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The Trees Have Eyes

Chapter Text

Billy wasn’t really sure what he was doing in Hawkins, Indiana. It was a small town, barely on the map, and seemed like the most boring town in the world. Billy knew better though, and he knew a whole other handful of people and every plant in Indiana knew better too. He figured that whoever chose to perform the human experiments at Hawkins Lab was damn smart, because nobody would have suspected a thing.

Well, no human. The woods had a whole bunch of stories to tell, and Billy was ready to listen.

There weren’t many things that the Cali plants talked about. They were so happy and chipper, and they just wanted sunlight and affection. But these plants, these plants that were stuck in ShitTown, Indiana, wanted to be heard . He could hear it over his camaro’s loud engine, over Neils yelling, over the blood rushing through his ears. So Billy finally wandered into the woods, sat next to a bunch of ferns, and asked them to tell him everything.

They spoke about a child without hair that could move things without touching them. They spoke about a gate that led to a place that was the definition of evil. They spoke about a horrible creature that infected everything it touched, and how many more of them were beyond the gate and just how badly they wanted to be on this side. They spoke about 4 children who played games underground, and how a creature dragged one to the other side but came back. They spoke about a girl by water who was dragged and eaten, and how a pair hunted the creature for revenge. They spoke of an old man who wanted this mess out of his town and his people safe. They spoke of how the old man took in the hairless girl. They spoke about how the gate was closed - but not really - and everyone was settling. 

There was a lot more than that, but they made sure Billy knew everything . When the ferns finished their story, they were quiet. 

Billy’s head wasn’t.

Of all the places to have fucking moved, he got stuck with the weird ass sc-ifi town with creatures from another dimension and more human experiments . He really wasn’t down for more experiments. His own experience was enough.

Demogorgans. Jane Hopper. The Gate. Will Byers. LSD. Joyce Byers. Experiments. Jim Hopper. Blood. Barbra Holland. Hawkins Lab. Nancy Wheeler. Death. Steve Harrington.

The Upside Down.

So many names. So many things. Billy really wanted to get the fuck out of this town now. He stood up slowly, legs sore from sitting so long as the plants around him. They seemed relieved now, he noticed. Billy wasn’t really sure how he could sense this, because plants didn’t really have an extremely evident body language. Back in Cali, he had heard whispers of how he might be really sensitive to pheromone and hormone changes, but Billy tried not to think about what happened in Cali too much.

He sighed heavily, trying to process all this information dump that the ferns threw at him. There were already whispers of small strange creatures that didn’t belong in this dimension wandering around town, and he would bet that it’s some kind of demogorgon. 

Billy wanted to bang his head against the nearest wall at the thought.

He was drawn out of his thoughts by the chirping of a small flowering dogwood sapling a few feet away. They were so beautiful in the summer, exposing hundreds of flowers and announcing Winter is Over! as loudly as they could to the world. It wasn’t flowering now, summer was over , but it seemed so happy anyway that Billy couldn’t help but smile. Saplings wanted to be beautiful, to grow as great as it can, and to be praised. Billy wanted them to be strong, to be happy, and to be safe.

He didn’t know so much about the last one, but he’d be damned if he didn’t try.





Chapter Text

Billy Hargrove did not want to do this. He did not want to skip out on his gardening so he could go find his bitch of a sister, who he was pretty sure was fine wherever she was, and bring her home. He sighed heavily as he shut the door to the house, and walked towards his camaro. He paused briefly after opening his car door. 

‘My loves, do you know where my step sister is?’ The closest fern perked up in attention. A few moments passed before it answered. ‘ She’s with The Party at the Byers, they’re talking of burning the tunnels. ’ 

Billy knew which tunnels the fern was referring to - the ones that had been creeping into town and infecting his darlings and killing them. Billy had tried to stop it at first. He’d driven out by the farms and seen the goo itself, and the trees whispered to him about what was happening beneath his feet, like they’d be killed instantly if they spoke too loud. He healed the infected areas of plants and watched how the goo  just oozed back into existence, no matter how many times he tried to get it off the trees.

Now his sister was wrapped up in this whole mess because of the stupid Party (he allowed himself a moment to think of how stupid that name was), and she was probably going to die because of it. Cursing to himself, he got in his car and immediately sped off towards the direction of the Byer residence.

His stomach was twisting as he sped down the road. Billy had warned Max against hanging out with Sinclair and the others. Apart from Sinclair being an asshole to her, Billy was worried Max could’ve been wrapped up into the whole mess and die because she wasn’t careful; and now she was hanging out with the whole motherfucking Party about to burn the roots from the upside down and Billy was going to have to drag her out of that house to keep her away from anything Upside Down related. 

By the time Billy’s inner monologuing of hating everything about the Party was over, he was pulling up into the house. Steve Harrington stood on the porch, looking every bit like a protective babysitter. Billy turned off the engine and slid out of the car. “Am I dreaming or is that you Harrington?’ He called out, smirking.

“Yeah yeah, don’t cream your pants. What do you want?” Billy smirked, pulling off his jacket and tossing it in his car and slamming the door behind him. He had to make this quick and get her the fuck out of here before Neil cuts off his head or Max gets eaten alive. Time to play the game “A little birdy told me that my sister was here. I’m here to send her home.”

There was a brief flicker of panic across Harrington’s face, and Billy strutted forward. “Yeah well, she’s not here.” 

“Why are you lying to me, Harrington? I know she’s here. Are you hiding her from me?” He was in Harringtons face now, and Billy could see the little fuckers watching from the window. Now he wanted to make Harrington squirm. “Or are you hiding...something else?” 

To his credit, Harrington’s eyes only widened slightly. “No. She’s not here. Leave.” 

“Uh huh, and who’s that over there?” He pointed to the window, watching as all the kids scrambled away. Harrington cursed under his breath and looked back at Billy, who was grinning like the cat that got the cream.

Okay, this game was taking way too long. Billy shoved Harrington out of his way, causing him to trip and fall and he kicked him in the stomach for good measure before Billy stalked towards the door and yanked it open. All the gremlins where clumped together, staring in fear at Billy. It was kinda cute, but he noticed Byers was missing. The entire house looked like a mess . The walls of the house were covered in tapped paper, a dark blue and black that stretched absolutely everywhere . It looked familiar, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. 

“It’s time to come home you little shit.” Max glared at him defiantly. “No.” 

“Max. It’s time to go. Now.”  He stalked forward and they scrambled backwards into the kitchen. “I thought I told you not to hang with these people Max, don’t you ever listen ?” He reached forward to grab her arm, and he felt someone yank him back and slam him into the counter by the fridge. Harrington looked pissed and ready to kill. Billy watched as Harrington’s fist came towards his face and Billy yanked the fridge door open to stop it without a thought.

And out fell a creature wrapped in a blanket.

It was dead, that much was certain. It had a weird flower shaped head, and resembled a dog in the weirdest way. It wasn’t a Demogorgan, but the similarities were there. Somehow he wasn’t surprised that they had a dead beast in the fridge. Billy looked up and saw the blood drain out of Harrington’s face. The rest of the Party did too, and Billy mentally cursed everything in the world that had led him to this moment. 

“Somebody better give me an explanation in the next few minutes about the dead creature in the fucking fridge. ” 

Jane Hopper! Jane Hopper! ’ Billy eyes flickered around the kitchen for a moment and saw a tiny potted poppy on the windowsill. Ah. That explained it. As a rule of thumb, poppies were one of the most cheerful and clingy plants there was, and held a childlike innocence no matter their age. Billy loved them, and he felt his heart melt a little at the tiny plant. Poppies were definitely one of his favorite flowers, and he hadn’t seen any since he’d moved. He reached over quickly, grabbed the baby plant (‘ Weeee!!! ’) and held it closely. The poppy chirped happily. “Okay. Now one of you shit birds needs to explain what the fuck is going on.” 

“Uhhh, why are you holding Ms. Byers plant?” Wheeler asked, exchanging glances with the others. 

“That’s not an explanation. I need one. Now.” Billy didn’t need shit, but it would be pretty amusing watching the others trip and fall over themselves to explain the demogorgon dog. The poppy was confused, probably why he was asking for an explanation when he knew everything already, and he stroked its leaves absentmindedly to soothe it. It really was like taking care of a child, just one that didn’t drool and scream and need to be watched 24/7. 

“Steve, we can’t tell him anything! We can’t trust this guy! He just beat you up!” Henderson blurted out, and Billy rolled his eyes. 

“We don’t even have a choice anymore, he’s seen too much!” Sinclair yelled back. 

“Okay fine, so we just tell him the basics then. He doesn’t need the details.” Wheeler proposed, glancing wearily at him. 

“Okay fine then.” Harrington said. “I’ll tell him, so if he punches someone in the face it won’t be one of you dipshits. Go sit on the damn couch, Hargrove.” Billy obliged, still carrying a confused plant, following him into the living room and draping himself over the couch. Harrington didn’t say anything, but he sat on a nearby chair and started fiddling with his finger. The rest of the Party didn’t follow, thank god.

“Start talking, Harrington. I don’t have all goddamn night.”

“Alright, alright! Calm your bitching, I’m just thinking about where to start. Give me a minute.” Billy groaned, and turned his attention to the plant in his lap instead. It was really tiny, tinier than it should be. There wasn’t any flowers on it (it wasn’t the season for poppies to bloom yet), and it was drooping over a little. Billy watched it for a moment, before putting his entire focus into it. He took a deep breath and watched it intensely, watching as the plant grew greener and straightened up. He smiled slightly, and glanced up to see Harrington staring off into space. Jesus H. Christ.

“Okay, just start from where that thing in the kitchen came from, I seriously don’t have all day to wait for you to prance around the story.” Harrington glared, but answered anyway.

“Their from another world. We call it The Upside Down. It’s like ours, but different, evil. Last year a gate opened up to the world and a monster, we call it a Demogorgan, started snatching people last year. Will was one of them, but he was able to come back. We thought we closed the gate, but I guess something slipped through. It’s called the mindflayer, and it’s possessing Will. Some of us went to burn it out of him, it likes it cold.” Harrington had gotten quieter, and was watching Billy’s reaction. Billy raised an eyebrow. This story was missing a lot of details.

“Where's the gate now?” He asked.

“It’s under Hawkins Lab. They like screwing with things they shouldn’t.” Like Jane Hopper.

“What’s the shit on the walls?” 

“The mindflayer made these...tunnels underground. Been killings plants and stuff.” Billy’s grip on the poppy tightened. That explained why it looked so damn familiar. “We think it’s stemming from the gate in the lab.” 

“Okay but none of that explains why shit bird’s involved with this, Harrington.” 

“It’s because I asked to be.” Max had crept in the room, watching them warily. Billy could see the rest of the Party slipping in with her. “Dustin found a baby demodog and Lucus explained it to me. I’m going to help them burn the tunnels.”

“We aren’t   going to go anywhere Max, I promised I’d keep you shit heads safe, and that’s exactly what I plan to do! We’re staying on the bench.” Harrington scolded.

“Wait, why do you need to burn the tunnels?” Billy asked, frowning. “Chances are the mindflayer will be pissed off and come after us for no good reason.”

“To distract-wait, us?” Max stared at him, gaping like a fish. Billy internally sighed. 

“I don’t know a whole lot about what you’re planning to do, but I know it’s going to be stupid and dangerous and you could die, and I’ll be in deep shit if your dead.” He replied.

“So…. you’re coming with us to go to tunnels made by an interdimensional beast and set it on fire despite the fact that you only learned about all of this ten minutes ago?” Billy’s grin was full of teeth.

“Damn right, I am.”

Chapter Text

As Billy sped down the road in his precious camaro, he cursed everything that brought him to this moment.

In his back seat was the 3 out of the 4 most annoying nerds in Hawkins, and his bitch of a step sister squeezed in next to them. It really was a tight squeeze, and Sinclair had even suggested that Max sit on his lap(was he joking? Probably.), but one look from Billy and that suggestion was immediately shot down. Next to him in the passenger seat was King Steve Harrington himself, babysitter of The Nerds and fighter of the Upside Down. It was weird having both those things in the same sentence. 

And in Billy’s lap was Ms. Byers’s poppy from the kitchen. He had briefly considered leaving it at the Byers house, but the plant was so content and happy to be around Billy that he brought the little plant with him. This had earned him extremely strange looks from everyone, but considering they were on their way to burn the roots of a human-possessing monster from another dimension to close the gate of said dimension, carrying a plant around shouldn’t seem all that weird. And Billy had a soft spot for poppies. So the plant came.

It was better company then the rest of the idiots by a long shot anyway. So even if carrying around a soft little flower ruined Billy’s bad boy image a little, he was okay with that.

The car wasn’t silent. The nerds were having a nerd talk in the back, Harrington was muttering about how much of a bad idea this was, and Billy didn’t say anything to them. He spoke to the poppy instead. 

Listening to plants speak was easy- basically second nature, and Billy could talk to them just fine out loud with minimal communication issues- English was clear and enunciated. Projecting unspoken thoughts to plants was another story.

It required a lot of focus, and he got a nosebleed if he did it for longer than a few minutes. It did however, have the bonus of explaining what he meant much easier than words could. His telepathy extended beyond words and on to abstract thoughts and concepts, memories, and feelings. He enjoyed sharing them with his plants, and they were always happy to have someone to talk to it worked out well. Even if every type of plant spoke differently, which Billy found cool as fuck.

The poppy was still chirping. Billy Billy safe Party together safe protect happy happy happy together together! Flowers and most ornamental plants had a very strange way of communicating. It was tidbits of information at a time and not in a very strict order, and mostly relied on their tone and body language to get their point across. The poppy was currently all but dancing with glee though, and Billy cooed (very quietly) and projected his feelings back in return. ‘Together mine you yes safe protect Poppy Poppy love me love poppy safe.’

The poppy gave a cheerful trill in response and he stroked it’s leaves, feeling them begin to wrap around his finger ever so slightly. It comforted him, and he wondered if the plant was picking up on his nervousness as they drove closer to the pumpkin fields.

Nervous worried scared why not happy safe? Billy furrowed his brows. ‘Worried cautious danger plants trees disease Mindflayer Max Neil Party scared death hurt plants no safe scared-’

“Turn left here!” Billy jolted and quickly turned left, narrowly avoiding a mailbox. 

“Thanks for the heads up you little shit,” Billy growled. “Be a better navigator or give me the damn map and I’ll do it myself.” The party went quiet, and he projected all his frustration and annoyance to the poppy in one word- idiots.

They pulled up into a pumpkin patch farm near another car (was that Hoppers car?) and a giant hole in the ground, and Billy turned the car off and got out with the poppy still in hand. “Get the fuck out of my car.” The kids scrambled out the door, and Billy rolled his eyes. He turned his attention to the plants around him. 

There wasn’t a single voice to be heard in the field- nothing but decay and sickness and something that could only be described as evil presence around him. Billy felt a shiver run down his back, and he quickly walked towards the trunk to grab supplies to burn this shit show to the ground. He made a quick stop to put the poppy in the front seat though, with a quick projected reassurance that he’d be back. The poppy whined sadly and Billy’s heart hurt at the sound, but he quickly walked to the trunk to gather his supplies anyway.

The Party was already getting ready, putting on equipment they had swiped from the Byers’s shed and slipping it on. He noticed they were putting on goggles and bandannas to cover their faces, and Billy vaguely remembered the Party mentioning the Upside Down being hazardous. A bandanna and goggles probably wasn’t going to do much against a toxic environment. Billy raised an eyebrow, but took a set for himself anyway. It was really hideous - a bright hot pink bandanna and neon blue swimming goggles. He put them both on and grumbled quietly before approaching the hole where the kids were gathering.

Billy edged around the dirt pile and peered down at the entrance. The dirt around the hole was gone, but a mass of thick roots separated it from the ground above. He briefly wondered if he could move them, but declaring it to be too risky. Only one person had known about his powers outside the Lab, and she was dead.

Harrington yanked a shovel out of the nearby dirt pile, and began prodding the entrance. Billy and the others winced at the squishing sound. “I think I could bust this open, the roots aren’t incredibly strong.” Harrington muttered, before slamming down the shovel through the roots repeatedly, effectively breaking open the entrance. 

“Ewwwwwww!” The children yelled, surprisingly, in sync. Billy flinched, looking at the weird puss oozing from the broken roots. It looked similar to the goo that had been scattered around the trees. Billy very much did not like the idea of going down on what was likely a suicide mission, but he had his Darlings relying on him and he had to make sure Max didn’t fucking kill herself or he would be dead.

“Hey Hargrove, toss me that rope will ya?” The rope, which had been tied to the front of his camaro by Wheeler, was supposed to serve as a way to get in and out of the hole. Billy doubted its durability, but grabbed it regardless and tossed it to Harrington. 

“Wish me luck, dipshits.” He watched as Harrington slowly slid down into the hole in the ground with nothing but a rope connecting him to the surface. Henderson leaned over the entrance.

“Still alive?” He called out.

“Not dead yet.” Harringtons voiced responded.

With a quick exchange in glances, the rest of the Party quickly followed Harringtons lead while being mindful about the bags on their backs. When Max and Billy were the only ones left, he quickly grabbed her arm. Max startled, and started to struggle. 

“Listen you shit head, if anything moves down there you fucking tell me. It’s on me if you’re dead.” He hissed at her, before letting her go like she burned him. Max snorted. 

“Yeah, like you fucking care.” She dropped down before Billy could respond.

On the contrary, Billy cared more than he wanted to. He remembered when he first met her, seemingly ages ago. Billy had been so nervous and excited to meet her that he was practically vibrating on the living room couch, eagerly waiting for Neil to come home for the first time ever. When the front door opened, Billy had bolted up and watched as Neil walked in with a young girl, his hand on her shoulder.

“This is Maxine, she’s going to be your sister. You’re going to look after her.” Neil had said.

The girl with the flaming hair and piercing blue eyes glared at Neil before looking back at Billy and said “Call me Max.” Billy had smiled, and told her Max was a cool name. 

The next day, Billy had given Max a tiny succulent. It was a very pretty shade of blue and Billy had grown it himself, and was rather proud of it. Max didn’t know the significance of what he’d done, and he was thankful for it. To Billy, giving a plant to someone was like giving away a piece of himself. A very private and intimate part of himself that he had only shared with Mom. Plants were his way of truly connecting with the world, and this tiny succulent would be his eyes and ears to make sure Max was safe because he knew what people were capable of, and he would be damned if he let someone hurt her.

Billy jolted out of his quick nostalgia trip and slid into the hole to follow the rest of them.

Chapter Text

The first thing Billy when he went through the entrance of the tunnel was that it was cold. It was a chill that burrowed through his clothes and to his core. He mentally patted himself on the back for remembering to put back on his leather jacket before they left for the pumpkin patch, otherwise he’d be extra fucked. The second thing he noticed was the loud, harsh whispers of the walls around him. 

Intruders… I see you… Billy felt the blood drain from his face, and the words chilled him more then the cold. They needed to fucking hurry, now.

The rest of the Party was already walking forward, flashlights in hand. It was pretty dark, and Billy made a mental note to avoid the jagged roots when they would inevitably be running away like hell was on their heels later. 

“-If any of you dipshits die down here, I’m getting the blame. Except you, Hargrove, you’re on your own.” Harrington said as he snatched the map away from Wheeler. Billy rolled his eyes, but followed the group as they made their way. 

The walls of the tunnels were freaking Billy out. A heavy mass of roots lined the inside, and Billy had caught some of the roots moving once or twice before going still once they’d been spotted. Along the tops of the walls, Billy spotted what looked like a bulbous flower head, and he’d bet anything that they released spores that would do nothing good for their health. The bandanna and goggles kept most of the stray particulates away from his face, and he made a mental note not to underestimate the Party’s smarts by that much more. 

Of course, just as he thought that Henderson had peered a little too closely at one of these flowers, and it swelled and shot spores directly into his face. He screamed, completely freaking out and falling to the ground while coughing violently. The rest of the group was swarming him immediately, demanding to see if he was okay. Billy hung around the edge of the group, intensely watching the flower in case it tried to attack again. It seemed smug, but didn’t do anything else to suggest it would hurt them anymore. Hendersons panting was slowing down, and Billy could see him blinking up at them.

“I’m good.” He said. The rest of the group grumbled and groaned and began walking away, and Billy looked at Henderson’s face a bit closer. He had been screaming about it getting in his mouth, and it almost looked like his mouth was puffier than usual. 

“Henderson.” Billy barked. Henderson jumped slightly. “Let me know if you start struggling to breathe, that might’ve been really toxic you fucking moron. Let’s go.” Billy growled, yanking Henderson up by the arm. Henderson looked at him quizzically, but followed the rest of the group without a word.

Man, Billy’s really knocking down his Bad Boy Points today.

 

It felt like they were wandering for a while. Realistically, Billy knows that Harrington has the map, but it doesn’t feel that way. Nothing about the tunnels really changes as they make twists and turns to find the core(or whatever it is, Billy doesn’t know what to call it), and it makes him feel like a lab rat in a maze. There’s only one exit and entrance though, and if Harrington’s navigational skills are decent enough, that’s way far away from where they are.

Billy wants to kick the wall in frustration.

He does however, notice the exact moment when he realizes they’re getting close to where their supposed to go.

In general, Billy has a given sense of where plants are in any given area. Billy would almost call it a 6th sense. Or 7th(ha). While not incredibly useful, it does give Billy a sense of comfort that on some level, there is at least a presence he wouldn’t want to punch in the face among meeting. Sometimes it gives him a mental map - if this area has so many plants here, then there is a reason for it that can provide awareness to his surroundings like a large expanse of soil or beach sand. Focus closer on what he senses is there, and Billy can tell the difference between typical lawn grass from a huge ass pine tree. It’s worth noting that the more clustered plants are, the stronger he can sense them. It’s part of the reason that Billy loves being in the woods so much.

It also works with very very large plants. Billy’s not saying that these tunnels are a plant (very similar and yet also very not, and he doesn’t appreciate it), but the sense that it’s surrounding him in more ways than just physical is there. So Billy notices the instance where the presence immediately starts to intensify exponentially.

When they come across the large chamber at then end of a tunnel, Billy sees what’s been giving off the intense vibes. 

The others are breaking off, looking at the walls with their flashlights and beginning to spray it down in gasoline, but Billy is much more interested in what looks like a bad video game portal in the center of the chamber. It almost reminds Billy of the flower they encountered back when Henderson was being an idiot, but Billy thinks one defense mechanism from this one would kill them all slowly and painfully for sure. It makes him feel uneasy. Yet, Billy is drawn towards it anyway. He’s never seen anything like this. Chances are, he probably never will after today either. 

Billy slowly makes his way towards it. The air of unease grows, and up close he can really see it. It’s a dark ugly color, and there are roots stemming from the base. It’s not moving, but it seems to be...breathing. Billy crouches low, looking even closer. Then Billy does something stupid. Really, really stupid. 

He reaches his hand out and touches it.

The first thing Billy feels is anger. No, anger doesn’t even begin to cover it. It’s as if lava has swept through his body, fiery and burning and leaving him to burn alive. It’s ferocious, hatred in its purest form. It shocks Billy, but he can’t move because while there’s this burning rage, there is this freezing, frigid sensation crawling through his body, and it’s such a feeling that Billy doesn’t know what to call it. His closest English word would be rancorous, malicious, vindictive. But they don’t explain it well enough, and Billy can do nothing but feel.  

Billy experiences all of this in a nanosecond, but the next part is worse.

It’s a vision, but it is by no means his. Billy can see a cold and dark world, a heavy veil of death and decay over everything. It’s Hawkins Middle, Billy realizes. He’s looking down on everything, and Billy can see bodies (bodies in pieces) on the field below him. There’s howls somewhere, sounding victorious. Demodogs, and a lot of them.

He recognizes who the corpses are, he just doesn’t want to think about it. They’re almost not recognizable from this height and the level of decay, and not to mention being ripped into pieces , but he feels something that can only be described as smug when seeing them lying there, unmoving and deader than dead at his hands. There’s only a few people’s death that could make the Mindflayer feel this way.

Even though he knows better and his instincts scream at him not to, he looks at the trees below him. They too, are dead with no green and are rotting away. Nothing looks alive in this world, and Billy wants to cry. It’s a world with nothing but darkness, anger, and monsters. 

This isn’t his would. This is what the Mindflayer wants to happen. This is its fantasy, and it is willing to do anything to happen. It’s going to start with them, and then move on to the rest of the world.

He feels somebody yanking on his shoulder, and it brings him back to his world, his very currently alive world where all his Darlings aren’t rotting and the Party’s bodies aren’t decaying in shreds of meat. It feels like something is crushing his skull while simultaneously setting it ablaze. His ears hurt too, because somebody is screaming very loudly and he wants them to shut up-

Oh. It’s him. He’s the one screaming. 

There are hands still shaking him and he can’t see who it is, not right now, but he hits whoever it is away because if they touch him any longer then he’s going to watch them be ripped to shreds and Billy doesn’t want that to happen in any way, shape, or form.

They don’t stop though. The hands keep shaking him, and Billy is terrified.

“STOP TOUCHING ME!” Billy screams, trying to get away. He can see Harrington in front of him, looking freaked out. Ah. He’s the one shaking him then. That means he’s not dead, he’s living and breathing and very much alive. 

Well, maybe not much longer. But Harrington doesn’t know. He needs to know.

Billy grabs at his arm, and he can feel tears running down his face as he looks at him. “BURN IT!” He shouts. “YOU HAVE TO BURN IT NOW!

Harrington doesn’t say anything, but he nods and pulls Billy up. Billy is trying to scramble away, but Harrington holds him tightly to his side and heaves him away from the center of the chamber and towards the entrance they came in. He hears a click behind him as a lighter is lit, and as Harrington half carries him the Party scurry in front of them, making their way out as fast as they can.

Billy can feel the heat of flames behind him, and the screeching of the Mindflayer as they rush away.

Chapter Text

Billy is only half aware that they are being chased by demodogs. 

One one hand, he can see the Party hauling ass in the general direction towards they entrance they came from, looking like hell hounds are chasing at their heels. Only they actually are, they just go by the name demodogs.

On the other hand, Billy is trying to unwrap his head around what just happened. He doesn’t want to think about it. He doesn’t want to see it. He never wants anything to do with what he just experienced ever again. It isn’t really the time to be doing this, and will most likely get him killed, but he’s not going to think about that either.

It isn’t until Harrington stops dead and he’s forced to halt that Billy notices there’s a demodog in front of them. It’s really skinny, like it’s been starving, and it has a large yellow splotch on its back end.

Henderson speaks up first, and Billy doesn’t really know what he’s saying. Something about darts, a cat, some apologies? Why is he apologizing? That thing is going to eat them. 

It’s going to happen right now. That demodog is going to rip Henderson to pieces, and they are all doing nothing to stop it. It’s a paralyzing thought - Billy can’t move anymore. They’re all going to die down here, starting with Henderson.

Billy is close to hyperventilating at this point, and he feels someone grab his arm and pull him away from Henderson and the demodog as Henderson distracts it. They’re leaving Henderson for dead? He thought Henderson was part of the Party? What is happening?

When he spots the demodog eating 3 Musketeer Bars on the ground, he thinks he might be hallucinating. Henderson slowly slips away and begins to follow the group once more, and Billy can do nothing more than stumble forward one step at a time.

 

They’re close to the entrance now. Billy can see moonlight and a rope hanging down from the ceiling, and it seems like all hope isn’t lost. The children are running like hell, and Harrington leaves his side to run ahead and make sure they climb the rope safely. Harrington makes his way up first, and uses this to his advantage in helping the kids out. Sinclair is starting to climb up and, of course, that’s when Billy hears demodogs gaining on them. 

The kids are still scrambling up the rope. All of them have limp noodles for arms though, so it’s not exactly fast. Billy helps anyway, pushing the kids out because they need to fucking leave. When Max and him are left, Billy can see the demodogs running towards them. His stomach drops. He can hear everybody above screaming for them. (Actually, they’re only screaming for Max. He tries not to let that sting.)

The demodogs are going to kill them. He and Max are still down here, and it’s going to be a fucking brutal death. Billy has nothing to stop them with, no bat spiked with nails or slingshot. 

This isn’t how he planned on dying. When Billy had escaped the lab, he had expected to be shot dead in the months that followed. He knew they were trying to find him, even if the chance of anyone surviving in the building was slim to none. Billy wasn’t even in that category, because he was the one that made it happen. When he had been with Mom, he’d thought he’d gotten away from everything. Then Neil had entered the picture, and he felt death breathing down his neck again, like he was going to be hit so hard that he would pass out and never wake up again. It’s happened before, but Billy always wakes back up.

But that is neither here nor there. Right now, a pack of demodogs are running towards Billy and his step sister full speed ahead. It’s an unconscious thought to pull Max to his chest in a tight hug and turn his back to the pack. Maybe if they’re lucky the demodogs will rip into Billy first and then maybe Max will be safe long enough to get her ass into gear and climb the rope while the pack is distracted. 

Or maybe Billy doesn’t want to die without hugging his bitch of a sister goodbye. It’ll all mean the same thing in the end, and Max probably won’t even realize what he’s doing anyway because they have a seriously fucked up sibling dynamic.

He’s waiting to feel pain. He’s waiting for the demodogs to bury their many rows of teeth in his back. He’s waiting to die.

…..Except, that doesn’t happen. The demodogs are rushing past them, acting like Billy and Max are invisible. Billy is waiting for them to turn around and attack them, but they don’t. It’s over in less than a minute and Billy doesn’t let go of Max for a few moments longer. When he pulls back, he looks at her face. Max is pale as is, but she looks like she’s never seen the sun in her life right now. Her blue eyes are wide and she’s breathing shakily. She’s freaked out. Billy probably doesn’t look much better. He definitely doesn’t feel any better.

“Should head up in case they come back.” He whispers to her. She nods, not saying anything. He watches her reach out and grab the rope and begin to climb out. When her feet disappear, Billy exhales and grabs the rope to follow her.

 

Billy nearly cries in relief when he sees the poppy. He has had a goddamn rough past half an hour, but it’s over now ( not really over) and Billy is so goddamn happy to see the tiny potted plant. He definitely loses Bad Boy Points again when he darts to the door to grab it and hold it close. The poppy knows somethings wrong immediately. Flowers are very sensitive, and he’s not hiding his distress very well. Nonetheless the poppy is downright ecstatic to see him again and chitters away.

Safe safe safe happy happy Billy here love together Billy happy happy safe together Billy safe safe love love love! Billy doesn’t say anything. He just holds the poppy closer, tries to stop shaking, and projects back. He can trust the plants with his feelings, so he doesn’t hide how he’s feeling. Humans are not as trustworthy.

“Terror terror terror death bad bad bad Mindflayer so sorry demodogs Max terror not safe dead dead dead not real very real not safe so sorry terror tERROR TERRO-”

“Uh, Hargrove? You alright there?” Billy looks up and sees Harrington standing by the passenger side, watching him cautiously. “You want me to drive?” Billy glances and sees the Party in his backseat, chattering to themselves. Which means Billy has been standing there long enough for them to load all the equipment, unhook his car from the rope, and get into said car. Billy remembers the junk on his face and hurriedly yanks it off.

“Fuck off, Harrington.” He spits, yanking open the driver side door and getting in. He tosses the face shit in the backseat, ignoring the screeches in protest. He settles the poppy in his lap, and grips the steering wheel as he exhales slowly. He starts the car, and begins to drive away without a second thought.

 

They’ve been driving for a while in silence when Wheeler speaks.

“So… what happened when you touched the thingy, back in the tunnels?” He says it slowly, as if watching Billy’s reaction. Billy feels himself shudder involuntarily, and grips the steering wheel tighter. His knuckles are white.

Really, what can you say to that? ‘I saw you all in the Mindflayers vision ripped to shreds and lying in a world that reeks of death and all my Darlings were rotting to death and I was scared shitless it was suddenly real’? Yeah, no. That wouldn’t go over well at all.

“Nothing.” He grits out. Yeah Billy, that’ll fix everything. Perfect. No questions at all.

“Hey, it could be really important dipshit! You need to tell us!” Wheeler yells back. 

It’s not that he shouldn’t tell them. He probably should, because they’re all involved in one way or another and it’d be nice to know what the Mindflayer currently wants so they can plan ahead. The Mindflayer probably isn’t dead, because the Upside Down is a fucked up place that doesn’t ever work how you want it to.

Then again, he’s not the only one that has been in the head of something of the Upside Down. Jane Hopper was the one to open it in the first place, and Byers was possessed by the damn thing. Not to mention, this information coming from them will be taken much easier then if Billy tells them.

Billy says nothing. He ignores the very angry whispers to one another in the back, ignores Harrington’s weird look, and focuses on the road. 

 

As soon as he parks the car at the Byers and turns it off, Billy immediately gets out, poppy in hand. The tension in the car was rubbing off on him and he’s fidgety with nerves. He needs to be around sentient beings that aren’t humans. He power walks to the forest line, not acknowledging the shouts behind him. They can get fucked.

The shrubbery comes to life when he approaches them. Even though it’s dark as fuck out, Billy can see a shit ton of ferns, a variety of hickory trees, and other common green. He can spot vines too. He walks to a bitternut hickory that isn’t too crowded or far away from the house and gently sits down near it, settling the poppy in his lap. The plants are all giving gentle greetings and touches, sensing that he’s overwhelmed. He appreciates it.

Some plants reach out to him almost immediately, the vines in particular. Their physically clingy, and they like to pretend they aren’t. He watches as a particular greenbriar vine wraps carefully around his wrist like a living bracelet. The poppy is displeased by this, and twitters grouchily. Billy laughs, if a bit shakily, at the interaction. 

No! No! Mine mine mine love Billy together yes love mine! Away away, mine only! Did he mention that poppies were as possessive as the were clingy?

No no, not yours! Ours! Warm and safe together! He loves all, together with us and happy! Share him! the vine whines. The poppy begins to get aggravated, and Billy hums gently, stroking the poppy’s leaves in an attempt to help the potted plant calm down. 

“I’m every plants human, you greedy precious thing.” He whispers. The ferns laugh around him, and the trees say nothing but he can tell they’re amused too. The vine just looks smug. Billy has never seen any other plant pull off a pout as well as this particular poppy.

He’s torn out of his thoughts by the sound of a car pulling up. A quick glance up and he can see the chiefs car pulling in. Billy feels nervous, all the sudden. The doors open and slam, and Billy watches the chief of police and his adopted daughter exit the car. 

He must have made some kind of movement, because it catches Jane Hopper’s eye. She looks over, and scans the treeline before her eyes find him. Her eyes say many things. They say that she is tormented, that she is naive, that she is very, very tired, and she has done and seen things that others can only dream of. 

Billy has that look, but he hides it well. 

They make eye contact, even in the darkness, and Jane Hopper smiles at him.

Chapter Text

Billy has been wanting to meet Jane Hopper since the beginning. The plants had spoken very highly of her. They told him of when she had stolen boxes of Eggos and eaten it all in the privacy of the forest, and some plants were mildly concerned about her eating habits while others were very amused. They had told him of her many days in the forest, where she was always cold and just trying to make it to the next day. They told him of when Chief Hopper had set out food (with Eggos of course) and that had led her to him. They told him of the secret cabin in the woods, with the secret knock. 

In a way, seeing her felt unreal, like Jane Hopper was a character in a (admittedly) very horrible folk story, and now she was very much breathing and existing in front of him, less than 20 feet away.

Billy watched her turn and say something to Hopper quietly, before making her way towards him. Hopper seemed skeptical, extremely skeptical, but he went inside. Billy assumed the rest of the Party was in there too.

Jane Hopper quietly sat down next to him, avoiding any of the plants. She looked at the potted poppy curiously. “Plant?” She asked.

Billy gave her a small smile. “The plants called a poppy,” He said. “Specifically a California Poppy, even if it’s not blooming yet. Poppies are very clingy, so I’ve been carrying it with me.” ,

“Blooming?” She tilted her head to the side, looking confused. Billy’s smile grew. 

“If I show you what I mean, will you promise to keep it a secret?” Jane nodded, looking incredibly serious. “Friends don’t break a promise.” 

As a rule, Billy kept his powers under wrap 98% of the time around other people. Abilities like projecting could be done in plain sight, for the most part, but everything else? Giant red flag. Like “He’s not entirely human and somebody should call the police” flag. A flag that would get Billy sent back to the lab if caught. Billy can’t afford that, he’s come too far. 

But that being said, Jane might never have interacted with anybody with similar experiences. He knows exactly what it’s like to be in fear of every given moment because somebody might have said something, and the scientists might be hot on his trail. He knows. He also knows what it’s like to be thrown into a world with next to no knowledge of what things are like, to learn new things, grasp vocabulary and concepts, and learn the basics that everybody else was raised with. He had Mom, and Jane has Hopper. 

Billy understands. He knows she will keep his secret, too.

Billy takes a deep breath, and looks down at his lap. The vine is still wrapped around his hand, and the poppy still happily content between his legs. 

“May I?” He asks the poppy. The poppy, ever to please, chirps a yes. He lifts the pot in the hand not covered in a clingy vine and offers it to Jane. She takes it, looking confused, Billy flashes a quick grin before staring at the poppy. 

It’s an odd feeling, changing plant’s natural state. Willing something to happen and then actually watching it happen leaves a buzz under his skin, one that makes him want to use it more and more until everything is better.  

He continues looking at the potted poppy without flowers, and wills it to bloom.

It happens immediately. The tiny dormant buds of the plant begin to open, developing small, sunset orange petals that shape a beautiful flower. They remind Billy of the sunsets in Cali.

Jane’s eyes widen in awe, and she gently touches the flowers. The poppy seems happy, chirping in pride at it’s beautiful flowers and the attention it’s receiving. She looks up at Billy. “How?” She asks, looking so very, very confused. 

There’s a lot he can say to that. He can tell her of the hours he’d spent in a white room, trying to make something happen. He can tell her about the yelling and scolding when something doesn’t happen, and the hours after where Billy tries harder because he wanted to prove himself. He could tell her when he figured out how to manipulate the plants, and how the scientists had been so very happy that he managed to do something. He can tell her about how he spent hours in Mom’s garden, willing them to grow because he loved the huge smile on her face when her garden was blooming and beautiful. He could tell her how it had been so much easier doing it for Mom than it had ever been for the scientist. 

Billy doesn’t say that though. He doesn’t say anything, but he pushes the sleeve of his right hand up, undoes a thick black bracelet, eases the vine off his arm, and presents it to her. Her eyes get even larger, and Billy thinks she looks like she’s about to cry.

On his wrist, in a tiny clinical font, is 07. She looks shocked, and slowly raises her arm to show a small 11. Billy feels heartbroken at the tattoo.

He’s not exactly surprised when she lunges to hug him, being mindful of the poppy in her hand. He feels like she needs this as much as he does, and he doesn’t hesitate to hug her back. She’s small, so it’s easy to hold her close. She’s crying into his shoulder, and he understands.  

They don’t say anything for a while. The forest hums happily around him, and Billy feels himself relax, bit by bit. A fern starts nudging his shoulder, and Billy smiles. They are happy for him. Jane eventually stops crying, and it’s only when she pulls away that he realizes he was crying too. Jane holds the plant between them, orange flowers practically glowing in the darkness. The poppy, upon realizing that their sappy moment is at least somewhat over, now starts chirping away merrily.

Billy Jane happy happy together safe not sad Billy happy together Billy Jane love safe safe safe together happy happy happy! BillyJane BillyJane! Billy raises an eyebrow at this. It’s not exactly normal for the plants to do that. In human terms, saying their names together like that is incredibly significant, to say the least. Mom’s garden plants had done the same with him and her, many years ago. Billy had loved Mom with his whole heart, and vice versa. When she had promised to keep him safe and protected, the plants had started referring to them as BethBilly .

It’s an interesting thought. Personally, Billy doesn’t actually know Jane. He only knows what he’s been told by the forest, and he’s willing to bet Jane doesn’t know anything about him except that he came from a lab, like her. 

That’s a pretty significant thing, though. Binding, in a way. Billy doesn’t want anything like that to happen to her ever again, because while Billy was only in the lab for about 7 years, Jane was there for much, much longer. He will die before he lets anybody go through that again, especially this Eggo-Loving, curly haired child. The plants have undoubtedly picked up on this, too. Sensitive bastards.

“What’s your name?” Jane asks, peering up at Billy. 

“Billy Hargrove, and yours?” he already knows it, but he has manners goddamn it.

“Jane Hopper, but my friends call me El.” Billy frowns heavily. 

“Short for Eleven?” She nods.

Billy hates it. He hates it so fucking much. It’s the equivalent of him being called Sev, and can’t understand why she would like to be reminded of the tattoo on her arm, put their by sadist who think experimenting on kids is okay. He doesn’t say this though, because she probably has a reason for sticking with the name.

“Can I call you my brother?” Billy’s blinks. Once, twice. More times. 

“Only if I can call you my sister.” He grins. 

Her smile nearly blinds him.

Chapter Text

Billy stands up carefully, offering his hand to Jane to help her up. She takes it, pulling herself up with the poppy in hand. Billy quickly puts his bracelet back on, pulling down his sleeve. Jane looks a little sad at that.

Billy takes the plant from her carefully, and gently makes the poppy flowers fall off into his hand. Jane looks disappointed, and Billy is too. However, it’s common sense that a plant that blooms in summer should definitely not be blooming now, and at night. The poppy pouts, but understands that it was for the best. Billy puts the flowers in his jacket pocket for later and once again holds the potted poppy to his chest. 

Jane grabs his hand tightly, and they start making their way to the Byers porch. Billy’s surprised she trusts him so much so soon, but he’s grateful and doesn’t protest as she leads the way. He can hear talking inside, and his stomach twists involuntarily.

“They don’t like me much.” He admits. Jane frowns. “Why?” 

“I’m kind of a di- jerk.” Billy replies. He should probably refrain from cursing as much.

“You don’t seem like a mouth breather.” 

“The hell is a mouth breather?” So much for that plan. Good job Billy.

“A person who pushes others around.” He winces.

“That’s their impression of me, pretty sure. Not a people person.” 

“Me too.” It’s whispered like a confession, and he’s not entirely sure he was meant to hear it.

Jane still hasn’t let go of his hand, and Billy struggles to stifle his nervousness. It will not go over well, he’s sure. They’re on the porch before he knows it, and Billy takes a deep breath before opening the door. 

Hopper is pacing in the living room, and the rest of the Party is sitting on the couch, all looking anxious. Wheeler immediately jumps up, looking ready to run to Jane before giving them what can only be described as a disgusted bitch face. 

“Why the hell are you holding his hand? He’s a bully and an asshole!” Wheeler yells, looking frantically between them. Jane doesn’t cower though, and meets his gaze steadily. 

“I trust him.” She states, glaring at Wheeler. Wheeler gaps at them, as does everybody else but Hopper. Hopper gives him an odd look, looking him up and down. Billy resists giving them a very smug look. Jane ignores them, and pulls him into the kitchen. 

The dead demodog is no longer on the floor, thank fuck.

The thought of seeing a demodog makes tonight’s previous encounters come to mind. The Mindflayers vision, in particular. Out of all of them, the Mindflayer wanted Jane dead most. Billy feels nauseous and quickly aborts that train of thought, instead turning his attention to Jane. 

Jane, now that he can see her in the light, looks like a strong wind could knock her over and is covered in filth. She’s also wearing a heavy dark jacket, much too big for her, and faded eye make up. Her hair is gelled back too, though some of her curls are starting to make a comeback. This look doesn’t exactly shout Jane though, it shouts punk.

“Whose clothes are those?” He asks. Jane gives him a small sad smile. “Sister.”

Billy has a fuck ton of questions, but he figures those can wait for later. She didn’t look like she really wanted to talk about it. “Do you have your own clothes? You look like you could use a shower and some sleep, kid.” Jane gives him a pondering look. 

“In the car, I think.” Billy nods, and gently sets the poppy on the kitchen table. “I’ll go grab them. Ms. Byers won’t mind if you use her shower, I’m sure.” Jane tightens her grip on his hand briefly before letting go, walking towards where Billy assumes is the bathroom. Billy takes a deep breath, before walking towards the living room. He’d barely stepped in the door frame before Wheeler was in his face,

“What did you say to her?” Wheeler looks angry, and Billy sees that he’s worried for Jane. Billy allows himself a moment to fantasize pushing the kid over anyway, because he’s fucking annoying.

“Nothing.” Billy says. It’s not technically a lie, because he didn’t actually tell Jane anything for her to form her major opinion, but this kid doesn’t deserve jack and shit from him. Harrington stands up then, walking over to stand behind Wheeler. Are they really teaming up on him? 

“You’ve got a lot of explaining to do, Hargrove. First the incident in the tunnels, and now outside with El.” Billy grits his teeth, pushing down the nausea at the thought of the tunnels. He should probably tell them later, but they can fuck right off about Jane. 

“Get out of my way, or I’ll make you move.” He growls, leaning forward as if to challenge Harrington.

“Hey hey, we don’t need anymore fighting tonight.” Jim Hopper says, not so gently pushing Billy and the other two away from each other. “He doesn’t have to say anything right now, it’s been a long night for everyone.” Billy scoffs, shoving himself past Harrington and making his way outside to Hoppers car, ignoring the looks from Wheeler. 

 

Outside, Billy makes his way to Hoppers backseat, peaking in the windows before spotting a bundle of clothes and grabbing it quickly. He doesn’t head inside just yet, instead taking a moment to relax, listening to the forest around him. The forest is a hum of noises, the rustling of animals among branches, the whistling of the wind, the quiet murmurs of plants interacting with one another. He’s happy the plants have each other, and he’s happy that he knows he can rely on the plants too.

In Cali, he hadn’t had anyone for a longtime. He didn’t know what the feeling was called of course, the loneliness, but he felt it. A feeling of disconnect from everything around him, the way everything blurred together and made his chest ache for something. Billy, no, Seven , didn’t know anything back then. He didn’t have a true name, but he had the markings on his arm that he knew meant him. Seven was nothing more than a child experiment, isolated in every sense of the word. It was numbing, and he didn’t really notice how bad it was until they set down an aloe plant down in front of him. He was young, maybe 4 at most.

The scientists hadn’t told him to do anything, they merely set the plant on the table in front of him and left. Of course, Seven didn’t know they were scientists. He didn’t know them as anything other than one of many that he witnessed, covered in a blank color and radiating a sense of disappointment and irritation. It made Seven uneasy. 

The aloe plant was scared. Again, Seven had no words for this but he recognized it anyway. He often felt it himself, whenever the one of many came along and dragged him from place to place. He also didn’t know what a plant was , but he knew it was alive, just like him. 

He had reached out to touch the edge of the long leaves on the plant, and jolted when it pricked him. He frowned, and this time touched along the inner parts of the leaves curiously. He didn’t get pricked this time, and he continued to stroke it. The longer he continued, the more relaxed the plant became. The longer he continued, the larger the plant became. The longer it continued, the more tired Seven became. The longer he continued, the more that numbing feeling began to draw away and the ache in his chest loosened.

He didn’t know of the whispering behind the mirror in front of him, whispering of the fascinating results and how much potential Number Seven had.

Billy forces himself out of Memory Lane and sighs heavily, feeling the weight of his memories wearing down at him. It’s not something he allows himself to think about often, but being around Jane is already reminding him. It’s not her fault though, neither of them asked for this.

Not knowing how much time has past, Billy makes his way into the house, clothes in hand, straight to where he assumes the bathroom is all while ignoring the Party. He can hear the water running, and he knocks. 

“I’m going to set the clothes on the sink.” He calls out. He quickly opens the door and sets the clothes sink, before exiting quickly. He sighs(he’s doing that a lot today), and heads into the kitchen. 

The poppy, upon noticing him, begins to chirp happily. Billy smiles, and pulls a seat from the kitchen table out to sit down. Billy quickly pulls the poppy over to him and gently strokes it, smiling to himself. The poppy relaxes beneath his fingers, and chirps quietly.

He stops when he hears angry footsteps, eyes flickering up to see the pack of brats (his sister included) advancing on him. He internally sighs when he sees Wheeler's still angry expression. They all crowd the table, and Billy feels like he’s about to be integrated. 

“What the hell happened outside? Did you hurt El?” Wheeler demanded, and damn if this kid wasn’t getting on his nerves. Billy might just have to punch him.

“No, and Jane can handle herself better than all of you put together without moving, so you can stop trying to be intimidating because you’re shit at it, Wheeler.” Billy huffs, idly beginning to pick at his nails. His hands aren’t dirty, but his nails are a bit chipped and his palms are calloused from many long hours working in the garden.

“Wait, what do you know about El?” Henderson asked, narrowing his eyes. Billy freezes. Shit, he wasn’t supposed to know anything about her abilities.

“You know more than you’re letting on, don’t you?” Sinclair says, head snapping to Max “What the hell is going on here? Did you know about this Max?” Max shakes her head frantically.

“I haven’t told Billy anything, however he found out about El was on his own.” She says, looking at Billy warily. Wheeler slams his hands down on the table, and the poppy squeals. Billy brings the plant closer and glares at the boy. “How do you know about El’s powers?” 

Shit shit shit shit. Think, Billy, think.

“I didn’t know anything for sure, you just confirmed it though.” Billy replies, forcing a smirk on his face. The collective panic on everybody's faces is worth his own moments of panic. 

“Listen here, asshole-” Henderson begins to say, before being interrupted.

“What’s going on?” Jane slowly walks into the kitchen. She’s wearing the clothes Billy grabbed her, a gray shirt and overalls, but no shoes. Her hair, despite it being wet, is already starting to curl and get in her eyes and Billy wants to snicker.

“He knows about you, and he won’t tell us how.” Sinclair blurts out. “We can’t trust him, he knows too much already!” Jane gives him a questioning look. He hasn’t exactly told her the extent of his powers, so she’s probably wondering how too. Ever so slightly, he pulls the poppy closer, and her eyes light up with realization and, to his immense joy, extreme interest.

Jane looks significantly less confused now, and merely pulls out the chair next to Billy and sits down close to him. Billy reaches out and ruffles her hair quickly, smirking at their gaping audience. Her hair now resembles a birds nest, making Jane giggle and Billy is delighted.

He takes a quick second to glance at Max and sees her looking highly suspicious. Billy is very aware that he hasn’t ever stood out to be a particularly brotherly figure, at least not often or in a way that portrays what he actually wants to say. Instead of “Stop hanging out with that bitch Sinclair, he clearly makes you upset and he’s involved in bad shit,” it reflects as “That’s the type of person that you don’t want to hang out with, fucking listen to me.” Not only did it sound racist and dickish, but clearly also not at all effective. He’s almost certain that played a part in Max hanging out with Sinclair too, to stick it in his face at his seemingly racist comment. Props for her for that, but not fucking really. 

Wheeler opens his mouth to say something, but the sound of a car pulling up stops him. The air becomes thick with tension, and nobody says anything for a minute as they watch the door. He hears several car doors open and close, and steps up to the door. Jane tenses up beside him, and Billy clutches the poppy closer as the door swings open.

Chapter Text

The door opens and Billy watches as four figures, 3 awake and one not so awake but all looking exhausted, walk in the door. Will Byers is being carried by his creep brother, and looks like he’s been through hell and back. Ms. Byers doesn’t look much better herself, and he can see the stress she’s carrying in her face and shoulders. He feels bad for her - she is a caring mother that wants to keep her children safe, willing to go to lengths others wouldn’t even dream of and he respects it. Johnathan Byers and Nancy Wheeler look equally as stressed, but Billy doesn’t feel any sympathy for them. 

The brats hurriedly rush over to Will, swarming him and asking as many questions as they possibly can. Hopper is immediately talking to Ms. Byers, quietly asking her something but Billy can’t hear it over the amount of noise the Party is making over their newly returned member. Billy and Jane watch on, not moving from their respective places. 

“Are they always this loud?” Billy asks Jane, watching a small smile creep on her face. It’s an answer enough, so Billy takes it for what it is. He has no doubt that those four had probably lost their shit upon meeting Jane, who he imagined was having a rough time adjusting to a time outside of a lab. 

The thought made him furrowed his eyebrows. She had escaped and then tossed in a mess with the Upside Down, and then cooped up in a cabin for a year(and visited wherever her sister was, but Billy didn’t know those details). There was no actual time to adjust to other people outside of Hopper, and staying in a cabin holed up didn’t sound healthy. It was a small note in his brain, but a very important one, to remember to get Jane out of the cabin when this mess is over and actually do something that she enjoyed.

“What is he doing here?” Nancy Wheeler’s voice echoed through the house, making all chatter about will stop. It also put all the spotlight on him, much to his annoyance. Billy internally sighed.

“Came to pick up shit bird, saw the dead demodog in the fridge, tagged along.” He shrugged. Ms. Byers immediately turned on the kids. “You put a dead demodog in my refrigerator?!”

Henderson looks attacked. “It’s a groundbreaking discovery in the field of science! I could buy you a new fridge to replace it after I make millions!” 

“Wait, how come you’re the one to gain credit for the demodog? You didn’t even kill it, you just had Steve stuff it in the fridge in a blanket!” Sinclair complains.

“You covered a demodog in one of my blankets too?! That thing is disgusting! I want it out of my house by tomorrow night.” Ms. Byers looks appropriately pissed off at this news, but Billy can see that she also looks very, very upset for a reason that is entirely not about her fridge. He doesn’t say anything out loud, but he projects his confusion about her to the poppy. He becomes alarmed when the poppy instantly droops, radiating grief and sadness that Billy loathes.

Bobby Newby, gone dead. Many many demodogs, gone. Love Bobby. Bobby Joyce love. Gone. His heart breaks at that. If not for the poppy, then for Ms. Byers. He didn’t quite acknowledge it until now, but it makes sense on how the poppy is here in the first place. A single, hardworking mother of two would have a hard time going out and getting a plant in her spare time, and even if she did, why would she? It’d be something else to take care of, even if it was easy. A poppy as a gift however, does make sense. 

Billy reaches out and gently strokes the leaves, projecting sympathy and love the best he can. Jane gives him a confused look at the action, but reaches out and starts stroking the leaves with him. This cheers the plant up significantly, feeling less upset, and Billy can’t help but smile at her gesture.

“Happy?” She asks him, looking at the plant. 

“Less sad.” He replies.

“Half-way happy.” Billy cocks his head to the side, thinking.

“Still hurting.” Her face falls a little at that, and Billy’s heart twists. He doesn’t exactly mean to be a Negative Nancy (ha), but it’s the truth. He won’t hide it from her.

She looks from the plant to him. “How?” 

“Whispers.”

“Bad?”

“Annoying, at most.” She nods, a faint smile on her face.

“Do you trust them?” Jane is looking that the group in the living room, completely forgetting about the pair in the kitchen, thank fuck.

He thinks about Sinclair, who made his sister upset and betrayed the Party by telling Max about the Upside Down. He thinks about Harrington, who was ready to fight him and lie to him about his sister's safety. He thinks about how Dustin lied to the rest of the party about his pet demodog, who Billy now realizes was the same demodog in the tunnels. He thinks about Hopper, who kept Jane hidden for a year without telling the people who grieved for her. He thinks about Johnathan, who stalked Nancy in the woods and took pictures of her. He thinks about Max, who hates him and would probably be happy if he was dead. 

“Can’t.” Jane looks very sad at this, but nods. He reaches an arm out and pulls her close, a sort of one armed hug. She curls into his side anyway, resting her head against his chest. “Trust you, though,” He murmurs. She hums in reply, eyes closing. Billy puts his chin on Jane’s head, and small gesture of protection and comfort. 

This day has probably been exhausting for her, it was for Billy and he didn’t do half of the things she did. She’d probably fall asleep here if Billy doesn’t do something. Though drawing attention to them at this moment probably wasn’t the best idea, he doesn’t really care. His sister had a long day and need rest. 

“Hey!” He called out, watching as the people in the living room turned around to face them. Several of them had immediate looks of annoyance, but all quickly turned into confusion and shock. Hopper narrowed his eyes at the scene, probably wondering what the hell Billy Freaking Hargrove, registered asshat, was doing practically cuddling his pseudo-daughter. “Jane’s about to pass out on me, is there a place she can sleep?” 

“She can take my bedroom.” Ms. Byers replies, looking a tad bit wary. “It’s the last one down the hall. I’ll show you.” Billy nods once, and carefully (ignoring all glares) scoops up Jane, who doesn’t protest in the slightest. She’s very light, he notices. Joyce leads him down the hall, and he hears footsteps following them. He sighs.

Upon seeing the bedroom, he pauses. It’s not exactly plain, but it’s not heavily decorated either. There isn’t anything personal except a picture frame or two, and it makes Billy’s heart ache, just a little. He gently sets Jane on the bed, who crawls under the covers despite being in overalls. He struggles not to smile.

“Okay, you can leave now.” Wheeler’s voice is behind him, and Billy rolls his eyes as far as he can without getting them stuck in his head. (He’s not sure if that’s true or not, but it’s a commonish saying that he’s picked up on.) Hopper is beside him, looking like he very much agrees. However, Billy gives zero fucks about what they want.

“I’ll leave when Jane wants me to leave,” He growls at the kid, who takes a step back. “Jane, do you want me to stay or leave?”

She doesn’t even hesitate. “Stay.” Billy smirks at Wheeler's gaping expression, who’s looking at Jane like she’s gone insane. Billy looks at Joyce, who’s been watching this all silently, for permission to lay down. She gestures the go ahead, and Billy begins toeing off his shoes and taking off his jacket. He sets the jacket at the end of the bed and carefully laying down next to Jane on the covers, propped up slightly against the pillows. 

Jane doesn’t hesitate to use him as a pillow despite the blanket boundary, and Billy is surprised by how much of a cuddle bunny she is. Billy hadn’t let anyone touch him for years, but Mom was patient with him. Hopper looks like he’s about to have an aneurysm, and it leads Billy to think that a cuddly Jane is probably an extremely rare thing. Wheeler looks rejected, and he rolls his eyes again

“There’s enough room for you to squeeze in, Wheeler. You don’t have to look like a kicked puppy.” Wheeler scoffs, and storms out of the room in a fit. Jane snickers beside him, and Billy is proud. Hopper is looking at Billy like he’s about to murder him now, and Billy thinks that he’s been wanting to sigh a lot today,

“I’m not going to hurt her,” Billy murmurs, gently playing with Jane’s damp hair. She’s begin to nod off already. A smile manages to creep on his face.

“Why does she like you so much, kid? I’ve never seen her do that with someone she’s just met.” Hopper looks genuinely confused, and Billy’s small smile falls off his face. He doesn’t respond for a while, thinking about what to say.

“We understand each other.” Billy says slowly, quickly looking  away from Hopper and back to Jane. “I want to keep her safe.” 

“We do too.” Ms. Byers whispers. “We lost her once, and though I don’t blame you for what you did Hop, more people wanting to keep her safe isn’t a bad thing.”

Hopper doesn’t say anything, but he gently sits on the bed beside Jane, who’s now completely asleep and curled up to Billy. “The kid’s been through a hell of a lot, Hargove. Actions speak louder than words, so if you mean what you say then you better damn well prove it.” 

Billy nods once, knowing more than well that words don’t mean shit in the long run. Ms. Byers gently pulls Hopper up and out of the room, saying something about how they need to talk to the rest of the kids about what happened. It sounds like bullshit to Billy, but he sees it for what it is. Ms. Byers is a blessing in disguise. 

Billy doesn’t say anything, gently playing with Jane’s hair as she sleeps. His eyes close involuntarily, and he finds himself falling asleep beside her, arms wrapped protectively around her.

Chapter Text

Coming to in the morning feels gentle. He’s somewhere in that state where he’s semi-conscious enough to know what’s happening, but not so far where is isn’t feeling the fuzziness of sleep. It’s a soft feeling. He’s still wearing clothes from last night, which makes him feel a bit odd but it’s ignorable. He can also feel somebody curled up into his side, and it takes him a moment to realize that Jane is still sleeping.

Billy’s always been an early riser, maybe too early to be natural. There’s something about the quiet moments before everyone gets up to live their life that Billy appreciates. He used to use this as the time to fix breakfast for Mom in the morning, if he wasn’t already out in the garden chattering away at plants. Now he uses his early rising as an opportunity to get out of the house in the morning before Neil wakes up-

Oh.

Oh no.

Billy jolts, now fully awake, and realizing that he most definitely did not come home last night with Max, and Neil is going to kill him.

“Shit shit shit,” Billy groans, rubbing his eyes with his free hand. The other is wrapped around Jane still, who’s starting to stir. Her hair is the most atrocious bed head he’s ever seen, and he’s seen his own. He gently unloops his arm from around her and slips off the bed. He shoves his feet in his shoes and throws his jacket over his arm before making his way to the door. He has to get Max home now.

“Brother?” Billy turns to see Jane propped up on her elbows, blinking at him sleepily and looking confused (and hurt). “Leaving?”

Ah fuck, he can’t leave like this.

He walks back over, giving her a quick peck on the top of the head. “Just for a bit, I’ll be back.” She grabs his hand before he can turn around, and he finds himself being scrutinized very closely. Jane looks at him for no longer than five seconds, but it feels like an eternity. She must find whatever it is she was looking for, because she becomes panicked and significantly more awake than before.

“No.” She says firmly.

“I don’t have a choice, Jane.” He feels like crying, all of the sudden. Jane must pick up on it too, so he figures his body language gave him away.

“Bad place?” She looks like she wants it to be any place other than that, and Billy wishes for that to be the case. He wants to tell her that actually, it’s a place that's somehow more hellish than the Labs, and every time he walks in the door he feels like death may come with one wrong action, one wrong move. Neil is unpredictable like that.

“Not the worst.” He says instead. “Come on, I’ll make food before I go.” She doesn’t look extremely happy, but she does perk up at the mention of food. He gently pulls her out of bed, making his way towards the kitchen. He can see Ms. Byers at the table, not looking very awake and sipping a cup of coffee. He wonders if she slept at all, or just stayed up the whole night instead.

“Good Morning Ms. Byers,” He says. She jumps a bit and looks at him, surprise written all over her face. “I don’t think I’ve introduced myself; my name is Billy Hargove.” He offers her his hand to shake, and she takes it. In a quick moment, some of his manners shine through and he gives her hand a small kiss on the hand before letting go. She looks a tad but ruffled at the gesture, but proceeds to talk to him, nonetheless.

“Joyce Byers, though you already know that.” She gives a weak chuckle. “Call me Joyce.” Billy gives her a small smile. Beside him, Jane’s stomach rumbles loudly beside him.

Right. Breakfast.

“Joyce, would you mind if I used your kitchen to cook breakfast?”

“Oh uh, yeah sure. Of course.” He drapes his jacket over a chair and begins making his way to the sink to wash his hands. The poppy, he notices, is back in its rightful spot and chirps happily when he sees it. He projects his happiness to the poppy, pleased when it straightens up a tad bit more.

“Do you ladies have a preference?”

“Eggos.” Jane says, and Billy grins.

“Do you have a waffle maker, Joyce?” Joyce shakes her head. “We have the stuff for pancakes though, if you want.”

“That okay for breakfast, Jane?” She looks a little sad at the lack of Eggos, but nods. An idea pops into his head. “Want to help?” Jane nods eagerly and gets up, jumping to his side.

Jane washes her hands too and the two of them set to make the pancakes, which after a bit of debate (Jane wins, obviously), they decide to make for everyone. Pretty much everyone is passed out in the living room in various heaps on the couch and floor, because a glance at the clock says it’s only 5:45. He doesn’t know how late they were out last night, but he wouldn’t be surprised if everyone slept in till noon.

Joyce had gotten up to help too, but Billy quickly made her sit down because “Joyce, you are a hardworking mother of two boys. Let somebody else do something for you. Just direct us to your ingredients.” She had merely given him a small smile and done as he said, probably to tired to protest.

Jane, he found, was extremely eager to learn how to cook, but was very quick to make a mess. He’s not entirely sure how he got flour in his hair and how she got batter on her face, but it makes the three of them giggle anyway. The pancakes are plain, because he has a feeling with as many people as their serving, they probably all have very different preferences for pancakes.

He finds it startling how easy it is to be relaxed around Jane. Joyce as well, who reminds him of Mom to a scary degree. He sees how slowly, some of the stress in her shoulders melts away as the three of them (mostly Billy and Joyce) hold a quiet conversation as they make a mess. She’s nothing like Susan, and Billy thinks that if anyone says that she’s a bad person he will have to strangle them.

“How do you know how to cook?” Joyce asks, looking at him curiously. Billy has just poured some of the batter on the pan into several even circles and froze upon hearing her ask that. He doesn’t answer right away.

“Mom taught me, a long time ago.” He says quietly, watching her reaction. Joyce seems to understand what he meant though, because her eyes look sad. Jane goes disturbingly quiet, and there’s nothing but the sizzling of the pancakes to be heard for a while. Billy pokes at one of them with a spatula, seeing that it’s a dark golden color underneath.

“Alright Jane, I’m gonna flip it.” Jane looks excited and watches intently Billy carefully and quickly flips it over. “Hot damn. Just have to be careful cause the pans hot. You want to try?” She nods and attempts to mimic what Billy just did, resulting in a very oddly shaped pancake, but a pancake, nonetheless.

“Hell yeah kiddo, fist bump?” He raises his fist and she looks confused. Right.

“It’s a thing people like to do when they do a good job at something, or as a greeting thing. You just bump your fist to mine.” She taps the top of his own fist with her fist, and Billy laughs. It’s not what he was expecting, but he enjoys it anyway.

They continue flipping pancakes, and a pile of them grow on the plate on the table. Joyce decides to help with the toppings, cutting several pieces of fruit and gathering several bottles of syrup from the fridge. The table, in the end, is now full of large stacks of pancakes, syrup, honey, cut fruit, berries, sugar, and other small toppings.

Billy places a few pancakes on a plate for Jane and Joyce, handing them off with a small smile. He takes some of them himself and he and Jane decide to make smiley faces with the fruit platter. Her pancakes have a scary amount of syrup, and Billy makes a mental note that she most definitely has a sweet tooth. His own pancake has honey, powdered sugar, and cinnamon on it.

“We did good, sis.” It’s quiet but full of pride, and Jane’s smile lights up the room. Joyce either didn’t hear them or decided not to say anything. Her own pancakes have a bunch of blueberries on it, with a little bit of syrup.

The whole morning has been incredibly domestic and peaceful, which is something that Billy hasn’t had in a very, very long time.

A quick look at the clock shows that it’s now 7, so people should be getting up soon. Billy’s not ready for the soft morning to be over just yet. He’s definitely not ready to be near so many children and generally bitchy people in the morning, and he’s not ready to drive to the house where Neil is, so he lets himself enjoy eating the pancakes with Jane and Joyce before facing the day ahead.

Chapter Text

The table’s peaceful as they all eat their pancakes, but Billy can hear someone stirring in the living room. He actually hears several someones and quiet cursing, so he figures somebody started moving under a dog pile and the rest are getting pissed off in a very sleepy state. Probably the Party Children, if he had to guess.

Jane and him share a look before giggling again. Her laughter is bright and happy, and it suits the peaceful and domestic morning so far, if you ignore Billy’s panicked awakening. He can hear someone stumbling up and about, and watches as Max stumbles in the room. Her hair is everywhere (Billy’s hair isn’t that much different from last night, he didn’t move much), and she squints at the scene in the kitchen before plunking herself down in the chair next to Billy. 

He’s a bit surprised by this, even if Max is usually nicer in the morning. “Morning,” She says yawning. 

“Hey Max, want a pancake or two?” Joyce asks her, ever the sweetheart. Max nods, so Joyce begins grabbing her some. 

“Did you make the pancakes?” She asks Joyce, who shakes her head and places a plate with two pancakes in front of her with a smile. “No, Billy and Jane were kind enough to make breakfast this morning. I just got out toppings.”

“Since when do you make breakfast for people?” Billy ignores the question, her very brief moments of niceness disappearing quickly. 

“We have to leave soon, Neil wanted you home last night.” He says, grabbing a small handful blueberries from a container. He offers some to Jane, who takes a few with a smile, before popping the rest in his mouth. He likes fruit, sue him.

“So? I don’t care, tell him I was at a sleepover.”

“Uh huh, and who’s sleepover would you be at?” 

“Just some girl from school.”

“You know that isn’t believable.”

“What the hell do you want from me Billy?! Just come up with some excuse to get Neil off my back, god knows how many lies you’ve told him!” Billy’s head snaps up at that, glaring at Max for all he’s worth. 

Max, he knows, doesn’t know shit about what Neil is really like. Neil is fatherly to her, he might even love her, but he’s not like that for Billy. He’s Billy’s own demon from hell, and he haunts Billy’s nightmares as much as the scientists from Cali do. She knows they have a tense relationship, and it’s true that Billy lies. But Neil is not his friend, and does not care for his well being in any way. From an outsider's perspective, Billy can see how it looks. A rebellious son who spends all the time he can outside of the house who isn’t on good terms with his dad who’s angry and worried about him.

But it’s not. He wishes it was.

“Don’t talk about shit you don’t understand, Max.” He spits out. Max looks ready to fight him, but looks down at the table instead, not meeting his eyes. Billy stares at the table, hands clenching in his lap. The table is silent for a while longer, and he feels Jane gently place a hand on his shoulder. He glances up to look at her, seeing her concerned expression. He doesn’t give her any answers, but she must know that Neil is the source of his distress. 

“I wanna hit the road before the rest of the Party wake up, I don’t want to deal with those brats for longer than I have to.” He says, not looking at either of them. Jane removes her hand with a quiet sigh. 

“You still owe us an explanation for your freak out in the tunnels, yesterday.” She mutters. Billy ignores her, but doesn’t finish his pancakes, appetite forgotten. 

Every time that he thinks about the Mindflayer, it becomes even more messed up. He doesn’t like the Party, he doesn’t even like most people, but he doesn’t want them dead.

That brings up the thought of Jane, again. Jane, who’s first response to seeing a distressed teenager in the woods is to start a conversation with them. Jane, who immediately upon seeing somewhat like her, stood up for him immediately and without question. Jane, who felt safe enough to cuddle him within an hour of meeting him. Jane , who fucking made pancakes with him and Joyce at 6 in the morning. 

The Mindflayer wanted her dead most of all. It seeked that feeling, It wanted to lavish in it, to feel the success that the one thing stopping it from accomplishing its sense of purpose. He can’t help but shiver at the thought of it, because it’s chilling to the core. 

That nameless feeling that it felt when Billy made contact with it is something he never wants to think of or experience again. He knows, deep down, that the Mindflayer most definitely is not gone, because that nameless feeling says many things, and failure is not one of them. Another quick glance at Jane next to him, who is staring at Max with a look of distaste, proves that yes, he can and will help them defeat the Mindflayer next time.

“I’ll just write it down.” He eventually says, poking at his mostly eaten pancake. The sooner he tells them, the better, right? “I don’t need to be here when they read it, we have to leave.” 

Max seems to realize that it’s the best she’s going to get from him so she sighs dramatically and exits the kitchen towards the living room, not even bothering to eat her pancakes. Bitch.

Billy turns to Joyce. “Do you have a pen and paper I can use?” She nods and hurries up to go grab him the supplies. 

“How’s your writing so far?” He asks Jane, who cocks her head to the side in thought.

“Messy and slow.” She says, looking a little embarrassed. He nudges her gently. 

“Don’t sweat it kiddo, it took my a long time to get where I am today.” In truth, Billy will probably never be where he could have if he raised like an ordinary child. He knows this, and it shows sometimes when he occasionally struggles to hold pencils, to focus on words, speak, and other things. He has words now, accurate words, but he notices they can’t cover as much meaning as feelings and actions do. Those, he also knows, are not so easily faked. 

Billy is smart, observant too, even if he doesn’t show or look like it. Body language and his surroundings are something he’s always familiar with. Easier to read people that way, and it can be useful when it comes to people like Neil. It’s looking at a person, determining if have any intent to hurt you within the immediate future, and going on from there. 

People aren’t usually trustworthy, and he doesn’t really want anything to do with them if he can help it. Being unpredictable while predictable is something that’s always thrown Billy off, and telling the people asleep in the living room what he saw is something he doesn’t want to be here for. He knows that they aren’t going to like it, but he doesn’t know what’s going to happen.

Joyce reappears (the angel) and hands him a notepad and pen. Billy takes it, thanking her quietly. He carefully holds the pen, trying not to think too hard about it, and begins to write. 

He doesn’t have a whole lot to write. Some of it simply can’t be written in words.

It’s dark and cold. We are very high, above Hawkins Middle. Demodogs howl in victory, and your bodies are in the field below.

You all are barely recognizable, torn to shreds and rotting. It wants all of you dead, and it wants this world. It wants Jane dead most because she is the only thing stopping it from succeeding. It won’t stop. It is still here.

He takes a deep breath, ripping this page out of the notebook and folding it carefully. He doesn’t mention the forest, somehow that feels too personal. He hands it to Joyce, who has been reading over his shoulder. Her hand is covering her mouth and he can see her shaking her leg anxiously, looking like she wants to hover over them both. Billy wouldn’t be surprised if that’s exactly what she decided to do, either. Jane had been carefully reading along with his writing as well, and looks defeated at the last line.

“I closed the Gate.” She whispers to him. “How is it still here?” Billy shrugs. 

“I’ll find out and tell you later, but I have to drop off Max at the house.” He stands up, cleaning all of their dishes quickly. Jane and Joyce don’t say anything, not even looking at him. Ignoring the still sleeping masses of people, Billy walks over to Max. She’s sitting on the ground, glaring at the floor like it’s done something to offend her. 

“Time to go shit bird.” She huffs and stands up before stomping out the door, closing it loudly behind her. More people begin to stir. Billy quickly makes his way to the kitchen. The poppy is chirping very sadly, and he gently touches the tops of the plant to soothe it, an unspoken promise that he will return.

“We have some of your equipment in my trunk, I’ll come back later to drop it off.” He says, now looking at Joyce, who looks sad. 

“Drive safely, you’re always welcome here Billy.” She says, giving him a small smile. He nods, and quickly turns to Jane, who immediately rushes up and hugs him tightly. He returns the hug, giving her a kiss on the head. “I’ll be back kiddo, don’t worry.” 

“Promise?”

“Promise.” Content with that, Jane slowly lets go. Billy grabs his jacket and walks out the door, waving once more.

 

Max is in the passenger seat, having not said a word since Billy started the car and drove away. It’s still fairly early, so there’s little to no traffic, and Billy takes it as a blessing in disguise as he completely ignores the speed limit of 45. The silence between them is heavy, but Billy doesn’t know what to say to her.

“Why’d you do that, back in the tunnels?” She asks quietly, taking a break from staring out the window to look at him. “You would’ve died, and it would have hurt a lot. You knew that too, but you tried to protect me anyway. Why?”

This is a heavy topic for a car ride conversation. One that Billy definitely does not want to crack open and lay out all before, undoubtedly, getting the absolute shit beat out of him. He’s not expecting them to immediately be on good terms after what happened, but it does hurt how suspicious she sounds about the whole thing. He can’t quite offer her the truth either. What does one say to their step sister, who is practically an intolerable long-term stranger, but who they would also die for without hesitation? 

Billy doesn’t know how she would take the truth: that, surprise, he does actually care about whether Max dies or not, and he wanted to give her a chance to live even if it meant he was ripped apart in the process. Billy doesn’t know how long he’s been quiet, but he knows as soon as he opens his mouth that it’s the wrong thing to say.

“I didn’t want the consequences of what would happen if you died.” Yes Billy, sound like a complete and utter douche.

Max looks furious, as she should, and she looks ready to punch him in the face. “You never care about anyone but yourself! You probably fed El lies just so you could get on her good side!” 

Billy slams on the brakes, making them both lurch violently forward considering he was going 70 miles per hour. The brakes are very displeased and shriek loudly as the car lurches to a halt. Max nearly hits her head on the dash, but their both wearing seat belts because Billy has an issue with speed limits. He knows the seat belt will bruise but he ignores it, it’ll just add to the collection later.

“Don’t you ever,” He grits out, “say that I manipulated Jane in any way, shape, or form. You don’t know jack shit about me Max, but know that I have no intention of ever hurting her.” Max stares at him with wide eyes, mouth pressed in a hard line and looking at him like she still doesn’t believe him. 

“You don’t know anything about El-” She begins, but Billy stupidly cuts her off.

“I know more than you.” He mentally face palms, because that is not something you should say to somebody who’s already suspicious of your intentions. Max looks a little uneasy. 

“How can you know more than me? You just learned about everything last night. ” He bites his tongue instead of replying. Right, playing the role of someone who knows jack and shit. 

Instead of answering, he starts driving down the road again, still ignoring the speed limit. Max looks like she wants to say something, but one look from Billy stops her. He doesn’t want to answer that goddamn question, because then he’d have to tell her everything.

 

When they get to the house, Max practically bolts from the car and into the house, slamming the doors behind her. Billy sighs. So much for a quiet entrance. He’s parked next to Neil’s car, so he knows that Neil hasn’t left the house yet.

He turns off the car and sits there for a moment, vaguely tuning in to how the forest is doing. None of them are feeling pleasant at the moment, and he doesn’t like it. Billy knows that they know what happens in the house, the plants are excellent at spying on people, and they hate it. He can’t do anything for another few months though, but as soon as he can Billy’s getting the hell out of dodge.

Making Neil wait is probably a bad idea.

He hurriedly gets out of the car, grabbing his jacket on the way out. He mutters a soft “hello, darlings” to the shrubbery around him before walking on the porch. He grabs the door handle and pauses, feeling the trees emotions pressing down on him. He can feel their rage, their sadness, their sympathy. 

Billy could choke on it.

He pushes down his own feelings of dread before opening the door.

 

Chapter Text

Billy’s never thought any house with Neil in it was a home. 

Neil carried this presence wherever he went, one that demanded you put your focus on him. It was odd, because everything about him seems almost normal. He’s average height (maybe a bit taller), a masculine build, somewhat handsome features, pays taxes on time, says hello to the neighbors, and also fools everybody damn well into believing he’s a decent person.

Billy didn’t fall for it, not even in the beginning. He’s spent too much of his life around those same type of people to be fooled. That being said, walking into the house feels like walking to his death.

Billy quietly shuts the door behind him, a stark contrast to Max’s slamming of the door. Then again, she doesn’t have anything to seriously worry about in this house. He gently places his jacket (keys inside) on the nearest available surface, and walks towards the dining area, where he suspects Neil might be.

Billy’s not wrong either, but he’s glad Neil wasn’t in the kitchen. Small miracles.

He’s leaning against a chair casually smoking a cigarette, Max is nowhere in sight, and he’s staring at Billy. Though perhaps glaring would be a more accurate description. He’s clearly been waiting for Billy too, and that’s not a good sign. He can feel his stomach clenching as Neil begins to walk (stalk) towards him.

“Do you remember what we talked about?” He breathes the smoke in Billy’s face as he steps even closer. The smell of smoke seems to cling to him, and Billy feels like it’s going to suffocate him. Neil continues to glare a hole in him.

“Respect and responsibility, sir.” Billy quietly states, looking at Neil’s icy gaze head on. It’s a rebellious move, not to mention a bad one, but Billy refuses to look anywhere else. He refuses to be weak, even if his slightly trembling body says otherwise.

“That’s right, we did.” His eyes spark with barely concealed fury and he grabs Billy by the shirt with his free hand, yanking him even closer. “Is that little stunt you pulled last night what you count as responsibility?” 

It’s a trick, and Billy knows it. 

“No, sir.” He whispers. Neil’s face turns furious then, and Billy braces himself.

“I guess I’m going to have to get the message through another way, then.” Billy jerks away, barely managing to hold back screaming as Neil shoves the burning cigarette into his forearm. (Billy allows himself to feel bitter knowing that if he hadn’t rolled up his sleeves to make pancakes this morning, it probably wouldn’t have hurt as much. Just for a moment, though.)

Burning feels different from other types of injuries. It’s sharp and piercing, and it rips away every other type of bodily feeling you have for a moment so you can only focus on that pain. It’s a distraction from everything else, and certainly enough of a distraction for Billy to miss the blow towards his stomach. Billy gasps, and Neil takes this as an opportunity to shove him to the floor, and he lands with a loud thunk .

“Fuckin’ pathetic.” Neil spits, looming over him. Billy clenches his eyes shut, and quickly covers his face. He knows what’s next, it’s been looming over him since last night. 

It’s all a cycle, in the end.

 

Time passes by. He doesn’t know how much, but he knows it must be a significant amount of time. Punches and kicks seem to rain down - that analogy has always pissed him off, rain is nothing like this - and Neil’s voice is barely heard over the blood rushing through his ears. Billy can’t pay attention to what he’s saying, but he gets the point Neil is trying to make. A last swift quick to his chest - he’s struggling to breathe - and the assault stops. Neil grabs his arms - they hurt so much already - and digs his nails in Billy’s skin, pulling him closer to Neil’s own face. Neil looks sympathetic, almost pitying. Never in a million years would it be sincere.

“You need to learn responsibility, Billy. The world is going to chew you and spit you back out without a damn.” He gently pets Billy’s hair - he whimpers at the touch - and gives him a small smile. It’s not kind. “I’m only trying to get you ready for the real world. That’s why you have to look after Maxine, Billy. She’s your sister, and the world is going to chew and spit her out too. You don’t want that to happen, do you?” The words are spoken softly, and sickly sweet.

“No sir.” His chest burns. 

“What’d you say? I couldn’t hear you.” Neil is toying with him.

“Yes, sir. ” Billy says louder, ignoring the burn. There’s burning in his eyes too, but he ignores it. Neil smiles, and it’s full of teeth. 

“Good. I really hope I don’t have to teach you another lesson in correcting your behavior, Billy. I’m only trying to help you.” Neil drops Billy’s arms, and he falls back on the ground with a small thud . “Get the fuck out of my sight.” 

Billy doesn’t hesitate to scramble up, stumbling his way towards the hallway. He spots Susan in master bedroom, not subtly watching from the door frame. She moves away as soon as Billy sees her, shutting the door quietly. Billy wants to scream at her.

He ignores it and continues to make his way to his room. His heart aches when he sees Max’s door shut, music blasting from behind it. Billy wants to scream at her too, even if she doesn’t know anything.

He shuts his own door quietly, resisting the urge to lock it. His body aches straight to his bones, and he wants nothing more than to sleep the rest of the day away. His legs are starting to give out on him, and he gently sits down on his own bed, hissing as his body screams in protest. Billy cries silently as he begins to take off his outer clothes, but he manages. He shoves them on the ground, and he feels even more tired than before. 

The cool air of his room soothes him, just for a moment. He pushes the covers aside and lays his back on the bed gently, crying out softly as he does so. He wraps the soft covers around him, a poor attempt to become one with his bed. 

Billy knows he will feel even worse if he sleeps, so he ignores his tiredness for the moment and takes a moment to think about his day. 

How was it that less than four hours ago he woke up cuddling his pseudo sister and making pancakes with her? And now his body, sans face, is covered in bruises and a painful-ass cigarette burn in the one place he’s supposed to feel safe?

Well. Nowhere Neil is is a safe place. That was a fact written in stone to Billy.

He feels safe with Jane though. He wants to keep her safe. But Hopper could keep her safe, and the Party too. She didn’t need Billy, but she sure seemed like she wanted him. 

Billy couldn’t keep Mom safe, but maybe he could change that with Jane?

It was worth a shot.

Billy was bitterly aware that he was starting to fall asleep, but he no longer fought it. He was too tired to do so.

 

Waking up was its own sort of hell. His body was rigid and aching, and every time he took a breath his chest and stomach burned. Billy knew if he moved anymore than laying down that it would hurt like fuck. He resisted the urge to sigh.

Sunlight streamed in through the window, so he must not have spent that long in bed. Neil was probably at work, then. Susan would be out, doing whatever it is that Susan does. Max would be home since it was a Saturday. Billy groaned at the thought, smushing his face into his pillow.

Fucking great. 

Well, no time like the present to face the day. 

Billy slowly sat up, twisting slowly to put his feet on the floor. He was already panting heavily, and his torso felt like he was being punched all over again, sore and tense. He ignored the stinging in his eyes, and tries to push himself off the bed. He tries multiple times before he’s successful, but his body feels like it’s about to collapse. Billy risks a quick look over his body and immediately regrets it.

His torso, legs, and arms are littered with dark, angry bruises. They’re primarily on his left side and middle area of his torso, and Billy can make shapes that can only be because of Neil’s boots. He even has a clear shoe print on his chest, for fucks sake. Billy can see some skin that isn't bruised, but everywhere hurts regardless. He can’t see his back, but he can feel some bruised there too.

His arms look less like a mess, but still not great. They have significantly less bruises, but there’s also the burn and small crescent cuts. Both of which Billy needs to make sure doesn’t get infected. The back of Billy’s legs are mostly fine, but the front looks just as bad as his stomach. He’s grateful that Neil didn’t go after his feet and hands this time. 

(A voice in the back of his head says that Billy got off very lucky, and if Max wasn’t there it would have been very, very worse.)

Billy sighs and makes his way to his closet, shuffling things around until he finds what he’s looking for.

It’s an old light blue sweatshirt, slightly faded from the wash and well worn despite being a size or two too big. The sweatpants Billy grabs are along the same lines, only instead light gray. 

Billy doesn’t often wear these clothes. He loves them, but hates when he has to wear them. They are, of course, something only usually worn on a particularly shitty occasion.

He grabs a pair of boxers too as an afterthought, and begins stumbling his way to the bathroom.

A quick peek down the hallway reveals Max still in her room listening to music, and Neil and Susan nowhere to be found. He lets out a deep breath and continues his way to the bathroom, hoping a shower will help him feel somewhat like a human being again.

 

The shower helps. The grime from last night and this morning are gone, and his hair is no longer a frizzy bedhead mess. He feels more relaxed, even if his everything is still hurting. Billy ponders if washing his bed is worth it, but decides he doesn’t give enough fucks.

Billy rifles through his bedside drawer, searching for Aloe Vera gel. His bedside drawer, because Billy has enough common sense, has a fake bottom he put there a long time ago. It’s extremely large, and it’s filled with things Billy definitely does not want anyone to go through. 

It contains simple bandages, a small notebook, a scary amount of oils, a shameful amount of homemade bruising balm that Billy is sure could kill a horse (literally. He should put some on Neil just for the hell of it.), and other ointments Billy makes. Billy did find it a bit morbid to use plants, but he could easily heal them in return. Win-win.

Mom had been very involved in home-style remedies, and Billy had picked up the methods involving plants very quickly. It has a lot to do with the fact that Billy would rather die than take anything from a doctor, and because understanding anything involving plants came to him naturally.

The notebook was full of said methods, detailing different uses of plants and different ways to treat injuries. Mom had put it together for him, a replica of her own notebook. It was something Billy valued more than himself. 

(He tries not to think about how she only gave him a copy after Neil came into his life.)

Billy finds the Aloe Vera gel, mentally giving himself a pat on the back as he carefully opens it. He pokes two fingers in and carefully dabs his circular burn, wincing slightly as he pokes it, but relishing the soothing effect it has on his skin.

Thank fucking God for aloe.

Billy puts it back, replacing the fake bottom on and piling the gross magazines he bought at the gas station on top. He just shuts the drawer when he hears a knock at the door. 

“What the hell do you want , Max?” Billy shouts, irritation clear. He is not in the mood to deal with her shit right now.

“I need a ride to the arcade.” She says, muffled. Billy resists the urge to throw something at the door. Not that he could do it well, but he could damn well try. 

“Go find somebody else, I’m not in the fucking mood to deal with you.” Max opens the door and pokes her head in, and Billy wishes for death.

“Nobody-” She breaks off, suddenly looking very confused. “Are you wearing sweats? ” Billy doesn’t answer the question, which has an obvious fucking answer.

“Why can’t you get a ride from someone else? You have all of the nerd’s parents and Harrington. Go bother them and leave me the fuck alone.”

“You just have to drop me off and then you can go do whatever you want!” She insists, and Billy tries to glare a hole in her.

“Fine.” He spits out. “Give me a minute to put on shoes, and then we’ll get the fuck out of dodge, okay?” Max nods quickly and ducks out, shutting the door. Billy sighs heavily, wincing at the aching in his torso at the action. He grabs a pair of socks and sneakers (yes, the comfiest pair) and slowly puts them on. When he finishes he walks towards the kitchen, grabbing the envelope of cash Susan left for them (at least she’s good for one thing) and walks out to the living room with as straight of an expression as he can.

Max gives him a weird look, so he grabs the keys from his jacket and dangles them obnoxiously in front of her. “Let’s get going, shitbird.”

As they walk out the door and into the car, Billy’s heart clenches at the sounds of anger and pain from the forest around him.

Chapter Text

The tension in the car makes Billy want to bash his head against the wheel.

 Their only interaction is Billy splitting the money silently between them and tossing Max her share. Max doesn’t say anything to that, instead resorting to staring out the window like she’d rather be anywhere else. Billy supports that wish wholeheartedly.

He hasn’t said anything, but his labored breathing is louder than he wants it to be. Billy rolls down the window and puts on loud blasting music to hide it, and if Max notices she obviously doesn’t have anything to say about it. 

Billy, for once, isn’t breaking the speed limit that much. His entire body burns and the bumpy road isn’t really helping. He’s not sure what he put in his stereo, but whatever it is is giving him a headache. The sunlight is pissing him off too, so he shoves a pair of sunglasses on his face.

When they arrive at the arcade, Billy spots Sinclair, Henderson, and Wheeler at the door, chatting among themselves. No Byers, so he must be at the Byers household resting. He pulls up in front of the entrance, and the kids eye him weirdly. 

He’s suddenly incredibly aware that he’s wearing fucking sweats, his hair is a mess, and he looks like shit. Billy has lost many Bad Boy Points.

Max bolts out the door as soon as he stops the car, slamming it behind her and starts making her way towards them. “I’m not picking you up, so find another way to the house, shitbird!” Billy calls out, driving away before she can respond. Billy watches her give him the bird in the rear-view mirror and snickers quietly. Billy knows after Neil’s whole thing this morning that abandoning her is definitely not a good idea, but he can’t find it in him to care right now.

 

Billy drives aimlessly for a while. 

He doesn’t really have a plan for today, and he’s feeling the exact opposite of active. He tosses around the idea with visiting his garden, his original plan for last night. However, he’s very clearly not in the shape to go trekking in the woods right now. They’ll be okay without Billy for a bit. They don’t really need him, he just likes taking care of them. 

That still leaves Billy for a loss of what to do. He’s bored, in pain, and fucking irritated at life. He’s also starting to get a bit peckish, and he should probably put ice on his bruises too. The Camaro also needs gas, since Billy’s wasting it all driving around in a pained haze. He groans loudly at the thought. 

All of these things can be solved with a trip to the gas station, so Billy makes his way to the nearest one, sighing heavily.

 

The gas station is somewhat in the middle of nowhere. Regardless, Billy still fills his gas tank and creeps in the building. Billy doesn’t see anybody except the clerk, who’s reading a magazine behind the register. He glances up at Billy before going back to his magazine. Small miracles.

Billy grabs a small hand held cart and heads towards the frozen section, grabbing the largest bag of peas he sees and tossing it in. He swipes a large bag of potato chips and a large assortment of candies, not really paying attention to what he grabs, and tosses those in too. He nearly cheers when he spots a slushie machine in the corner, and fills a cup with blue raspberry before heading to the counter to pay. 

He’s very slow moving, but he tries not to think about it.

Billy plops the cart on the counter, sighing heavily as he grabs the money from his pockets to buy his groceries. He’s momentarily thankful that Susan's guilt about Neil and concern for Max means Billy has a very generous amount of money at hand.

 The man finally looks him over once before putting down his magazine and scanning his items.

“Rough day, eh?” The man is older, with a fading salt and pepper hair line. He looks kind, almost grandfatherly. Billy blushes slightly when he realizes how he must seem like to the man - a teenager in old sweats with messy wind blown hair and shitty sunglasses, looking like death warmed over. Who is buying an absurd amount of comfort food and a frozen bag of peas. Yikes. 

The man doesn’t look at him with disgust, instead merely giving Billy a small smile and bagging the items quietly. 

“Nothin’ to be ‘shamed ‘bout. Some days are worse ‘n others, kid, but one day things’ll be better. 8.59.” Billy doesn’t say anything, instead merely hands over a ten. The register opens with a pop and Billy flinches slightly at the loud sound before scowling internally. He ignores the bitterness he feels at that reaction, instead watching as the man just rifles through the register and gives Billy his change. 

“Take care, son. I mean it.” Billy glances at his name tag, Alfred. 

“You too, Mr. Alfred.” He grabs the decently heavy bag and his slushie, making his way out to his car. 

It’s only when Billy is driving away and slurping his slushie that he realizes he feels a little better than before.

 

Billy absolutely refuses to go to the house. It’s only one pm, and Neil doesn’t get to the house until 7 on Saturdays. Instead, he drives over to the quarry.

It was one of the best places Hawkins had to offer. He recalls the story of Wheeler and Henderson being bullied with Jane later swooping in like a badass and he almost smiles. Jane’s been helping people since the beginning.

It’s surprisingly peaceful at the quarry, and better yet, there’s nobody around . Billy parks on the side of the road and grabs his slushie and junk stash before slowly making his way to the edge of the cliff. The plants are humming around him, coming to life in his presence. Billy would talk to them, but he needs time to himself right now, even if it’s stuffing his face with a bunch of junk and drinking sugar-syrup-ice in his favorite flavor.

Instead, Billy gives them a small smile and settles down at the very edge of the cliff, far away just enough to be safe but close enough to see the entire scene below. 

The water is mesmerizing, a dark flat teal that looked harmless, but Billy knew was anything but that. The cliff side exposed hundreds of different colors, being emphasized by the bright sunlight. If Billy squints hard enough, he thinks he sees small animals stirring the grasses down near the shore. Billy shrugs it off, and starts going through the bag of junk he bought.

It’s a lot of food. His bag of potato chips is set to the side as Billy begins to examine the candy he bought - Skittles, Nerds(his favorite), Airheads, Sour Patch Kids, and an assortment of chocolate bars. Billy grimaces when he spots a 3 Musketeer Bar. 

He searches for the frozen bag and slips it under his sweater, hissing when it touches him. It’s not pleasant, but it’s not the worst. Billy decides that everything fucking sucks when he opens the Nerds with some difficulty, and half of the box spills around him. He sighs heavily and begins eating the rest anyway.

It’s only when Billy has finished the blue raspberry slushie, eaten a box of Skittles, eaten the whole bag of chips, and had a whole other box of Nerds that he wonders if Jane has ever had candy before. The thought makes him pause, and he looks back in the bag. There’s a lot of fucking candy still, because Billy might have gone slightly overboard. Shrugging, Billy takes out the shitty ice pack from under his sweater, grabs his candy, and tries to stand up.

The key word is tries, because Billy realizes that sitting on the ground for a long period of time has absolutely done him no favors. His body screams in protest, and his stomach clenches harshly as he struggles to stand up. He falls back to the ground with an oof and hisses slightly when his back flares up.

Ow is an underestimate. 

Billy tries again, clenching his jaw and managing to stand up this time. He ignores the tears in his eyes and shuffles to his car, thankfully not too far away. He opens the door and gently sits inside, tossing the bag into the passenger seat. He pulls the door shut and sits there, listening to the high pitched ringing in his ears and wonders how the hell his life turned out like this.

It’s not fair. Nothing about Billy’s life has been fair. Nothing about what’s been happening to him should be happening, and yet it is and it hurts him anyway.

(A small voice nags at Billy, saying that there are some things that make it worth it.)

Billy glances at the bag of candy next to him, and the next step on his agenda is already laid out for him. He starts the car and drives away from the quarry, destination in mind.



Chapter Text

Billy thumps his fingers against the wheel, staring at the house in front of him. He feels a familiar restless energy buzz through him, and he resists the urge to scream. He hasn’t driven all the way here just to chicken out though, so he takes as deep a breath as he can manage, and gets out of the car as painlessly as he can, and walks to the front door slowly with the candy bag in hand. 

Billy has no reason to feel this anxious, but he raises a hand and knocks on the door anyway. He hears moving behind the door, over his loud internal monologue of fuckfuckfuckfuckfuc-

“Billy?” Joyce looks surprised to see him, but it quickly turns into a look of concern. “Is everything alright? Come in, come in!” Billy lets her lead him in, and she gently maneuvers him into the kitchen. She pulls out a chair and gently makes him sit down and grabs the bag from him, setting it on the table. 

(He thinks Joyce might have caught his wince, if the way her face seems to become almost afraid.)

Everything about Joyce is caring , Billy notices. But she cares like a two sided coin. On one side of the coin, Joyce looks like a sweet person, with her wide doe eyes and a soft smile, and her touches are gentle and loving, meant to make you feel safe and loved. The other side, though Billy has yet to personally witness this, is a fiery woman with eyes that burn with determination and a look that buries people in the ground, and her touches are protective and powerful because she’ll be damned if somebody of some thing hurts who she loves and cares about.

Joyce is a god among women and men, Billy’s pretty sure.

He thought, in the beginning, that maybe the ferns had given him a far fetched story about Joyce. He thought that maybe she had been a little crazy, and maybe she was but she was so determined to make things okay in this shitty town in the middle of Indiana that he wanted to shake everyone and yell, “ THIS WOMAN IS AMAZING AND I’VE ONLY KNOWN HER FOR A DAY!” right in their stupid faces. 

Mom wasn’t like that. Susan isn’t, even with Max. Neil isn’t, and never will be, like that.

Billy isn’t aware that he has been completely spacing out until a cup of tea(?) is set in front of him. Billy stares at her when she sets the poppy from seemingly out of nowhere in front of him too. 

(The poppy is very happy to see him, but very upset about his state of being. Word travels fast with plants.)

“I, uh, noticed you really liked my plant. The kids mentioned it last night, too.” Billy scoots his chair closer to the table and pulls the plant to him, humming quietly. 

“Thank you, poppies are one of my favorite plants. I mean, I love them all of course, but poppies especially.” Billy gives her a small smile. Joyce smiles back. Billy looks down at the plant and gently begins stroking it, hearing it give content chirps. He missed the poppy, and it hadn’t even been a day. Joyce is watching, and Billy finds that he doesn’t feel like he has to hide his affection for the plant, however weird it might seem.

The thought makes him pause.

Is telling two people in two days about his powers too much? He hadn’t told anyone outside of the Labs sans Mom.

He can trust Joyce though. She’s involved with the Upside Down shenanigans, and she’s kept quiet about that. She would adopt Jane on the spot, god forbid something happened to Hopper, even though she probably doesn’t know Jane that well.

He doesn’t want to hide his abilities where he doesn’t have to. He wants to trust her, even if it is the only and most ultimate test of trust. He has to think about it, before he makes any decision to do so.

“Billy?”

“I wasn’t born with that name.” Billy you fucking idiot-

“Is it short for William? I can call you that, if you want me to.’ Joyce looks so caring and trustworthy and Billy is gonna have an aneurysm. He continues anyway.

“It’s not William either.” Joyce looks confused, and Billy looks down. The words are on the tip of his tongue, and there’s no backing out now. His hands are starting to shake.

“It was Seven.” He whispers, peering back up at her. He watches her confused expression morphing quickly into one of understanding, and then horror, and Billy looks back down. “Hawkins isn’t completely one of a kind.”

He doesn’t know why he’s surprised when Joyce practically leaps at him to hug him tightly. He can’t hug her back, mostly due to the awkward position and his attempt to protect the poppy from getting crushed.

It’s an extremely sweet gesture, but fuck, it hurts. He must have made some kind of noise, because Joyce loosens her grip and pulls back enough to look at him. She looks him up and down, her eyes lingering in a few spots that make Billy grimace.

“You’re hurt.” It’s a goddamn statement and Billy had no fucking intention of telling Joyce anything that’s wrong with him when he came here, and yet all of this is happening within the span of 2 minutes. 

Joyce gently strokes his cheeks, wiping away tears he didn’t know he had. She pulls away and sits in the chair next to him, scooting as close as she can next to him. She gently takes one of his hand in hers and rubs it soothingly. Billy avoids looking at her. Her doe eyes will make him crack for sure.

“Where are you hurt?” She asks, worry evident in her tone. There’s no point in saying that he doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Billy can’t deny he isn’t, basically everything about him is saying that something is wrong wrong wrong -

“You’re hurt?” Jane’s voice is coming from the entrance to the kitchen, and Billy sees her eyes wide with fear. She’s in different clothes from this morning, and she looks stressed. (Billy files that away for later.)

Billy knew coming here was a bad idea.

“I’ll be alright kiddo.” The smile on his face feels fake. She walks over to him, looking him over carefully, and Billy can tell she sees right through that. It’s not exactly a straight up lie, because his bruises and burn will heal. Mentally is a completely different story. A lie of omission.

“I told you not to go.” Jane says softly, sitting in the chair to the other side of Billy. 

“I know.” He didn’t want to go. He never wanted to go. 

“Billy, what happened?  Who hurt you?” Joyce grips his hand harder, and Billy close his eyes, sighing quietly.

Fuck this. 

Fuck this so much. 

“I don’t want to talk about it.” It’s the equivalent of putting a band aid on a bullet wound, but it’s not a lie. Billy does not want to talk about this. His eyes are burning, and he ignores it.

“We can’t help you if you don’t talk to us, honey.”

“I don’t need any help” Billy snaps, glaring a hole in the table. “Everything’s fine, and I’m fine.”

Silence. 

“Sorry.” He whispers. They don’t deserve this. He ignores the wetness in his eyes, and pulls his hand out of Joyce’s, choosing to fidget with them in his lap. He waits for their reaction, his heart pounding harder.

“Okay, Billy.” Joyce says finally, sounding very, very tired. (Billy shoves down guilt.) “You don’t have to tell us about what happened. But I would like an explanation on what you, uh, said before. If you want to, that is”

Billy sighs, and reaches out to grab the tea(is it tea?) on the table. It’s still warm, and a long sip reveals it to be green blueberry tea. His favorite. Fun.

“Lets move to the couch.” He says finally. He stands up, breathing sharply at the action, and grabs his mug and the poppy. 

“Grab the bag, kiddo.” Jane nods, and grabs it. Joyce leads them to the living room, unnecessarily, and Jane and Billy sit on the couch. Billy sits cross legged on the farthest end, and Jane practically cuddles into his side, setting the bag next to her. Joyce sits in the chair next to him, curling up. 

Billy thinks they all look like a happy cozy kinda-family. Maybe they could have been a weird nonofficial pseudo-family, if the reason they were all gathered there didn’t make him want to vomit everywhere and Joyce had adoption papers. He wouldn’t mind.

He takes another long sip of tea before setting it on the ground (ow) and putting the plant in his lap. He doesn’t say anything, and instead listens to the silence around them, not yet ready to speak.


Billy’s grateful that people, as a whole, hate awkward silences. There’s something about them that makes you buzz with the desire to flee, but your curiosity keeps you there, pinned in place in anticipation for the next round of events with the hope that somehow, things will get better about why there’s an awkward silence in the first place. 

Life-altering changes are delivered with a silence, a hesitation, even a fraction of a moment before the inevitable bombshell is cracked upon on your life. Nothing is ever the same after, and you’re left with the mess that you have to deal with afterwards. Or don’t deal with at all, because some people see that as an option too. Billy knows that silence. 

Trust is shown is silence, too. The classic “Do you trust me?” followed by a pause. Hold that pause too short, it’s happily accepted. Hold it too long, and all that trust they had in you is tossed to the side with the doubt that you don’t trust them, so their going to not trust you first and then feel bad for themselves after instead of thinking about the reason of why you don’t trust them in the first place. Billy is hoping and praying that he isn’t putting his trust in the wrong people, or it’s going to kick him in the ass later. He doesn’t want to deal with that silence ever again.

Guilt likes to stew in silence. You can say so many things without saying anything. A wall of silence, laid over all your guilt and shame. You can’t really do anything with that type of silence, at least not for a while. You’re going to suffocate in it until your conscious kicks your ass into gear and you break the wall of silence with a hammer of your own creation, but not your materials. It doesn’t matter though, because the guilt is there regardless afterwards. It likes to creep in all the nooks and crannies, places you can’t clean them out from. Billy doesn’t think anything will ever make him clean again.

Billy has no idea what silence he’s in right now, sitting her between his self-adopted sister and closest mom figure he’s had in years. There are still so many types of silences. Billy can’t count them on his hands, not that he really wants to do something like that. Waste of time, in his opinion. Which is also not saying a lot because a lot of the things Billy does is a waste of time. Though it does bring the question if doing nothing or do anything is really a waste of time at all, when death is inevitable and life could be seen as therefore purposeless. 

That’s what everything is, isn’t it? Valueless in the long run, insignificant at the moment. Doesn’t feel like much when you have inevitable death trailing after you, or it can feel like everything matters. But everything meaning everything is equivalent to nothing meaning nothing. Or anything meaning nothing. Or nothing meaning everything. They really are all the same in the end, not that people will have the ability to know that after their dead.

So maybe the silences are significant. If everything is significant. Billy’s not really sure they are, so maybe nothing actually matters. 

He should really focus. His maybe-matters-maybe-not silence has dragged on for far too long. It’s showtime.


“Hawkins isn’t the only place where people like to experiment on kids. Back in California, people thought it was okay to do that too. I, uh, I didn’t get out till I was, I think seven years old?” He laughs humorlessly. “Always found it ironic that that was my name too. They didn’t- I don’t think they knew exactly what I was capable of. Not in the first few years. 

“At that point I didn’t know anything, everything they did was just the normal to me. The blood tests, the EEG scans. Sometimes they’d just set something down in front of me and leave the room. It’s when they first set a plant in front of me that I became interesting to them. They kept testing me after that, trying to see what makes me tick and what other potential I have. Some they deemed worthless, others too dangerous for anybody to be around but me” He breathes in slowly, reaching down to pet the poppy in his lap. The plant has been giving him gentle reassurances since he started speaking, and he’s grateful.

“What- what can you do?” Joyce asks, looking simultaneously horrified and curious. Billy smirks.

“I’m really good with plants.” He holds the poppy up. It has several almost snapped stems, probably from Joyce’s hug ambush. He hums, and begins to pet the plant. The stems begin to straighten themselves, successfully healing, and growing before their eyes. The poppy, the clingy thing that it is, wants to wrap around his fingers. He allows it do what it wants, and smiles when it chirps happily.

“Happy happy happy, safe Billy safe Joyce safe Jane BillyJane JoyceBilly Joyce Jane Billy Billy safe together us yes yes us love love mine together.” Billy chuckles quietly. 

“Yeah, yeah. I love you too.” Joyce’s gaping mouth makes him smirk at her, and he watches as the poppy begins to wrap around his wrist entirely, roots and all. The pot is now empty of the poppy, and he clicks his tongue. He sets the pot in his lap and gently kisses the still moving plant. Joyce and Jane are staring at him.

“Poppies are clingy.” He admits, watching as it continues to possessively curl around and around his arm. “It’s fine without the soil as long as it has me, I won’t let anything happen to it.” He looks up at Joyce.

“It loves you, ya know.” Joyce looks surprised, and a little happy. 

“How do you know? Like how can you do that?” Jane reaches over and begins to pet the poppy, giggling as it begins to wrap around her hand. Billy shrugs, watching the interaction.

“Plants don’t talk verbally like animals, but they definitely speak. It’s mostly pheromones I think, because they express more in concepts and feelings than individual words. They all do it differently too. This poppy, for example, is extremely different from General Sherman, that giant sequoia in California. Mom took me to visit it once.” Billy smiles at that memory. 

“Is that all, or…?” Billy shakes his head.

“No. Apart from communicating with them and sensing where plants are, I can manipulate their DNA. I’m not entirely sure how that works, but it was definitely something that the scientists were very interested in for all the wrong reasons, and why I was considered very dangerous.” Very dangerous.

Joyce nods, even though Billy doesn’t think she really understands what he means by all the wrong reasons and very dangerous , and they both watch as the poppy completely maneuvers its way into Jane’s hair. Billy bursts out laughing at it’s ridiculousness, the pain worth the ridiculous look of her head.

“I love flower crowns and all, but I don’t think their supposed to look like that.” Jane giggles, and Joyce gives them a large smile. Billy reaches over and runs his hand through her hair, collecting the poppy gently and giving Jane a birds nest for a head. He digs a hole in the pot and gently places the plant in there, pleased when it obeys and begins to settle down. He covers its roots back in soil and turns to look at Joyce, who’s watching him with a soft expression.

“What?” He asks, suddenly feeling self conscious. Joyce just smiles. 

“Nothing.”