathed against my skin, giving my left nipple a break to pay more attention to the right. “You’re so sensitive, baby,” that pet name had me closing my eyes and biting back a moan as he gave my right nipple the same treatment as my left, pressing a kiss to both before he continued the trail down my stomach, his fingers carding through the small trail of fine brown hair that went from my pectorals to the top of my khakis.

I looked down at him when I felt his fingers dip into the waistband of my khakis, my interest very obviously showing through the thin material. He met my glassy gaze, biting his lip as the flicked the button open with a flick of his thumb and tugged the zipper down. My anticipation grew; I licked my lips at the feeling of his fingers ghosting over the front of my briefs as he pulled the khakis down a little further off my hips for access.

“My, my,” Billy breathed, letting himself take in my arousal and was dangerously tugging at the front of my underwear. I blushed as my cock jumped a little when he settled his hands on my thighs, pushing my legs apart so he could lean down between them. “Those rumors aren’t lies, are they, King Steve?”

The nickname made me roll my eyes, but his quiet laughter put a smile on my face. “You aren’t complaining, are you Hargrove?” I teased. He wasn’t exactly doing a great job at hiding his own arousal and desire; the way he eyed my tented briefs was one of the sexiest things I’d ever seen – he looked like he wanted it, and I couldn’t wait for him to fucking take it. He was right; the rumors weren’t lies – I knew I was well-endowed, long and decently thick, but no one else I’d ever had sex with looked at my dick the way Billy did.

“Fuck,” I whimpered as he finally leaned down to mouth over the cloth, his eyes peering up at me innocently even though he was about to perform a very lewd act. “God, Billy. Get your mouth on me, please.”

He grinned, flushed red, curls already a little wild and coming loose from his bun. “Since you asked so nicely.” He pulled my underwear down my thighs where the waistband of my khakis lay, and he bit his lip as my dick slapped my stomach, precome already glistening at the tip from his constant teasing.

Without any further hesitation he leaned forward and let his tongue drag from base to tip, one of my hands clutching at the headrest of the seat beside me, the other immediately resting in his hair, my fingers tangling in his soft curls, tugging more strands from the elastic. “Billy,” I whimpered when his mouth closed over me, the moan he gave as he began to suck driving me wild. My hips raised up slightly, although I was trying desperately to stay still.

His hand came up to grip me at the base, elbow resting on my hip to keep me down as he worked his mouth further down my length, every now and then letting out little noises of enjoyment that had me reeling – my skin felt like it was on fire with every touch, his mouth was definitely a new vice, and I felt myself dangerously close to coming even though he had been sucking me like the tastiest lollipop in the universe for probably less than a minute.

Noticing my increased breathing, and taking a hint from the drawn out moan that left my lips when he did some wicked trick with his tongue, he lifted his mouth from my dick with a lewd pop, lips cherry red and wet with spit, some shininess on his chin. He was too beautiful for words – I grabbed his chin between my thumb and forefinger and leaned down, pressing a filthy kiss to his lips, the surprised sound from him drowned as my mouth closed over his. The heady taste of me in his mouth wasn’t disgusting like I had thought it would be; it was intoxicating.

He pulled himself up from the floor of the BMW to sit on my lap, thick thighs stretched over mine, hand still loosely gripping at my cock, jacking it gently with the leftover sticky residue of his spit and my own precome. I felt his erection pressing into my hip, probably suffering greatly in those tight jeans of his, and I palmed his crotch, the pressure making him pull away from my mouth to catch a breath, eyes meeting mine in a glazed stare.

“Take your fuckin’ jeans off, Billy,” I murmured, flicking open the button and getting my hands pushed out of the way as he sat up a little taller and yanked his fly down, kicking his pants off in a swift motion, the material landing with a quiet thump on the floorboard. My eyebrows raised when I noticed he was indeed wearing no underwear – it was Billy, though, so I should’ve expected no less. “Want a little help with that?”

His dick, was, as I expected, pretty. It wasn’t as long as mine, but nicely thick and easy to admire. Flushed red and fully hard, his arousal pooling at the tip, my mouth suddenly watered and I wanted nothing more than to taste him like he had done to me. His hips jerked eagerly at my words and his cock brushed mine, my arms coming to wrap around the small of his back to pull him against me, our lips meeting in another kiss that I couldn’t get enough of.

My hand settled on his cock, thumb brushing over the head, making him shiver and break our kiss, forehead resting on my shoulder, small whimpers leaving his mouth as I gripped a little harder, increasing the pace of my hand, loving the way his fingers pressed into my biceps like he was desperate for something to hold on to.

“Shit, Steve,” He mouthed at my skin as my free hand skated down the smooth skin of his back to grip at his ass, the fullness filling my palm perfectly. I let out a ‘mhm,’ appreciative of the way my hand molded against his ass. He jerked his hips into my hand as I started working a little faster. “I’m gonna fucking come soon, I – I can’t,”

I buried my face in his neck, and nodded, pressing a kiss to the skin as he tilted his head to the side, welcoming my lips. “Come on, Billy,” I encouraged, my own dick hard and weeping and wanting attention. I wanted him to come first, though, I wanted to feel his release against my skin, wanted to hear all of those pretty sounds leave his mouth as he came because of me.

“Fuck,” he whined, squirming as I pressed my thumb to his tip again, beginning to learn what he really liked. “Steve, baby,” One last tug at his cock, and the fingers of my left hand cupping his ass roughly, was all it took for him to let go. He threw his head back in pleasure, long column of his neck shiny with a sheen of sweat, and my eyes never once left his face as his mouth dropped open, ropes of cum landing on the exposed skin of my stomach, some falling on my fingers as I stroked him until he was shivering, squirming with overstimulation.

There was a moment of basking, the radio playing something by what sounded like the Police, as my hand rested on his softening cock, his release cooling on my stomach, my own orgasm not long off after the way Billy had responded to a simple handjob.

Hargrove rolled his neck and shoulders gently, bringing himself back down, looking at me with a smile of bliss. “Can’t wait to see what else you can do, baby,” He said, breaking the silence that had settled between us. “You’ve got fuckin’ magic hands, I know that much.” I blushed and let out a breathy laugh, wiping the spunk off my fingers on my own briefs, not really caring.

“Maybe you just make things easy,” I responded, hands settling on his thighs and giving them a quick squeeze, loving the half-smirk I got in return. “But I’m probably just that good.”

“Don’t get a big head, Harrington,” he grinned, looking down at my still very obvious erection that was waiting for a hand or a mouth to attend to it. I didn’t get a chance to respond to his quip; he lowered himself again, climbing off my lap into the floorboard, mouth closing over my cock on a mission to get me off.

I jerked my hips up, unable to stop it this time, and he pulled back slightly, eyeing me, but grabbed my hands and placed them in his hair, giving me free reign to guide his head however I wanted up and down my length. “Jesus,” I gasped as he sucked harder when I held his head in place, my hips thrusting forward of their own accord, his eyes closed in concentration as he took whatever I gave him, fingers digging into my thighs to steady himself.

“Billy,” I warned, steadying my hips, fingers tangled in his honey curls, his blue eyes peering up at me when I said his name. If he hadn’t had a mouthful of dick, I know he would’ve been smiling, and it took one last movement of his tongue against the head of my cock before my hips jerked up at the sensation of coming. “Fuck, fuck,” he had pulled off just a little, my cockhead still remaining in his mouth and as he swallowed what I gave him, not at all deterred by the sensation.

“Mm,” he pulled off after I finished, making a show of licking his lips, red flush spread from his cheeks down his neck as he rose from the floorboard again, sitting on my lap. My arms encircled his waist as he pressed our foreheads together. “Finally got to taste you after all this time.”

I blushed but grinned at him. “And? Was it everything you expected?”

He thought about it for a second, smiling. “Let’s just say that won’t be the last time I give you a blowjob, Stevie.” I laughed and so did he, the afterglow and stench of sex creating an electric atmosphere. My car windows were fogged, and it was so late now that the radio was only streaming constant music, no commercial breaks for the few listeners still with their radios on.

It felt so right, holding Billy. There was no weirdness like there had been with girls I’d brought here before – no apprehension and asking if everything was okay, just pure want and need and everything falling into place as it should.

“You’re okay with this, right?” Billy shifted in my lap, sweatshirt still in place but legs bare against my khakis. “Hooking up, I mean.”

That feeling tugged at me again, but I nodded anyway like it wasn’t anything. “Whatever you want.” I decided that was a safe thing to say – it left the door open, maybe, but I knew the relationship/date thing was not on the table. Not only was it dangerous and possibly reputation ruining, it wasn’t like Billy to have relationships. He had been in Hawkins for almost nine months and (according to high school gossip and locker room gab) no girlfriend, or rumored significant other – just stories of hookups and rejects. Me being me, and our reputations being what they were, there was no way Billy was about to throw that player status out the window because we happened to be good together in bed.

That’s what I kept telling myself, anyway, and I was going to keep repeating it until I believed it and the summer was over and our “affair” with it.

“Good,” Billy breathed, reaching behind him to let his hair our of the elastic that barely had any strands left in it anyway. “Because you’ve got the best dick around, Stevie.” He winked and I rolled my eyes, slapping his ass lightly as he leaned down to grab his jeans. He whipped his head around with a grin, wiggling his eyebrows before he climbed off my lap to sit next to me and tug his jeans back on.

Since he was obviously gearing up to get dropped off at his house and call it a night, I followed his lead and pulled my hoodie back over my head, doing up my khakis as he laced up his converse.

“Harrington!” Billy slapped my arm, pointing to a bruise blooming on his collarbone; that delectable spot that had him moaning and me aching to taste more of his skin. “You gave me a fuckin’ hickey,”

I grinned sheepishly and shrugged. “Sorry? Couldn’t help myself, baby,” I crooned, reaching for him. He rolled his eyes, letting out a breathy laugh, and let himself be situated on my lap again.

“Yeah, well,” Billy rolled his hips down onto mine, making me jerk up at the contact. “Now everyone at the pool is going to see that mark and know that someone has a hold on me.”

I raised my eyebrows, biting my lip as I thought about the endless list of girl names that would run through everyone’s mind when they saw the reddish-purple mark right in the dip of his collarbone.

“Little do they know it’s from Steve fucking Harrington,” Billy murmured in my ear, biting my earlobe and delicately tugging on the skin before letting it go. “I’ll wear it with pride, baby.”

I swallowed heavily, aware that my spent cock was starting to get interested again. He climbed off me, though, and stumbled out of the backseat, shutting the door behind him. I took that as my cue to get back into the front and take him home before Susan – or God forbid, Max – got overly suspicious.

The ride back to the Hargrove residence was quiet, only music streaming from my tinny speakers, the car still reeking with the smell of a quick hook-up, and I could sense Billy’s hesitation when I rolled to a stop at the edge of his driveway.

“You know, Harrington, I don’t usually plan my hook-ups in advance,” he started, brushing a stray curl out of his eye. “But we seem to have a small problem with schedules.” He smiled at me wryly.

“My parents leave town for Baltimore on Thursday,” I blurted out, hoping I didn’t seem too eager. The mischievous sparkle in Billy’s eyes told me that I definitely did, but whatever. “How long is Neil gone?”

Billy furrowed his brow, thinking about it. He tugged on a stray thread on his sweatshirt as he answered, “I think he’s supposed to be gone until Friday, but I thought I heard him telling Susan something last night about how he might be coming home Wednesday for a break before going to some new place his work’s sending him.”

“Well,” I started slowly, shifting in my seat to face him. “How about you find out and let me know, and in the meantime, we’ll just say we’re going to…meet up at the end of the week?”

Billy nodded. “Sounds good to me,” He made a move to unlock the passenger door but didn’t pull the handle to get out. He looked around the deserted street before leaning across the console and planting a kiss on my lips, soft and sweet, my eyes fluttering closed at the sensation and just about to tug him in before he pulled back, eyes glassy and cheeks flushed. “Goodnight, Steve.”

Still reeling from the somewhat overwhelming events of the night, I couldn’t muster up words right then to return the farewell, I just watched him get out of the BMW and walk around the hood with his hands stuffed in his pockets, pushing open the front door without a look behind him.

“Night, Billy,” I whispered even though he was safely inside. I slumped back against my seat with what I was sure was a dopey smile on my face, and drove home slowly, savoring the afterglow that still hung in the air.

Chapter Text

“Oh boy,” Robin said wryly as I walked up the path into the clubhouse with her Tuesday morning. “Someone got laid last night.”

My cheeks pinked right away, and I let a look of surprise cross my face. “Who? Me? What gave it away?”

She laughed and waved across the path to some other worker loading up a golf cart with bags of clubs. “Oh, I don’t know – the shit-eating grin on your face this morning or the kind of embarrassing way you resembled a tomato when we walked by the pool entrance a second ago. One of those things, probably.”

I nodded in understanding, grinning at her. “Makes sense, I guess.” We walked into the tennis area, Rachel and some girl that looked vaguely familiar playing a match on the court, Harry coaching some other kid on the hardcourt opposite – several other people vying for a session today were lined up around the gates and Robin and I exchanged a look.

“Hope you’re ready to play a lot of tennis today, Steve,” Reese greeted me, putting the racquet a typically used in my hand as soon as I wandered into the lounge to get my gear. “All hands are on deck today, we’re completely booked.”

Robin started to shrink behind me, but Reese laughed and shook his head.

“Oh, no,” He moved me out of the way to see Robin sheepishly grinning. “No guarding the towels today, Buckley. You’re out there moving balls with the rest of us.”

She made a face but accepted the three fresh cans of tennis balls he tossed at her. She trotted out to the court after me, grumbling something about how hot it was outside already, and I laughed. “You know your job description is literally a ball kid, right?”

Robin glared at me, tearing open the fresh can and laying two balls on the head of my racquet. “Shut up, Harrington,” I gave her a wink, making her fake gag, and I turned away to motion to a waiting freckle-faced kid that was stretching by the net of one of the empty hardcourts. I was mentally counting down the hours until my first break where I planned on going to take a quick dip in the pool.

~

The sun was setting low on the horizon by the time our Tuesday schedule was empty, and I hadn’t had one spare moment to cool off with a few laps in the club pool, which was rather saddening, and it was nearing seven now – a late day since we usually finished by six – which meant the year-round employees were the only ones left at the pool for night hours, and Billy was definitely already clocked out and long gone.

“No lover boy today,” Robin remarked as we made our way up to the shiny clubhouse which was bustling with overnight guests enjoying the pre-dinner cocktail hour. Going through the side entrance, we bypassed the throng of people and went into the office, tired and sweaty and ready to leave for the day.

“Nope,” I popped the ‘p,’ accepting the pen from her so I could clock out too. “We’re supposed to maybe meet up this weekend,” I remarked once we were safely back outside, getting into my BMW.

Robin raised her eyebrows. “So, is it like a date thing now? Or do y’all just plan hookups? I thought those happened, you know. Spontaneously.”

I shrugged and backed out of the parking lot, cranking the A/C even though the temperature outside was considerably more bearable than it had been the rest of the day. “It’s not a date thing. He made that clear – but there’s obviously some type of something there and he just suggested that we meet up this weekend.”

Robin gave me a side-eye from the passenger seat. “What do you mean he made that clear?”

“After we – you know,” I waved my hand in the air flippantly. “He asked me if I was okay with just hooking up and I told him yeah.”

Robin snorted. “Well that was stupid.”

I wrinkled my nose and pushed my hair back from my face, stopping at the red light that led back into Hawkins downtown area. “What? How was that stupid? I don’t want to scare him away and I most certainly don’t want to deal with relationship drama.”

“Steve, you’re such a dingus,” Robin sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger. “Whatever, you’ll realize it soon enough.”

I huffed. “Realize what? I’m not in love with the guy, Robin. I like him, sure, and he’s a hell of a good lay, but let’s be real here. Him and me – it can’t happen, really. Beyond this summer fling thing, it can’t last, we don’t work together. He’s going back to California, probably to a good college because he’s smart whether he fucking admits it or not, and I’m here in podunk Indiana, probably jobless once September rolls around.”

Robin just looked at me, a serious thinking expression on her face. “Okay,” she said simply, turning to look out the window as made a right turn onto her road.

“Okay,” I agreed, coming to a quick stop right at her driveway. “See you tomorrow, Robin.”

She got out of the car quickly, ducking back in to say something else to me. “You told me that he kissed you goodnight, right? That he brought up seeing you again and kissed you before he got out of the car, right?”

Confused, I nodded slowly, my eyes drifting to the backseat where everything had gone down last night. Jesus. “Yeah, so what?”

She rolled her eyes. “Hookups don’t kiss goodnight, Steve. Ask anybody who does it frequently.”

“So maybe we’re different,” I argued lightly, prompting her to give me an annoyed look.

“Sure, keep telling yourself that,” she laughed, but not in a very humorous way. “You’re different alright.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I shook my head, not understanding what she was getting at.

“Nothing,” She straightened herself from where she was leaning into the car. “See you at the club tomorrow, Steve.”

The passenger door slammed shut by way of her hand, and I watched as she trudged up her driveway to the house, not putting the car in drive until she was safely inside. I knew Robin cared about me whether she was going to say it or not, so I appreciated that she was trying to look out for me, but I could handle myself just fine.

~

I noticed my dad’s Mercedes parked in the garage when I pulled my own car into the driveway a few minutes later, and I prepared myself for a rough conversation over dinner, probably complete with a report on my work ethic from Rand at the country club.

What I wasn’t expecting was to hear my mom on the phone when I walked in the door.

“Oh you know what! He just walked in,” my mom’s cheeks were flushed, a bright grin on her face, and she giggled. I rolled my eyes and tossed my keys into the bowl by the door. I knew exactly who she was talking to. “Steve – this is for you.”

I eyed the phone suspiciously before accepting the receiver from her.

“Your friend is absolutely charming, Steve,” Mom whispered, subconsciously fluffing up her blonde hair. “Why haven’t we met this one before?” I gave her a look and she shrugged, still smiling, before walking off down the hallway to the kitchen.

“Hello,” I answered kind of flatly, the stupid jealousy that always flared up in me whenever Billy flirted with someone else making me even more annoyed than I had been when I walked in the door.

A deep laugh erupted from the other end. “Don’t sound so happy to hear from me, baby,” Billy breathed into the phone, talking quietly. I wondered if Susan or Max was near in the living room.

“Sorry,” I muttered, melting at little bit at his term of endearment that I hated I loved so much. “Just – do you have to flirt with my mom, man? You should’ve seen how tickled she was at whatever you were saying.”

He laughed again, brighter this time. “It’s my thing, Stevie,” I could tell he was grinning. “Mom’s just love me, what can I say?”

I leaned against the wall, unable to fight off the smile breaking out on my face. “It’s because you look like every romance novel cover ever, Billy,” He laughed again. I loved the sound and loved knowing I could make him laugh like that.

“Oh really?” He teased, “Is that why you like me, too, baby?”

I sucked in a breath, biting my lip, wishing I was alone in my room so I could say what I really wanted. “That’s just one reason I like you,” I admitted quietly, wincing at my cheesiness. There was a small silence on the other end of the telephone, and I hoped I hadn’t just stepped out of line.

“You’ll have to tell me the rest of those reasons sometime, pretty boy,” Billy murmured, making me blush. I was glad he couldn’t see me; sometimes I hated how easily I reacted to every little thing he said. He had some kind of weird hold over me, had always been able to draw a reaction out of me with just a few words ever since he moved into Hawkins.

When he first came into town, it was all bark, all anger and confusion and harsh words tossed my way – fierce playing on the basketball court, fiercer partying at every invitation he could get his hands on, sharp teeth always bared my way until something snapped in him – he finally got that fight everyone assumed he wanted with me back at Tommy’s New Year’s party, and then everything changed.

The sharp glances had started to turn into low-lidded gazes, his tongue seemed to wag a lot more in my direction, the checks on the basketball court became more of an excuse to press himself against me rather than knock me to the ground – I realized that now, had only hoped all of this back then when I forced myself to ignore that I was developing a dangerous crush.

Now we were here, one month into summer, and my hopes were true – he had the same attraction to me as I did to him, and it was still overwhelming. I wondered if it would ever not be overwhelming. It’s still new, I reminded myself, we had fully hooked up for the first time just last night, even if the teasing had been going on for some time.

“If you say so, Billy,” I responded finally, a smile playing at my lips. “This weekend still good for you?” I asked, hopeful.

“That’s what I called about, actually,” he cleared his throat. “Turns out my dad is gone this entire week, won’t be back until Sunday night – Susan’s picking him up from the Indianapolis airport.”

I bit back a grin, all the possibilities of this weekend suddenly seeming endless, and Thursday couldn’t come fast enough. I wanted Billy to myself, wanted him and me alone in my house just together for once, no hurried hook-up or rushed make-out…

“That’s great,” I suddenly remembered what this weekend was. Dustin was coming home from Camp Nowhere, and Saturday was completely devoted to him – all weekend should be, really, since he had been gone for a month and I hadn’t seen him. I did miss the kid, my current closest friend besides Robin, but Billy…Billy was waiting for me, was ready for me. Who knew if that was all too good to be true and would come crumbling down at any second? I had to get it before it went away.

“Your parents leave Thursday, right?” Billy seemed hesitant but I confirmed, and he barreled on. “Well, maybe, because that Henderson is coming home Saturday, right, I can just come to your place maybe Thursday night because I figure Saturday will be taken up by that party Max keeps gabbing about and I want to spend some time with you and I mean, I can come home after whatever but if you think Thursday –“

I was grinning so widely my cheeks hurt. Robin’s remark about how different our hookups seemed to be came across my mind but at this point I could care less. Billy just wanted me. And I was going to give him whatever he wanted.

I interrupted him, stopping whatever rant he was nervously going on. “Billy,” he stopped, catching his breath. “Come to my house after work Thursday.”

“Okay,” he said quietly. “I’m teaching classes at the pool tomorrow, so I probably won’t see you, but. Good talk, Stevie.”

I heard my dad yell for me at the dinner table and I was glad our conversation seemed to be wrapping up so I could go without feeling like we hadn’t gotten everything we needed to say out in the open. “Yeah, good talk. I’ll see you later, Billy.”

He hung up without another word and I placed the receiver back on the hook, walking into the dining room where dad sipped from his tumbler of whiskey while mom piled his plate with what looked like pot roast.

“Can I go take a shower before dinner, please?” I asked, noticing how sweaty and stinky I was from the busy day at the club. “It’ll take me like five minutes.”

Dad set his glass back down on the table and mom settled herself in her chair to his right, my place setting waiting for me to sit down across from her.

“Could’ve done that instead of talking on the phone, Steve,” dad remarked, lifting a piece of the roast to his lips. “Sit down and eat with us, you can take a shower after.”

I sighed but obeyed without another word, weakly returning the bright smile my mom sent my way. “Tell me more about the gentleman on the phone, honey,” I almost choked on the sip of water I had just taken. “Billy, was it? Have we met him, and I just don’t remember?”

I imagined the syrupy tone he used to talk to all moms, the sexy grin that probably stretched across his face as soon as he noticed the blush or giggle that indicated the woman was attracted to him. Dammit, Billy.

“Yeah, Billy,” I answered, shoveling a bite of mashed potatoes in my mouth and swallowing before answering her second question. “I don’t think you’ve met him. The only time you might have seen him would have been at the country club. He’s a lifeguard.”

Although mom and dad were members of the club, they weren’t frequent visitors like most of the other Hawkins members. I doubted they would notice Billy even if they did frequent the club.

“A lifeguard?” Mom looked impressed. She was probably picturing a shirtless hunk. Which, I mean, Billy fit that description perfectly, but it didn’t mean I couldn’t be annoyed by it. “Well, we’ll just have to meet him sometime.”

Dad jumped in the conversation before mom could seem too eager to meet my young friends, but she had already crossed that line. “Let’s talk about the club, why don’t we, Steve?” I eyed him carefully, dabbing my mouth with the red cloth napkin by my plate.

“What about it, dad?”

“Rand gave me an update on how everything’s going this summer,” he took a sip from his whiskey glass. “Says he can’t talk to any of his members about tennis without them raving about the new assistants he hired this summer.”

A little pride swelled in my chest. I did like my job, even though I wished I could’ve gotten it without my dad’s help – but let’s be honest, my own stubbornness would’ve gotten in the way if anyone had just randomly approached me about working at the country club.

“All he hears about is Steve this, Steve that,” he continued, mom beaming at me from across the table. She seemed happy, but dad seemed indifferent. As usual. “He said he’s thinking about offering you a year-round job at the courts.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Well, that would be great. I hope he approaches me about it soon.” I responded politely, internally cheering for myself. My quiet celebration was interrupted by my dad’s fork clattering down onto his plate.

“Honestly, Steve,” Dad seemed exasperated. I looked up from where I had been smiling down at my plate, the smile gone when I met his eye. “You can’t be serious.”

“Serious about what?” I asked slowly, noticing my mom’s smile disappear from her face too. She set her hand on my dad’s arm and he shook it off, making her roll her eyes and heave a sigh.

He set his napkin down on the table and leaned forward a little bit, eyebrows drawn together in confusion. “You can’t be serious about taking a job as a tennis coach, Steve. That’s not a profession for you, you’ve never shown serious interest in the sport, and now you’re willing to accept it as a full-time job? I got you this position for the summer so that you could make connections, realize that the average career isn’t what we raised you to want.”

“David,” Mom warned quietly, looking at him carefully, prompting him to lean back in his chair and shake his head. “Steve, your father is just concerned about your future.”

My perfectly fine, tiring day was now coming to close with an even more tired argument from my parents. I pushed my still half-full plate further up the table and stood up from my chair, my dad huffing in protest. I held up a hand before he could say anything else, and surprisingly, he didn’t rebuke me for it.

“I’m not going to have the conversation right now,” I said flatly. “I happen to enjoy my job, which I do thank you for, dad, but my future is my own decision. If I feel that accepting a full-time position at the country club is what I need to do, I will do it. You can like that or not, I don’t care anymore. I thought you would’ve been happy with that decision, because of your connection to this stupid town, but I guess I was wrong, as usual. But whatever – I’m just going to enjoy myself and not worry about what anyone else thinks, and that includes both of you.”

My dad’s jaw was clenched, and my mom looked like she wanted to say something or hug me but didn’t. Because ultimately, she was always on my father’s side. I looked at her briefly, ignoring the sad smile she sent my way, and turned on my heel, my stomach grumbling for more food. I trudged up the stairs and stripped off my dirty and sweaty clothes, hopping into a hot shower and letting the hard water pressure wash the day away.

~

I went to bed a little angry and woke up still tired after a fitful night of sleep. I threw on a t-shirt and shorts, laced up my sneakers, and styled my hair quickly before jogging down the stairs – my mom was sitting at the kitchen bar sipping from a steaming mug of coffee and reading the newspaper.

“Morning, Stevie,” she said, her voice still laced with sleep. She wasn’t put together for the day yet, I assumed she had taken a half day off to pack for her and dad’s Baltimore trip.

“Good morning,” I mumbled back, glancing at the clock before I decided to pour myself a mug of coffee. I had tumbled out of bed earlier than I actually had to, only because I couldn’t fall back asleep, so I had time before I really needed to leave for my job.

Mom set down her mug with a small clink and folded her newspaper to the side. I felt her eyes on me and I met her gaze over the top of my coffee.

“Steve,” she started, folding her hands. “I want to apologize for what happened at dinner last night.” I stopped in the middle of taking a sip of scalding coffee, the burn on my tongue nothing compared to the shock I felt at my mom’s words.

“You what?” I swallowed heavily, gripping the mug to keep myself from thinking I was still upstairs, dreaming.

“Your father,” she paused, trying to find the right words. “He’s just struggling with accepting that you’re not going to take over for him as CEO in twenty-five years when he retires.” She managed a wan smile, and I breathed out a laugh.

I sighed, knowing she was waiting for a response. “I’m sorry that I didn’t turn out a business Brainiac that you and dad expected me to be. I honestly don’t know what my future is supposed to be,” I trailed off, not exactly knowing what else to say.

Mom took a sip of her coffee and nodded slowly. “You only have to be someone that you’re happy with, Steve, and I will support you no matter what. It’s absolutely okay to not know what you’re supposed to be, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you.”

I was a little blown away by her words, not having had my mom in my life for more than a few days at a time during my high school years made conversations like these nonexistent for us.

“Sometimes I worry, you know,” I said quietly, hoisting myself up to sit on the counter. “I worry that there’s nothing out there for me. But this job, even though it’s just a stupid summer job, has been great for the one month I’ve had it. I found a new best friend out there; I’ve learned that I work well with others and actually can teach a kid how to serve.”

She smiled at me. “That’s all you can ask for, honey. I’m glad you’re having a good summer, and I’m sorry I’ve missed out on moments like these in the past few years,” I thought I saw tears welling up in her eyes. “Your father and I built our business from the ground up, you know. We were lucky, we work well together, and it took us a long time to get to where we are now. Unfortunately, that’s taken us out of your life and led to a complete disconnect at home, as was shown last night.” She said wryly, that sad smile back on her face.

“It’s okay, mom,” I voiced, savoring the bitter taste of the coffee in my mouth. “Like I said, I worry too. Dad has every right to be concerned about my future, I just wish he knew how to express it better.” I forced out a little laugh and mom nodded in agreement.

“We’ll be back from the Baltimore merger some time next week,” my mom switched gears on the conversation when I set my mug on the sink, checking the time on my watch as I hint that I was about to leave for the club. “Your father may have to stay longer for negotiations, and if he does, I’m claiming you for mother-son time next weekend, so don’t make plans.”

She pointed a red fingernail at me and slid off her barstool to grab me in a very unfamiliar hug that I accepted, burying my face in her blonde hair that smelled an awful lot like my own thanks to Farrah Fawcett.

“Have fun on the trip,” I managed to get out before she let go. Although they were supposed to be leaving tomorrow, I had a sneaking suspicion they wouldn’t be here when I got home tonight.

“Have a good day at work,” She smiled and straightened out my t-shirt before nudging my shoulder in the direction of the front door. I grabbed my keys and wallet from their usual place and left, my heart a little lighter but the worry of the future still hanging around me like the angry storm clouds threatening summer showers outside.

~

“Well this is just great,” Harry yelled over the wind as we struggled to pull the tarps down over the hardcourt, trying to keep slipperiness at bay for when the rain had passed, and we could resume training and matches.

I pushed the hood of my raincoat further down over my head even though it kept trying to blow off, and it wasn’t doing much good anyway, my hair was soaked and limp, and the bottom half of my body was also drenched. It had started sprinkling when we brought out the first tarp, but by the time we made it to the fifth and last, hell had broken loose and the clouds poured rain.

“Got it!” I said triumphantly, staking down the last edge of the tarp, running carefully behind Harry into the shelter of the tennis lounge where several members were waiting out the storm and the rest of the team was sitting in the break room, drying off and complaining about the summer shower.

“You look like a wet rat,” Robin commented, tossing me a fresh towel, which I took gratefully despite her backhanded comment. I made a face at her and she just grinned. I knew she was kidding but I toweled my hair upside down for volume, anyway, hoping that decreased my resemblance to a rodent by at least ten percent.

It was nearing three o’clock, no break in the clouds in sight, as thunder rolled loudly and clapped as lightning broke out across the sky, some of the older members commenting on the danger as the wind picked up, making a tree branch bend dangerously over the courts outside.

“I think it might be safe to call it a day, kids,” Reese eyed the light debris that was starting to gather outside. “Feel free to wait out the storm if you want, but I’m going to phone the clubhouse and see what they’re thinking we should do.”

He ducked into the office and picked up the phone, pressing the extension number to the club. We waited in comfortable silence for him to finish the call and he came back nodding. “They said they’re closing down the outdoor activities for the rest of the day, so you’re all clear to make a break for the club house and your cars, if your brave enough.”

Briefly I thought of Billy and wondered if he had left yet – the afternoon was free now, and I hadn’t seen him for over a day now – not like that was a lot but it felt like an awful lot. I wanted to kiss him and see his beautiful face. I blushed just thinking of it.

“We can get to the club house quick, right, Steve?” Robin questioned, zipping up her raincoat and pulling the hood over her face. I nodded, looking out the window. The rain had slowed just a bit, I could see the brightly lit building in the distance. “Then let’s go.”

We exchanged goodbyes with the rest of our team, accepting the ‘be safes’ before darting out of the shelter, rain pelting us as we speed-walked up the hill, not exchanging any conversation as we tried to get there as quickly as possible. We walked into the clubhouse dripping wet, the building filled with other young employees that had been given the okay to go home. Among them I recognized Heather, and I couldn’t help but search for Billy.

After a minute of us trying to fight through the throng of people waiting to clock out or waiting to dash to their car when the rain let up, I noticed the familiar figure of Billy talking to Rand Jenkins, smiling his polite parent smile, his usually fluffy mullet soaked from the rain. He pushed a wet curl back from his forehead, catching my eye as he felt my gaze. His smile widened but he turned back to respond to Rand before walking my way.

“Hey Robin, Harrington,” He greeted, Robin only half paying attention since he was looking directly at me even though he said hello to both of us. “Crazy thing, this storm, huh? At least we get a little break.”

Robin agreed quickly before saying, “I’ll leave you to it. Steve, I’m going to catch a ride home with Heather.” I mumbled an okay, caught off guard by how there were little droplets of water decorating Billy’s skin, and his tank top and shorts were stuck to him like glue. It didn’t register that Robin had said she was catching a ride home with Heather until she had already disappeared in the crowd.

“Heather?” I questioned out loud, making Billy laugh. “She did say Heather, right?” I grinned, hoping I didn’t look too rough from the rain. The way Billy kept looking me up and down like a snack kind of made me think I was in the clear.

He nodded. “Go clock out, pretty boy. And let’s get out of here, what do you say?” I thought of how my parents definitely weren’t home, and if they were coming home at all tonight before their trip, we’d have at least three hours before they made it back from the office…

“Give me just a second,” He grinned at me and I backed away, mumbling excuse me’s and sorry’s to everyone I pushed past to reach the side office where I signed the time sheet. I darted back out, noticed Billy waiting by the door, arms crossed over his chest, muscles bulging. I swallowed at the sight and felt my shorts that were already clung to my body from the rain get a little tighter – fuck.

“Let’s go,” I said quietly as I reached him, almost unable to stop myself from planting one on him as he grinned and swiped his tongue over his teeth in that way that he did all the time. “Do you want to drive to my house?” I asked, noticing we had to part ways to get to our cars.

“I’ll meet you there, Steve,” he tossed out casually, crossing in front of me to run to his Camaro. I jumped into my BMW and peeled out of the lot, wipers on full blast as I drove as carefully but recklessly as I could, knowing that Billy was behind me the whole way to my house.

The rain had only increased in intensity, thunderclaps louder each time, as I finally pulled into my driveway, Billy parking out by the mailbox. I rushed to get the front door open and let out an unattractive “oof” when his back collided with my chest in an attempt to get inside from the storm.

“Fuck,” he muttered, slamming the door behind him. “Sorry, didn’t mean to attack you.” I couldn’t resist, I turned around and scooped him up close to me, arms encircling his waist as I pressed a kiss to his wet lips, his body warm like a furnace even through our dripping wet and cold clothes.

“It’s okay,” I breathed out as I let him go, breaking the kiss. He looked at me wide-eyed, eyes stark blue in the dark hallway – it was then that I realized our power was out. “Shit.” I looked around, and sure enough, all the lights were gone.

“Power’s out, huh?” Billy questioned, following me further into the house. I nodded, and as the tile changed to carpet, I held out a hand to stop him from walking anymore.

“Wait here, I’m going to grab some towels from the half bath,” I noticed him shiver and I hurried to the downstairs guest bathroom, stripping off my wet t-shirt and shorts, socks and shoes in the bathroom, wrapping a towel around my shoulders and getting one for him as well. “Here you go.”

Billy grinned upon seeing me, wiggling his eyebrows. “Already stripping, huh, Harrington? You’re just insatiable,” I rolled my eyes but couldn’t stop the smile spreading across my face. He accepted the towel after he yanked his tank top over his head and kicked off his sneakers, peeling his shorts and socks off in one smooth motion, my mouth feeling dry as I caught sight of him almost completely naked in front of me. Although I had seen him in various states of undress, I’d never had the chance to just look at him…and I couldn’t wait until I could fully admire him to the extent that he deserved.

“You’re freezing,” I commented, getting myself together after a second. He was still shivering even as he dried off and kept the oversized towel draped over his shoulders. I grabbed his wet clothes off the floor and tossed them into the guest bath with my own before motioning to the upstairs. “Come on, let’s get some warm clothes.”

“I can think of much better ways to warm up,” he purred, arms snaking around my waist from behind, chest pressed to my back as his fingers played with the waistband of my briefs. “Can’t you?”

I craned my neck to look at him over my shoulder. “Look who’s insatiable now, Billy,” I teased, accepting the wet kisses he pressed against my shoulders. I could feel his erection pressing into the small of my back and I arched against it, biting my lip when he sucked at a patch of skin, delicately worrying it between his teeth as I continued to arch into his touch.

“You love it,” he answered, voice rough. I felt him shiver against me, again, though, so I reluctantly pulled out of his embrace, ignoring how cute his pout was. “Come on, Stevie,” he almost whined, and I smiled at him, grabbing one of his hands and tugging him with me in the direction of the stairs.

“We have time, baby,” I said, throwing out the pet name without thinking about it, the feel of his hand in mine like it was meant to be there making my insides feel all squishy. “Plus,” I opened the door of my bedroom, where the king-sized bed I cherished so much sat right in the middle pushed up against the side wall. “If we’re going to do all that, this is the perfect place.”

Billy laughed and didn’t let go of my hand even as we reached our destination. “So, what do you suggest we do to warm up, huh, Steve?” He whispered my name like a prayer, kissing my earlobe lightly. As much as I felt myself almost give in to that, he was still shivering slightly, probably because he didn’t have a raincoat when he walked to and from various points of the country club in the storm earlier, the doofus.

“How about,” I skirted around him, reluctantly dropping his hand as I rifled through my chest of drawers, pulling out two pairs of sweatpants and a couple of worn t-shirts that I loved wearing around the house. “These?”

Billy made a face. “Clothes? Come on, Harrington. You’re supposed to take those off me, not put them on me.” He accepted them nonetheless, and I noticed his resolve weaken a little bit when he felt the softness of both the garments.

“I’ll take them off you later, okay?” I grinned, pulling the shirt for myself over my head and tugging on the sweatpants. He did the same and I felt something tighten in my chest at the sight of him in my clothes. He was thicker than me, so the old Hawkins High t-shirt had to stretch a little further over his chest and arms than it did mine, but the sweatpants rode low on his hips, and I marveled at how all that could seem like a mystery no matter how many times I saw him shirtless or nearly naked.

The power suddenly surged back on, even though the rain was pattering heavily against my bedroom window, and I praised the perfect timing, hoping it stayed on for a while. “Want to watch a movie?” I suggested, even though that was not what Billy had come over to do. He shrugged and nodded, though, and followed me back downstairs, plopping down on my couch and tugging the fleece throw blanket over himself as I turned the TV on, slipping Animal House into the VCR. He laughed when he saw the box cover but didn’t protest.

I scooted close to him on the couch even though it was a sectional and had plenty of room for both of us, and I bit my lip at the way he leaned into my chest, accepting the casual arm I threw around his shoulder without really thinking about it. He adjusted the blanket to cover both of us, even though most of it was covering him up since he curled his legs up onto the couch and had the blanket draped over his feet.

We sat quietly as we watched the movie, laughing at all the same parts, exchanging remarks every now and then, and the movie was a little over halfway through when I noticed little perfectly timed snores coming from the boy leaning against my chest. I looked down at him, his face peaceful and younger looking in his sleep, rosy lips parted. Smiling, I carefully reached for the remote on the coffee table and turned down the volume, snuggling deeper into the couch and letting my hand rest on Billy’s shoulder, no longer fighting the slight pull of my heavy eyelids.

I hadn’t realized that I had actually fallen asleep until a crash sounded in the kitchen – Billy startled awake first, his curls a little crazy from air-drying, and he stood up frantically, trying to judge where he was before he settled on me, trying to wipe sleep from my eyes as I forced myself to get up and see what just happened in the kitchen.

“Sorry, didn’t realized I fell asleep,” Billy said sheepishly, following behind me as I padded to the kitchen. I looked back at him with a smile and shook my head.

“It’s okay, I did too, obviously,” My train of thought left me as I entered the too-bright kitchen, eyes widening upon seeing my mom shove a pan of something in the oven. “Mom?”

She straightened up, smiling brightly at me. I felt Billy tense behind me, as I had stopped walking abruptly and he had almost pressed into my back again.

“Hey honey,” She busied herself with cleaning up the evidence of preparing whatever casserole she had just put in the oven, talking over the noise she was making. “I didn’t mean to wake you, you two looked so peaceful!”

My face turned bright red, I felt it, and Billy kicked my shin lightly with his foot, eyes wide and questioning. I shrugged and turned my attention back to my mom when she whirled around, wooden spoon in hand.

“Did you two get caught in that storm earlier? I bet they shut down the club for a while, didn’t they?” She was nervously blabbering on, me eventually losing track of her questions and one-sided attempt at conversation since I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

“Mom,” I walked up to her a placed a hand on her arm. “This is Billy. I think you met him on the phone yesterday?” She put a mixing bowl in the sink and wiped her hands on her apron before extending one in Billy’s direction.

“Hi Mrs. Harrington,” Billy spoke, charming as usual, placing his other hand on top of hers as he shook her offered one warmly, making her smile. “Pleasure to meet you in person.”

She fumbled around for a second, face flushed, before finally turning around, and I knew what was about to happen. She saw us asleep together in the living room, and normal guy friends did not cuddle up together like I pictured Billy and I had been, underneath the same blanket and holding each other for what we would say was warmth but really something else.

“I’m sorry, Steve, Billy, I have to ask,” Billy visibly swallowed and shrunk into himself, I could tell, and I wanted to stop it before it happened, but my mom just barreled on through. “Are you two dating? Honey, it’s fine if you are, you know Uncle Louie lives an alternate lifestyle, your father doesn’t have to know, you know he can be awfully pressuring about stuff like this but it’s completely okay and Billy you’re probably a very nice young man and I –“

“Mrs. Harrington,” I thought sure Billy was about to run. After all, this was a no bullshit thing he and I were supposed to have going on – no drama, no emotion, no family shit, all that good stuff – today was just a fluke because of the storm that still hung in the air outside even now, and he was going to deny our relationship because we didn’t really have a relationship. Until he didn’t. “Steve and I are together. And I thank you for your support, this isn’t the easiest thing to handle.”

He walked over to where I stood and curled his arm around my waist, and I froze in place, my heart beating wildly in my chest. I guessed that it was easier to explain it as a relationship to a parent rather than just fucking – no parent needs to know that. But Robin’s words from yesterday came back to me once more, and as I reciprocated Billy’s actions and wrapped one of my arms around his waist in return, I couldn’t hide the soft smile that came over my face.

My mom looked from me to Billy. “Billy, honey, there’s so many things out there that are worse than two boys loving each other. This isn’t something hard to handle in the least bit. Thank you for being honest with me instead of trying to hide it.”

The word “loving” made Billy stiffen a little bit, I could feel it, but I pressed my palm a little into his hip and he relaxed almost immediately. I knew she didn’t mean anything by it. And hey, as far as she knew, we did love each other. I almost found myself wishing…no.

I let Billy go for a second and embraced my mom in a hug for the second time that day, which was probably a record, and she accepted it without hesitation. “I love you, Stevie,” she whispered, kissing me on the cheek in a very mom way. I made a face and pretended to hate it, but I was smiling, and returned the sentiment.

“I love you too, mom.” I looked over at Billy, who was watching us with glassy eyes, and my eyebrows furrowed as I noticed his bottom lip trembling – he looked like he was about to cry and I rushed over to him in a second, barely noticing my mom back out of the kitchen.

“What’s wrong? Billy?” I took his face in my hands, feeling my throat tighten as a stray tear fell down his cheek. I swiped it away with my thumb and pulled Billy into me as a sob left his throat. He collapsed into my hold and I felt more tears start to wet the sleeve of my t-shirt, but I didn’t press him, I just held him, and murmured what I hoped were soothing things into his ear as I rubbed my palm up and down his back, my other hand curled around the back of his neck, playing with the curls there.

“I’m sorry,” Billy hastily retreated from my arms, roughly wiping his face with his hands, backing up to rest against the kitchen counter. “I’m not supposed to bring my bullshit into this, I’m sorry.”

I scoffed and pulled him back into me, not caring what arbitrary rules we had placed on this little hookup plan in that moment. “It’s okay, Billy. It’s okay.” I said it a second time because he didn’t look like he believed me.

“It’s just – your mom,” his voice broke and he sighed shakily, letting me wrap my arms around him fully. He ducked his head into my shoulder before looking back up at me. “You have no idea how lucky you are.”

My heart ached in that moment. I knew I was lucky; I knew I had no real reason to complain about my life. Billy, on the other hand, had been through more than I’d ever go through, I was sure of that.

“My mom left me,” he spoke softly, hesitating. “My dad – Neil – he’s an abusive asshole and she couldn’t take it anymore, but instead of trying to find a way to take me with her, she left, and I haven’t heard from her since I was ten years old.”

He stopped for a second, but I knew better than to interrupt him, there was a serious look on his face that was hardly ever present, so I waited for him to continue.

“But she loved me, I know she did, or does,” he fumbled, a sad smile crossing his face for a millisecond. “I was happy, with her. I look a lot like her, curly blonde hair, blue eyes. She was pretty. Really pretty.” His gaze was fixed over my shoulder, the lost look in his eyes making me want to hold him and never let go.

“Anyway,” he cleared his throat, glancing at me for a second. “My dad pretty much blames me for her leaving. Max and Susan came into the picture a couple of years after she left us, and everything was okay during that little honeymoon period of playing family, but it got bad again. I got into a bad crowd at school, started fighting and shit. Got expelled. I remember him yelling at me through the phone when he got the call at work, me having to call him and tell him to pick me up. He caused such a ruckus at the office that he got fired. That was when he made the decision to leave Cali behind, and, well, here I am.”

“I don’t know what to say, Billy,” I said after a second of silence, being honest. “Apologizing doesn’t quite seem enough.”

He shook his head, fingers absently stroking the back of my neck in a calming way. “You didn’t do any of it, there’s nothing for you to apologize for,” he bit his lip, pausing before he continued, “Thank you for listening. I’ve never told anybody about all that.”

I felt a surge of something resembling affection rise in me and I let it happen. “Thank you for telling me. You didn’t have to.” He looked up at me through his long lashes, couples of sections clumped together from the few tears he had shed a minute ago.

“I know,” He smiled wryly, and I returned it. “Just. My dad would never in a million years accept me the way your mom just did. And I’m willing to bet your dad might not like it, but he’ll be fine eventually, too, right?”

I snorted a little at the part about my dad but nodded. “It might take a while, but my mom has a good hold on him.”

“So,” Billy started, looking a little worried but eager at the same time. “I have to ask, since your mom thinks we’re a couple, now. Are you…are you gay, or just, you know?” He waved his hand in the air and I nodded my understanding.

“I, um,” I cleared my throat, taking a second to think about it. “I still like girls too. But I’ve been attracted to guys for a while, when I let myself admit it. Whatever that means.”

Billy licked his lips and nodded. “If it makes any difference, I’m gay. Dick for me. All the way.” I had to laugh, and he grinned, the somber mood that had settled over us slowly dissipating as our easy banter started back up. I felt miles closer to him than I ever dreamed I would be, even after admitting my attraction to him. “Since your mom’s here, does that mean we can’t hook up?”

Billy was suddenly very close to me in every sense of the word, his hands squeezing my biceps gently as he pressed his chest to mine, I could feel him through the loose sweatpants even though he was soft, and his breath ghosted over mine as he bypassed my lips in favor of laying open-mouthed kisses along my jaw. I leaned into him, almost forgetting the question, but when it dawned on me that my mom could walk back in at any minute, I pulled away slightly.

“She might leave soon,” I said, hoping I was right. “Fingers crossed.” I let him capture my lips in a kiss, loving how he slung his arms around my neck like my kisses were all he needed. I boxed him in against the counter and started to slip my tongue into the kiss just as the timer on the oven went off and my mom bustled in the room, a very shocked ‘oh, my’ leaving her mouth.

Billy and I separated our mouths with a rather lewd pop, and I squeezed my eyes shut tight in embarrassment, feeling Billy bury his head in my chest as he shook with trying to hold in his laughter.

“I am so sorry,” Mom dashed over the oven and turned the timer off, grabbing her mitts to take the casserole dish out of the oven, face bright red, mirroring mine. “I’ll just –“

“No, mom,” I unraveled myself from Billy and grabbed his hand instead, deciding it would be best if I took him away from the kitchen. “I’m sorry, we, uh. Yeah. We’ll just. Yeah.”

I tugged him out of the room, swatting at him with my free hand as laughter escaped his lips, bright and warm, making me smile despite myself.

“Your poor mom,” He caught his breath as we fell onto the living room couch together. His eyes were crinkled up with his smile, the warm gooey feeling filling my chest again when I looked at him. A random thought that that used to be how Nancy made me feel passed through my head, but I told myself it was just because of the events we had been through today. “First us asleep together, then us making out in her kitchen. That’s more than she ever wanted to see, I’m sure.”

I huffed. “More than I ever wanted her to see, I know that much.” Billy laughed at me again, falling into my lap, eyes peering up at me through curly fringe. “You’re pretty, you know that?” I thought back to his mom and for a minute I thought I could picture her in my mind.

He smiled softly, a good look on him, and squeezed my hand that he was holding gently, intertwining our fingers. “Thanks. You’re pretty too, pretty boy.” He winked and I let myself laugh, pushing the curls off his forehead with my free hand.

His head in my lap, our hands intertwined on his chest, I felt content, even when my mom came into the room, still blushing red, and asked, “I made spaghetti and meatballs, if you two are hungry. I’m taking some with me to the office for your father and I, he’s sending the company car for me in a few minutes. We decided to take a flight tonight rather than tomorrow morning.”

“Thanks Mrs. Harrington,” Billy craned his neck back, not moving from his position in my lap. “That sounds great.”

“Yeah, thanks mom,” I echoed, smiling at her. She smiled back and hesitated in the doorway a second.

“Have a good rest of the week, boys. It was good to meet you, Billy. I can tell you make my son very happy.” She winked at him and I felt myself dissolve into the couch from embarrassment again, barely hearing Billy laugh and say something to her in return, something about how I made him happy too. I wondered if he meant it or if it was just a whole ploy for her.

Billy and I got up from the couch, wandered into the kitchen, and fixed ourselves plates of the spaghetti my mom had made, sitting at the bar together and eating, talking shit about the country club while I heard mom mess around upstairs, presumably getting the luggage together to load into the car my dad sent to pick her up and take back to the office.

The clock struck nine when a car honked outside, and my mom came downstairs with two big suitcases behind her, only looking as if she was struggling a little bit.

“Let me grab those for you,” Billy dashed to grab the suitcases before I could move a muscle, and I gladly let him, rolling my eyes when he sent me a wink and flexed his muscles when he noticed me watching him pick up both of the cases rather than roll them out the door. I watched them through the kitchen window as Billy padded down the driveway behind her, barefoot, looking awfully domestic as he loaded the suitcases in the open trunk.

My mom said something to him that made him grin and laugh, and he leaned in and kissed her cheek before opening her car door for her and shutting it once she was safely inside. As he turned to make his way back up to the house, I dashed back to my barstool and sat down.

“I better get going, Steve,” Billy said when he came back into the kitchen, eyeing the clock. “Even though my old man’s not home, Susan expected me back tonight since I told her I was staying with a friend tomorrow.” He winked and I grinned, picking up our plates and putting them in the sink.

“No time for any fun?” I couldn’t resist asking, casting a glance down to the front of his pants, the outline of his cock dangerously visible in the fabric.

Billy bit his lip, looking over at the clock again. “Make it quick, Harrington.”

I was on him in a second, pushing him back against the wall, savoring the surprised grin I got in return, capturing his lips in a searing kiss that was messy, mostly tongue, and I didn’t even care that both of our mouths tasted of spaghetti. He moaned lightly into my mouth, fisting my hair and tugging, and I bit his bottom lip in return, soothing over it with my tongue, breaking from his mouth to nip at his neck and push my t-shirt that he was wearing up to his armpits, laving kisses on his nipples and down his perfect chest, licking my lips when I stood back for a second to admire the sharp V of his hips that was on display thanks to my sweatpants riding low.

“I want to suck you off,” I admitted, deciding to be honest. His eyes flew wide open, like he hadn’t expected it, and he breathed a rough ‘jesus’ in response, squirming against the wall where I had him trapped, arms bracketing him in. “But I’ve never done it before. Tell me when I’m doing something right, okay?”

He visibly swallowed and I grinned when a whimper left his lips upon me falling to my knees, hands resting on his hipbones and dragging the loose material down as I smoothed my hands over his thick thighs, loving the feeling of them in my hands. I squeezed and he thrust lightly in my direction, his cock clearly hard through the black briefs he wore.

I mouthed over the head through the material, closing my eyes and letting myself do whatever felt right. Pulling down his underwear, I bit my lip and let my hand jack him for a second, mouth watering when a bit of precome glistened at his tip. That’s when I let myself suck the tip of his cock in my mouth, hand lightly stroking the rest of his length as I tried bit by bit to take more.

“Steve,” Billy whined breathlessly, tugging my hair gently, backwards, off his dick.

“Hmm?” I questioned, licking my lips when he looked down at me. “Something wrong?”

His head fell back against the wall, mouth dropping open at the sight of me on my knees, eager to please. “N-no, just, don’t worry about getting it all in your mouth – just suck what you can, baby, you suck so good. Fuck,” The expletive left his lips when I obeyed his guidance, letting his cock fall from my mouth for a minute to nip at the soft skin of his thighs, trailing my tongue up along to lave at his balls, kissing up his shaft again before taking it in my mouth, wrapping my hands around the backs of his thighs as I sucked eagerly, spit collecting on his length and running down my chin as I bobbed up at down, the way Billy was writhing above me a cue that I was doing something right.

I moaned around his length when I felt another bead of precome spurt onto my tongue, and something about it made me squirm – I could feel my own hard cock straining against my sweatpants, and I ached for some sort of friction, something to rub up against, but as I jerked my hips forward it was just air.

Swallowing around his cock, Billy jumped, a strangled moan leaving his throat. “Shit, baby, unless you want a mouthful you better get off quick,” the sentence seemed hard for him to get out, but I pulled back in understanding. His hand came down to stroke his cock and I stayed on my knees, eyes big and bright as I looked up at him, head tilted back, mouth open slightly, wordlessly inviting him to come on my face.

“Fuck, Steve,” he came as soon as he made eye contact with me, fist flying up and down his dick as he rode out his orgasm, and I closed my eyes as I felt it hit my cheek, some land on my tongue and some dripping down my chin. “Get up here right now.”

He yanked me up off the floor by the front of my shirt, kissing me even though his come was smeared on my face and the taste still present in my mouth. He licked into my mouth like he wanted to taste himself there, moaning when I licked along his tongue and teeth, letting him explore every inch.

The feeling of his come cooling on my face wasn’t the best, but that soon went by the wayside as he shoved his hand in my pants to find a wet mess, my cock hard and covered in precome.

“Jesus, baby,” he breathed, breaking from my lips to look down at his hand moving inside my pants. I gripped his shoulders, throwing my head back in pleasure as he thumbed over the tip of my cock, brushing over the rush of wetness that pooled there. “You always get this fuckin’ wet?”

I nodded, biting my lip. I always did; I didn’t know why, but it had never seemed like something incredibly sexy until Billy brought it up. Billy made everything sexy.

“Hmm,” He pondered, stroking me slower, making me shake with anticipation. My release wasn’t far off, but he was dragging it out. “I think it should just be for me, okay, baby? What do you say? Just for me?”

I realized he really wanted me to answer, so I nodded, gathering myself enough to respond, “Of course, Billy,” I sucked in a sharp breath as he squeezed my cock gently. “Just for you.”

He grinned, running that sinful tongue along his teeth, resuming a normal pace, making me jerk my hips into his hand, fuck up into his palm. “All for me.” He murmured into my ear as I came with a shudder, my release staining the front of my briefs as it seeped between his fingers. He stroked me a couple more times, making me shudder again, before drawing his hand out of my pants, wiping the evidence of my release on the outside of my underwear.

I kissed the corner of his mouth, still catching my breath, and he smiled before pushing me off him, pulling his (my) sweatpants and briefs back up, glancing at the clock again.

“Damn, I gotta go, baby,” He shuffled out of the kitchen and I followed him, wincing at the wetness in my pants. A shower was definitely in order. He ducked into the guest bathroom I’d thrown our wet clothes and shoes in earlier, and appeared back in the hallway a second later, feet hastily shoved into his sneakers, wet tank top and shorts in hand. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay, Steve? Thanks for the afternoon. I needed this.”

I nodded and smiled, leading him out the front door. “Bye, Billy,” I waved him down the driveway, resisting the urge to run after him for one more kiss. He honked the horn of his Camaro as he zoomed down the street, and I went back into my house, the events of the day catching up to me, making me realized just how tired I really was.

I showered quickly and fell into bed, the feeling of Billy still warm against my skin as I drifted off into a dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

“I can’t tell you everything that happened,” I spoke quietly to Robin on our lunch break the next day; there were employees buzzing all around, so I had to keep my voice down. She was leaning in intently, though, hanging on my every word ever since I told her that Billy had stayed over for a decent length of time yesterday.

“Just tell me what you can,” Robin urged, eyes wide.

I chuckled a little at her reaction and nodded before starting a mini recount of last night. I told her how we didn’t have sex right away, we fell asleep on the couch…I did include the parts about my mom finding us, but I didn’t tell her about Billy’s personal confession to me. That wasn’t my story to tell, and it made me feel close to him in a way I didn’t want other people to be.

Robin sat back in her chair when I finished, grinning. “This is quite the development, my strange friend,” she took a sip from her bottle of water before continuing, “He likes you.”

I snorted. “No shit, he wouldn’t be having sex with me if he didn’t,”

She smacked me on the arm, and I drew back, feigning pain. “Stop being a dingus for a minute, dingus, and consider the facts,” I stared at her blankly and she sighed. “He doesn’t just hook up with you, he calls you. He kisses you. He fucking fell asleep with you, stayed at your house for six hours and almost left without getting off. These aren’t normal sex buddy things, Steve,” She hissed.

Sitting quietly for a second, I considered all of what she had just said. It was true, if I hadn’t stepped in and asked for it, he would’ve left willingly last night without more than a couple of heated kisses, which was something only people in relationships did.

“Not to mention,” she interrupted the silence that had settled over our table, “he told your fucking mom that you two were an item when you could’ve played it another way. I mean honestly, that whole situation could’ve been avoided, but he stepped in. Said you’re together. Read between the lines, dingus.”

I bit my lip and traced a line on the picnic table with my finger, feeling very flustered all the sudden. Was Robin right? Fuck. All the feelings I’d been telling myself were just byproducts of wanting someone sexually came crashing over me like waves on the beach.

“Robin,” I muttered, putting my head in my hands. “What if you’re wrong?”

She grabbed my hands and pulled them away from my face, looking into my eyes with a sweet, understanding smile. “I’m not wrong. But give it this weekend. See how it feels, see if I’m making any sense,” She let my hands go and leaned back. “Then get back to me.”

I blew out a breath, making me notice a piece of hair that had fallen over my forehead. I pushed the piece back and looked up just in time to see the star of our conversation, Billy Hargrove, walking towards us.

“Hey Billy,” I blushed like a schoolgirl, suddenly things other than his dick on my mind, like the way his smile lit up his face when I greeted him first, and the way his fingers twitched like he wanted to reach out and touch me. “How’s it going?”

“Good,” he slid on the bench next to Robin, and he waved to her, getting a smile in response. “Got a break so I figured I might as well come hang out for a bit. Heather’s looking for you, by the way, Robin. I think she’s in the bathroom.” He jerked his thumb in the direction of the toilets and Robin swung her legs over the bench almost immediately upon hearing.

“Cool, I’ll just catch her in there to see what’s up,” She explained even though she didn’t really need to, it was a total girl thing to go to bathroom together, but her reaction made me squint in suspicion as she walked away.

“Uh,” I cleared my throat. “You think something’s happening there?”

Billy grinned and leaned forward; hands clasped together in the middle of the table. I mirrored him and let my pinky brush over his fingers discreetly, chest tightening at the soft look he gave me in return. “Yeah, I kind of think so, Harrington.”

I let out a little laugh and shook my head. “Robin’s so sneaky.”

“I actually have something to tell you,” Billy cocked his head to the side, and I nodded for him to continue. “Heather, um, kind of knows about us. Like, I came out to her a little while ago when we became friends during training, and I may or may not have let it slip to her that I have a friends with benefits thing going on with Steve Harrington.”

My heart sunk a little at the mention of “friends with benefits,” but I didn’t show it, I just let myself skate over it in hopes that he was saying it for the sake of our stupid rules. I mean, I wasn’t about to throw everything away just so I could tell him that I might have feelings outside of sexual ones for him – I wasn’t even completely certain that I wanted him in that way.

Who was I kidding?

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, Robin knows about us too,” I said sheepishly, watching as he threw his head back in laughter, attracting the attention of a couple other employees hanging out around the snack shack. “So, we’re even.”

“I guess so,” Billy grinned. “Looking forward to tonight, by the way, Harrington. Hope you’re ready to experience some new things,” He winked, and I squirmed uncomfortably.

“What kind of new things?” I squeaked out quietly underneath his intense stare, awed by the way he could flip the mood from playful to seductive in two seconds flat.

He bit his lip and half-smiled. “Don’t play coy, King Steve,” He glanced down at his hands still folded on the table and looked back up at me through his dark lashes. “You know exactly what things.”

He stood up and turned around to walk away, not before looking back over his shoulder and catching me graciously accepting an eyeful of his pert ass in the tight swim shorts he was wearing. “Yeah, Harrington. You know exactly what things.”

I felt my face flush as he walked away, hips swaying, and I slumped down on the bench, wishing I could do something about the half-hard dick in my shorts, but knew now definitely was not the time. But damn, Billy had just waved his ass in front of my face like it wasn’t no thing, and my mind was racing with the possibilities.

Obviously, I knew what guys did, they took it up the ass, for lack of a better way to put it – but I hadn’t ever really considered it, never thought about doing it seriously, but I was with a guy now, aching to have sex with that guy all the time now, and that guy was offering his ass to me, and here I was, planning out everything I wanted to do to him in my head.

I remembered back to our phone conversation a couple of weeks ago when he said he heard rumors about what I could do with my tongue. I enjoyed a good pussy, liked to eat them out frequently, and if the reactions and rumors that stemmed from the girls who had been lucky enough to sit on my face was any evidence, I was good at it.

My rubbed my hands over my face as the thought of Billy riding my tongue crept into my mind, and I really needed to get out of there, needed to go back to playing tennis and not thinking of naked Billy sitting on my cock, fuck. I stood up from the table abruptly after adjusting my definitely more than a little hard dick in my pants and left the snack shack for a run back to the hardcourts without even noticing that Robin was still in the bathroom.

~

“Good job out there today, buddy,” Reese slapped me roughly on the shoulder, wiping the sweat off his forehead with a towel. I had taken over some of his lessons when he’d had a training session with the doubles couple go longer than expected, and I was inwardly beaming at his compliment. They didn’t come easy.

“Thanks, man,” I responded as coolly as possible, trying not to laugh at the goofy thumbs up Robin was giving me over his shoulder. In the heat of the afternoon and the volume of matches we’d played today, I’d completely forgotten that it was Thursday, my parents were gone, Billy’s dad was out of town, and a certain blue-eyed, blond-haired lifeguard was going to be accompanying me back to my house tonight.

As the thought crept into my head, I moved a little quicker and cleaned up the tennis area of balls and stray towels and water bottles in record speed, wondering if Billy had clocked out yet or if he was waiting for me at his car or if he had gone home to shower or –

Robin knocked me out of my thoughts with an elbow to the ribs, and I yelped, surprised. “Gotcha,” she grinned, tossing the last nasty towel into the bin. “Come on, let’s get out of here.” She motioned to the path leading up to the clubhouse and I eagerly followed her. “You’ve got a date with Prince Charming tonight, remember?”

I let myself laugh as we trudged up the sidewalk, nervousness and excitement both building in my belly. Robin glanced over at me, smiling, as if she could sense it.

“You good, Harrington? Nervous?” I huffed and smiled over at her, shaking my head.

“How’d you know?”

“I’m just good like that,” she nodded in satisfaction and another comfortable silence fell over us. “Don’t be nervous, man. You’ve already done stuff with him before, it’s not like this is anything new.”

Breathing out a laugh, I pushed my hair away from my face and hoped I wasn’t blushing. “Well, earlier today you got me thinking about fucking feelings,” I gave her a pointed look and she shrugged, nonplussed. “And it…some of it is new.”

She looked up at me, nose wrinkled, but nodded slowly. “Ah. Gotcha,” Our walking pace had slowed considerably as we started talking, but I didn’t mind. “Something tells me you’re going to be just fine.” She grinned at me and I nudged her, grateful.

We were off a little earlier than usual today, and we clocked out in record time, waving to the secretary sitting at her desk gabbing away on the phone with Mr. Jenkins about some new adjustment to the golf course.

“Steve!” A girl’s voice called to me and I turned around, startled, until I saw Heather jogging my way. Her dark hair was bouncing wildly in its ponytail and her red lipstick-ed lips were parted in a wide grin as she flashed a piece of paper in my direction. “I have something for you.”

She held out the folded piece of notebook paper and smacked her minty gum between her bared teeth, lifting her sunglasses to regard me and Robin properly.

“What’s this?” I asked, flipping the paper around in my fingers, wanting to open it but something telling me not to open it yet.

Heather chuckled and crossed her arms over her chest, looking over at Robin briefly with an expression I didn’t understand. “Just open it when you get home, okay?” She glanced between me and Robin for a second before going on, “Want a ride home, Robin? Steve’s got a hot date tonight, you know.”

I felt the flush creep up my neck immediately as Robin and Heather laughed together. “Jesus. It’s not a date.”

Heather and Robin exchanged one of those looks again and Robin nodded, unconvinced. “Sure thing, dingus. I’ll take you up on the ride, Heather, if you don’t mind.” Heather said something about not minding one bit and they left my side to go to Heather’s classy jeep as I shuffled over to my BMW, note clutched in my right hand.

I knew it was from Billy; his Camaro was nowhere in sight, and we hadn’t exactly planned out the evening to a T, I just knew that tonight was probably going to go down in history as one of the best nights of my life.

The note from Billy stayed tight in my grip even against the steering wheel as I drove home, my mind racing. As soon as I pulled into my driveway, I darted up the path to the front door and shut myself inside, flipping the note open as I walked up the stairs to my room.

Harrington,
I’ll be over at your place around 8, gotta have dinner with Max and Susan first. Hope you’re ready to have the best fucking night of your life; I know I am.
Pick out a movie or something and have some fancy drinks ready for me, okay?
See you soon, baby.

I bit my lip as I read the note over and over again, checking my watch to see it read six o’clock on the dot. I had time, but I raced to the shower anyway, scrubbing every inch of my body with scalding hot water and the fancy sandalwood soap my mom always supplied me with at Christmastime. I took my time more with my hair, sliding conditioner through the strands and massaging my scalp until I felt sufficiently free of grime and, additionally, more relaxed.

As much as I kept thinking about Billy and what was on the docket for tonight, I forced myself to ignore the chub I had going on downstairs; every time my soapy hand inched farther down my body to rid crevices of sweat and dirt I had to pull back and not let my hand stroke over my dick, wanting to save everything for later.

After a minute of just lingering under the hot, pounding spray, I shut off the faucet and tucked a fluffy towel around my waist, letting the steam clear out of the bathroom before I ducked back in and plugged in my trusty hair-dryer, tugging this way and that on my hair, curling strands back with my hairbrush, the works.

I grinned when I thought of how all my good work was definitely going to be for naught later when Billy showed up and got down to business.

I finished with my routine upstairs before the grandfather clock struck seven, deciding to throw on a simple white t-shirt and my favorite pair of khakis, worn comfortable over the year or so I’d had them. I padded downstairs barefoot; Billy’s note tucked safely in the pocket of my pants. Biting my lip, I stuck my hand in the pocket and read the note again, smiling at the part requesting fancy drinks.

Suddenly, a light bulb went off in my head as I remembered the first time I’d really hung out with Billy and Max solo. We had shopped for candy in Melvald’s and Max had mentioned Billy’s one true weakness – chocolate. I knew my mom had all sorts of random exotic snacks and spices and whatnot from her and dad’s trips in the bureau next to our liquor cabinet.

I wasn’t sure how Billy would feel about the night I was about to set up, but if I knew how to do anything, it was wine and dine with the expensive shit – that’s how I’d gotten my first girlfriend back in 7th grade, and although Nancy would never say it, she absolutely adored the way too elaborate date nights at Enzo’s or on occasion, the restaurant of her choice in Indianapolis. That personally was not my idea of romantic; I preferred nights in, and I’d always wanted to host a date.

Here I was, finally hosting one, one that technically wasn’t even a date, but as I strolled to my parents record player and set aside my favorite soft jazz records, placing Benny Goodman on first with Glenn Miller to follow, the tingly nervous feeling that accompanied seeing someone you really like and wish to impress settled in my stomach.

Although I knew I shouldn’t have been letting myself think date or relationship or like or anything along those lines, those were the only things going through my head.

I grabbed two wine glasses from the cabinet and set them delicately on the oak coffee table in the living room, anxiously arranging and rearranging the pillows and blanket thrown onto the couch. When I went to find the wine and chocolate I wanted, I thought back to the random lesson my mom had given me once on what things to pair with which wines, so I drew out the most recent purchase from my parents journey to Paris in May – perfect, rich, dark chocolate truffles that were arranged and wrapped neatly in the little red box, waiting to be devoured.

The chocolate smell when I opened the box was quite heady, and I raised my eyebrows at the scent, stomach grumbling. I closed back up the box and balanced it in one hand as I raked my eyes through the liquor cabinet, eventually settling on the dark bottle of Zinfandel. I knew the rich red wine was the perfect paring for the bitter of dark chocolate, and I also knew that Billy would either tease me relentlessly about my wine and chocolate knowledge forever, or be so done with all my planning that he’d leave before we even got started.

I thought back to the note in my pocket and breathed out a laugh, putting the chocolate and wine down next to the glasses on the table, shifting the position of the blanket on the back of the sofa again, finally finishing with all of that and moving on to the movie request.

I didn’t want to pick something cheesy or gory or anything like that – I just wanted something easy to watch that would be okay for tonight. Kneeling down in front of our entertainment station, I looked through the collection of tapes and shook my head at several before landing on the one I thought could be perfect, if Billy didn’t kill me first.

My mom’s favorite movie, and consequently one of mine – a true classic but not one I’d ever picture Billy watching, especially not on his own. But I glanced over at the French truffles and crimson bottle of Zinfandel and plucked out the tape without a second thought. If Billy didn’t like how I’d set up our…rendezvous tonight, he could move straight on to the point of our whole secret fling thing or leave.

I hated to admit that my heart sunk when I thought about him genuinely hating what I’d done or leaving because it felt too personal. My mind drifted to Robin’s advice and I swallowed heavily, hoping that if there was truth to her words, I’d know soon before I felt myself completely jump into the deep end and get my heart broken all over again. It was barely mended now.

My slightly depressing thoughts were interrupted by the doorbell chiming loudly throughout the house, and I stood frozen in the living room for a split second before setting the VHS tape down by the TV, moving quicker when the doorbell rang for a second time.

I opened it to see Billy Hargrove in all his glory, blonde curls glimmering under the slight moonglow and soft yellow light from the porch lamp. I took a sharp breath in when he turned his head to look at me, having been observing some lizard or something that jumped off into the bushes.

He grinned widely, pearly white teeth seeming to glint dangerously, chest on display in his almost completely unbutton red shirt, his bicep twitching when he noticed me raking my eyes down his body, taking in the almost too-tight blue jeans, matte leather boots, and spike earring dangling precariously.

“Hi, Steve,” his deep voice drew me out of my loss for words, and I felt my face flush when he caught my eye, smile turning into a slight smirk because he knew I liked what I saw. “Can I come in?”

I opened my mouth to answer and nothing came out, but I moved aside, opening the wider as an invitation. I managed to let out a “yes, hello” as he walked past me into the house, arm ever-so-casually brushing mine.

“Oh, baby,” Billy purred, noticing the set-up in the living room – candle aglow in the corner, lights dimmed overhead, Moonglow by Benny Goodman streaming from the turntable. “You did all of this, huh?”

He walked around the sofa, hand casually passing over the leather, and I bit back a smile when I saw his eyes go a little wide at the French chocolate sitting on the coffee table. The wine glasses were empty but bottle open, so I took the comfortable silence that had settled on us as an opportune time to pour the Zinfandel, careful not to splash or overfill the glasses when Billy watched me pour.

“Have a truffle,” I encouraged, settling down on the couch, slowly relaxing back into normal as flirty, sexy Billy turned into the Billy I was becoming more used to – all of the flirtiness and the sexiness was still there, of course, but it was accompanied by his true self – the one who was blushing at me draping my arm around his shoulder and looking a little flabbergasted when I handed him his wineglass. “I picked the wine specifically for this chocolate.”

He raised an eyebrow and licked his lips as he reached for a piece of the chocolate, eyeing me sideways before biting down, stiffening at the taste and the immediately settling back into my arm, a little sound escaping his mouth as he finished off the truffle.

“That’s the best damn chocolate I’ve ever had,” He looked up at me, cheeks pink. There was a small smear of chocolate on the corner of his mouth and I let my desire for him take over a little bit already – I ducked down, pressed a kiss to where the chocolate was, and let the tip of my tongue skate over the skin just a bit so I could really clean the mark off his face.

When I pulled back, he was looking at me wide-eyed, and I took the opportunity to just roll with everything – I set my wine down on the coffee table and went to the TV, turning it on and slipping the tape in, smiling as the black and white title screen came on.

The record spinning next to the TV stopped right on time, and I padded back over to where Billy was sitting on the couch, obviously taken by surprise at how literally I’d taken his note.

“Get comfortable,” I spoke into his ear, loving the way he shivered a little upon my voice being so close to him. He listened to me, though, and bent down to take off his boots and take a rather large sip of his wine. He hadn’t said a word about the movie, yet, so I assumed he wasn’t too disgusted with how I’d planned our not-date. “Have you seen this before?”

Audrey Hepburn spoke delicately on the TV, giving us viewers a tour of the Larabee Estate, eventually coming to the chauffer’s quarters and introducing herself, the title character, Sabrina.

“No,” Billy said back, licking chocolate off his thumb, staring at me as he did so. “But since you picked it, it should be good, right?” He smirked a little bit and I nodded.

“You’ll like it. Just watch.” He turned back to the TV, shifting and pressing deeper into the couch until he was half resting on me, head balanced on my shoulder and feet curled up beneath him. This wasn’t how tonight was supposed to go; I had imagined wild sex and Billy speeding off in his Camaro after, but now there were candles burning low, a romantic movie on the TV, and my fingers carding through Billy’s curls like this was something normal for us.

I thought back to last night and figured maybe it was…but two times doesn’t make something normal.

“Of course, she likes the douchebag,” Billy snorted, watching Sabrina fawn over William Holden’s character, David. “He’s a player, Sabrina!” I smiled into his hair, loving how he dived right into the movie.

The two-hour film played out and Billy and I had eaten our way through the chocolate, finished off the red wine, and were just sitting together in the quiet, La Vie en Rose playing out through the end of the credits. Something felt comfortable and dangerous about this, right here. As much as I didn’t want to be thinking about Nancy, in that moment I thought of Christmas nearly two years ago, at her parent’s house watching White Christmas. She had curled up next to me and we had shared a mug of hot chocolate, and I’d realized that I loved her.

I looked down at Billy, who was looking extremely content leaning against my chest, just listening to the soundtrack. My breath caught in my throat as I realized it.

This stupid boy that had somehow wormed his way into my life this summer, this supposed to be drama-free, enjoyable, hard-working summer, had also wormed his way into my heart and found a home there. It may have been the wine, it may have been the chocolate, or the sensual violin crooning in the background, but in that moment, I swore I loved him.

“Billy,” I murmured, catching his attention.

“Mm?” His chin was tilted up to look at me and I let my arm fall to his shoulders, scooping him up the tiniest bit as I dipped my head down to kiss him, the bittersweet mix of chocolate and wine still on our breath, but I didn’t mind. My free hand slid up his bare chest and found its way to the back of his neck, drawing him closer until he eventually crawled onto my lap, pulling away as he now towered over me a little bit when he sat up on his knees.

“You’re something else, Harrington,” Billy said, kissing me again, throwing his arms around my neck and pressing so close I felt myself sink back into the couch cushions. His tongue tasted every inch of my mouth, his teeth bit gently at my lips, kissing me into a state of bliss, practically fucking my mouth with his tongue, little noises of pleasure escaping both of us as we lost ourselves in each other.

Eventually, we had to break apart for breathing’s sake, and he rested his forehead against mine, our breaths still mingling together as we were so close our lips brushed. “I want you to fuck me, Steve,” Billy whispered, licking his lips, lightly grinding his hips down into my mine.

“Billy,” I moaned, eyes closed and heart racing quicker at the thought, wanting to drown in the way he spoke my name. My eyes fluttered open and I stared straight into his, deep blue as an ocean, the air around us electric.

My first time with Nancy hadn’t been like this at all. We had made out, gotten to second and third base before we actually had sex, similar to Billy and I, but when we finally snuck up to my bedroom after that party and she looked at me with her big eyes and started stripping, it was just like something that happen. I had sort of expected it but hadn’t hoped too much, and it was normal.

This, though. This was not normal. The ache in my chest from wanting Billy’s touch everywhere on my skin, the heart racing whenever he ghosted his lips over mine – passion was the only word I could come up with to describe it. Billy was a very passionate guy, and it showed, and I was only hoping that he could sense my longing with its full magnitude.

“Whaddya say, Harrington?” Billy smirked, still writhing on my lap, pressing his hard dick into mine, making me squirm. “Let’s go upstairs, hm?”

In a split second, I forced myself to pull it together and show Billy just how eager I was, just how appreciative I was of him giving himself up to me. I smoothed my palms over his thighs and around that tight, perfect ass of his, giving a delicate squeeze that made his mouth drop open, a small smile forming.

“Go to my room,” I murmured in his ear, smiling when he leaned into me, my lips brushing his ear. “Last door on the left. I’ll meet you up there in a minute.”

He lifted himself gracefully off my lap and shook his curls out of his eyes, winking at me before sauntering off. His ass was begging for me to touch it in those jeans and it took my whole willpower not to follow him immediately, but I stayed seated on the couch until he disappeared up the stairs.

Scrambling up off the cushion, I pressed my palm against my hard dick and bit back a moan, trying to calm myself a little bit so I didn’t blow my load the second Billy laid a hand on me.

I quickly cleared the wine glasses and now empty wine bottle, taking them to the kitchen even though it wasn’t at all necessary, I just wanted to create more anticipation and who was I kidding? Nervous were writhing in my stomach, I wanted Billy so bad I could barely breathe, and I needed a second alone to hopefully soothe myself.

But as I puttered around downstairs, setting the glasses in the sink, adding the bottle of Zinfandel to the empty wine bottles in the corner of the kitchen, readjusting the blanket on the couch, I realized the only cure for my nerves was Billy Hargrove himself.

I took a deep breath, eyeing the stairs, before letting myself do what felt right. I jogged up to my room, dick still half-hard in my pants, growing on sight of Billy laying back against my headboard, red button down strewn over my bedside lamp, hand shoved in his tight jeans, not stroking, just holding.

“Hey,” He breathed, grinning, running his tongue along his teeth. “Took you long enough.”

As soon as my gaze met his I launched myself on top of him, hands coming up to cup his cheeks and bring his lips to mine, loving the way he immediately went pliant against me, wrapping his arms around me, pulling me between his legs.

I let one hand trail down the front of his body, fingers teasing his peaked nipples, smiling into the kiss as he arched his back off the bed. I carefully detached my mouth from his, looking up at him through my eyelashes as I moved my mouth down his chest, scraping my teeth gently along the skin, laving over bites with my tongue, pressing open mouthed kisses to the v of his hips as I unbuttoned his low-riding jeans.

Billy let out a quiet moan as I breathed over his actually clothed cock, the small wet patch at the top of his briefs making me smirk and immediately dive in to mouth over his tip through the material. His body tensed up under me as he bit back a noise of pleasure, and I immediately rose up between his legs, shaking my head as I pulled his jeans and briefs down in one smooth motion.

“Oh no, Billy,” I tutted, his bitten red lips too delicious not to press a quick kiss to. “Every little sound, every word – I want to hear it.” Billy’s dark eyelashes fluttered against his cheekbone as he took in my words and I pressed my hand to his dick, stroking over the silky skin, thumbing over the precome that collected at his tip.

“Steve,” Billy breathed, fingers squeezing my bicep to get my attention. “Steve, please tell me you have lube or fuck-“ He threw his head back when I kissed his shaft, still moving my hand slowly. “Something, I want you to fuck me, I already told you that.”

He was whining big time, the red flush he sometimes got spreading from his cheeks down his neck and chest, stomach heaving with heavy deep breaths as he had surrendered himself to my touches.

I lifted myself up to look at him and grinned. “What’s the magic word?”

I expected him to play around, to be mad or to continue teasing or something, but he lifted himself up to meet me and said in that sexy, deep voice of his, “Please.”

Swallowing thickly, I forced myself to look away from his pleading gaze that was making me ache, the brush of my khakis against my hard cock making me shimmy to the side of the bed quickly, opening the drawer of my nightstand to grab the bottle of lube I had stashed away.

“Do you know what to do?” Billy asked softly, not in a condescending way. He was kissing up the side of my neck, running his fingers through my hair before trailing down to grip the hem of my t-shirt, tugging it roughly until I dropped the lube beside him and pulled it up over my head. I nodded slightly to answer his question, a plan forming in my head. “It’s no wonder all the girls go after you, Harrington.”

I smiled at him and bit my lip as he ran his fingers over the little trail leading down into my khakis, popping the button and zipper. I couldn’t help but thrust into his hand just a little bit as his fingers ghosted over my cock when he started to pull my pants down my hips.

I untangled myself from his koala-like grasp and took my khakis all the way off, leaving my briefs on as I climbed back on the bed, pushing him back as I settled myself on his hips. “So, I have a question,”

Billy grinned at me from his position, curls spread on my pillow like a halo, and wiggled his eyebrows. “What’s up, buttercup?”

I smiled and ran my hands up his chest, grinding down on him a little, feeling just a little powerful when he set his hands on my hips, gripping tightly. “Do you want me to eat you out now or save that for later?”

Billy’s eyes flew open wide and his jaw dropped just a little, surprised at my bluntness but squirming at the words. “Um,” He licked his lips and let out a little whine when I pressed my hips down to his again. “You should, maybe, try it out now.”

He squirmed underneath me when I wagged my tongue a little at him, loving the way he flushed bright red. I never thought I’d see Billy embarrassed about anything sexual, but here he was, writhing underneath my perch on his hips.

“If you really think so,” I lowered myself down to kiss him again, flicking my tongue out against his bottom lip as I pulled away to move down his body. “Turn over for me, Billy,” I asked quietly, the only sound in the room now our heavy breaths and occasional moans.

He flipped over without a word, and my mouth watered upon seeing him rise up halfway on his knees, the perfect ass I’d been ogling for longer than I wanted to admit on display right in front of me. My hands ran up his golden, smooth back, fingers pressing into the dip of his spine as he arched up to my touch, a small gasp leaving his lips when my palms settled on his ass, carefully pulling his cheeks apart as I savored each touch.

“Come on, Steve,” Billy whined as I blew out a breath against the little pink hole that clenched into nothing, Billy’s body tight with tension as he waited to feel my tongue lave against his asshole. “Just – oh, shit,” he breathed, forehead falling against my pillow as I dove in after a couple more seconds of anticipation.

My tongue pressed flat against him, and I wiggled gently, lightly sucking on his rim, drawing the most beautiful noises I’d ever heard from his mouth. I continued to press kisses to him, opening him up on my tongue, my chin slick with spit from my efforts, eyes closed in concentration as I let one hand smooth up his back while I worked the tip of my tongue into his now spit-slick opening.

“Fuck, Steve,” Billy pressed back against me shamelessly, wiggling his ass impatiently whenever I stopped my ministrations to just take a look or nip at his tan asscheeks. He looked back at me when I stopped now, and I lifted my head up with a grin, relishing the low-lidded gaze, loving the sudden look of surprise when I pressed two fingers to his relaxed entrance, his head falling back down to the bed, hands grasping at the comforter for purchase as I slowly pushed my fingers in, twisting them carefully as he, once again, shoved back against me.

Carefully, I stretched my fingers apart, unable to hold back the moan that left my lips at the sight of him responding to my every action – the movement of him against me was unbelievable, and I had experienced sex before, enough times to have experienced good sex, but this was another level – another plane of existence.

“Steve, Steve,” Billy gasped, head lifting as I pressed my fingers in deeper, a mix of a whine and moan leaving his lips as I did. “Get – a fucking condom,” He looked back at me from over his shoulder and I almost lost it right then, my hand reflexively coming down to squeeze the base of my cock.

I leaned over him again, the feel of my bare chest to his back making the room seem even hotter, if that was possible, and I fished around in the nightstand for a minute before grasping a condom.

“Jesus, Steve,” Billy flipped onto his back, eyes pleading, hands reaching out to grab me and pull me into a heavy kiss – if you could call it a kiss, really, it was sloppy with desire. His raked his fingers down my body, nails scratching down my chest until he reached my briefs, pulling them down with urgency. I opened the condom and began to roll it down my dick, Billy watching underneath me, eyes low as he licked his lips. “Let me ride you.”

My head shot up from where I’d been looking down, trying to find the bottle of lube amongst the covers, the needy feeling in my chest expanding at his words. “Okay,” I managed, making him grin. He looked a little manic, hair wild, cheeks red, cock hard, but it was the sexiest thing I’d ever fucking seen.

It took little effort for Billy to switch our position, and I had to take in several deep breaths as he climbed on top of me and pushed me to lay all the way back, already knowing that I probably wouldn’t last long. Billy grabbed the lube and poured a generous amount into his palm, leaning over my chest to press open mouthed kisses to any patch of skin he could as he jacked my cock gently, covering it in lube, reaching back to slick up his own entrance again with the sticky remnants left on his fingers.

“Shit,” I muttered, eyes focused on where he’d put his own fingers into himself, his thighs twitching as he looked down at me, smirk on his lips as my hips jerked up of their own accord. “I could come just watching you do that, Billy,” I admitted with a groan.

“Sure you could, baby,” he grinned, letting his fingers drop from inside himself. “We’ll have to test that out sometime,” he winked, and I breathed out a laugh. “But I’ve got other ideas for right now.”

I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding as he gripped the base of my cock, knees gripping either side of my hips tightly as my tip pressed against his entrance, his mouth falling open in concentration as he let himself slide down, and, slowly, bottom out.

“Oh my – oh fuck,” my voice went embarrassingly high-pitched, fingers digging so hard into Billy’s hips that there might be bruises left later. Little breaths and whines kept leaving Billy’s lips as he started to move his hips, slowly going up and down, his hands falling down to rest on my chest as he hit that spot inside himself.

“You’re so fucking big,” Billy breathed out as he looked down at me, inhaling sharply as I thrusted my hips upward to meet him halfway. “Do it again,” he ordered, sitting fully back upright, hands resting behind him on my thighs as he anticipated my thrusts.

I did as he asked, the rhythm coming together quickly – his pretty cock was dribbling precome on his perfect golden stomach that clenched with every movement, and I bit my lip, trying to hold back, feeling my orgasm just seconds away, not wanting to finish yet.

“Wait,” I breathed out, forcing myself to sit up and adjust our position – he was still on my lap, fully seated on my dick, and I winced as I thrusted unexpectedly, Billy’s arms coming up to wrap around my neck and mine encircling his waist, hands gripping his ass as we continued to thrust together. Our lips brushed as we changed the pace from Billy’s enthusiastic riding to a sort of syrupy, hypnotic pace, the way our foreheads were pressed together, his cock trapped between our bellies, his ass resting on my thighs – it was intimate; intense.

“Steve,” Billy said lowly, his eyes fluttering shut as he clenched around me, a moan leaving my lips as he did it again. “I know you’re close, baby,” he whispered in my ear, taking my earlobe between his teeth and tugging gently, licking a line down my throat, sucking over any semblance of a mark he’d left earlier.

“Yeah,” I agreed breathily, attempting to pull him closer to me. “You’re so good, Billy. So perfect on my cock –“ my voice broke off as the intense building in my belly grew to a fever pitch, jaw dropping as he moved against me – and I was done for.

“Fuck!” I cried out, clutching Billy as I found my release, the filling up the condom, head falling onto Billy’s shoulder as I tried to even out my breathing and come back from the space of bliss so that I could ensure Billy finished too.

When I rolled my head to the side to look at Billy, he was looking at me softly, biting his lip, hand on his cock in between us, stroking softly. “You really are a pretty boy, Steve,” he whispered as he craned his neck down at a somewhat awkward angle to kiss me open-mouthed, tongue flicking against my bottom lip to soothe after he tugged at it with his teeth, me completely pliant under his ministrations.

I covered the hand on his cock with my own, stroking with his rhythm, my cock still buried in his ass. I knew Billy liked being spoken to; he liked dirty talk, he liked hearing what was going through my head.

“Billy,” I said softly, kissing up his neck. “Do you know how breathtaking you looked bouncing on my dick? Or how sweet your ass looked when you just waited for me to eat you like a girl?” Billy keened at that, body tensing up as his release spilled over our joined hands, some landing on my stomach, but most of it on my fingers.

“You’re filthy, Steve,” Billy’s low, wrecked voice, told me that he liked it just a little bit. I smirked at him as I raised my come-covered hand to my lips as popped my index and middle finger into my mouth, cheeks hollowing as I cleaned the come off, preening as Billy’s droopy eyes watched my mouth. “Baby,” he gripped my wrist, pulling my fingers out of my mouth. I bit my lip as I watched his tongue flick out against my palm, getting whatever I’d missed with my messy sucking.

We stared into each other’s eyes for a second before colliding in another kiss, falling back onto the bed with Billy stretched out on top of me, our mouths breaking apart as both of us smiled.

“Holy fuck,” I said after a second of just basking in the afterglow, Billy laying on my chest, condom discarded in the trash can by my bed, tiredness stretching over both of us. “Thanks, Billy.”

He laughed, the sound making me smile wide. “You’re welcome, Steve.”

~

My eyes fluttered open sometime later, the moon streaming through my window, a beam shining straight down onto Billy, who was sleeping soundly next to me, rosy lips parted, chest rising and falling steadily. He looked so beautiful; my breath caught in my throat as I just looked for a minute.

“Oh, Harrington,” I whispered to myself as I started to feel the sleep tugging me back under. “You’ve got it bad.”

Chapter Text

The annoying beep of my alarm clock started going off at its designated time, 6:45, making Billy shoot up in surprise, knocking off my hold on his chest and the comforter from our laps. “Good morning,” I mumbled sleepily when he fell back into my touch, slamming the snooze button on top of the clock.

The warm, fluttery feeling was back in my stomach, accompanied by a dose of morning wood, but I ignored that simply because I was basking in the fact that Billy Hargrove had fallen asleep with me, in bed with me, and didn’t seem in any hurry to pretend like it didn’t happen.

As he curled back up to me, a throaty laugh left his lips that had me closing my eyes and thanking my lucky stars for whatever had sent this boy my way. “Good morning to you, too, Harrington,” He pressed hot, open mouthed kisses to my chest where his head was laying after my erection knocked against his thigh, his blue eyes half-open with sleep when he looked up at me. “You just can’t get enough of me, can you?”

A dopey smile came over my face as my answer and Billy grinned, leaning up to press a kiss to my cheek. “I actually think I’m going to miss you when I go back to California, Harrington,” he mumbled, eyes closing nonchalantly like he hadn’t just said he was leaving.

The smile fell from my face and I knew Billy could feel my mood change from sleepy-happy to stiff. I knew I had no reason to be getting angry at him, he had made it clear from the first time we’d hung out this summer that his life was not going to be rooted in Hawkins as soon as summer ended. But that awful tight pain that felt similar to a broken heart clenched in my chest and I had to roll away from his touch for just a second, because in that moment my mind couldn’t comprehend the fact that Billy’s knowing smirk and deep voice and lingering touch wouldn’t be there to comfort me in in six weeks when school started back and country club summer was over.

“Steve,” Billy’s voice had a tone to it that made me look over my shoulder at him. He had propped himself up on his elbow, curls waywardly sticking in every direction, blue eyes no longer glazed with sleep as he pierced me with his gaze. “Don’t do that.”

I scoffed and let my head flop back onto the pillow, forcing myself to meet his eyes. “Don’t do what, Hargrove?” The last name slipped out a little tenser than I had intended it to; the old bite that used to be there when we were vying for King of Hawkins High seeming to echo in my bedroom. Billy shook his head and pursed his lips.

“You know, Harrington,” he bit back my last name with equal ferocity, making me flinch. “I thought that of anyone I could possibly find in this town to hook-up with, you’d be the last one to act like a bitch about it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I shot back, knowing exactly what he meant. We’d been over this; he’d made it clear: no bullshit. And yet here I was, taking my annoyance at myself out on the one I was annoyed at myself for wanting. I should’ve known I couldn’t just live in the moment with Billy in this way.

Billy glared down at me, and I wished he didn’t look so damn pretty when he was frustrated – he always seemed to be in the perfect lighting, shadows accentuating his perfect face structure, sunlight highlighting his gold amber curls. It made me want to just shut him up with kiss, tell him to forget whatever had just happened, and never speak about the horrendous future leering in front of us ever again.

He brought me out of my wishful thinking too quickly. “You know exactly what I fucking mean,” He looked away from me, picking at the blanket still covering us with his free hand as he sat up in bed. “I said no bullshit, and I meant it. No feelings, no nothing. As much as we might want it, we can’t have it.”

My eyebrows furrowed at his last sentence and I sat up slowly to mirror him. “Why not?” I couldn’t believe the question slipped from my mouth, and the way Billy glanced at me over his shoulder made my heart melt a little more. He turned back away, and a small laugh left his lips. “Billy.”

I let myself lean forward to press against him, chin resting on his shoulder, and I swore he leaned back into my touch for a second, but as quickly as he did he was gone, pushing the comforter off and fishing through the collection of clothes at the foot of the bed for his briefs, not saying anything until they were up over his ass. Then he turned around.

“Thank you for last night, Steve, truly,” he half-smiled, but it wasn’t a necessarily happy one. “The best sex I’ve had in a long time. You’re the best I’ve had in a while,” the look in his eyes told me he meant more than just sex, but I didn’t point it out. I couldn’t. “But I’m leaving in six weeks. This time I’m not letting myself get broken.”

I wanted desperately to ask him what he meant by that, but he started pulling on his clothes and the clock by my bed read 7:15 and we had to leave for the country club soon. I couldn’t just let him leave my house on that note, though, and as he made his way toward my bedroom door, I hopped out of my bed butt naked to stop him, grasping his wrist softly before he could go downstairs.

“Does that mean we’re done here?” I was surprised at how even my voice sounded, because I knew my hands were shaking. “No bullshit, Billy, there’s no bullshit. Let us have six more weeks.” My voice almost broke and his jaw twitched as he met my eyes.

“I don’t know, Steve,” he murmured, eyes flicking down to my lips. I almost just pressed him to the door and kissed the life out of him, but I didn’t. “Just – let’s go to work. Let’s leave it for a few days. And – I’ll call you, okay?”

He detached himself from my grip, and I let him walk out, standing still in my doorway until I heard his footsteps echo downstairs in the hallway and the tell-tale slam of the front door and rumble of his Camaro engine had me flopping back into my bed with unfortunate tears in my eyes, unable to stop myself from thinking that in six weeks, I could be in the same situation, only that would be the last time I ever heard him leave.

~

Robin sensed something was wrong when I brought my droopy mood to the country club fifteen minutes late, Rachel taken over my first morning match because they had arrived early and I, obviously hadn’t been there.

Harry and Reese had regarded me with suspicious looks when I walked in with my hair still damp from the shower I’d forced myself to take, and asked me if I was feeling well the moment Robin came up to me and actually hugged me, the first moment of eye contact with her making my throat tight and stomach churn.

Robin had untangled herself from our somewhat weird but comforting hug and tugged me into the office, shutting the door and telling our team leaders that she’d determine if I needed to go home for the day or not. Reese looked at me and shrugged, telling Robin okay, and that was that. Now Robin was watching me intently, waiting for me to break first before she asked any questions.

“You were right,” I eventually mumbled, fiddling with my watch, not meeting her eyes. She sighed knowingly and sat down across from me.

“Tell me about it, dingus,” she said softly, pushing a piece of her hair behind her ear. “What happened last night?”

I took a deep breath and then launched into my story, telling Robin about the note and how excited I had been – how I’d paired the wine and chocolate, picked out a movie that I normally wouldn’t share for movie night, and how we’d sat through the whole thing.

“Billy commentated the whole movie,” I laughed a little bitterly, maybe being overdramatic, but hey. I thought I was entitled to being just a little bit dramatic because I had just realized today that I had feelings for him. “He actually wanted to watch it and just curled up next to me on the couch like we do that all the time. I slung my arm over his shoulder and even fed him a piece of chocolate once. Refilled his wine glasses, let my fingers run through his hair…”

I trailed off, huffing a little at Robin’s pitying gaze. “So, what’s with the mopey mood? Seems like all went well. More of a date than a hook up, right?”

I sighed and shook my head. “I thought so, but we did have sex. It was whole other experience, Robin, I know you don’t want to hear about it,” she interjected with a quick yes and I laughed a little. “But I must tell you, it was something special. That kind of connection doesn’t come with everyday hookups and flings – I would know.”

Robin nodded. “Steve, this is what I tried to tell you a few days ago. It’s completely obvious to both me and Heather that you two have some kind of weird connection that not everyone is lucky enough to find, especially in small towns like Hawkins.”

Her words made my chest ache a little more, what with knowing that I felt this way about Billy but wasn’t sure if he felt the same way about me. “I know, Robin,” I looked up at her. “He woke up this morning and said he’d miss me when he leaves for California.”

Robin sucked in a breath. “Well shit.”

I laughed again self-deprecatingly, crossing my arms in front of my chest defensively. I knew Robin wasn’t about to spout off shit about Billy, but my mind was programmed to defend him even though he had unknowingly broken my heart just a little bit this morning.

“I knew it was going to happen, he said no bullshit, I let myself catch feelings even though I knew that there was no way we were going to last through the end of summer, let alone summer itself.” Robin moved from sitting across from me to sit next to me, her arm wrapping around my shoulders comfortingly.

“I know that sucks,” Robin said, taking a deep breath. “But it’s not the end of the world. You had an obviously magical night, but Billy’s not the only person you’ll ever have a night like that with. And you can’t stop him from living his life, wanting to go back to his home.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, wrinkling my nose when she said Billy wasn’t the only person I’d ever have a night like that with. As much as she probably was right, when I tried to picture finding someone else that I moved and fit with like Billy, I got another sick churning feeling in my stomach. “I guess when I woke up this morning with him in my arms, I didn’t expect for him to suddenly spout off about leaving. That’s not what I wanted him to do in that moment, and it certainly isn’t now.” I scrubbed my hands over my face, wishing my eyes would stop itching like I could tear up at any moment.

“Of course not,” Robin scoffed, gently knocking her shoulder against mine. “How did that even happen? How did you two go from morning wood to breaking up?” She teased, making me smile a little despite myself.

“I can’t even remember,” I mumbled. “We brought up feelings and wanting each other and I got butthurt first and he got annoyed and it all went ka-splat.” I made a motion, slamming my hands against the table, making Robin jump a little.

“So…is everything just done now? No second chance, no letting the whole summer romance thing play out?”

I shrugged in response to her questions. “I asked him about keeping things the same – letting these six weeks be like it has been,” I bit my lip and fiddled with the hem of my tennis shorts. “But I don’t even know if I want to give it a second chance, you know? My feelings for him aren’t going to change, I want him, I like him. But it’s going to hurt like a bitch even more if I let myself get attached throughout the next six weeks.”

Robin pursed her lips. “Six weeks can change a lot.”

I eyed her questioningly, saying, “Are you implying that he could change, or I could change? You literally just said I can’t stop him from living his life, going home.”

She nodded, half smiling. “Yeah, but I just got to thinking about it for a second. I really think he likes you, Steve, and Heather does too – maybe if you give it another shot, let him see that you care, he’ll realize that his home doesn’t have to be in California. That people love him here.”

“Love?” I sputtered, the memory of thinking that I possibly loved Billy last night hitting me like a ton of bricks. “Love is a lot, Robin.”

She rolled her eyes. “Just because it’s a lot doesn’t mean it can’t happen easily, dingus. I’ve seen the way you look at him. I’ve seen the way he looks at you.” She nudged me gently, resting her head on my shoulder. “Maybe you should stop thinking so much about the future and just let yourself bask in what’s happening now.”

I looked down at her, a small smile on my face. “I’m tired of you being so wise, Robin. Give me two seconds to act all dramatic and shit before you demolish me with your deep thinking.” She laughed and shook her head.

“I just want you to be happy, Steve,” She said softly, smiling at me. “You’re a good guy and deserve it. You accept me, I want to help you. It’s pretty simple.”

“Thanks.” I said sheepishly, the weight of the morning finally settling on my shoulders gently rather than just looming, waiting to crush me.

We sat there for another few minutes, watching a couple hit wobbly balls over the net through the window in the office, before I pulled myself together and told Robin I’d better get to work and that maybe it would help take my mind off things.

Even though I’d only been awake for three hours, the day felt like it had already been dragging on forever. Once I got out on the court, thoughts of Billy, last night, and this morning weren’t as prominent but continued to pick at me. I made it through the day, however, and got back to my house as soon as I could, not wanting to risk the chance of seeing Billy in the office or clubhouse when I clocked out.

When I walked up the stairs to my bedroom, the sheets and comforter were still raked off the side of my bed, how they had been when Billy had clambered hastily out after our little spat. The bottle of lube was laying in the open drawer of my nightstand, box of condoms spilling out in the back. I slammed it shut and kicked the khakis I’d had on last night toward my laundry basket, my chest aching with how much I wished Billy had come home with me again tonight.

I stripped off my sweaty outfit and ambled into the bathroom to turn on the shower, but as I pulled out a fresh towel and got ready to get under the steaming spray, a bang came from downstairs. I jumped at the sound and it took me a second to register that someone was knocking on my front door. Not knowing who it could be, or really caring, I wrapped the towel around my waist and strode downstairs, opening the front door without thinking.

“WHAT HAPPENED?” Fiery red-head Max pushed against me with her free hand that wasn’t clutching her trusty skateboard. “WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO?”

My eyes widened as she barreled into my house, Lucas coming up behind her with a very sorry expression, letting his bike fall onto my front lawn before he hopped up the porch. I looked down at the measly towel I had around my waist and wished I had thought more before just hopping down the stairs, but mostly I was confused as to what exactly was happening in my house.

“Calm down Max,” Lucas tried to say, but got his hand slapped away when he attempted to place it on her shoulder. “We interrupted the man’s shower, come on!”

“Let me say this and then he can take his damn shower and think about what he’s done,” Max argued, cheeks pink. She turned to me, wide-eyed. “Billy didn’t go to work today. He sat in front of the TV and moped all afternoon, he didn’t work out, he listened to fucking FLEETWOOD MAC, which he only listens to when he’s sad, and I want to know what you did.”

My eyebrows furrowed in confusion as I tried to process her quick words, her mad expression that resembled a fish face making me uncomfortable. When I realized why she was here, that defense barrier came up again, and I crossed my arms over my chest.

“I didn’t do anything,” I claimed, thinking of how he was the one to say he was leaving. “He brought up leaving. He turned on me and left. All I wanted was to know what he was thinking, what he’s actually feeling, and he just had to bring up the end of summer!”

Max and Lucas’s mouth fell open and my eyes widened in realization that they very well could have not actually known anything about what happened, and I’d just told them. “Oh shit,” Lucas mumbled, hand over his mouth.

“Yeah, ‘oh shit!’” Max shoved Lucas and turned towards me again. “I was fucking right. I knew you two are in love with each other!”

I shook my head fiercely. “No, no, no. Don’t go getting any crazy ideas, Max, it’s not like that. We were just – we’re just friends, it’s not a big deal.” The look on her face told me she didn’t believe me. “He’s leaving for California at the end of the summer, Max. It’s not like that.”

She gave Lucas a knowing look. “But you want it to be, don’t you, Steve?” Lucas was still just staring at me, and I huffed.

“Fine. Maybe I do. Maybe I’d like to see if I could love your brother, Max. If you’ve got a problem with that, feel free to go and never associate with me again.” Both of their stares pierced my back as I turned to walk up the stairs and go take my shower.

“Steve,” Lucas called, following me. “We’ll help you get Billy.”

I had to laugh at little at the determined look on both of their faces.

“And how exactly do you plan to do that?” I asked a little mockingly, the wound from the realization that my moony-ness over Billy was easily spotted kind of sore. Mostly my heart was full at the blind acceptance from two of “my” kids.

Max smiled sweetly, eyes sparkling. “Don’t you fret, Stevie. Go take your shower. Lucas and I will fill you in whenever you’re fresh.”

~

Thirty minutes later, Max and Lucas were seated across from me in a booth at the diner. My damp hair from the shower I finally got to take was making the collar of my hoodie that read “INDIANAPOLIS” wet, and I pulled at it uncomfortably, leaning forward to take a sip of my coke as I waited for Max to tell me what her great big plan was for helping me win Billy over.

“So, I’m going to be honest with you, Steve,” Max began after the waitress took our order. “I don’t really have a plan.”

I rolled my eyes, resisting a laugh. “How did I know?” I said wryly, making Lucas giggle and Max slap him on the forearm.

“I mean, I know he likes you, so that already helps us out. It’s just – he’s kind of,” She broke off her sentence, glancing back and forth between me and Lucas before continuing. “The last relationship he had hurt him a lot.”

I furrowed my brows, curiosity growing within me, Lucas nodding from next to her like he already knew the story. Max seemed to like talking, so he probably did.

“Believe me, the last thing I want to do is hurt him,” I mumbled, swirling my straw in the tall red glass in front of me. “We’re not even dating or whatever. He told me he can’t – we can’t – have those feelings.”

A small part of me couldn’t believe that I was blindly telling these things to Lucas and Max, but I trusted them. As much as I was a babysitter or mom to these kids, they were my friends and I knew I was theirs as well. Trust was a big part of the party, and there was no doubt in my mind that I could trust these two – even if they accidentally said something to someone, it would always be with the best interest in mind.

“He had a boyfriend in California,” Max’s voice dropped lower as she leaned in, spilling a secret that Billy would probably be mad at her for telling me. I didn’t want Billy to be angry at her, or angry at me, but he had never told me why his family had suddenly up and moved from California to Indiana of all places. Max knew why, and I assumed that was what she was getting at with her story. “He loved him, Steve. Billy used to take me with them on day trips, the pier, the beach, movies, you name it – it kept Neil from knowing and slowly let Billy make up how much of a douchebag he had been to me when Susan first married him. Don’t get me wrong; he reverted to his old ways a little bit when we moved here, but it was kind of my fault.”

Lucas nudged her. “It wasn’t really your fault, Max. Neil’s a dick.”

She gave him a pointed look and sighed. “Lucas, it was my fault.” She turned back towards me, a frown on her lips. “I know Susan knows that Billy’s not…straight. She’s okay with it, too, but I was being a stupid twelve year old and blabbing about my fun day and Neil walked in the door right as I said something about how Billy and Riley held hands and smooched to tease me, and that was it.”

Riley. I didn’t expect that hearing the name of a guy I didn’t even know existed until five minutes ago would make jealousy flare in my stomach. I shouldn’t have been jealous, but a thought wormed its way into my head – what if all this time Billy had just been working to get back to Riley and I was just a filler? I pushed that idea out of my head as Max continued.

“That was the first move.” How long ago had Billy known Riley? The thought came back to me; I remembered Max mentioned she was twelve when that happened. Two years ago. They moved to Hawkins last year. “The first move took us out of San Francisco and to Sacramento, but that made Billy mad. He hated me, wouldn’t talk to me. He started acting out. Fighting at school, not coming home at night, sometimes for whole weekends – Neil beat him within an inch of his life, once,” Max shuddered, tears glistening in her eyes. “My mom luckily stopped him; he was drunk, but Billy won’t fight back against him. She hit him over the head with a frying pan and he didn’t remember a thing when he woke up the next day – but, anyway, the point is, Neil moved us to Sacramento temporarily until he could convince the insurance agency he works for to make him a traveler. He ended up being transferred to Indianapolis and little conservative Hawkins seemed like the perfect place for him to keep a tight leash on Billy, I guess.”

Max stopped for a second to take a sip of her drink and a deep breath.

“My point is, Billy got torn away from his home in San Francisco, his boyfriend, whatever memories he had left of his mom. The only reason he says he wants to go back is because he won’t let himself admit that Hawkins hasn’t been like Sacramento. He won’t let himself admit that he’s been happy here,” Max looked at me with big eyes, hopeful. “You’re the one that snapped him out of it, Steve. From day one, he talked nonstop about this supposed ‘king.’ He thought you were going to be like those boys in Sacramento that wanted to fight and do drugs and shit, but no – he forgot we’re in Hawkins, a backwoods town that the old people still try to model after Mayberry. And he forgot that he’s human, with feelings, and that he can fall in love.”

Fall in love? Billy would never fall in love with me. The idea struck me as rather preposterous, and even though I was trying to work towards a relationship with Billy, I couldn’t help but see visions of it ending up just as Nancy and me had. Him calling me on bullshit. Maybe Riley showing up to cart him off like Jonathan with Nance.

I held my head in my hands and Max reached across the table to pat my arm, attempting to be comforting. I appreciated it.

“You see what she’s getting at, right?” Lucas asked softly. “Billy will stay for you. You’ve just got to convince him that you want him to.”

I nodded slowly. “And you two are going to help me?”

They both nodded furiously after exchanging a look that I’m sure was some sort of secret code.

“Alright, fine. I guess I’ve got nothing to lose.”

I didn’t really, I supposed. The worst that could happen is that at the end of summer, Billy left for California, never to be seen by me again. And I’d move on, as people do, as life pushes people to do. If all the days after Billy left were like today, though, that would be one hell of a life to live. The more I thought about it the more I realized I never wanted to know what a life would be like without him in it.

Chapter Text

“He doesn’t know we’re going to be here,” Mike announced from his stance on top of a chair in the Henderson’s living room. Everyone was gathered around for the surprise welcome home party, eagerly checking the clock every few minutes and listening for the rumble of the car coming up the driveway. “So, we’re all going to hide in the kitchen behind the counter so he can’t see when he walks in – and BOOM! Surprise!”

Mike’s girlfriend, El, laughed at him and I smiled as he looked down at her with a grin. They were incredibly cute, and the death stare coming from Hopper across the room made it even funnier.

“I can’t wait to finally meet this kid,” Robin said to me as we all milled around in the living room for a bit since the Henderson’s weren’t due back for another ten or fifteen minutes. “I think I’ll have met all of your kids by then, right?”

I rolled my eyes at her but nodded. “Yes. Also, if I’m their mom you’re their crazy aunt, so,” I shrugged, and she grinned.

“Speaking of your kids,” Robin looked around at the various people in the room. “Where is the sassy redhead? I like her.”

I bit my lip and frowned at the ground. Billy was supposed to come today, with me, but since we had our little falling out, I doubted he was going to show up. I assumed he would drop Max off, though. “She’s probably going to be a little late,” I said quietly, pushing my hair out of my eyes.

Robin glanced up at me and smiled a little. “You think her plan is in motion yet?”

I had filled her in this morning on the drive to the Henderson’s, relaying all the details from Max and Lucas busting in on me yesterday, leaving out the more severe parts of their past in California, mostly focusing on the janky plan they were trying so desperately to come up with. Robin had squealed in delight at how cute the kids were, which made me feel all warm again, despite the fact that I was missing Billy.

“I doubt it,” I returned her smile. “She’ll be here, though, Billy will bring her.”

Right as I said that, she came through the front door, Billy in tow. She was dragging him in, he was actually letting her hold his hand, letting her pull him behind her. “Attention,” Max said rather loudly, clapping her hands. Billy was standing behind her sheepishly, face red, looking like he didn’t really want to be there. “Billy has decided to attend this party today in hopes that he can reconcile with anyone he has been a dick to in the past. That is a direct quote from our car ride over here, so, take that as you please.”

Robin giggled from beside me as Billy lifted his hand in a wave, opening his mouth once just to close it like he was going to say something.

“Well,” Joyce Byers stood up from her seat on the couch where she had been saying something to Hopper. “Thank you for coming, Billy. We’re all friends here, and more than willing to accept more friends into our little party.”

I was standing in the corner, completely astonished at where today had taken me so far, first waking up sad again, second recounting Max and Lucas’s sweetness with Robin, now third, watching Billy publicly apologize for being a douchebag.

“Uh,” Billy stammered, avoiding the interesting gaze coming from Karen Wheeler, who had Holly perched on her hip. I glared at her for a quick second but thought of how Billy and I…I turned my gaze away to look back at Billy. “Max didn’t really need to make a speech, I was kind of going to come up to everyone individually and apologize since only a few of you have experienced my…my bad days,” he cleared his throat, looking down at his converse before looking up again. “I just – I’m leaving Hawkins in another month or so, so I figured it would be best to leave on good terms with everyone, so no one kills me when I come back to visit Max.”

He caught my eye at the last part of his sentence after quickly smiling at Max, and I swallowed thickly, wishing he’d stop mentioning leaving. It made my chest hurt; my heart hurt. It made everything hurt just a little if I was being honest.

“You’re going back to California?” Karen Wheeler’s voice filled the quiet room, and she blushed when she noticed everyone had turned to look at her. “That’s nice, going back home.” Billy just nodded at her, shoved his hands in his back pockets, and got saved by the bell as Mike waved his arms wildly, directing attention elsewhere.

“I HEAR THE CAR GUYS, HIDE! IN THE KITCHEN, NOW!” He practically screamed, ushering everyone behind the kitchen counter, island, and into the hallway. “NOW HUSH!” Some people giggled, like El and Holly, and surprisingly, Billy was crouching next to Max, trying to suppress a smile.

It felt like I hadn’t seen him in forever even though it had been just over a day. His curls looked soft today – he looked really soft in general, cut off Everlast sweatshirt and tight jeans perfectly paired with his high-top converse. I wanted to grab him and kiss his plump, pink lips.

I didn’t.

Luckily, before Billy could catch my stare, the click of the front door sounded, and Dustin’s voice echoed through the house, complaining about how his radio probably was broken and that’s why nobody was answering and now Max was counting down with her fingers – 3, 2, 1 –

“SURPRISE!” Everyone jumped up at once, causing Dustin to shriek and drop his duffel bag, his mom laughing delightedly behind him. He doubled over, hands on his knees, finally starting to laugh as the shock went away.

“You guys,” he exclaimed, accepting hugs from everyone, the parents hanging back to let the kids attack him. Billy hung back too, smiling as Max threw her arms around Dustin. I watched him for another quick second, knowing that he cared about Max but never really seen him show it before. Today was shaping up to not be that great for my feelings; it was making me like him more.

“HENDERSON!” I finally yelled after he caught my eye, finishing his greetings with the immediate party. He grabbed me in a tight hug after we did our best-friend handshake and I feigned spilling my guts out all over Mrs. Henderson’s floor. “So glad you’re back, buddy.”

Robin was laughing from behind me and when I looked over my shoulder, Billy was standing next to her, arms crossed as he leaned against the wall, amused grin on his face. I wished he wasn’t looking at me like that, because it made my heart flutter.

“Hi guys,” Dustin greeted a little warily, grin still sparkling on his face. “Who – what –“

He obviously wasn’t quite sure what to ask, seeing as how Billy was pretty much known as the town douche/heartthrob and he’d probably never seen Robin before in his life.

“This is Robin,” I introduced her, eyes darting over to Billy for a quick second, who was looking at me with a kind of gaze I couldn’t place. “We work together at the country club. And Billy – you know Billy.” I trailed off, clearing my throat.

Robin shook hands with Dustin when he stuck his palm out; she was grinning wildly, loving every second of seeing me dork out with my favorite child.

“Trying to make some amends before the summer’s over, kid,” Billy spoke up after Robin finished her greeting. “So – if I’ve ever, you know. Said anything or just been a…dick, I’m, uh, sorry.” Dustin regarded him carefully for a moment before sticking his hand out again. Billy accepted it, and in typical Billy fashion, clamped his other hand on top of Dustin’s, shaking firmly before letting go.

“It’s all good,” Dustin remarked, eyeing the group of people that had milled out to the backyard where all the food was set up and Ted was flipping burgers on the grill with the assistance of Lucas Sinclair’s father. “Let’s get some grub, yeah?”

I laughed a little at Dustin using the word ‘grub,’ and started to follow him outside, but Billy set his hand on my arm and tugged me back a little.

“Can I talk to you for a second?” He asked quietly, ignoring the look Dustin and Robin sent our way as they moved towards the door leading outside.

“Yeah, sure,” Butterflies were rampant in my stomach as I nodded at Dustin and Robin to go on. Robin gave me a wide-eyed look and held up crossed fingers, out of sight of Billy and Dustin. I sent a little smile her way and she ushered Dustin outside, already getting him in some sort of super-nerd discussion, I was sure. “What’s up?” I asked when we were safely away from any eyes or ears, in the back corner of the hallway.

“I leave in six weeks,” Billy started, a rough start for sure, but I forced myself to take a deep breath and hear him out. “And believe me, this summer has been fun so far, but I think it would be in both of our best interest if we just remain, uh, remain friends.” He avoided my gaze, crossing his arms over his chest defensively.

I was a little breathless, his words like a punch in the gut. I didn’t know what to say. I was internally screaming, I wanted to run outside and tell Max there was no need for her great big plan that wasn’t really a great big plan, he just wanted to be friends and some kind of mission to get him to “like me” wasn’t what we needed; he wanted space, he wanted to go back to Cali, and I didn’t belong in those plans, I didn’t belong in his life as anything but a summer fuck and an unlikely (sort of) friend.

“Are you going to say anything?” Billy glanced at me quickly but looked away again when I caught his eye. His cheeks were pink from nerves, he was worrying his bottom lip between his teeth, and I wanted to take his face in my hands and kiss him, tell him that we could work it out…but he was baring his feelings to me, being honest, asking for just friendship. I couldn’t fault him for that.

I swallowed thickly, leaning back against the hallway wall, regarding him carefully as he kept his eyes trained on his sneakers. “I’m not really sure what to say,” I paused, throat tight. “Except okay.”

Billy finally looked up at me, not turning away, some surprise alight in his eyes. “Okay.” I nodded slightly and a little smile came across his face. “You’re a good guy, Harrington. You deserve more than a summer fuck, anyway.” He clapped me on the shoulder, a strange gesture now after we’d been so intimate with each other and went outside to join the others.

I sighed deeply after I was sure I was alone, and slid down the wall, sitting with my head between my knees as I registered the punch to the gut that had been Billy’s confession just now. I wanted to go get him and tell him that we could be more. He could be what I “deserved” if he could just let me be with him, we could be more than a summer fuck – we’d already been more, as far as I was really concerned now that I’d mulled it all over and realized my personal motivations when it came to being with Billy.

“Uh, Steve?” I lifted my head up, glad there had been no tears shed as Dustin knelt beside me, looking concerned. “You okay, buddy?”

I stretched my legs out and nodded, smiling at him a little. “Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry I’m not exactly out there having a ball right now.”

Dustin knocked his shoulder against mine and laughed a little. “It’s okay, man, I get it. Life happened while I was gone,” he paused and glanced at me quickly. “You wanna tell me about it? Or wait until the festivities are over?” He waved his hand in the air in the general direction of the backyard.

“I’ll tell you all about it tonight, I promise,” In my head, I was wondering what all I would tell Dustin. Would I tell him about Billy? Or just that I had a little summer fling that went wrong? I pushed those questions away for contemplation later and just basked in the feeling that I had my best friend back. Of course, Robin knew everything, things that I couldn’t (could I?) tell Dustin, but Dustin and I had a special connection. I had a feeling the connection would expand to include Robin from here on out. The thought made me smile.

“Okay. Let’s get out there then and have some fun. Come on,” He stood up and offered me a hand. I took it and accepted the little help from him to stand back up. We walked back out together, and I put on my happy face, pointedly not looking at Billy, keeping my self at bay. I’d get over it soon, especially after Robin and Dustin and I had a good talk and I worked everything out.

After a little while, my mind shifted from thinking about Billy to letting myself have fun with the kids, slipping into the same mindset I would when I used to be in pain over Nancy. I could feel his eyes on me every now and then, and once I let myself look back and smile a little, which he returned. Max noticed it and narrowed her eyes at me, elbowing me in the side. I shook my head slightly and she frowned. I made a mental note to tell her to call off whatever plan she’d cooked up by now.

~

Robin played with her bracelets while she was deep in thought after I’d relayed the latest Billy episode to her. “He wants to be friends?” She questioned again, snuggling further into the recliner she’d already claimed for the night.

I nodded slowly, taking a sip from the beer I’d swiped from my fridge. We’d left the Henderson’s a while ago so that Dustin and his mom could spend time together and Dustin could recuperate from his month-long vacation. He was coming over soon, though, to watch Fast Times with Robin and me, and to hear about what I’d had that little breakdown in his hallway over.

“Maybe that’s a good thing,” She shrugged. “He didn’t say anything about going back to the old days when it was nothing but tension and supposed hate between you two. In a way, he extended an olive branch. Enemies to lovers to regular, unproblematic friends.”

I huffed lightly. “I’m glad he wants to be friends, really. It just hurts a little. There’s no way I can forget the chemistry between us. Not anytime soon, anyway. I guess it was one-sided.”

Robin rolled her eyes, smiling a little. “Stop being so dramatic, dingus. We’ve been over this.”

I held up my hands in mock surrender. “I know, I know, he’s just detaching himself before leaving. I get it. Doesn’t make it any easier.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Never said it did. But he could’ve chosen to ignore you for the rest of the summer, too, and here we are. The friend stage. Where most of us get stuck for life.” She made a face and I laughed a little.

“What do you think I should tell Dustin?” I shifted the topic a little, having told her about how he came back into the house to find me earlier at the welcome home bash, right after Billy had just broken things off. “Do you think I should…” I trailed off, knowing that she knew what I meant.

“I mean, Max and Lucas know,” she said softly. “But that’s up to you. It’s your decision to come out, Steve. And Billy may or may not appreciate you telling your kids about the little affair, just keep that in mind.”

I breathed a laugh, shaking my head. “I didn’t tell Max and Lucas, necessarily, Max already had suspicions and they caught me at a bad time. Plus, she knows about Billy’s sexuality. That gives away a lot,” I paused. “Nobody knows the nature of mine and Billy’s thing anyway. Max just assumes we like each other and won’t say it.”

“Fair enough. But Dustin does love you a lot, Steve, I can tell. He would be willing to help Max and Lucas out with their ‘big plan,’ I’m sure,” She grinned, and I returned it, knowing she was right. “Do you know what their big plan is, yet, by the way?”

I laughed and shook my head no. “They don’t know what it is, Robin, how am I supposed to know? Maybe you should help them out,” I suggested.

The doorbell rang and I got up to answer it as Robin laughed at my suggestion. “Dude, I know exactly what their plan is going to end up being. The same old-same old of throwing you two together at every opportunity possible.”

“What are you guys talking about?” Dustin strode in without a greeting once I answer the door, catching the end of Robin’s sentence. “Throwing who together?”

I eyed Robin warily and sighed lightly. “It’s about what I was having that little breakdown in the hallway over.” I waved my hand like it wasn’t a big deal, but Dustin nodded seriously, plopping down on the couch and looking at me with expectant eyes.

“Tell me all about it,” He encouraged, making Robin stifle a laugh. Dustin seemed older than his age of thirteen-almost-fourteen, but that’s why he and I get along so well – we balance each other out. “Start from the beginning.”

So, with that, I launched into the events of the past month that he had been gone, avoiding stating who all the drama that took place was with. Every now and then I almost slipped and had to catch myself, but Dustin was so engrossed in my recount that he wasn’t paying much attention to when I flubbed over an almost-name slip.

“I didn’t even realize I had feelings for this person at all until this summer – it was just another person I passed in the hallway at school, another person I saw at random parties or sometimes ran into at the diner,” I looked down at my hands in my lap. “But summer changes everything, I guess. We’re not worried about who sees what in school anymore, everyone’s real personalities come out when they’re not stuck in homework and studying.”

Dustin nodded and adjusted his Camp Knowhere cap on his head. “So basically, you started flirting with somebody. Tried to turn it into a relationship without knowing they’re moving away from Hawkins at the end of summer, and now both of you are sad because you want to be together but know it’ll be harder if you do get together and end up falling in love or whatever.”

“Right,” me and Robin said at the same time, although our tones were different. Robin’s was matter of fact, with a hint of “isn’t that stupid?” behind it. Mine was miserable and a little pathetic. Not my best look.

“Well,” Dustin, in his infinite wisdom, paused to think it over. “I see the point on both sides. And, ultimately, it sounds like it isn’t going to go anywhere else. This person – whoever she is,” I winced, and Robin looked at me pointedly. I know she wanted me to tell him. “Obviously just wants a friendship. You need to respect that.”

I sighed and fell back into the couch, letting the cool leather envelop me in its fluff. “I know.”

“But Dustin,” Robin butted in, leaning forward. “I know that they’re perfect for each other. This person likes Steve, it’s so blatant to those of us that have seen them interact. It’s frustrating how it took Steve a fucking month to see it, and now Bi – this person,” I shot her a glance and she gave me a look right back. “Is still blind because they don’t have a ‘me’ to point out all the details.”

Dustin shrugged. “I get it, Robin,” he relaxed back into the cushions, mirroring me. “But it’s up for them to decide if they truly want to act on those feelings, whether they’re aware of them or not. Like I said, and like both of you said, friendship. That’s what this person asked for. That’s what they should get.”

“You’re right,” I agreed, clutching a throw pillow to my chest and resting my chin on the top. I was pouting, like a five-year-old whose candy got taken away from him.

“So, uh,” Dustin eyed me. “Robin let a ‘B’ slip, there. She knows who it is, but you don’t want to tell me? Your best friend and loyal companion? No offense, Robin,” he added, smiling at her. She just laughed.

“I don’t know, Dustin,” I said, biting my lip.

“Let me guess, then,” he said eagerly, grinning. I looked over at Robin, who was also grinning and shrugged. What was the harm? He was never going to guess Billy.

“Fine, go ahead. If you get it right, I’ll tell you,” I glanced over at Robin just as she rolled her eyes.

“Okay. Bs. Let me think,” He placed a hand on his chin and looked off into the distance like he was really thinking deeply about every girl he knew that had a name starting with a B. “Bianca Presley?” I shook my head. “Yeah, didn’t think so. Too girly for you.” Robin stifled a giggle.

“Belinda Williams?” I shook my head again, Dustin looked disappointed. “Barbie Collins? Bess Johnson?” I responded with a no to both and he sighed. “Jesus, Steve, running out of B’s that we both know here. Is it someone I don’t know?”

I couldn’t resist a smile. This was kind of fun, even though the point was fucked up. “No, you definitely know this person.” He eyed me suspiciously and blew out a breath, squinting in thought again.

“Okay. Beth Tucker? You guys dated once; I remember. Last year,” He looked excited – I hated to squash his excitement, but I did.

“We went on one date that went horribly, Dustin. No, it’s not Beth Tucker.” I said flatly, Robin giggling again from her perch in the recliner.

Dustin looked defeated. “I give up, Steve. The only other person I can think of that we both know with a ‘B’ is Billy Hargrove, and we all know that that’s not what team you play for.” I didn’t think he’d actually bring up Billy, and Robin’s eyes widened when he did, as did mine.

Not much gets past Dustin when he’s in investigator mode, and our wide-eyed exchange was one of those things he definitely would notice. And he did.

“Wait a goddamn minute,” He looked back and forth between us, cheeks red. “Are you telling me you’re into guys now? When the fuck did this happen? Better yet, why the shit did you choose Billy Hargrove? What the hell, Steve? Billy? Really?” He pushed my shoulder and stared at me questioningly as silence enveloped the room.

“Um,” I started, sitting up slowly. I just decided to answer each of his kind of hysterical questions one by one. “I still like girls. I just happened to discover that some guys are nice too. It happened when I realized I was attracted to Billy like four weeks ago. I didn’t exactly choose Billy; I can’t help who I fall for, really. And yes, Billy. It’s the craziest thing, I know.”

Dustin was still just staring at me; mouth open slightly indicating that he was still processing everything he’d just taken in.

“I’ve seen all of it, Dustin,” Robin said, nodding. “And I’m telling you, Billy is just as gone on Steve as Steve is on him, if not more.” I felt a blush creep up my cheeks at the thought and I shook my head no, making Robin scoff. “Of course, you don’t see it, Steve.”

“So that’s why he pulled you aside to talk to you earlier?” Dustin questioned, putting things together. It didn’t seem to bother him that Billy was the person in question, other than the fact that Billy had the ultimate douchebag reputation. “Damn. I definitely caught you at a bad time, then.”

I shrugged. “I needed someone to drag me away before I overthought it to death. I’m glad you came in.” He smiled over at me and I returned it.

“My thoughts on this from earlier still stand,” Dustin said firmly. “Stay friends. If the romantic chemistry comes back, it comes back. If it doesn’t, oh well, you had a crush, we all get those. It’ll pass, as harsh as that feels right now to hear.”

“You are one smart little dude,” Robin said, a look of admiration on her face. “Where was that advice when I needed it a year ago?” She questioned no one in particular, earning a grin from Dustin.

“Max and Lucas know, too,” I added. “Max insists that Billy’s all sad and whatever, but he seemed fine today. She’s hatching some sort of plan to get him to stay and fall in love with me or something.”

Dustin laughed. “Of course she is. Can we call a meeting? I need to ask her exactly what she’s got running through her head. Maybe I can give pointers. I could definitely help and see if Robin here is right about him having a thing for you.”

Robin scoffed. “I’m right, buddy.”

Dustin just shrugged and smiled. “We’ll see. Let’s call them, invite him over or something. I didn’t see much of you two interacting together at the house earlier, kind of obvious why now, but still –“ before he could go on any longer I held up a hand and cut him off.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I chuckled. “I thought you just said I should respect how he wants to be friends? No plans, no whatever, just be glad he’s not ignoring me?”

“Well, that was before I knew Max had suspicions. Robin’s opinion is more validated when his own sister thinks something is up. And if she really has a plan, your best friend needs to be involved so that whatever happens is sure to be in your best interest,” his eagerness was sweet. “Let’s all eat at the diner or something tonight, Max can get Billy to come. Please, Steve!”

The thought of seeing Billy made my stomach churn with mixed feelings. I did want to see him, obviously, I wanted to see him all the time. But things were different, now, and I hadn’t really accepted the whole friend thing in my brain yet – my brain was still thinking about how perfect the sex is, how electric our kisses are, how expressive his eyes can be. I guessed now was as good a time as any to start thinking of him as a friend and not a lover.

“I am getting hungry, Steve,” Robin admitted, looking at her watch. “It’ll take time to cook, at least being around a bunch of people will make time go faster waiting for food at the diner.”

“Sure, why not,” I conceded with a shrug. “I know Will’s out for a movie night with his mom tonight though, so he can’t make it.”

“I’ll radio Max and Lucas on the walkie,” Dustin confirmed, smiling. “You can call Mike.”

Nodding, I stood up from the couch and walked into the kitchen to use the phone, dialing the Wheeler’s number by memory. I’d memorized way back when I was still trying to woo Nancy, but now it stayed in my brain for Mike.

“Hey Mrs. Wheeler,” I greeted when she picked up, sounding as chipper and mom-like as ever. “Is Mike available?”

“I’ll see if he can talk,” She sounded hesitant. “He’s getting ready for a date tonight with his little girlfriend, El.”

I chuckled and shook my head before remembering she couldn’t see me. “In that case, never mind. Me and Dustin are going out to the diner for food, I just thought I’d check and see if he wants to come, but he clearly has other plans. Tell him I said good luck.”

Karen laughed. “Okay, I’ll tell him. Bye, Steve!”

“Bye,” I smiled into the phone and hung up, striding back into the living room to see Dustin stuffing his walkie-talkie back into his backpack. “We good to go?”

“Yep, Max and Lucas will meet us there,” Dustin grinned. “Billy too.”

I blushed and rolled my eyes, not ready for the incessant teasing that was probably going to come from Dustin from now on.

“Let’s go, then. We can get a table,” Robin ushered us out to my BMW quickly, complaining about how her stomach was growling, and I zoomed all the way to the diner, wanting to get settled at a booth before Billy and the kids got there.

We had just sat down and flipped open menus when Max burst through the door, chime ringing loudly, Lucas holding her hand and Billy wincing as she strode through confidently, grinning her way to our round corner booth.

“Hi guys,” She slid in next to Robin, making all of us shift to accommodate her. Dustin was now on the end, and Billy slid in to sit at the other end, making him perfect in my line of sight from where I was sitting between Robin and Dustin. “Long time no see.”

“We didn’t exactly get to catch up too much with all the people at my house today,” Dustin pointed out, looking up from the menu to talk. “I never got to tell you guys I have a girlfriend now.”

My mouth dropped open, as did Max and Lucas’s, and Billy laughed. “You have a girlfriend?” Robin questioned, just as nosy at the rest of us.

“Her name’s Suzie, and she looks just like Phoebe Cates,” Dustin grinned at me. “Only hotter.”

I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms over my chest. Dustin knew how much I loved Phoebe Cates. “No fucking way, man, there are only a few people hotter than Phoebe Cates. I don’t know your Suzie, but she can’t be hotter than her, no way.”

Dustin just laughed. “Okay, man. But she is,” We all shook our heads in disbelief, including Billy. “And she’s got the brains to match. She’s so smart.”

Dustin looked genuinely happy talking about her. It was cute. “Well congrats, Dustin. When can we meet her?” Lucas said, grinning.

“Well, she lives in Utah,” he admitted. “Her family is Mormon so we can’t exactly talk on the phone…we can radio but it's spotty and sometimes she can’t answer.”

Billy snorted. “Good luck keeping that up, my man.” He said what we were all thinking. Dustin just rolled his eyes. “Sorry. Was that rude?” Billy genuinely asked, not sarcastically.

“Eh, it’s a normal response,” Dustin shrugged. “It is pretty unlikely that things like this keep going. But we have something special.” He smiled as he took a sip of coke.

“I wish you all the luck, my strange friend,” Robin concluded for the group.

Billy caught my eye and smiled, and I smiled back. I didn’t know what I was expecting to happen now that we were just being plain cordial to each other. Even when we had started being friends this summer, our friendliness was interspersed with flirting and sarcasm. Now I wasn’t sure what to say or do.

“What I really want to know,” Max started, breaking Billy and I’s eye contact. She had noticed him looking at me, I presumed. “Is who Steve thinks is hotter than Phoebe Cates.”

I flushed red, the immediate thought coming to mind obviously being Billy. She knew that, too, and from the way Billy looked down at his menu like he was deep in thought and Dustin nudged me in the side, everyone else knew, too.

“Uh,” I was saved by the bell, stammering to come up with an answer and my mind absolutely blanking on all celebrity women I knew just as our waiter visited the table to take our order. I immediately jumped on that, ordering a double cheeseburger, shrinking back into my seat as soon as I was done, mind thinking of hot Billy and just how hot he’d been at numerous times this summer – hotter than I’d ever realized he could be.

My thoughts drifted to his dirty talk, the way his hips moved, and I squirmed, shaking my head and forcing myself to remember whose company I was in and how those thoughts were appropriate to be thinking about friends.

The rest of the dinner went by quickly, Billy staying quiet for most of the time, even though he teased Max a little bit and I felt his eyes on me whenever Robin or Dustin got me talking excitedly about something. He was just looking at me because we’re friends now, he wanted to get to know me better.

“I should get back home,” Lucas said as he checked his watch and finished the last of his strawberry milkshake. “You guys ready?” He questioned.

“Sure,” Max agreed, sliding out of the booth after Billy gracefully got out. “Thanks for hanging, guys. Good to have you back, Dustin.”

“Thanks for meeting us,” I started, not wanting them to go, really. Even though I hadn’t said more than two words to Billy directly tonight, his presence was comforting. “Thanks for coming along, too, Billy.” I blurted, getting his attention before he could follow the kids outside.

“No problem, Harrington,” He smiled, blue eyes clear and pretty as ever, and I wondered if he’d only call me Harrington now. No baby, no pretty boy, no Steve. “See ya later.”

After the bell chimed, signaling his leaving, Dustin turned to me and said quietly, “Max’s plan better not be a shitty one. He’s in love with you Steve, and we gotta make him realize it.”

Chapter Text

“Come oooooon Steve,” Max pleaded, ignoring the look she was getting from the elderly woman I’d just finished playing a match with. “Everyone else is over at the pool swimming, and you haven’t come all week. I know your break starts in like…now, Robin told me.”

Max crossed her arms over her chest and watched as I swiped the white towel over my forehead and through my hair, shaking out and wiping off excess sweat. Robin was looking at me from inside the tennis lounge, navy bathing suit and tennis shorts on, waving a second towel which I assumed was for me, and I groaned.

“Go put on your swim shorts, buddy,” Max grinned. “Billy’s on duty, and I don’t care if he tells you or not, he’s been wondering why you haven’t been at the pool with us, ‘your kids.’ He asked me last night at dinner.”

I chose not to respond to Max’s recount of Billy, instead turning on my heel and wandering over to my locker where my blue patterned bathing suit had been waiting to be used all week. It was Friday, and I had somehow not seen Billy at all this week, like I had suspected it would be at the beginning of the summer before everything had gone down. I did miss him, his golden skin, his perfect hair. More than that, his charming smile, the way his eyes twinkled when he teased me. I hadn’t stopped thinking about him even though I hadn’t seen him.

“Finally, he goes for a swim,” Robin said dramatically when I came out of the bathroom, shirtless and in my swim trunks. I accepted the towel from her and tossed my sweaty one from the court into the dirty bin. “Billy has watched the gate to the pool everyday this week when we’ve been over swimming and horsing around like he’s expected you to walk in.”

I huffed a little. “Gee thanks for the tip, Robin.”

She eyed me suspiciously, hands on her hips. “No need to get snippy, Harrington. Just telling you something I thought was interesting, since it pertains to your situation.”

I looked at her apologetically and forced a smile. “I know, it’s just – I’m trying to think of him as a friend, you know? Still trying to get that through my head. Imagining him longing for me or missing me isn’t exactly helping that.”

Robin nodded. “Yeah, I understand. I just…we all know there’s something else there,” she shrugged. “You can be friends with him and want more. It may not be all that healthy, but in this particular case, maybe it would help clear things up.” I just gave a single nod in response, trying to work through the advice in my head.

We walked out of the lounge together, over to where Max was standing, and she grinned as we came over, red sunglasses hiding her eyes. “It’s just our luck. Because of the thunderstorms,” she pointed toward the grey horizon where clouds where hanging threateningly overhead. The sun still was still lighting up the other half of the sky, though. “Most parents cleared out already. There’s not many people in the pool now.”

Despite half of the sky being dark, the heat was still overpowering, and as soon as the glistening blue water of the pool came into view, my mouth salivated at the thought of jumping in and letting myself submerge in the no doubt cold water, since half of the pool was covered in shade from the clouds.

“Harrington,” a familiar deep voice that I hadn’t heard in a week called my name, a grin clear in the sound. I looked over to see Billy peering at me from over his sunglasses, in his lifeguard chair, looking as beautiful as ever. “How’s it going?”

I shrugged but returned his smile. I wished I could pull him down from his perch hug him…kiss him…I mentally shook myself out of the daydream and responded to him, “It’s been hot as shit all week, Hargrove. Finally figured I’d drag my ass over here for a swim.”

He grinned wider, biceps flexing as he leaned back in his chair, one leg propped up on the opposite knee. His little red lifeguard shorts caught my eye and I had to look away.

“Well it’s good to see you, amigo. Jump right in, water’s free,” he lifted the whistle dangling around his neck to his lips, blowing carefully and keeping eye contact with me as he did, signaling the break to clean out the water was over, and everyone was clear to get back in.

I coughed and looked away again, throwing my hand up in an awkward wave. “Uh, thanks Billy.” I quickly walked away to where the kids were set up on chairs, Mike rubbing sunscreen on his pale skin, Will hiding underneath the umbrella, Lucas also rubbing sunscreen on Max’s back, Dustin with his nose in a comic book, Robin grinning at me.

“That look an awful lot like flirting, buddy,” Dustin said, eyes still flicking down the page of his X-Men comic. “Don’t you think, guys?”

“Yeah, it was flirting,” Will said with a snort, making my eyebrows shoot up in surprise.

“Oh, definitely,” Mike agreed, and I looked at him, a little astonished. “Come on, Steve. Did you honestly think they wouldn’t tell us?”

Max looked up sheepishly, and Lucas laughed. “Sorry. We needed help coming up with the Great Big Plan!”

“And did you have any success after you told Mike and Will?” My cheeks were red with embarrassment, not because I was embarrassed about liking Billy, but because of my history with the Wheeler family. Mike didn’t seem to care though, in fact, he was rather nonplussed.

“Well,” Max started slowly. “We’ve decided that the best thing we can do is have you guys spend a bunch of time together,” I didn’t miss the questioning look almost all the kids shot Max, like that wasn’t the actual plan. I opened my mouth to ask but she barreled on, “So, we planned a sleepover at your house tomorrow night and a day at the mall Sunday. Sound good? I’m going to make Billy come. There’s no way my mom will let me spend the night with the party unless she knows he’s there, anyway.”

“Sleepover? At my house?” The last sleepover I had came to mind and I pushed it away. God.

Dustin finally looked up from his book and grinned. “It’s going to be so much fun! We can play D&D and get pizza and play TRUTH OR DARE –“

I held up my hand at truth or dare. That was basically what had started this whole thing, and as much as I wanted Billy’s mouth on my dick again, that’s definitely not what needed or was going to happen.

“Sleepover’s fine, guys. But no truth or dare,” I shook my head and Robin giggled, the reason behind my disagreement finally clicking. “And your plan is kinda lame, Max, but I guess I won’t protest spending time with him.” I decided that if the kids had another plan, I didn’t want to know what it was. Chances are, if Billy was set in his ways, it wasn’t going to work anyway.

I blushed a little, hating how cutesy my response to tomorrow’s sleepover sounded, and set my towel down. Sweat had already started to bead on my forehead and slide down my chest, so I decided to cut our little conversation short and jump into the water.

“I don’t know about you guys,” I shrugged, “But I came here to swim. So I’m gonna get in the water now.” Will and Lucas agreed, and jumped up from their seats, racing each other to the water before cannonballing in the deep end, Billy laughing at them rather than blowing his whistle against running. When they came back up, though, he yelled their names.

“Byers! Sinclair! Nice splash, but don’t run, got it?” He winked at them, and I hid my smile, watching them grin and nod okay. “You gonna stand there or try and beat their splash, King Steve?”

Oh, King. I hadn’t heard that one in a little while. I narrowed my eyes at his sneaky grin and, clearly breaking the rules, launched myself forward and into the air above the water, coming down with a hard smack on the knees, one hand clutching my nose for dear life as water shot up around me at the impact.

“Holy shit, Steve,” Lucas was clutching his side with laughter when I came back up, shaking my hair out of my face. “That was definitely a ten.”

Will nodded, grinning widely, and I looked over at Billy as I swam to the edge of the pool. “What do you think, Hargrove? A ten?”

Billy’s face broke out into one of those smiles that reached his ocean eyes. “Oh, yeah. A ten.”

~

“I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO, ROBIN!” I held the receiver closer to my hear as I flopped back onto the couch, my head swimming with thoughts of how Billy’s “friendliness” today had seemed like straight up flirting. “Help.”

She giggled on the other end, making me crack a smile. “I think he just doesn’t exactly know how to be friends with you, Steve. It’s only ever been teasing with you guys, even back before you had this sexual awakening.” I imaged her hands flopping around in the air as she talked. “As much as he definitely was flirting, I don’t think he means it in a way for you to act on.”

“So I should just let it sit there? Take it?” I asked, closing my eyes and pinching the bridge of my nose in frustration.

“Not necessarily,” Robin countered. “Give it right back to him. Make him see what it feels like.”

I scoffed. “I had enough trouble with that before we had a fling, Robin. Now, after, I don’t know how I’d be able to handle it. I’d just be trying to get him back in my arms.” I muttered the last part, feeling a blush rise on my cheeks even though Robin couldn’t see me.

Robin sighed. “It’s okay to still want him, Steve. You just gotta know that he may not want you back.”

I winced. “Yeah, think I got that by now,” I paused before continuing, “I can do this. If I flirt with him, if I just be myself, if I let him see what we could be…everything could change.”

“But if it doesn’t…” Robin trailed off, worried.

“If it doesn’t,” I said confidently, sitting up. “I’ll be okay.”

~

My Saturday morning went by the same way my Friday night did – slow and in front of the couch watching Dallas reruns on the television. I did make myself look somewhat presentable after I’d finished two bowls of cereal, going upstairs and taking my time fixing my mop of hair into its usual swoop, changing out of my pajamas that only consisted of sweatpants into a pair of jeans and a soft yellow t-shirt that made my skin look more tan than it actually was.

I walked back downstairs just as the phone rang, and I frowned as I looked at the receiver shaking a little, waiting to be picked up.

“Hello?” I answered, running a hand through my freshly hair sprayed hair.

“Hey, uh, it’s Billy,” the voice answered, making me stand up straight. “I just had a question about the, uh, sleepover tonight.”

My cheeks went red. “Yeah, what’s up?” I managed to answer without stuttering.

“It’s okay…that I’m coming, right?” He sounded nervous and I found it endearing, it made me smile.

“Yeah, of course, Billy. We’re friends, remember?” I added, ignoring the little dart of pain that went through my chest at saying it specifically to him.

Billy chuckled a little, but it was humorless. Or maybe I just wanted it to be. “I remember, Harrington. I remember.” I couldn’t help but remember other things as he said that, and by the way his tone went softer as he repeated his words, I think he did too. God, why were we like this? Why did life have to make us feel like we couldn’t do it? I squeezed my eyes shut and forced the thought away.

“I’ll see you and Max at four, right?” I cleared my throat and changed the subject.

“Sure. Four. Sounds good.” He cleared his throat too, and it seemed like it stood up a little straighter, making his voice seem more confident. “Bye, Harrington.”

“See ya, Billy.”

I hung up the phone, setting it down with a sigh, and leaned against the wall. I couldn’t help but wonder if Billy was just nervous to come because it was new for him to hang around the kids, or if it was because he hadn’t been to my house or really hung out with me since the last time we’d been alone.

The doorbell drug me out of my thoughts, and I knew it was Dustin coming over to ride with me to the grocery store. I’d had the bright idea of everyone making personal pizzas tonight rather than ordering takeout, and Dustin, of course, was who I chose to enlist as my shopping buddy.

“STEVE!” Dustin’s voice did its usual crack as let himself in. “Let’s gooooo!”

“Okay, okay,” I said, not even bothering to greet him as he came into view. “Let me check and see what all we have in the kitchen first. We might have some veggies or cheese already in the fridge.”

Dustin nodded and padded after me into the kitchen. “Did Billy call?”

I whipped around, almost making him bump into me. “How did you know?”

Dustin half-smiled and skirted around me to open the refrigerator himself. “Max radioed everyone this morning and said he was trying to back out of it. He used some lame excuse about not feeling good but Max saw through the bullshit, made him call you.”

“Oh.” I frowned a little. “Well yeah, he called me. It was barely anything, though. He just asked if it was really okay that he was tagging along, and I told him of course.”

“Things don’t seem to be weird between you guys,” Dustin remarked. “Even though both of you are so in love it’s honestly sickening.” I rolled my eyes but felt a flush creep up my face. Dustin had said numerous times in the past week how “in love” we were, but I still wasn’t sure what to think about it. I could see myself loving him, but I wasn’t sure if I was there yet. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to let myself be there yet.

“We aren’t in love, Dustin,” I said lightly, peering into the fridge next to him, pretending like I didn’t see him roll his eyes. “Looks like the Harrington household is all out of food. Let’s go to the store, man.” I clapped him on the shoulder and turned away, heading out to the car.

About ten minutes later, after a car ride filled with top 40 hits from the local pop radio station, I pulled into the grocery store in the heart of town, no list with me, just a brain that hopefully remembered how to make homemade pizza.

“Okay, so, we need mozzarella…dough…” I started listing all the ingredients out loud to myself as Dustin and I went down every aisle, finding everything we could possibly think of, getting way too much food and a surplus of popcorn and ice cream.

“Steve?” My cart almost bumped into perky, bleach blonde, not-my-type Rachel as I turned the corner of aisle 5. She looked a little different out of her tennis training outfits, but her eyeshadow was still coordinated with her purple tank top. “What are you doing here?”

Dustin stifled a laugh, but elbowed me in the ribs, wondering why Rachel who ran the aerobics class at Hawkins High was smiling at me and cocking her hips in my direction. “Just, uh, getting some groceries. You know, like one does at a grocery store.” Dustin giggled next to me and I elbowed him back.

Rachel outright laughed like my response had been a joke. “You’re so funny, Steve. It’s a shame we don’t get to see each other more on the court, you’ve been an amazing addition to the tennis team this summer.”

I smiled at her, not immune to the way her perky breasts pressed to the thin cloth of her top, since she was definitely sticking her chest out in my direction. Her glossy lips were permanently fixed in a pouty smile, and my mind drifted to thinking of Billy’s sweet, plush mouth for a second before Dustin’s voice dragged me away.

“I’m Dustin, Steve’s best friend,” he stuck his hand out for her to shake and she giggled again, charmed by his antics. “You are?” I resisted the urge to roll my eyes; he knew who she was, the boys in the party had ogled her leading a youth aerobics class in the mall when we had attended the grand opening.

“Rachel. I work with Steve at the country club,” She turned her gaze toward me and for some reason, I blushed. I noticed her eyes drift down my body and briefly wondered if she had been eyeing me all summer and I had been too preoccupied to notice.

My brain was flashing warning signs, telling me NO, THINK OF BILLY, but I didn’t listen. Billy wasn’t interested; he told me to my face. He had lost the courage to keep up our fling, he didn’t want the drama that came with leaving. I had to accept it. Maybe another tussle would help me get my mind off him, even just for a little while. Was that fair to Rachel? I wasn’t sure. Maybe she wasn’t looking for anything more than a quick romp.

“Usually we aren’t on the same shift,” I added, letting my eyes mirror hers and rake up and down her body once. It was a curvy figure, soft lines, easy on the eyes. My mind contradicted the soft lines with hard angles, sharp jaw, golden curls instead of bleached ones. Fuck. “But she’s fun to work with.”

I directed that comment towards Dustin, who narrowed his eyes at me but kept the smile on his face. Rachel just giggled again before responding, “You are pretty fun yourself, Steve. But I better go, my mom’s waiting. See you around.”

I watched her go, her round ass accentuated by high-waisted jeans swishing more than necessary as she sauntered off. I felt Dustin’s gaze bore into the side of my face and I finally met his eyes.

“What?” I said sheepishly, moving the shopping cart towards the next aisle.

“Dude,” Dustin said like I wasn’t understanding something. “Do you not get it?”

I rolled my eyes. “Get what, man?”

“You could totally make him jealous,” I stopped in my tracks, making Dustin collide with my back. He stepped around to the side of the cart, fixing his hat. “Rachel was totally flirting with you, and I know as much as you’re trying to convince yourself that she could be a rebound right now –“

I scoffed and effectively cut him off for a quick second, “I am not trying to convince myself of anything, Dustin.”

He rolled his eyes and continued, “You’re not a rebound type guy, and you’d feel bad the instant you did anything with her because she’s hot, Steve, like smoking, not as good as Suzie but still top-tier, and there was a look in your eyes when you looked at her that said she’s just not your type, and I know you were replacing her blue eyes with Billy’s and her ponytail with that stupid mullet, so don’t even try and tell me you weren’t.”

I was glad we were in a corner aisle, nobody around to overhear us, because Dustin was on a roll with calling me out, and as much as I felt shame upon hearing what I knew was true, the slap of reality was a little refreshing.

“Okay, Jesus,” I said, holding my hands up in surrender. “How could I possibly make him jealous, though? You just said yourself, I’d feel guilty the second I led her on.” I couldn’t believe that we were having this discussion in a grocery store, of all places, but I guessed that one place was as good as another.

“All you have to do is tell her, Steve,” Dustin shrugged, frowning at my surprised look. “Not that it’s Billy, if you don’t want. But be honest with her. She’s a nice, reasonable girl, and if you told her what’s up, she’d be down, I know she would. She’s not Carol or that girl you dated last year, Beth or whatever.”

“You’re probably right. It wouldn’t hurt to ask, maybe?” I bit my lip, wondering if me and Dustin’s own little plan here would work. It couldn’t hurt, I guess. If Billy got jealous, maybe he’d end up back in my arms. Or maybe we’d be back at square one, where we already were now, so it didn’t make that much of a difference, now, did it?

Dustin nodded vigorously. “Never hurts to ask, buddy.”

We finished our shopping, the the cart almost overflowing by the time we got back to the register. The cashier eyed us suspiciously but Dustin and I just grinned, and I swiped my parents credit card despite wincing at the amount, knowing that they’d never miss it or question anything since I was about to fill up the pantry, fridge, and freezer. I briefly wondered if Rachel was still here, or if she’d already left – if she had left, I’d have to find her number later.

Luckily, as we left the store, she was loading up the trunk of a station wagon with her mom, Emily, who I recognized from various country club functions and Harrington business parties. “Rachel,” I forced myself to call out after I got the stink-eye from Dustin.

“Hi,” she greeted as we walked past, stopping to talk to them. “You remember my mom, right, Steve?”

I nodded and greeted her but touched Rachel’s elbow gently as Dustin rolled the cart away to start loading the BMW, saying, “Can I ask you a question really quick?” Rachel looked at me, puzzled, but smiling. She nodded and I kept my hand on her elbow, steering her out of earshot distance of her mother, into an empty parking spot.

“What can I do for you, Steve?” She said sweetly, long, mascara-ed eyelashes fluttering.

I cleared my throat and heaved a sigh before letting it out. “I need your help. But before I tell you what I need your help with, I want you to know that I don’t mean any offense by asking you this and I don’t mean any of it in a bad way – I just. I feel like I can trust you, and I know it’s a stupid idea, but I figured I might as well ask and have that be that.”

Rachel had shifted from her flirty, nice attitude to what I knew was her real self, kind of a no-bullshit girl like Robin, relaxing her stance and letting her pouty smile relax into her real one, chuckling as I finished my nervous rant.

“I’m going to be honest,” she started, confused. “I have no idea where you’re going with this but now, I have to know, so, continue.”

“I need you to help me make somebody jealous.”

Her eyebrows shot up in surprise, and she was quiet for a quick moment before she just shrugged. “Not sure that this is the healthiest idea in the world, but okay,” I breathed a sigh of relief and opened my mouth to say something when she held up her hand to stop me. “I have one condition.”

I swallowed. “What is that condition?”

She grinned. “You gotta tell me who it is.” My eyes widened, and of course, that already shed suspicion on the whole situation, because who would usually care about that, right? “Come on, Steve, it can’t be that big of a deal.”

I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose, sighing. “Rachel, you aren’t going to like it when I tell you. You’re going to freak out. So it’s best that you don’t know.” I thought of how all the kids and accepted it without batting an eye. I thought of how Robin had continually encouraged me to embrace my sexuality. I thought of how Heather had somehow gotten Billy Hargrove to open up to her, I thought of how Billy had opened up to me – and as I looked into Rachel’s now concerned eyes, I got the overwhelming feeling that I didn’t want to hide anymore.

“Is it someone who is with somebody already? A teacher?” I cut her off before she could keep questioning, shaking my head. “Steve. It can’t be that bad,” she paused, licking her lips before inhaling a quick breath, saying, “You know my dad left my mom for another man, right?”

I almost choked on my spit. “Uh, no, I didn’t know that.” She smiled softly at me and nodded.

“Well, it’s true,” She looked down at her Keds. “Me and mom hang out with them all the time, even though her family hates it,” she shrugged. “So, if that’s why you don’t want to tell me, you don’t have to worry that I’m going to freak out or not like you anymore.”

“It’s Billy,” I blurted out, unable to hide my blush or smile. A slow grin spread across Rachel’s face and she laughed, nodding. I hated how good it felt to say that I liked Billy – it was such a good feeling even in the despair I was in right now. Everyone always said that when you loved somebody you want to shout it from the rooftops; maybe I finally understood what they meant. There was that word again…love.

“Uh huh,” She kept grinning. “I’ll help you out, Steve. Just let me know where and when.”

I told her about how we were having a party at my house tonight with the kids, she said she’d call my house and we could “talk” for a while just to pique his interest. Then, tomorrow, she was teaching an aerobics class at the mall, so I’d be sure to stop by the athletic center and say hello…all that shit that, fingers crossed, would maybe make Billy just a little annoyed, at least. I’d give anything to have a little rise out of him – the flirting at the pool was just enough to make me miss him more than I thought I ever could.

After we got home and unloaded all the groceries, I left the premade dough sitting out on the counter to rise while we waited together for everyone else to come to my house.

I was feeling a little lighter after a couple of hours hanging out with Dustin, talking about Star Wars, the latest issue of Wolverine, the various inventions he made at Camp Knowhere and how he had managed to get Suzie on the radio once since then.

I hadn’t realized how much I’d wrapped my life up into Billy and the country club until Dustin came back and all of the kids started to hang out together again, making my priorities shift closer to where they’d been in school; except work was school and it’s hot as shit outside.

Billy had consumed my thoughts and practically made my life do a complete 180, turning me upside down, making me go crazy with want and desire – the kind I hadn’t felt even with Nancy, which also made my head spin and my stomach churn because what if Billy was the person that was supposed to make me feel that way? But there was no telling if I was the one who made him feel that way, and that was the issue with the whole thing.

The tell-tale roar of the Camaro dragged me and Dustin out of our haze of random conversation, the honk coming in three spurts probably from Max leaning over the seat and punching the horn, Billy probably giving her that you’re-annoying-but-my-sister look that I finally had started to notice now that I hung out with him more.

“THE PARTY IS HERE!” Max yelled, bounding in the unlocked front door, greeting me and Dustin as she stumbled into the living room, Lucas coming up behind her with a grin. “What are you guys doing?” Billy brought up the rear, arms full of his, Max, and Lucas’s backpacks. He smiled in greeting when he saw me, and I smiled back.

“Waiting for all your asses to get here,” Dustin responded, earning a shove.

“Uh,” I started upon seeing Billy conflicted about where to set down his load of backpacks. “Follow me, Billy.” I waved him in my direction, and I heard the footfalls of his combat boots following me down the hallway to the first guest room so he could dump their stuff.

“Thanks, Harrington,” I winced at his use of my last name, so I decided to address that immediately. He started to walk out of the room, but I held out my arm, effectively stopping him from walking out the doorway. “What?” His voice was deep but quiet.

I looked down the one inch of height difference between us and smiled. “You’re still allowed to call me Steve, you know.” Billy tried not to smile but failed, meeting my eyes.

Instead of responding, he ducked under my arm. He was halfway down the hallway before I heard him say, “I know, Steve.”

~

“You’re not rolling it right,” Will protested lightly over Mike’s shoulder, watching him attempt to flatten out the dough on the round pan. “You’ve got to do it this way.” He pressed the heel of his palm into the dough, making Mike make a face, and I laughed as I watched them from the other side of the counter.

I hadn’t expected all of us to break into teams to make personal pizzas, but there happened to be an even number of us to do so – of course Max and Lucas teamed up, Mike and Will grabbed each other, and Dustin and Robin shrugged and agreed to be a team, effectively leaving me and Billy to be the last two.

“Well, Steve,” Billy placed emphasis on my name, and I rolled my eyes, but smiled. “Let’s get started, shall we?” He plopped our premade dough down onto the cutting board with flour and rubbed his hands together in excitement.

Right as he said that, the phone rang, and Dustin and I exchanged a look. Unless it was one of the kids’ parents, Rachel was on the other line, calling to get my (horrible) plan underway.

“You go ahead and pick out what toppings you want,” I motioned to all the veggies and meats that were set out. “I eat anything. I’ll be back.” I walked to the other side of the kitchen and picked up the receiver, my back facing everyone until I picked up the phone and turned around, casually leaning against the wall as I greeted whoever was waiting for me.

“Hiya Steve,” Rachel’s light voice floated through the phone and I made sure I grinned widely, adjusting my stance so one hip was cocked out to the side. I noticed Billy glance over at me out of my peripheral vision – he was chopping a bell pepper.

“Oh, hey, Rach,” Billy looked over at me again, this time I caught his eye for a quick second and blushed – I blushed because of his intense stare, but by the way his eyes narrowed slightly, he probably thought it was because he caught me during a rather enthusiastic hello. “How’re you doing?”

“I’m good,” I could tell Rachel was grinning by the tone of her voice. “Everything going smooth over at the big Harrington sleepover party?” I rolled my eyes and laughed.

“So far, yeah,” I answered, winking at Dustin when he looked over at me. He had been whispering to Robin the whole time, and when she finally gave me a wide-eyed look, I assumed that she had heard the whole plan. It wouldn’t be long before the plan was passed through all the kids, I was sure. “We’re making some pizza, gonna watch a movie. You know – cool kid stuff.”

Billy snorted, obviously listening in on my conversation. I stuck my tongue out at him, face still flushed, and he looked away.

“Sounds like a great time,” She paused. “How’s lover boy?”

I wasn’t quite sure how I was supposed to answer that in code, but I tried my best. Hopefully she could understand it, and Billy would get jealous over what I was going to say. Fingers crossed. “You know those jeans?” I knew she’d know what jeans I was talking about; there was one pair specifically that Billy wore that every girl in town obsessed over. Tight. Unforgiving. Showed off his ass.

Rachel laughed and I grinned. “Yeah, I’m familiar. He wearing them?”

“Oh, yeah,” I exaggerated the words a little bit and Billy’d head jerked a little bit from where he was concentrated on working the pizza dough. He picked it up and slammed it down on the board a little harder than necessary, making Max exclaim loudly. “Always look so good, baby.”

I winced but that got Billy’s attention again. I watched the veins in his arms protrude as he kneaded the dough quicker. I hid a smile and focused on Rachel laughing on the other end of the line. “Is it working so far?”

I chuckled. “I think so,” I made a little show of turning around and whispering into the phone. I did it so that I could actually tell her what was happening, but I felt a pair of eyes on me as I huddled closer to the receiver. “He’s currently beating up our pizza dough, so maybe I should go assist before I don’t have any dinner tonight.”

“Okay,” She responded, still giggling a little. “Don’t ever call me baby, alright, Steve? You are hot shit but now that I’ve heard you say it, you just don’t work for me.”

I full on belly-laughed, equally surprised and delighted by the comment. “Sure thing. I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”

“Right.” She confirmed and then we hung up after exchanging goodbyes. I padded back over to where Billy was standing over the dough, hands caked in flour as he pressed down and out, forcing the edges to shape into a circle.

“Who was on the phone?” Robin asked in a not-so-discreet way. I tried to move next to Billy, but he hip checked me out of the way, so I held my hands up in surrender and walked to the other side of the counter.

“Rachel,” I said as nonchalantly as possible, popping a piece of pepperoni into my mouth.

“From work?” Robin was so good at acting. I almost choked on my piece of peperoni at the perfectly placed surprised in her voice. “What did she want?”

I blushed again from the heat of Billy’s stare. The sly smile coming over Robin’s face told me it came off as a blush for a different reason. “She wanted to make sure I’m still coming to the mall tomorrow to see her at work.”

“Thought she worked at the country club,” Max butted in, stepping back to let Lucas pour the marinara sauce on their pie.

I nodded in response. “Yeah, she does, but on the weekends, she does aerobics classes at the mall.” Mike’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

“The hot Rachel? That’s the Rachel you’re talking about?” Billy’s head shot up and he glared at Mike, but no one really cared. As I had suspected, everyone was pretty much catching on to what was happening.

I let an easy grin spread over my face as I leaned on the counter. Billy had finally gotten the round shape that he wanted on the dough, and he leaned forward too, like he was eager to know the answers to Mike’s rhetorical questions.

“Yeah, Mike, that’s the one I’m talking about,” I grabbed the jar of pizza sauce and rounded the counter. “Is that so hard to believe?”

Billy snorted. I gave him a look. “Sorry, Harrington,” The last name bit, hard. “Put the sauce on, Dustin and Robin already have their pizza in the oven. We’re way behind.”

“Yeah, because you wouldn’t let me help,” I scoffed, elbowing him out of the way. “Let me finish it, go relax for a minute.” I waved him out and he laughed lowly before backing up and taking my previous spot across the counter.

“So, spill, Steve,” Max jumped up to sit on the middle island, wiggling her eyebrows. “Why is tennis Rachel asking you to come to her aerobics class? You going to start wearing a leotard?”

Billy choked on the sip of beer he’d just took. I hid my smile.

“Uh, no,” I responded, sprinkling mozzarella cheese over the first topping layer I’d put down on the pizza. “We, uh. We might start seeing each other. Or something. I don’t really know; we’ve just had a couple shifts together this week. She’s nice.” I lied through my teeth and shrugged. Our of the corner of my eye I saw Billy toss back another sip of his beer.

“Well that’s cool,” Dustin chimed in, sliding an oven mitt over his hand as he went to check on his and Robin’s pizza. “You gonna let us tag along and meet her?” I snorted and shook my head.

“No way, you greasy little shits aren’t ruining my chances,” I grinned at them and winked.

“Harrington needs all the help he can get with the ladies,” Billy stepped in, shaking his curls out of his face rather than smoothing them back with a hand. There was a stray curl directly in the middle of his forehead that I wanted to push back and smooth to the side. My hand twitched as I fought the urge. “Maybe you should take Dustin as your wingman, Steve. He has a girlfriend, after all.”

His tone was a little mocking and we all rolled our eyes, earning a sigh from him.

“I think I’ll be okay, Billy,” I said airily, sprinkling a little more cheese on top before sliding the dough into the oven on the bottom rack. “If I manage to catch her on break maybe we can all meetup in the food court or something, though.”

Max grinned and nodded. Will looked a little concerned, Lucas and Mike were unimpressed. Robin and Dustin kept exchanging little looks that I somehow knew was a secret language or something they’d put together just for this purpose.

The rest of the night flew by; we watched movies and ate all the pizzas and three bags of popcorn. Everyone was startling to drift off now as the first Star Wars movie, the first one I’d spent time with Max and Billy watching, neared its end. Most of us were sprawled out on the floor, but Robin was snoring in the recliner and Billy was laid out on the couch, one arm hanging off the edge, fingers dangerously near my face.

“Billy,” I whispered upon feeling his fingers twitch against my cheek. It felt good; his touch was a breath of fresh air, but he was asleep. “Billy!” I hissed his name a little louder the second time, but he just moved his hand from skimming over my face to drape down over my right shoulder. Now, I was effectively trapped against the couch, his hand resting on my right shoulder, fingers gripping softly. A true Billy touch.

My eyes were heavy, drooping lower, and Billy’s arm half-draped over my shoulder was comforting. Before I knew it, I was asleep just like all the other kids, but I didn’t stay asleep for long.

“Harrington,” I distantly heard my name being called. I shook my head and gripped whatever I was holding harder. “Steve.” I jerked awake, effectively letting whatever it was I had in my hands go. Turns out, at some point in my sleep, I had grabbed the arm Billy had snaked down my shoulder and held it.

“Sorry,” I said sleepily, yawning and rubbing my eyes. “Didn’t mean to grab you like that.”

Billy had sat up on the couch now and was attempting to shake his arm awake. “It’s fine,” He said, voice coated with sleep. He cleared his throat lightly and pushed himself up from the couch. “I’m going to sleep down here, you can go up to the bedroom. I’ll watch the kids.”

The way he phrased it was so domestic; it made my heart hurt. I just nodded in response, still a little bleary from sleep, and got up off the floor where I’d been half-sitting, wincing as I rubbed my sore ass. Billy had disappeared down the hallway to, I assumed, use the bathroom, and part of me wanted to wait for him to get back…but no. I jogged up the stairs softly, nearly tripping on the last step as my eyes got heavy again.

Collapsing on my bed, I held my pillow to the side of my body, and told myself that I definitely was not picturing Billy in its place.

Chapter Text

“Just pick a parking spot already, man,” Dustin groaned as I made another circle around the lot. Robin snorted in agreement from the passenger seat.

“I just like to get the best one possible,” I glared at him in the rearview mirror and he grinned, making me smile.

Robin snorted again, saying, “You know you’re just trying to find Billy’s Camaro so you can park next to him.” That earned a laugh from the three boys in my backseat (Dustin, Mike, Will). “It’s over there, dingus.” She pointed at the shiny blue, always pristine vehicle, parked perfectly in a diagonal spot near the edge of the lot. There was an empty space across from it, so I zoomed towards it and parked my BMW, earning a honk from Billy who was still in the car, Max and Lucas in the backseat.

“We left your house at the same time, Harrington,” Billy smirked as he got out of the car, today’s outfit of a cutoff tank top and cuffed jeans with converse really working for him. It was blazing hot out today, the second week of July starting off with a bang. “How did I beat you here by that much?”

I scoffed. “Because you speed, Billy,” He grinned and shrugged.

“How can I not when I have a beautiful baby like that to drive around?” He jerked his thumb back to what I knew was his prized possession. I made a mental note to ask him sometime about how he got the Camaro.

Our little group paraded to the entrance of Starcourt Mall, me, Robin, and Billy hanging slightly back from the gaggle of teens that bounded in front of us, already laughing and talking about something.

“So,” Robin started after the silence between the three of us got a little awkward. “You’re meeting up with Rachel today, right?” She pointedly looked towards the athletic center at the opposite end of the mall after we’d entered the brightly lit, already busy food court.

I had almost forgotten about that. We’d all slept in until around ten o’clock, and everyone had been so eager to get out of the house for a while that my grand plan had been the last thing on my mind. Also, after thinking about it for a while last night when I’d woken up once and not been able to go back to sleep for a good hour or so, I was beginning to think that this was not the best idea in the world.

But I had already started it, and it wouldn’t hurt to give it the old college try, right? I winced just thinking about all the ways it could go wrong.

“I guess so,” I shrugged, trying to act like it didn’t really matter to me. Billy gave me a sideways look and kept on walking; our destination unclear. The kids had already split off into stores, knowing to meet back at the food court in two hours, so that left us with time to kill. “She doesn’t get off until two, so maybe I’ll go over there a little before then.”

Billy chuckled from beside me. “Gotta get a glimpse of her workout, right, Harrington?” Robin straight-up laughed, but I didn’t see what was so funny. “Hate to break up this fun little threesome, but I’m going to actually shop for some shit so…I’ll see you guys back in the food court.”

“See ya,” Robin said offhandedly as he broke off from us to go on his own. “You do know you’re totally fucked, right, buddy?” She clapped me on the shoulder as we walked into Sam Goody together.

“What?” I asked, caught off guard by her comment. “What are you talking about?”

She rolled her eyes and started flipping through the new release CDs at the front of the store. “Dustin told me all about the Rachel thing, about how you guys came up with this great idea, you’re going to make Billy jealous, you know. The works.”

I blinked, confused. “Yeah, I know he told you. How exactly does that make me fucked, though?” I followed her through the store to the record display.

“He’s going to see right through it, my dude,” Robin raised an eyebrow at me, her smudged eyeliner left over from yesterday giving her a more no-bullshit look than usual. “He knows you. As soon as he sees you with her, he’s going to get upset.”

I stuck out my chin and quirked an eyebrow. “Isn’t that the whole point? He supposed to get jealous, Robin. You know – so he wants me back.” We kept our voices in hushed tones, even though there was no one around to overhear.

She shook her head viciously in response. “There’s no way he’s going to get upset in that way, Steve. Sure, he’ll get upset. But the kind of upset that pushes him away from you, not towards you.” I couldn’t help but disagree with her. Nothing too surprising.

“I think you’re wrong on this one, Robin,” She rolled her eyes. “Seriously. He’ll see what he’s missing out on, he’ll realize that he can’t take seeing me with somebody else…” I trailed off, realizing how stupid it sounded out loud even though it sounded solid in my head.

“Steve,” Robin laid her hand on my arm and looked me in the eyes. The slightly pitying look there made me glance away. “He knows what he’s missing out on. He sees you without him all the time. He’s here, he’s with you and the kids, and he’s happy being the other guy friend. Maybe you should just forget about all these plans.” Her voice was soft but her words harsh, even though she didn’t mean them to be. The subject matter was just touchy.

“I can’t,” I said after a silence, pretending like I was studying the back of the Duran Duran record on the table in front of us. “I have to try.”

Robin sighed and took her hand away from where it rested on my forearm. “Okay. You know I’ll be there when it inevitably backfires.” She breathed a little laugh and I couldn’t resist a smile.

“Thanks, Robin,” I muttered, cheeks pink. She just nodded in return and we went back to flipping through records.

~

My stomach churned nervously as I walked to the aerobics center; everyone else was in the food court having a good ol’ time eating Hot Dog on a Stick, and I was kidding myself. Billy knew exactly what game I was trying to play; I had no doubt of it. From the second he got out of his Camaro on day one, he saw right through me.

Even though I had my suspicions about Billy knowing what I had in mind, I wasn’t about to not go through with my genius plan at least for today. So, I pasted a smile on my face, and leaned up against the storefront, waiting there for Rachel to appear from her class. I was only standing there for a minute before she bounded out, a group of ladies behind her all-in various shades of teal and pink leotards. I guess I still had some sort of Kingly glow about me – several of the ladies looked me up and down with a smirk and a few gave me a flirty wave, but I just kept on smiling and reached out to wrap my arm around Rachel’s shoulder as she neared me.

“Have a good time?” I asked, making her giggle. She rolled her eyes a little bit but nodded, pushing a piece of fluffy hair out of her eyes. Her blonde ponytail was perky as ever, eyeshadow the exact color of her leotard – I expected nothing less. Even her lipstick was the exact shade of magenta on her suit.

“What about you? Enjoying your mall field trip? Where’s everyone else in your little party?” Rachel inquired as we walked down the center strip of the mall back to my destination; the food court.

“Billy, Robin, and the kids are all in the food court waiting for us. Told them we’d meet them there,” I bit my lip and tried to force the churning in my stomach to go away. I didn’t know why I was so nervous; even if Billy was catching on to what I was trying to pull, there isn’t anything much he could do about it besides tell me I’m being stupid. Which, one, I already know, and two, I’ve already had Robin tell me, so it wouldn’t be that much of a blow to have someone tell me the same fact over again.

“If Billy ever showed up outside my aerobics class, they’d eat him up,” Rachel commented lowly, rolling her eyes again. “He’s a hunk, don’t get me wrong, but these ladies actually talk about him sometimes. They’re as bad as the country club women. Actually, half of them are the country club women.” She chuckled and shook her head.

“Usually it would make me feel better knowing that he’s not into them,” I remarked, the neon sign of the food court coming into view. “But knowing that he’s not exactly into me right now either doesn’t help anything.”

Rachel looked up at me and sighed. “Steve, I’m going to be honest. Billy doesn’t know what he’s missing, okay? If he really saw you, and knew you, he wouldn’t let you go. So, if this whole jealousy thing doesn’t get him where you want him, forget it. Don’t waste your time.”

I had to admit, I was a little tired of everyone automatically brushing Billy off as someone who just didn’t know how to commit or was only a superficial, top layer sort of person. Billy opened up to me; told me his past, told me his current situation, told me things he swears he’s never spoken aloud since they happened. I desperately believed that those things weren’t a coincidence. He had to have felt something for me – trust, attraction, whatever. And feelings like that don’t go away overnight. At least they didn’t for me.

The table where our friends sat came into view and I instinctively wrapped my arm around Rachel’s shoulders a little tighter, the relaxed way I had slung my arm over her earlier resembling more friendship than relationship. In response, she snaked her arm around my waist, and I felt her fingers twist in my belt loop.

“Hey guys,” I greeted, all of them looking up from their conversation once they noticed our presence. Billy stared daggers at me, or at least it felt like it, and I swallowed nervously. “I think you all know Rachel.”

Various forms of hello came from everyone around the table. Dustin was hiding an enthusiastic smile. Will was blushing, Lucas was trying not to laugh as Max squinted her eyes and regarded Rachel carefully. Mike was smiling at her; Rachel knew Nancy, Mike was familiar with her. Robin was trying her best to be normal, but concern swam in her eyes. I took another chance glance at Billy, and almost smiled upon the striking resemblance to Max. Even though they weren’t blood related, she had picked up on some of his habits – the look on his face was very similar to the fish face Max usually wore when she was confused or miffed. My eyes shifted over to her to find the same expression on her face in that moment. I looked at my shoes, half-smiling, before remembering that my left arm was attached to Rachel. The tug on my belt loop from her fingers brought me out of my mini daydream.

“I can’t stay long, just wanted to stop by and say hey to everybody,” She said sweetly, the ever-present smile on her face giving her a sunshine vibe. “Every day when we’re on the tennis courts you guys are all he talks about.” A couple of the kids laughed. Billy sat back in his chair; arms crossed over his chest.

“Especially you,” She turned towards Billy, whose gaze snapped over to her as soon as he realized she was talking to him. It took a second for her words to register, and when they did, I pressed my fingers into her shoulder and earned a tight tug on my belt loop and scrape of a pointed fingernail on my hip. “He goes on and on about you, you know? Cool to see that some people made amends after high school.”

I coughed, blushing, and a small but reserved smile made its way onto Billy’s face. “Harrington and I have a lot in common. High school just wasn’t the place to work that out.” My heart lurched at his words. We had worked it out. More than worked it out; and now it had all gone to shit again because he was fucking leaving. I felt the anger about the whole situation rise up in me again and I pushed it back down, shoved it away in that dark corner of my mind to think about sometime later when I was alone.

“Sure thing,” Rachel agreed. “I understand completely.”

An awkward silence began to settle over the air as the small talk died down. The kids sipped from their drinks, most of the sound being slurps since everyone had downed their soda with the food. Rachel and I stood there for a second before she made a move, untangling her hand from my belt and letting her arm drop from my waist.

“I’ve gotta get going, but it was nice to see you all. See you at work tomorrow, Robin,” She waved with a smile and the kids all said some form of “nice to meet you” or “see you,” Billy just lifting his hand in acknowledgment. “See you tomorrow, Steve,” Rachel turned and almost pressed a kiss to my cheek but laughed instead. “I won’t get lipstick on you, today, since you’re with the kids.”

“Gee, thanks,” I said with a smile. We exchanged goodbyes again and I watched her walk off in the direction of the exit, hair streaming behind her. I felt like nothing had been accomplished with whatever just happened, but somehow my mood was lifted. I didn’t question it, I just accepted it.

The rest of the afternoon was rather uneventful after our mall excursion. Billy had barely spoken two words to me for the rest of the day, which had turned my mood sour once I was home alone again. My usual bout of overthinking was taking over, and I found myself sitting on the couch in the living room at 9 o’clock, a tumbler of whiskey in my hand, a jazz record spinning on the turntable in the corner of the room. Something about the soft, romantic nature of the Glenn Miller album kept most of my thoughts at bay, which I was extremely grateful for.

Just as I was really relaxing and letting myself drift off into a comfortable space after a weekend of kids and yelling and stupid ideas, a bang sounded at my front door. I hadn’t heard any car roll up, but then again, I had been lost in my own world, the soaring clarinet of Moonlight Serenade filling up my brain. But the harsh knock sounded again so I dragged myself of the couch, setting my whiskey on the coffee table as I trudged to the door in old grey sweats and a black t-shirt that was two sizes too big.

“Harrington,” Billy slurred as I opened the door, a dopey smile on his face. He was drunk. I could smell the cheap beer wafting off his breath, a wet splotch near the collar suggesting that he had spilled some on himself as well. “Can I – can I come in?”

I wasn’t sure what exactly was going on; Billy’s Camaro wasn’t in the driveway, but I doubted he walked here. And it was relatively early, but Billy was already gone, drunk out of his mind. Stepping aside so he could walk in, I shut the door behind him and watched as he stumbled through the front hallway, using the wall as a crutch to help himself walk to the living room.

“Billy,” I called after him, running a hand through my shower-damp hair. “Billy, what are you doing here? Why are you drunk at nine pm?” I questioned after I walked into the living room to find him face first laying on the couch.

“You’re so pretty,” Billy grumbled after turning his face to look at me. His cheek was squashed against the leather where he was laying, a soft smile on his lips. I blushed at the little compliment despite knowing that he was absolutely fucked up right now. “I came here just to look at you because you’re so goddamn pretty.”

He giggled at himself and I felt the flush rise on my cheeks again. “Come on, Billy, don’t be silly – “

He cut me off with another giggle. “Hahaha, silly Billy! That’s my name. And it RYHMES, Steve, it RHYMES!” His eyes flew open wide and he shifted to lay on his back instead of his stomach. I was standing over the back of the couch and I looked down at him, amused.

“Tell me why you’re really here,” I prodded lightly, walking around the couch to grab my whiskey and down it quickly before letting myself fall into the recliner next to the couch. “Who brought you here?”

“Heather,” He answered immediately, the smile dropping from his face. “She told me I had to come talk to you because I’m all fucked up.” I furrowed my brow and leaned forward in my chair.

“Why are you all fucked up?” I knew if I kept asking questions, he would eventually blab everything on his mind to me, that’s how he usually was when drunk – at least that’s what I had gathered from seeing him tipsy a few times in the past.

“Mmmmm probably because I told her I’m in love with you,” I almost choked on my spit as he spoke nonchalantly, the drunk lilt of his voice not doing anything to take the weight off the words he just said. “I told her about that bullshit girl Rachel that you’re trying to make me jealous with and she told me to call you out on it.”

Billy sat up abruptly and frowned, turning to look at me. I was sure my eyes were wide and expression priceless. I could feel the heat in my cheeks, the never-ending nerves in my stomach.

“Why did you try to make me jealous? Just so I’d see you with someone else and get mad?” Billy paused, actually expecting an answer. I just nodded once. “Fuck me, man. Never thought I’d see the day when someone cared about me enough to try and win me back,” he bit his lip and picked at a hole in his jeans. “You do care about me, right?” His blue eyes were big and bright, red-rimmed and glassy. I, again, nodded once.

“Oh, Steve,” Billy sighed and flopped back on the couch. “I had to get drunk tonight so I could let myself think straight. I know that sounds stupid, but when I’m sober I push all thoughts of you away because it just makes me sad. But drunk, I can let myself get moony because I’ll forget about it when I wake up.”

I didn’t know what to say. My heart was beating fast, my eyes were watering because this boy was here, in front of me, saying the things I wished he would say to me when he was sober. Telling me he was in love with me? What I wouldn’t give to hear him say that sober. I wanted to hear him say it over and over and over again because I didn’t believe it. Especially right now, given how inebriated he was.

His eyes fluttered shut and his chest rose and fell steadily as a silence lulled in the room, the record had stopped playing and I was wondering what to do right about now.

“Steve?” Billy mumbled, now clutching a throw pillow from the couch.

“Yeah?” I answered, looking at him softly.

“Can I sleep in your bed? It’s so nice. I just wanna lay in it forever,” his eyes flew open suddenly and he sat up, looking straight at me. “But only if you’re there too, okay?”

I bit my lip before nodding. “Sure, Billy.”

He smiled widely and it caught me a little off guard. I smiled back and stood, offering him my hand to help him off the couch. Billy took it, grasping my hand and standing before pulling my arm around his shoulder. He glanced up at me, cheeks pink, before burying his head in my shoulder.

“You have no idea how much I’ve missed your touch,” he whispered into my skin, making me shiver. He kissed through the sleeve of my t-shirt and I closed my eyes at the feeling, but gently pulled him away from where he started to crowd me. “Come on, I just…I just wanna hold you for a little bit.” He whined, pouting.

“Billy,” I said firmly, settling my hands on his shoulders. His blue eyes widened a fraction at my tone, and he stood stock still, pink tongue darting out to swipe at his plump lips. “You are drunk. I will let you sleep in my bed, I’ll even stay there with you, but no touching. No kissing. You’ll just regret it in the morning. And I never want to be something you regret, got it?”

Billy tugged his bottom lip between his teeth before nodding. “Got it.” I slid my hands down his arms and grasped one palm in mine, leading him up the stairs to the bedroom, taking care to make sure he was walking up the stairs rather than stumbling.

A few minutes later Billy came out of the bathroom, now barefoot and wearing a pair of my Hawkins High gym shorts instead of his jeans and sneakers. His curls were a little wild, his face a little damp from the water he splashed on it. I could tell by the relaxed look on his face that he was still tipsy, sure to have a headache in the morning.

I was already propped up in bed, comforter drawn over my lap, half of the bed empty for Billy to fill up. “Thanks for letting me sleep here, Steve,” Billy placed his hand on my arm as he snuggled into the mattress, hair spread out on the pillow like Sleeping Beauty, eyes already shut and lips parted slightly as he fell asleep without another word. His fingers were wrapped around my wrist, thumb moving unconsciously against my pulse point. The soft, soothing movement made my insides turn to mush and before I knew it I was out like a light just like Billy.

~

“Shit!” A hiss and crash woke me up with a start; shooting straight up in the bed. My arm instinctively reached out across the mattress, expecting to find a warm, hard figure there, but it was just messed up sheets and a pillow. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I made out a shape coming my way; and as my mind caught up with the rest of me, I realized it was Billy coming back to the bed.

“Everything okay?” I asked, voice thick with sleep.

“Uh,” Billy’s voice was scratchy, but his normal tone was back, the loose, more high-pitched drunk voice gone after a few hours rest. “Everything’s fine. I just. Had to pee. Hit my shin on the dresser trying to find the bed.” His voice was sheepish, but he breathed out a laugh at himself.

“Oh,” I huffed, smiling. “Well, come back here before I get too lonely.” The banter that I’d been so used to saying to him came back in the blink of an eye. I started to go back on it and say that’s not what I meant or sorry just habit, but Billy’s weight dipped the other side of the mattress and my heart started beating wildly out of my chest. I had somewhat expected Billy to high tail it right out of my house as soon as he woke up sober, even though it was only three a.m.

“Wouldn’t want you to get lonely, King Steve,” Billy whispered, suddenly very close to me. The warmth radiated off his body, and I felt his fingers trace down my forearm before he held my hand in his, intertwining our fingers. “Did I…say anything weird tonight? Earlier, I mean?”

You told me you’re in love with me. Are you really, Billy? Is that real? I wanted to say that. I didn’t. I just shook my head and squeezed his hand. “You just stumbled in and talked about Heather dropping you off. Then you asked if we could sleep up here,” something about the mood in the room gave me a little bit of courage. “You did say something about how you miss my touch, though. That was pretty interesting.” I teased, smiling. Billy laughed.

“Drunk me is always a little too honest,” He responded, squeezing my hand in return. “Sorry if I did anything crazy.” He yawned and I fought the urge to turn and cuddle up to him. I kept to my side of the bed even though he was still holding my hand.

“Nah, you were okay,” I murmured, sleep threatening to overtake me again. “I’ve missed hanging out with you, Billy.” I barely registered that the words escaped from my lips as my eyes drooped. Billy’s weight shifted on the bed again, though, and I opened my eyes to see him sitting up, the warmth of his hand gone from mine. “What’s wrong?”

Billy shook his head and slung his legs over the side of the mattress. “I’ve gotta go, Steve, I can’t. Can’t do this.”

I scoffed and sat up too, the need for sleep suddenly gone. “It’s three a.m., don’t be silly. I’ll move down to the couch if it makes you uncomfortable that I’m up here, seriously, just wait until morning –“

“Don’t you get it?” Billy turned around; half of his face highlighted by the moon streaming in through the window. “Heather dropped me off here tonight because I was drunk, and I kept whining about you. She dropped me off here so I could talk to you and ‘work things out’ but I didn’t want her to.”

Well that hurt.

“I know you don’t want to work things out, Billy, I get that, but this –“ Billy laughed brashly, cutting me off.

“Fucking hell, Steve. Your stupid little set up with Rachel worked after one fucking day. Even though I saw through the bullshit the minute you called her ‘baby’ on the phone, I know you’d never –“ He pushed back his hair and let that sentence trail off. “Goddamn it, I miss you too Steve. It’s been, what, a week? But I find myself thinking about you all the damn time and I don’t know how to fix it. Because I have to leave, I have to go, and if I can barely handle leaving you now when I’m not even gone, how can I handle it when I am gone? When I can’t stumble to your front door drunk and climb into bed with you?”

I was out of the bed now, walking over to him, a feeling I was sure was love coursing through my veins.

“Don’t think about it then. Just don’t. Think about now. Let us work it out for now, worry about the future in however many weeks it is when you go, but don’t let it dominate our thoughts now, please. I want you more – more than you’ll ever know, Billy, more than anything, so please. Please just stay here tonight, we don’t have to do anything, you can forget this happened in the morning and we’ll chalk it up to drinks.” Our eyes met in the silvery light coating one half of my room.

Billy’s gaze was strong, but I stared right back. “You have to promise me something first.” I nodded instantly, willing to do almost anything if it meant getting to be close to him for just a little while longer. “We can be together all we want, okay? Because I want that, I really do.”

The words that he spoke almost seemed to pain him. He stopped for a second to take a deep breath and his eyes shifted from mine to his bare feet.

“But I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to feel it, because if I speak it, it will be too real and its already almost too much,” Billy’s voice had dropped to an almost inaudible volume, but I had moved closer to him and him closer to me like we were magnets drawn together by an invisible force, our breaths mingling together. “You just do something to me, King Steve.”

He grinned when I rolled my eyes, but I was smiling. “I can’t promise that I’ll never say anything, Billy,” I answered, being straightforward. “There are too many things that I want to tell you, something is bound to slip out at some point,” He laughed, our foreheads touching now. My body was on fire with the knowledge that I was this close to having him in my arms again. “But I’ll do my best.”

“Okay,” he whispered, long, dark lashes fluttering against his cheek as he looked down again, pink flush somehow visible even in the sparse silver light from the moon. “Steve?”

“Yeah?”

“Can you fucking kiss me now please?” He was smiling and I was smiling so it made the touch of lips a little awkward at first, but as soon as I reached out to envelop him in my embrace, he melted into me, cradling my face in his hands like I was something special, fingers carding through my hair, tugging on the long strands, encouraging me to lick into his mouth, encouraging me to take everything I wanted from him; anything he had to give.

“Steve,” he breathed against my lips as we broke apart to catch a quick breath. My mouth was all over him though, sucking wet kisses into his neck, tugging his earring with my teeth, reveling in each little hitch of breath or moan that left his mouth. “Steve – bed, come on,” He tugged me onto the mattress, letting me fall down on top of him and bracket him in with my hands on either side of his head, my leg slotted in between his as a half raised myself up on my knees.

I could feel his dick growing hard against my thigh as I rutted against him in a gentle rhythm, biting along the perfect column of his neck, appreciating his eagerness to tear his t-shirt off so I could maneuver further down his chest, laving kisses on his pecs as soon as they were visible to me. I sucked his left nipple into my mouth, hands moving from the bed to skate my fingertips up his ribs, eyes closing in pleasure as he arched his back into my mouth, shivering at the feather-light touch of my fingers.

“Baby – baby,” Billy panted as I pinched his other nipple, eager to give it the same attention as the left. “Take your fucking clothes off, come on.” He pulled me back up to his mouth, and I smiled against his lips. I couldn’t resist teasing him a bit.

“You like calling me baby?” I murmured in his ear before I lifted myself up on my knees, straddling his waist. I grabbed my shirt by the hem and took it off, slinging it somewhere across the room, my head rolling back as his hands felt up my chest, blunt nails scratching, hips bucking up into mine. My own dick was standing at attention, tenting my sweatpants, definitely leaking into my briefs already because Billy just fucking did something to me, okay?

“Yeah I fucking like calling you baby,” Billy launched himself up to kiss me, tugging me down on top of him again. “Because you’re my baby and nobody else’s, right?” My mouth dropped open as he gripped my cock, hand down both my layers of clothing, thumbing over the wet head.

“Oh god,” I whimpered as he moved his hand on me, twisting slowly but gripping tightly. “Yes, Billy, only your baby,” I finally got out after a second of adjusting to his attention.

He captured my lips in a searing kiss, teeth tugging at my bottom lip, sucking at my tongue, all wet and sloppy but only serving to make my pleasure headier and more exciting. “Do you trust me?” He broke away from my mouth abruptly, his hand no longer moving on my dick.

“Yes,” I breathed out, grinding down onto him, hair falling in my face. “I trust you.”

“Let me take care of you,” Billy whispered, kissing my earlobe before taking in between his teeth, tugging until he pulled away. I moaned his name breathily, wondering where this sudden control came from. I found myself wanting to surrender, though, so I nodded. “Get on your hands and knees, Steve.”

I shuddered but did as he said, head hanging low as we shifted positions. I felt his body drape over my back and his lips were hot on my neck, sucking marks all the way down my back, hands constantly running down my skin, squeezing my biceps, pinching my nipples.

“Billy,” I swallowed, almost completely gone with how good I was feeling. “What are you doing?”

I knew what he was doing. His body was no longer covering my back, he was getting further and further down my spine, hands clutching my hips, lips now mouthing at the small of my back, my dick leaking on the sheets and asshole clenching against nothing. Oh fuck. I wanted it.

“I’m gonna make you feel so good, baby,” He placed emphasis on the word ‘baby,’ making me smile and rock back into him. “Let me, please?”

“God,” I groaned as he tugged at my ass, breath ghosting over me. “Anything, Billy. Fuck,” He peppered kisses again on the small of my back, attempting to relax me, but I was too high-strung to really relax yet. I was anticipating something I’d never really felt before, but I was more than ready.

Billy tugged at my ass again, spreading my cheeks before he leaned in a placed an open-mouthed kiss directly onto my hole. My eyes were shut, mouth open in pleasure as he gently licked my rim, tongue flicking out to introduce me to the feeling, lips sucking in another kiss before his tongue prodded deeper, my asshole already beginning to get slick with spit. My hands clutched at the sheets, forehead pressed into the pillow at the top of the bed, endless whimpering sounds I was unable to control leaving my lips as he ate me out, the feeling beyond what I could’ve expected.

After a minute of constant sucking and licking, I was pliant, ready for anything else Billy could’ve wanted to give me, and when his warm mouth left my body I whined in protest, my hips jerking back to chase him before I realized what I was doing. Billy laughed a little, voice sounding wrecked, and he leaned in to kiss the small of my back again.

“You like that, huh, Steve? Those noises leaving your mouth are just fucking delicious,” I could feel his lips move against my skin as he spoke, and I arched again in pleasure as his fingers now skated over my wet asshole, they were dry but the feeling of two pressing over me, almost sinking into my body but Billy not letting them, had me moaning Billy’s name at a volume I hadn’t yet reached tonight. “Got me almost coming in my pants, you taste so fucking good.”

“Jesus,” I gasped, the two fingers that had almost sunk into my ass coming up to my mouth instead. I eagerly accepted them and sucked hard, coating them with saliva and imagining it was Billy’s dick; which I was determined to get my mouth on before the night was over.

“I’ll never forget how good you are with your mouth, Steve,” Billy whispered in my ear, surprised but accepting when I turned to kiss him. I didn’t care that he’d just had his tongue in my ass; I just wanted to kiss him. “Tell me how it feels, baby,” He prodded as he pressed the fingers I’d coated in my spit against my ass.

I pressed back into them, more moans escaping my lips as he curled his fingers inside of me, working around for my prostate. I wiggled against him and jumped when he pressed on the spot, fingers hooking inside me, making me almost collapse on the bed, the first time feeling sending me reeling.

“I asked you to tell me how it feels, Steve,” Billy spoke. I wasn’t sure how he still had his head on, but then I remembered he was the one giving, not taking right now.

“Feels fucking amazing,” I gasped, the constant massage on my prostate almost too much. I was on the brink of orgasm, but each time he felt it coming, and he stopped, making me keen with need. “Just wanna come for you already, Billy,” I said breathily.

Billy flipped me over quickly, and I met his eyes, the blue darkened with desire, lips swollen and curled in a sexy smirk, chest heaving with quick breaths. “Do you really? How much?”

I whined, squirming against the sheets, biting at my lip trying to keep the sounds he was pulling out of me at bay. “So much,” I panted, furrowing my brow as he pulled his fingers out of me. “Billy, why’d you stop?” My dick was leaking onto my stomach, hard and angry red, the flushed color matching the redness splotched on the top of my chest.

He didn’t answer, he just tugged my briefs and sweatpants all the way down and off my legs before doing the same for himself. My mouth watered at the sight of his pretty cock hard against his stomach, and he laughed lightly when he noticed me staring. “Want something, pretty boy?” He was bending over me, on his knees, and I took the chance to slid down between his legs so that his dick hovered right over my mouth.

Instead of answering his question which he very much already knew the answer to, I opened my mouth and settled my hands on his hips, pressing my fingers into the deep v that accentuated the lower half of his body.

“Fuck, Steve,” Billy knocked the head of his cock against my bitten red lips, and I opened my mouth wider, sucking the head graciously, closing my eyes at the feeling of having his perfect dick again. I laved my tongue along his length, purring as he brushed my hair back off my forehead, fingers clutching the strands, needy, as I sucked harder and took more of him into my mouth. “So good, baby, you’re so good. Gonna make me come, shit,” he gritted his teeth and I felt his ab muscles clench under my fingers as he attempted to hold back his orgasm.

I looked up at Billy with wide eyes, wondering what I looked like to him, brown eyes watering, cheeks flushed with want. I hoped my gaze conveyed what I wanted, but just in case it didn’t, I relaxed my mouth as much as I could and pressed my fingers to his ample, god-like ass cheeks, making him thrust with a moan of my name.

“You…” Billy trailed off, looking down at me, breathing heavily. I could feel his thigh muscles clench as he let himself thrust shallowly. “Sure about this, baby?” He asked, hands tightening again in my hair. The slight pain was nothing compared to the pleasure. I nodded, sure it looked a little comical with my mouth full, but Billy was gazing at me as if he would about to devour me, and all it took was another pinch to his ass for him to get a small rhythm going, still thrusting shallowly, until I sucked him harder, tonguing over the head of his dick when he pulled back before sinking in again. He was still playing it safe, and I huffed, pulling my mouth back off his dick.

“Fuck my mouth, Billy,” I worded, voice already slightly wrecked, some spit pooling at the corner of my mouth. “I want it.” I got my mouth back on his cock like I never wanted it to leave, and it took one more glance up at him with my wide eyes before I heard him whisper ‘fuck’ and he started to move more, letting his body dictate the rhythm instead of his concern for me.

My eyes were closed in a state of bliss as I let him use my mouth, the throaty gasps coming from the perfect boy above me worth it all, the whispers of my name, the clutching of my hair, the feeling of him enveloping every part of me.

“Ste- Steve,” Billy gasped, stilling as his orgasm barreled through him as he tried to pull out. I sucked the head of his cock thoroughly as his release hit, the saltiness of his come filling my mouth, and I swallowed gingerly as his dick gave another valiant spurt in response to my tongue still working to pleasure him. “Fuck, fuck, oh my god,” he pulled me off and I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand, lips still open, my mouth almost unable to close because my jaw was sore and I was panting from not being able to take in decent breaths for the past few minutes.

“How was it?” I asked, smiling, sliding myself back up the bed, taking my cock in my hand to relieve some of the pent-up pressure, needing my own release. “Did I do okay?”

Billy had collapsed on his knees, head thrown back, and he was still coming back to himself, which I was very proud of. He rolled his neck and his eyes fluttered open, blue and bright, staring down at me again. Cheeks red with pleasure, he grinned and nodded.

“More than okay, baby,” He groaned, leaning down to pepper my chest with kisses, his hand coming to cover mine that was still pumping my dick lightly. He pried my fingers off and took over. “Best goddamn blowjob of my life.”

I smiled at that, shivering as he tongued over my nipples. “You gonna let me come, now?” I asked eagerly.

“Only because you’ve been such a good boy,” he whispered in my ear, smiling at the look on my face. I wasn’t sure why everything suddenly became sexy when Billy did it. The things I found myself wanting to do to Billy, to say to Billy, to experience with Billy, had never come across my mind when I had been with other people. Most of it didn’t even occur to me when I was alone, getting myself off. But Billy just made me want to swim in a never-ending pool of pleasure. I certainly felt like I was swimming there tonight.

Billy sat up again, reaching over to the bedside table and breaking out the bottle of lube we’d used once before, squirting a generous amount on his fingers and pushing my thighs up with his other hand. “Hold em there, babe,” He instructed, biting his lip as he glanced between my legs.

In another second, Billy had worked two fingers back into my ass and was stretching me, making me writhe in the sheets again, everything too much and not enough as he sunk a third finger in, brushing across my prostate. I jumped and felt something close to an orgasm wrack my body, but I hadn’t released. “Billy,” I sobbed, knowing there were tears in my eyes from the feeling but not caring. “Please just touch me, I need to come.”

He nodded and worked his fingers deeper into me, lowering his mouth to suck my cock in just as he prodded against my prostate again. “Fuck!” I nearly shouted, Billy taken by complete surprise as I came without him touching me at all. He got caught in the crossfire, though, some of my come streaked on the side of his cheek, a drop falling onto his lip that he instinctively caught with his tongue. His fingers pressed against the spot again and I shook, another spurt shooting up my chest this time instead of Billy’s face, and one more press of his fingers in me had the tears sliding down my cheeks, my softening cock twitching with a few more drops of come.

“Oh my god,” I cried out, the feeling of my body too almost too heady for me to handle. “Billy,” I didn’t care that we were making an absolute mess, that his chest pressed to mine was smearing come everywhere, that his lubed-up fingers were leaving a trail on my skin or that my own come was mingling in our mouths as I dragged him up to kiss me. I slung my legs around his waist and held him there, clutching at him for dear life. “I’m never letting you fucking leave, Billy.”

Billy chuckled against my lips, sighing into the kiss as I chased his mouth. “I’m not going anywhere, Steve,” he pressed a sweet, close-mouthed kiss to my swollen lips. “Not right now.”

“Good,” I breathed out, eyes closing as tiredness overtook me. “Stay.”

Chapter Text

“Hey,” Billy pressed his face up cutely to the fence surrounding the tennis courts, his dopey grin making my heart skip a beat. “Lookin’ good in those shorts, Harrington.” My face flushed a bright red, but I returned his smile, greeting him with a hello.

It had been a solid week and a half since we had “made up,” and life was just peachy. Everyday his sun-kissed body, perfect smile, and electric presence surrounded me, and it was the best thing I’d ever experienced. He came over nearly every day after work, he spent this last weekend hanging out with me and the kids at the movies, and on breaks at the club he either came to play tennis with me or I went to swim with him.

“How long do you have on your break?” I asked, toying with the strings of my racquet. My lesson with Mrs. Duncan who lived down the street from me was over, and she was talking with Rachel a couple courts down about something. I waved at them when she caught my eye and I didn’t miss the wink Rachel sent our way.

“About an hour,” Billy answered, tucking a piece of hair behind his ear. The summer was continually getting hotter the longer it went on, and he had started wearing his hair up in that way I loved on especially sticky days like today. “You?”

I grinned and bit my lip. “I have an hour too. Perfect amount of time for me to show you something I found,” Billy raised an eyebrow in interest. “It’s a surprise.”

“Can’t wait,” Billy winked, and I had to turn away, smiling so hard it hurt my cheeks. That had happened a lot in the past week. “Go put up your stuff, pretty boy, let’s get going. I want to know what this surprise is.”

~

“If we get lost out here so help me, Steve,” Billy muttered, crunching on another pile of loose twigs, clutching my hand as he followed close behind me. I couldn’t help but laugh a little bit. “Are you laughing at me?”

I shook my head but definitely laughed out loud. “Of course not, baby,” I turned my head and grinned at him. He rolled his eyes and poked me in the ribs with his free hand. “Ow! We’re not gonna get lost, Bills, I know exactly where we’re going.”

Billy mumbled something that sounded like an “okay” and I smiled, content, as his fingers intertwined with mine. I was 80% sure I was going the right way – after all, Robin had only showed me once. She, being a curious person, had taken to exploring the club on her break and had somehow found herself pacing the golfing green once. Off in the woods, past hole eight on the advanced track, was a little hut that apparently no one ever used. Robin called it her new “rendezvous spot” but I decided in my head that it should definitely be mine and Billy’s spot.

“Here we are,” I said triumphantly as the cabin came into view, complete with a small porch overrun but leaves and bramble. “Isn’t this great?”

Billy eyed me with a sideways look. “I hope the inside is better than the outside, Harrington,” I let go of his hand to hop up the somewhat suspicious steps leading into the cabin and turned around once I was on the porch, hands on my hips.

“Stop being a scaredy-cat and come inside with me,” I winked and turned around again, using a little force from my shoulder to push the creaky door open. A few patches of sunlight illuminated the small room that was actually appealing compared to the outside. There was a small couch, a coffee table, and a kitchen area that had nothing in it off to the side.

"What exactly is this place?" Billy had finally followed me in, and now had his arms wrapped around my waist, his chin settled on my shoulder as he observed the room in its entirety.

"According to Robin, this was a stopping point halfway through the nine-hole course before they redid the green a few years ago. Most of the employees know about it, that's why it isn't disgusting in here," I explained, smiling as Billy nuzzled into my neck, pressing feather-light kisses to the little space he could reach from the position he was in. I looked down at my watch to see how long it had taken us to get here before I spoke up again, my body completely relaxed in Billy's arms. "We still have forty-five minutes before we need to be back, Billy."

He chuckled and I craned my neck to look at him, a smirk playing at my lips. "And what exactly do you propose we should do with that forty-five minutes, Steve?"

I shifted quickly in his arms so that I could capture his lips in a kiss, one immediately fueled by passion and desire, tongues tangling, lips being bitten, hands running up and down each other's body like we couldn't get enough. In reality, we really couldn't. There had been a couple of days where Billy and I were just together, but the majority of nights and afternoons that we snuck away to share together were spent in each other's arms. I really couldn't get enough of the way Billy made me feel.

"Couch," I muttered against Billy's jaw as I broke away from his lips to trail kisses across his warm, smooth skin.

We landed together on the sofa, Billy straddling my legs, his thighs stretched and gloriously thick in his short lifeguard swim trunks. I let my fingers trail lightly up his sides, dipping into his waistband before skirting against his legs, loving the way he shivered against me despite the heat of the room that was only somewhat quelled by the shade of the cabin.

“We really gonna get each other off in here, huh, Steve?” Billy panted into my neck; I could feel him smiling against my skin as he pressed wet kisses along the dip in my collarbone after he wrangled my shirt over my head and tossed it behind the sofa.

I grinned too, reveling in the heat that pooled in my belly at the feeling of him sucking a territorial mark onto my shoulder. “If you think we’re about to not get off by now, you’re dead wrong, baby,” I murmured into his hair, fingers undoing the knot he’d tied his curls into.

Billy peered up at me through glassy blue eyes, that smirk still playing on his full, pink lips as he captured a nipple in his mouth, teasingly pulling it taut with his teeth, a playful wink sending my head lolling back in pleasure; the sheer deliciousness of how Billy looked combined with the sensations flitting through my body too much for my mind to handle at the moment.

“Mm, Steve,” Billy moaned lightly upon feeling my growing boner press into his inner thigh. Fuck, he always got me hard and dripping so fast, even now as our hook-up number grew, it didn’t change. “Always so ready for me.” He spoke into my skin as he sucked harder than necessary at the opposite nipple, laving over it messily with his tongue after my back arched in pleasure, a sharp moan escaping my lips at the pleasure that overrode the pain.

I forced myself to open my eyes and was greeted with the sight that never failed to make my breath catch in my chest, and I ducked my head down to bring Billy back up to my mouth, tongues instantly tangling and searching, my gasp of comfort at feeling him grind down against me lost among our connected mouths.

I shivered as his equally hard cock met mine, even though there were two fabrics still separating us. I intended to change that quickly – I smoothed my palms down his back, mapping the shape and feel of his perfectly sculpted back muscles with my fingers, pressing in harder here and there, loving how it made soft purring noises come from Billy’s mouth. Eventually I rested one hand in the small of his back as the other toyed with his waistband for a second until I gave up on the teasing.

I shoved both hands down the back of his shorts, kneading Billy’s pert, tan ass in my hands, our mouths separating as he moaned out my name with considerable hunger that only stoked the fire in my belly more. I squeezed my eyes shut for a quick second upon feeling a little blip of precum stain the front of my boxers.

“You really love my ass, don’t you?” Billy grinned, cheeks and chest flushed with a pretty red color that I’d only ever seen come from my ministrations.

“What can I say,” I breathed against his lips, nipping at his bottom lip teasingly as the index finger of my right hand ghosted over his hole. “It’s a great ass.”

With that, I flipped us from our sitting position, our cocks slotting together as he opened his legs for me as I lay on top of him, burying my head in his chest and layering open-mouthed kisses on his spotless skin, flicking my tongue over his nipples for good measure.

“Steve,” Billy panted from above me, nails digging into my biceps to get my attention. “I need – I need you,”

I lifted my head, grinning. “Need me to do what, exactly?”

Billy huffed and squirmed underneath me when I let my hand ghost over his dick straining in the lifeguard shorts that I loved so much.

“I think you know.” His frustration was evident, and I wanted to get off just as much as he did, but I felt like teasing him a little more. I wanted him to say it; I loved to hear him say it.

I sat back on my thighs, pouting softly, trailing one singular finger up his inner thigh, the little “uhhhhhs” leaving his mouth making it very hard for me not rip off his bottoms and suck his cock right then and there.

“Hm,” I contemplated, pushing a stray hair off my forehead. “I don’t think I do.”

“Fuck, Steve,” Billy whined, back arching as I leaned down at breathed out slowly against the tent in his shorts. “I need your perfect, beautiful, sinful mouth on my cock, please.” He looked down at me upon saying the word ‘please’ and I almost lost my shit, fingers scrambling to tear his shorts down far enough for me to take him in my mouth.

I was pleasantly greeted by his flushed, pretty dick, a pool of clear liquid staining the bottom of his stomach from where his dick had leaked eagerly from my teasing. A load moan echoed throughout the cabin when I got my mouth on him, sucking and licking down his length, closing my eyes at the sensation of having his weight on my tongue, small sounds leaving my own mouth in response to his constant whimpers and groans.

“Fuck,” Billy breathed out, fingers clutching at my hair. “Your goddamn mouth – shit, baby, I’m going to come if you keep that up and I really would love to come on your cock today.”

I dragged my mouth off his length at that, lips slick with spit, I’m sure swollen red from my activity. “Jesus, Billy,” I whispered, watching him bite his lip as if he was shy about the words he’d just spoken.

Sitting up again, I freed his legs from those red shorts and tugged my own bottoms off, slinging them across the floor, my cock leaking profusely and standing at attention, waiting for some sort of action. Billy surged forward when his eyes settled on it, mouth immediately sucking at my tip, tongue wetting the rest of my dick, a string of saliva connecting his lips and my cock when he pulled off. It should’ve been revolting, but it was insanely sexy, and Billy made it sexier when he pressed a kiss to my tip to break the string, that shy lip bite making another appearance after I’d let out a lewd string of profanities about his mouth.

“So…you gonna fuck me now?” Billy wondered aloud, slowly starting to turn over beneath me, my eyes settling on his round ass, as he presented himself to me, ass sticking up in a way that had me catching my breath in need.

“Yeah,” I murmured, spitting on my fingers, immediately pressing two fingers against his relaxed hole, groaning as he pressed back into them, so eager my mind couldn’t keep up. Quicker than usual, I opened him up for me, scissoring and stretching my two fingers, stroking him, heart rate quickening at his moans and whines, my cock still hard up for attention, even more so at the open display of Billy’s want and need as he rocked into the thrusts of my middle and index fingers. “You ready, Billy?”

“So fucking ready,” he answered immediately, lashes fluttering against his cheek as he turned to look at me over his shoulder. I surged up for a quick, open-mouthed kiss as I withdrew my fingers and lined up my cock, again spitting on my hand to get some semblance of wetness, smoothing the precum down my shaft before pressing into him, melting against his back as I sheathed myself in fully, the overwhelming heat and tightness of Billy making me pause to take a breather before I could start thrusting.

My hands gripped his hips tight enough to leave bruises in the shape of my fingertips as I rocked forward and pulled him back at the same time, my thrusts aimed to the spot that made him moan my name like some kind of prayer. “Ste – Steve, shit,” Billy’s head hung between his shoulders, and I snaked my right hand up his back to get a grip on the curls at the base of his neck, pulling his head up and eliciting a sound I’d never heard before from his throat.

“God, Billy,” I licked my lips, mouth falling open at the (practically) Greek god under me. “I’m – fuck, I’m gonna come, I gotta –“ I started to pull out but he fell onto one elbow as he reached back and pinched my hip, urging me to press in deeper.

“Please,” he whined, muffled by the couch cushion. “I want you to – fuck,” I knew what he was going to say but my cheeks burned bright red upon actually hearing him say it. “I want you to come in me, please, God, Steve.”

“Okay, okay,” I breathed out, the coil in my stomach almost ready to give way. Billy clenched around me upon hearing my ‘okay’ and I fell forward against his back, bracketing him in my arms, stilling as my release crashed down upon me.

“Oh, fuck,” Billy cried out upon feeling my orgasm rip through me. Another valiant spurt left my cock that was still buried in his ass as he clenched around me again upon coming himself, painting his chest and the couch beneath us. “Holy shit.” He collapsed onto his elbows, my fingers untangling from his hair as I kissed his back and gently pulled out, groaning upon the sight of my come staining his perfectly pink, now used, asshole.

“I’ll never get used to that,” I breathed out as we shuffled around to hold each other, not caring that Billy’s come was smearing on our skin or mine was obscenely painted on his backside. “Jesus, Billy.”

He grinned at me, sated, eyes low-lidded and cheeks flushed that perfect pinky-red. “Right back atcha, Harrington.”

~

Occurrences like the one at the golf course chateau happened numerous times throughout the next few weeks, until Billy and I had another fight.

August was upon us, I had completely lost track of time, some kind of something in my brain had tricked me into believing the summer was going to last forever and that Billy was going to forget that he was supposed to go to California by the time school was back in session. Which was in one week.

“I’ve got to stay home and pack today, baby,” Billy whispered through the phone, knowing that Max and Susan were home. “California is seven days away.”

I had pulled the receiver away from my ear in shock, beating myself up internally for somehow forgetting that my whole life was about to be flipped upside down again in the most heartbreaking way, and I was the one responsible for it all because deep down I knew that there was no way Billy was going to stay, especially not for me of all people, even if we were spectacular at fucking each other, and babysitting the kids, and making each other laugh, and making each other smile and blush…Jesus Christ.

Billy had never remembered that night he came to my door drunk, saying that he was in love with me, and I had somehow never let it slip that I loved him in the past weeks that we’d been back in each other’s arms. I felt it though, deeper than I imagined I would, deeper than I’d ever wanted to. It was so much more real than what I had with Nancy that it scared me. My heart had already cracked in two upon hearing the sentence ‘California is 21 days away’ leave his lips.

“Yeah, that’s still happening, isn’t it?” I choked out, hating myself immediately.

There was silence on the other side of the line, with the exception of the faint sound of Billy’s breathing. “Yeah, Steve, it is.” His tone was cold. A tone I hadn’t heard from him in a few weeks; it shocked me to the core, the love I felt for him surging through my veins, making it hurt all the more.

“Okay.” I responded, barely audible.

“Okay.” Billy repeated, slower. “Is everything alright?”

I laughed bitterly into the line. “No. Fucking no. It’s not.” I decided to be honest. I had to be honest. I didn’t want to lose him again, but it was inevitable. Obviously.

“Steve,” Billy sighed. “I’ll be over soon, okay? I’ll stop packing. I’ll be over in fifteen.”

I squeezed my eyes shut tightly. “Fine.”

True to his word, he knocked at my door fifteen minutes later, to find tears stained on my cheeks paired with a bright red nose. He looked at me with those sad, knowing, deep blue eyes, a frown shaping his usually smirking mouth.

“I don’t want you to leave, Billy,” I felt like shit for saying it, I knew he didn’t want to hear it, but he had to know. “You leave my life in seven days, and I don’t know if I can let you.”

Billy’s breath caught audibly, and after a quick second of staring into each other’s eyes, Billy ducked under my arm and came inside. I trotted after him into the living room, sitting on the couch since he took the recliner.

“I’m so sorry, Steve,” Billy eventually looked up at me, a stray tear sliding down his cheek. I resisted the urge to race over and kiss it away – I never wanted to see him cry, much less knowing I was part of the problem that caused it. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop myself.”

“What?” I questioned, confused, eyebrows drawn together.

“I’ve wanted you ever since I first saw you, Steve,” Billy was raw with honestly right now. “And I knew I was leaving at the end of summer, but I let myself try to get you anyway, and I was stupid. I didn’t know you’d – I didn’t know I – “ He broke off his sentence to hold his head in his hands. He took a deep breath before smoothing his palms over his somewhat unruly curls, tucking a stray piece behind his ear.

Hope was fluttering in my chest for some stupid reason. I knew it shouldn’t of been, but it was. “What are you talking about, Billy?”

“Goddamn it, Steve,” He stood up, looking at me wildly. “I’m fucking in love with you. It just happened out of the blue, like – like one of those stupid thunderstorms that comes out of nowhere every day here in bumfuck Indiana summer. It’s so stupid, I can’t believe that I fell for the King himself, but I knew from the first time I saw that dorky grin and perfect hair, the second I kissed you I’d never be able to go back.”

“Billy –“ I started, only to be cut off my him raising his hand in protest.

“Let me finish,” Billy asked, smiling slightly despite himself. “I’m in love with you, Steve, but I have to leave. There’s no future for me here, there’s no –“

“Billy.” I cut him off firmly, surprising him. “There is so much for you here. There’s me, there’s Max, there’s the kids, you could just move to Indianapolis instead of all the way west – come on, don’t pull that card.”

“Steve,” Billy protested, eyebrows drawn together. “Have you ever thought that maybe I want to live in California? Maybe I want to move back to my home state?”

I bit my lip, running a hand through my hair. “But – Billy, I want you here. I – I love you too, I know you know that I fucking love you – that I’ve been in love with you since the first time you bothered to flirt with me, and I don’t know what I’m going to do when you leave.”

Billy cocked his head at me, smiling. “You love me?”

I had to laugh. “Billy, I’m the most obvious person in the world.”

Billy grinned, blue eyes twinkling. “You really are, Steve. You’re so in love with me it’s not even funny.”

“So…what exactly does this establish?” I had to ask, somewhat ruining the moment.

The smile dropped from Billy’s face immediately. “It establishes that I love you. And that you love me,” A ghost of a smile came back for a millisecond, like he was bewildered that I returned his sentiment. “But I – I haven’t told anyone this. I’m going back to California for a reason.”

“And what exactly is that reason?” I crossed my arms over my chest, looking up at him expectantly.

Billy glanced at me and then looked at his boot-clad feet. “I got accepted into the Literature program at UCLA – half of tuition is covered, Susan helped me find a job as a lifeguard on the weekends, and the money I’ve been earning this summer is covering my dorm and books. I’m leaving, Steve.”

“Shit,” I whispered, everything clicking into place. Billy never spoke of any hobbies, any schools, anything, but he was a private person. “Wait. You said Susan? As in your stepmom?”

Billy nodded. “Yeah. She knows about how shitty Neil is, she’s seen me and him go at it firsthand. She wanted to help me get out of here and California was just it for me.”

“Does Max know?” I questioned quietly, my heart hurting deep in my chest.

“No,” He answered, hesitating. “I haven’t. She knows I’m leaving, but not why. I don’t want Neil to know, I never want him to be able to find me.”

I agreed, nodding. “It makes sense. But – Billy, knowing that you’re leaving, leaving for a fucking amazing school and program, is so much different from just thinking you’re leaving.”

“Maybe,” he shrugged, scrubbing his hands across his face. “But I don’t exactly deserve all the compassion in the world, Steve, I’ve been a dick to so many people in this town just because I didn’t know how to deal with my problems and compartmentalize my feelings.”

I smiled a little, confused. “Everyone goes through rough times, Billy. That doesn’t mean Max doesn’t love you. Also, people are smarter than you give them credit for. Just because you were a dick doesn’t mean we don’t choose to see that good in you, also.”

Billy reached out for me, taking my hand in his, and laced our fingers together. My heart skipped a beat.

“What if…what if we moved together?” Billy bit his lip and shook his head immediately, starting to draw his hand out of my grip, but I didn’t let him, I clutched his hand harder.

“You can’t be serious, Billy,” I said, a little shocked, breath short. “You – me? Move to California?”

Billy looked up at me, ocean eyes piercing into my soul, lips pink from his nervous biting. “Why not? You – you could find a job, maybe even take late term classes at UCLA if you settle on a program. I wouldn’t have to leave you baby, I don’t want to leave you,” He whispered the last part dangerously close to my face, his free hand coming up to cup my cheek, breath blowing across my face gently. I leaned into his touch and closed my eyes, the prospect of taking my life in a completely different direction both exciting me and scaring the shit out of me all at once.

“I’ll think about it,” I found myself saying, eyes fluttering open to see him smile.

“Good.” Billy kissed me gently, the sweetest kiss I’d ever experienced. “God, Steve. I love you.”

“I love you too, Billy.”