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Summer in Hawkins smells like coconut sunscreen, like creamsicles, like fresh cut grass. Underneath that, it’s chlorine and car exhaust, and a little bit of mold and mildew, too.

It smells, Billy thinks, like new beginnings. Like sunshine. Like freedom: pure and simple.

“Looking sharp, Harrington,” Billy says, from his shady spot lounging behind the reception desk of Hawkins Pool.

Heather’s relaxing next to him, an old and threadbare Hawkins Football ‘83 tee over her bright red swimsuit, It’s tied up in the middle, right above where her belly button sits, leaving her looking, somehow, like she’s wearing fewer clothes than if she were just wearing the suit. Every guy between twelve and eighty who checks in at the desk also checks her out, while she snaps bubblegum in their faces and glares from behind her shades.

Harrington, with his gaggle of kids behind him like a perpetual shadow, likely does the same. He’s wearing sunglasses today, like always, so the line of his gaze is hard to follow. But he’s a guy, and Heather is Heather, so Billy can extrapolate from there. Some of the kids with him check her out, too -- but they’re probably about twelve anyway, so that’s inevitable, too.

“Hi Heather,” Steve says with a smile, leaning up against the desk. And then, like this is a practiced routine, Steve drops the smile and the pretence before turning to Billy: “Hargrove.”

It’s a pity Steve’s leaning up against the desk, because Billy wasn’t being sarcastic a second ago: Steve does look sharp today. His swim shorts are short and bright, regulation red just like Billy’s, and those are good, yeah -- but the shirt’s new, and that’s what originally caught Billy’s eye as Steve approached from the lot. It’s nothing complicated, just a heather grey crop top, but it’s cut so that Billy can perfectly see the long lines of Steve’s abs, the gentle slope of his stomach. It’s not the kind of thing Steve normally sports, and Billy’s very much in favor of the change.

It’s almost approaching fashionable, even.

“Heather’s busy,” Billy says, and puts on his best smile. “How can I help you?”

Heather pops a bubble of gum and pulls out a nail-file. Steve, for one second, looks affronted. Then, it disappears.

“I’m here to see what time my shift’s at tomorrow. I called, but literally no one is picking up the phone.” He smiles tightly. “Now I see why.”

Behind him, one of the kids agrees with him. Dustin, Billy thinks it is. Billy ignores him.

“You could just read the schedule board yourself,” Billy says, pointing at the whiteboard behind the desk.

“Oh, could I?” Steve says. “Because some asshole keeps moving my shifts around and then I get written up for not being at work on time.”

“Wow, what a dick move,” Billy says.

He twirls a white-board marker around in his fingers and over his knuckles.

“Jesus Christ,” Steve says.

See, the thing is: Steve looks really great with bedhead, which is one of the reasons some asshole keeps moving Steve’s shift’s around. When Steve comes running into work, hair disheveled and eyes still cloudy with sleep, it’s honestly the guy’s best look. It’s like Billy just rolled over in bed and Steve just happened to be there, looking grumpy and sleep deprived and already pissed.

It’s addictive, really.

“You’re on desk duty at 6am with me tomorrow, and then we rotate ten to two.”

The kids are pulling at Steve, trying to tug him into the safety of the locker room. They’re insistent little shits, greedy for Steve’s time and attention. Billy relates, honestly, but it’s still annoying as hell.

Steve lets them move him, because it’s impossible to truly fight a force of nature, but he does stall the inevitable by hovering in the door to the lockers, eyes caught on Billy, even from behind those sunglasses. At least now, Billy knows exactly where Steve’s looking.

“Hargrove, you know I hate mornings. I switched with Troy to work afternoons this week.”

Yeeaah,” Billy drawls, tonguing his bottom lip as he makes no attempt to sound truthful at all. “Turns out Troy’s busy.”

“God, I hate you so much.”

With one last tug, Steve disappears into the locker room and out of Billy’s view.

--

As much as Steve Harrington hates Billy, he sure does seem to bum cigarettes from him an awful lot.

“Shouldn’t someone be at the desk?” Billy asks, passing over his pack and lighter to Steve. He’s not complaining, obviously -- but he’d be remiss not to offer at least a token protest. He’s not dumb.

“Honestly?” Steve says as he breathes through his first drag of the cigarette, “I made Dustin sit there in exchange for giving him a ride home.”

The air smells like a storm is brewing. Billy can see it on the horizon, can feel it in the stillness of the air. Out behind the supply shed -- the designated smoking area -- it’s quiet. It’s already seven twenty, and the pool closes at seven forty-five; at this point, they’re not even really supposed to be letting in new visitors. The desk only needs to be manned for the purpose of telling people to screw off, which Billy thinks Dustin is fully capable of. What kid doesn’t like the power trip of undue authority?

“Saw you chatting with Tammy while you were on the stand,” Billy says, blowing his smoke in the direction of Steve’s face just to get Steve to look affronted, which -- as usual -- works.

Steve chuckles anyway, though. Affronted, but unfussed. “Tammy Thompson?” He takes a drag and looks a little thoughtful -- though Billy knows that half the time Steve does that, it’s just for show. “She’s nice and all that, but I’ve got a friend who’s into her. Besides, she wasn’t flirting. She wanted to know if I could babysit her little sister.”

Billy laughs, loud and delighted. He can’t help it -- Steve’s game has plummeted since graduation. Sure, half of that is because he’s been working with Billy all summer, and when Billy is around? No one else can even compete. It’s just a fact of nature. Steve’s body is nice and all for the casual onlooker, but Billy spends hours a day working out. Steve? Steve plays DnD with a bunch of twelve year olds and gets ice cream from the mall.

“So, do you have a hot date with Tammy’s little sister?”

Steve pushes Billy’s shoulder, hard. “Gross, man. No, I told her I was busy.”

“Are you?”

Steve rolls his eyes. “No, I just don’t want to. It’s not like I actually babysit for the kids, or anything.”

“So you just hang out with them. Like friends.” Billy grins.

“Shut up,” Steve says. “They are my friends. Whatever, man. You wouldn’t get it.”

Steve’s mood shifts with that, levity bleeding out from his tone until it’s flat and serious. It’s not exactly what Billy wanted from his little smoke break with Harrington. These are precious minutes.

Honestly, Billy’s not entirely sure how this little tradition of theirs even started. It just happened; one day, while Billy was smoking during a break, Steve had just joined him. No words, no nothing. He’d just bummed a cigarette, smoked in silence, and left. Before that, they hadn’t spoken since basketball season ended, and only a little bit since Steve got the job at the pool, a couple weeks after Billy. After a couple cigarettes shared in silence, the quiet shifted into occasional talking, and that shifted into something a little bit more amicable. Something teetering on the verge.

They’re not exactly friends, because Steve still hates Billy’s guts and Billy’s still pretending to hate Steve’s -- but it’s something, anyway.

“So you’re saying you don’t get paid…?” Billy says, tone jovial and friendly, trying to fix it.

Steve sighs. “Okay, I mean, Ms. Henderson and Mrs. Wheeler do pay me for gas…”

With that, Billy cackles.

Steve laughs a little bit, too.

--

Billy swims sometimes at night. He scales the fence at the pool and dives into the clear bright water and loses himself in it.

With no one else around, no prying eyes and no need to posture, he can be free.

--

“Uh, hi?

When Billy looks up, there’s an ashy-blonde chick leaning on the counter, looking annoyed.

“Can I help you?” Billy asks.

“I’ve been standing here for, like, two whole minutes.”

She’s pretty, Billy thinks, in a no-makeup, natural sort of way. Her hair looks air-dried and her freckles stand out for that perfect girl-next-door look. She looks real, in stark contrast to how most of the girls who lean up against this desk to try to get Billy’s attention usually look. Then again, given the annoyed frown on her face, she doesn’t exactly seem to be trying to get Billy’s attention in that sort of way.

Billy points lazily to the bell on the desk. He taps it with the stub of a nail.

She scowls. “You are literally right here,” she says. “Why would I have rung the bell?”

“Still,” Billy says. “Ring bell for service.” He repeats the little hand-written note taped on blue paper underneath the bell.

She gives him a look, raises her eyebrow, and then slams her hand down on the bell.

“Yeah, we’re already talking,” Billy says, sneering. She’s got attitude. He appreciates that.

“Yeah, and I was just making sure you were paying attention,” she says.

The nametag on her shirt says Robin. Her face looks vaguely familiar, in the way that everyone in a small town looks familiar, which means she’s maybe a year or two behind him in school. It means she’s not popular. It means she’s not worth Billy knowing who she is.

“Daily pool passes are a dollar if you’re over 16,” Billy says, already looking down to doodle something deeply unimportant on the calendar spread out over the desk.

“Yeah, I know, asshole. Is Steve here?”

It shouldn’t have Billy immediately looking up with his eyes narrowed, but it does. She smiles pleasantly at him, waiting for an answer. It’s the same sort of smile Billy gives people when he’s trying very hard not to tell them to screw off, but in an amused sort of way. Like she’s laughing at his reaction. And Billy -- well, he doesn’t really like that at all.

“He’s on the stand. What’s it to you?” Billy tells her.

He probably should’ve just gone with the usual, How can I help you instead? with his patented charming smile, but honestly he’s a little thrown. Sure, girls come by to flirt with Steve on occasion, because everyone’s a sucker for a lifeguard (especially when they can’t get Billy’s attention), but they don’t often come up to the counter to go so far as to ask if Steve’s working and they don’t come by acting like they’re friendly. Steve, from everything Billy has gathered, doesn’t exactly have friends who aren’t kids.

“I just wanted to say hey.”

With that, she plops four quarters down on the counter, snags a pool pass from behind the desk before Billy can stop her, and disappears into the women’s locker room.

Maybe it is worth knowing who this Robin chick is.

--

“How’d you get this job, anyway?”

“Remember that big explosion at the mall?” Steve says, blowing smoke up toward the sky.

“Yeah? You cause it and then threaten to burn the pool down, too, if they didn’t give you a job?”

“Shut up, asshole.” But Steve chuckles, anyway. “I had a job there, in the food court. But then there was that whole underground explosion and,” he shrugs, “well, no more mall, no more job. That’s why I started working here like a month later than everybody else. Anyway, the managers here probably felt bad that I lost my job and took pity on me.”

The spot where Starcourt Mall used to be is now some high-security government-only restricted area. There’s all sorts of theories about what happened, but Billy’s pretty damn sure it was a gas leak. The place was built way too quickly for anything to have been up to code. It’s definitely a way more plausible theory than the other’s he’s heard, one of which involved Russians and a secret underground base. Which is just -- seriously paranoid. Grocery store tabloid kind of crazy.

“That shit’s weird,” Billy says. “This town’s weird.”

At that, Steve outright laughs, loud and unbridled. Like Billy knocked something loose.

“You have no idea how weird it is,” Steve says.

He’s smiling like he has a secret. He’s glowing with it, whole face lit up. Billy should care what it is, but he doesn’t, because he’s a little too lost in Steve’s smile, in the way Billy made him smile, to even care.

--

Busy Saturdays are Billy’s favorite. Sure, the work is harder, there’s more screaming kids and more shit to keep track of, but they’re busy, which means there’s always two lifeguards on shift at the same time, from nine to five. Which means, as long as Billy plays his cards right with Troy (who desperately wants Billy’s validation, so that’s easy) and Heather (who has a soft spot for him, even though she’s a stuck up bitch), Billy and Steve end up on every shift together, every Saturday.

Which means Billy gets to stare at Steve basically all day long.

While he makes sure no one drowns, anyway.

But he barely even has to do that, either, because Steve’s always watching the pool like a hawk, making sure all the kids are safe. The guy’s kind of weirdly stringent about pool safety, honestly. Billy could ask, but the only time he ever got even close to the topic, Steve got strange and quiet, so Billy let it drop. His conversational time with Steve is too precious to sour with heavy shit like that.

If they were friends, maybe. Maybe Billy would ask.

As it is, Steve keeps a very careful eye on the pool every day, which means that on Saturdays, when Billy and Steve miraculously end up on shift together, Billy gets to spend his days watching Steve. It’s basically like a day off with his favorite eye-candy, but he gets paid for it.

It’s overcast today, hovering steadfastly in the mid-eighties. Perfect weather, really. Steve’s sporting the new crop top again, which has made an appearance pretty damn frequently since he got the thing. He’s clearly gotten a lot of compliments on it, because he’s definitely made the connection that he looks good in it. Which is more than Billy can say for some of Harrington’s fashion choices -- not that anything ever prevents Billy from looking at Steve (though sometimes he looks and judges, like every time Steve tugs a pastel polo on over his wet hair in the locker room).

Steve’s hair has gotten shaggy for the summer. It’s in a constant state, volumized from the onslaught of chlorine and Steve continuously running his fingers through it. If Billy dreams about running his own fingers through it, too -- well, no one’s any the wiser.

There’s a bunch of kids playing Marco Polo in the shallow end, and some rising sophomores and juniors hanging out in the corner closest to Billy. Likely, from the way they keep posturing, trying to get his attention. He ignores them, though, never truly tilting his head in their direction. There are way nicer things to look at -- like Steve Harrington, yawning and stretching up underneath the shade of his umbrella, all the muscles in his stomach flexing and on display in his little crop top.

Billy fucking loves Saturdays.

He zones out for a little while, just watching Steve work. He doesn’t blow the whistle as much as Billy normally does, but he does shout at kids for running on the deck or roughhousing in the pool. And honestly? He’s kind of a dick, which is one of Billy’s favorite qualities about him. Sure, he’s nice (mostly) to the kids he knows, the ones he calls his friends, but he’s still an asshole to just about everyone else, Billy included.

He’s fiery, snarky, and altogether too prissy. Fussy, really. And cocky. A little too cocky, definitely, for someone who didn’t end up working in his father’s office right out of school. For someone who didn’t get into college. But that’s fine, because if Steve was working in his father’s office, he wouldn’t be working here. And if he got into college, maybe he wouldn’t have a summer job at all, too busy partying it up with all the other rich kids (except for Heather, who’s just as snotty as Steve is sometimes). And then, Billy wouldn’t get to see Steve basically every shift.

Billy’s taking a year off before college to save up. Which really just adds up to more time in Hawkins around King Steve.

The trill of Steve’s whistle snaps Billy out of his thoughts. His eyes snap in the direction Steve’s currently yelling in (after lingering for another moment longer), just to check. He catches some kids play-fighting next to the pool. Nothing important, nothing Billy has to actively deal with.

Behind them, though, is the cluster of Steve’s kids. He isn’t quite sure why he looks over at them, at first. They’re not doing much, just lazing around on pool loungers, eating some sort of snack that’s not strictly allowed so close to the pool. But Steve hasn’t yelled at them for it, yet, and Billy won’t, not when Steve’s here to be unimpressed about it, so.

Anyway, he’s not sure exactly why he looks at them, that is, until his eyes land on Max. Who is, unapologetically, staring right back at him. She’s wearing some cherry red shades, but that doesn’t hide the direction of her gaze right now, and it definitely doesn’t hide the smirk she’s wearing like some sort of prize.

Billy doesn’t like that look on anyone when they’re looking at him, but especially not from his sister. He doesn’t need her looking at him like she knows something.

They’re on better terms now, but that doesn’t mean Billy trusts her.

He looks away with a frown, turning his gaze back to the pool. He knows better than to look directly at Steve right now, with Max watching him like that.

But Billy can only resist temptation for so long. It’s habit, at this point. Or maybe closer to an addiction.

A little while later, he feels eyes on him, a creeping sensation on the back of his neck. When he snaps his gaze over to Max, to catch her in the act, she looks back at him, unapologetic. Still smirking.

Shit.

She’s definitely watching him watch Steve.

--

“Who’s that chick?” Billy asks on a drizzly Tuesday.

“Which one?”

Which one -- like Steve’s got them lined up like this is some sort of county fair. Like this is that shitty Fourth of July festival that Neil and Susan dragged the whole family to, the one where Billy had to chaperone Max and her stupid boyfriend (not my boyfriend, Billy, I dumped him!) just so they wouldn’t run into Neil. The one where he had to wait in line for fifteen minutes just to get on the Starship 2000, the only ride worth ever going on (though it was kind of fun following the kids into the haunted house afterwards and making Max’s not-boyfriend scream like a little girl while Max laughed).

“Blonde, no makeup. Kind of a bitch. Came in asking for you the other day.”

Billy remembers her name, but that’s definitely not something he needs to advertise.

Steve laughs. “Robin? What about her?”

It’s easy to put on a sleazy smile, to lick his lips like he’s hungry. “She single?”

Steve doesn’t just laugh at that -- he snorts, and then laughs, louder than before. “You’re not her type.”

“I’m everyone’s type,” Billy says, even though he knows that’s not true. The evidence of that is standing right in front of him, smoking a cigarette from underneath the minimal cover that the overhang of the supply shed provides from the rain.

As Billy watches him, Steve drops his cigarette to the ground and stomps it out underneath the sole of his flip flop. He tugs something free from where he has it tucked between his bare skin and the elastic of his trunks.

“You want one? They’re probably still mostly frozen,” Steve says. It’s a Twix packet, condensation beading on the golden wrapper.

“Sure,” Billy says, dropping his own cigarette. He had been lingering, smoking it all the way down to the filter just for more time with Steve, but this is another excuse to linger. Unexpected, but certainly welcome.

Steve passes one cold bar over. It’s a little warm and melted on one side, from being pressed up against Steve’s body heat, but when Billy sinks his teeth in, it’s still crisp and frozen on the inside. Sweet and delicious.

“Anyway, could you be any more egotistical, Hargrove?” Steve says, mouth half full of chocolate. “Sure, you’re hot shit, but you’re not literally everyone’s type.”

Billy grins, wide and delighted. He would be remiss not to, really; he has a reputation to uphold. “You think I’m hot shit, Harrington?”

It wins him a roll of Steve’s eyes and a shove at his shoulder, Steve’s hand against Billy’s bare skin.

“You’re such a piece of work.” The words are harsh, but they sound almost fond. Exasperated, but not angry. Not laced with the sharp acidity that used to coat Steve’s every word to Billy.

“Yeah, and you’re still hanging out with me. What’s that say about you?” Billy says, popping the remainder of the Twix bar into his mouth.

He licks the melted chocolate from his fingers while holding eye contact with Steve. Steve watches him in silence, those big brown eyes dark underneath the eaves of their shelter. Then, when Billy’s done with his show, Steve rolls his eyes again.

They should be heading back inside. But it’s raining, and Billy aches to linger.

“Clearly I’ve got bad taste,” Steve says. “Hey, can I get another cigarette?”

Billy nearly fumbles the pack in his haste to pass it over.

--

Max catches Billy looking at Steve the next Saturday. She doesn’t say anything about it, but she smirks and raises her eyebrows at him with a look, like the little know-it-all shit that she is.

Just for that, Billy eats the last waffle at breakfast the next morning.

--

A week later, Tammy Thompson is literally hanging off Steve’s lifeguard stand while she talks to him. Steve’s all smiles, pushing hair out of his face, throwing on that good old Harrington charm. She’s laughing loud enough that Billy can hear her from where he’s standing at the snack bar, trying to chug down a Dr. Pepper while also staring at them like some sort of spectacle.

Billy feels sick.

He wants to charge over there and push himself between the two of them, wants to yell at her to get away from the stand. He wants to be the one sidled up to Steve, he wants to be the recipient of those patented grins.

Billy wants and wants and wants.

--

Desk duty in the late afternoons sucks if it’s quiet. Billy’s not allowed to have any magazines or books behind the counter, so when he’s on shift alone he’s left with nothing to keep him entertained except for his own thoughts, which have been circling around Tammy Thompson’s stupid laugh for days.

Coincidentally, Harrington’s also been off, scheduled for his ‘weekend’. Billy couldn’t even move him around on the schedule, because Steve requested these days off, bitching for about an hour about some family thing he doesn’t want to go to. His absence is only made slightly tolerable knowing he’s probably having a shitty time dealing with his parents, who apparently, from everything Steve’s said before, are rarely ever even around.

Which is why Billy nearly jumps out of his skin when Steve surprises him at the desk.

“Are you asleep?” Steve says, out of fucking nowhere.

Billy had been leaning back in his chair, feet kicked up on the desk and hands behind his head. His eyes were closed, yeah, but he wasn’t asleep. He was just zoning out, trying to pass the time. Thinking about Steve, as always.

He catches himself, though. Swallows down any reaction.

“Decided to grace us with your presence on your day off?” Billy says, instead of actually answering the question.

“The thing at the country club ended early, so I figured I’d pick the kids up.”

That does explain why Steve looks a little more put together than usual. Billy hadn’t noticed before, too busy careening from being startled, a little dizzy from Steve manifesting right in front of him, straight out of Billy’s thoughts.

Billy whistles and leans forward, making a show of giving Steve the up-down look over. “King Steve, dressed to kill.”

For once, Steve is perfectly pressed. Or -- he was, presumably, at the start of the day. His baby blue button-up looks freshly ironed, but at this point the sleeves are rolled up and the top couple buttons are un-done. His khakis look new, unscuffed and perfectly pressed, fitted just so to hug him in all the right places. Billy would bet there’s a blazer in his car to finish off the look, maybe even a tie.

It’s not quite as enticing as the crop top, but the look is definitely up there. Especially with the way Steve looks now, like he’s just totally done with the day.

“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up, Hargrove.”

“Does it look like I’m laughing?” Billy asks. When Steve says nothing, Billy just shrugs. “It’s a good look, is all I’m saying. Maybe you’d get more ass if you dressed like this once in a while.”

“I get plenty of ass,” Steve says.

And then, unprompted, he hoists himself onto the counter, swivels, plants his feet on the lower desk, and just sits there.

“What, are you settling in?” Billy asks, looking up at him, wondering if Steve actually is going to grace Billy with his presence.

Steve shrugs, lazy. “Sure, why not? It’s way quieter out here than by the pool. The kids won’t harass me here because they’re scared of you.”

Billy huffs out a laugh. “Good. They should be.”

“You know, you’re way less of an asshole than you used to be,” Steve says. “You’re practically docile.”

Billy flicks Steve in the leg, hard enough that Steve yelps out a “Hey!

The thought that Steve thinks he’s docile is truly absurd.

“You take that back,” he warns. “If I hear anything about me being fucking docile…”

“My ass is grass?” Steve says. “Yeah, I figured. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t dream of ruining your rep. After all, isn’t that what I’m hiding behind right now?”

Steve sounds kind of pleased with himself, but Billy doesn’t get why. Maybe he feels like Billy’s allowed him some sort of look behind the curtain at who Billy really is. Which is funny, because Billy’s not nice, he’s just got a soft spot for big doe eyes and swooping brown hair. Harrington’s just kryptonite and around him, Billy goes weak.

He’s definitely soft for Steve, he knows. And he knows it’s bad, because if it wasn’t, Billy wouldn’t be obsessing over someone like Tammy Thompson. Because Tammy Thompson is like the polar opposite of what a threat should be, unpopular and not even all that pretty when it comes down to it, but somehow Billy still is.

And, because Billy’s weak, because he’s got absolutely zero spine and he’s never met restraint, he goes: “So, Tammy Thompson, huh?”

Steve’s face goes a little dumb at that, like Billy just spoke a different language. His nose scrunches up and he gets a crease right between his eyebrows that tells Billy he’s thinking, but hasn’t exactly caught on to whatever Billy’s alluding to.

“What about Tammy?”

Jesus, he’s dense. “I saw you putting the moves on her the other day. It was impossible to miss.”

Oh,” Steve says, breathing out a chuckle. “No, I mean -- kind of?” Billy’s chest does something funny, twisting up like someone’s wringing it out, before Steve continues: “I was setting up a date with her for a friend of mine. I’m a good wingman.”

He looks so goddamn proud of himself, chest puffed out, eyes bright and shoulders actually straight. Billy would stop and appreciate it more if he wasn’t currently dwelling on the relief flooding straight into his lungs with every breath of freshly chlorinated air.

“Cool,” Billy says, because he doesn’t exactly trust his tone right now.

“Yeah,” Steve says, still distracted at the reminder of his good deed. “I’m glad it worked out. But yeah, anyway, definitely not Tammy.” He wrinkles up his nose. “And not Robin, either.”

“Definitely not Tammy,” Billy says. “Isn’t she the one who sounds like a muppet when she sings?”

Steve laughs, his whole face lighting up, absolutely delighted. “That is literally exactly what I said!”

--

“Shut up, Hargrove,” Steve says, shoving at him. “Stop talking, I’m trying to take a picture.”

“Okay, okay.”

Billy shuts up and smiles for a second. Then, right after he sees Steve’s shoulders slump with a relieved sigh, he sticks out his tongue and waggles it. The polaroid camera flashes.

Fuck!” Steve says, emphatic. He pulls the picture out of the film shield and shakes it a little. “God, this one is ruined.”

“No it’s not,” Billy says. “It’s perfect, you should put that one up.”

“No way am I putting it up on the board, it’ll get taken faster than any of the others.”

“Hey, it’s not my fault my pictures keep getting stolen and yours don’t.”

Steve snaps another picture of Billy then, when Billy’s still grinning at him like a shark. When it develops, Billy thinks it’s one of his best -- probably because he was smiling at the person behind the camera and not just for show.

Later, he asks Steve what he did with the did picture, figuring he could keep it out of some sort of stupid sentimentality and put it up on his mirror, or whatever. Like maybe, he’ll look back on this job in twenty years with nostalgia and want to look at just how hot he was, at how perfectly in shape. Maybe he’ll reminisce about his time in Hawkins and think fondly of his job at the pool, because, as it is, Billy’s pretty fond of it right now.

But when he asks, Steve just shrugs his shoulders, looks away from Billy and says, “I dunno what I did with it. Sorry, Hargrove. Must have thrown it away.”

--

“It’s too hot to run,” Steve grouches, back flat on the concrete pool deck.

“And that’s important why?” Billy asks.

It’s ass o-clock in the morning, before the pool even opens. The sun’s up and shining, and the air’s already sticky with humidity. It’s gonna be a scorcher, today, which means the pool’s going to be busy, which means Billy’s already testing the chemicals while Steve helps by literally lying around and doing nothing. Which is fine, because: one -- Billy gets to look at him all he wants, under the guise of angry annoyance, and two -- Steve isn’t exactly to be trusted with the chemistry aspect of the job.

“Because running’s how I stay in shape, asshole. We don’t all lift weights like you.”

Billy shrugs. “I don’t just lift weights. I swim for cardio.”

Steve laughs. “Yeah, right. You don’t swim, if you did, the moms of Hawkins would throw, like, a riot. There’s no way I could've missed that.”

To be fair, Steve’s right. The mothers of Hawkins do love him and his peacocking. Billy knows that he’s real easy on the eyes, especially for those poor women who are so criminally neglected at home.

“Yeah, that’s why I swim at night, idiot.”

“Uh, where?”

Billy gestures at the pool, face going a little incredulous. “Uh, right here? At the pool?”

“No way,” Steve says.

“What, you’re telling me you’ve never done a little casual breaking and entering, King Steve?”

Steve laughs as he sits up, eyes on Billy. “I have.” He has the audacity to sound offended.

He sees the in and can’t help but take it. It’s too sweet, too shiny. Way too alluring to ignore.

“Uh huh,” Billy says. “I think you’re maybe just a goody-two-shoes, King Steve. Donno how you got that bad boy rep for yourself, but I think you’re too much of a pussy to actually do it.”

“Hey, I’ll have you know that I’ve broken into weirder places than a community pool, Hargrove.”

If he were standing, Billy gets the impression that his hands would be on his hips. As it is, they’re pressed palm-down against concrete, like Steve’s trying to prevent himself from balling them up into fists. Billy kind of loves that. Loves that Steve’s fiery, loves that Billy can still rile him up a little.

“Yeah? I don’t believe you.”

Fine,” Steve says. “Tonight. I’ll meet you here.” He sounds so resolute. Billy loves that, too.

“What if I have plans, pretty boy?”

“Then cancel them,” Steve says, mouth set firm. The decisiveness of his tone sends a shiver down Billy’s spine.

There’s King Steve.” Billy grins.

--

That afternoon, Billy sees Tammy Thompson and Robin sitting at the snack bar together, sharing a creamsicle, laughing.

--

It’s dark outside and Billy’s getting into his car when the sound of an approaching skateboard has him pausing and stepping back out onto the pavement.

His dad’s working late today, and Susan’s inside cleaning -- not that she cares what Billy gets up to in his free time, as long as he doesn’t bring anyone home while she’s there. As long as his dad’s working, and as long as Billy’s chauffeuring duties are over, Billy’s got free reign to do whatever the hell he wants. That doesn’t always stop Max from bothering him, though.

Max kicks to a stop on her skateboard right next to his door.

“What do you want?” Billy says.

“Are you going out?”

“No, twerp, I’m flying to the fucking moon,” he says, sarcasm dripping a bit more than usual. He’s nervous, he realizes. He shouldn’t be nervous. It’s just breaking into the pool, it’s just seeing Steve -- if the guy even deigns to show up.

“Don’t be an ass,” she says. Clearly, she’s gotten used to him, able now to brush off most of Billy’s attitude with an exasperated roll of her eyes.

Yes, I’m going out,” Billy says, pushing a hand through his hair. He wonders if it’s big enough.

She looks at him, eyes narrowed. At his barely buttoned denim shirt, at his favorite pair of jeans. At his freshly done hair.

“Are you going to hang out with Steve?”

Billy almost falters at that. It definitely disarms him, but living with Neil has trained him pretty well, at least in the face of interrogation -- even at the hands of a thirteen year old girl.

“Yeah, whatever I’m doing is none of your business.”

“Ugh, you’re so dumb,” she says. “You know I’ve seen you watching him, right?”

“Don’t be stupid, Maxine.” He swings his door open a little wider, like that’ll make her leave faster.

Anyway, I know you look at him when he’s not looking, Billy. But what you don’t know is that when you’re not looking, he’s looking back at you.”

That makes him twitch, though. It has his brows pulling together for a second in confusion, in disbelief. And, a little bit, in anger, even though he knows it’s not true.

“Jesus. Do you actually understand what you’re insinuating? Because you have to be careful with that shit, Max.”

She knows, though. She knows just how devastating that can be. She watched it happen to Billy, watched the aftermath of childish tattling gone wrong.

But that’s in the past. Without ever saying anything about it, either of them, they’ve both moved past it, together.

“I’m just saying,” she says, shrugging. Unfussed. “You’re a dumb boy most of the time. I thought I’d help you be a little less dumb.” She drops her board back down on the ground with a clatter and gets a foot on it. “It’s just advice, though. Take it or leave it.”

And with that, she’s off, the familiar sound of tiny wheels against concrete rumbling in his ears.

It’s not actually advice, Billy wants to tell her. It’s just a theory, and a flimsy one at that.

But he still wants to say thank you, though. Because what she just did was kind, even if it was naive. Like the blood between them isn’t quite so bad anymore. Like maybe there’s some hope for something more than just a white flag of tentative peace.

“Hey, it’s dark -- don’t fall, twerp!” he says, as she skates away. It’s about as close to a thanks as he thinks he can get.

--

Sure, Billy has a key to get into the pool after hours, but it’s way better to scale the fence near the supply shed and drop down to the other side.

The parking lot had been empty when he got there, which means Steve’s either not there, or he was smart enough (like Billy), to park a few streets over, just to avoid drawing any unnecessary suspicion toward the pool.

He’s not expecting Steve to beat him there, and he’s definitely not expecting to see Steve waiting for him by the deep end, shirt and shoes off, legs in the pool, already nursing a beer like he’s been waiting a while.

What the fuck, Billy breathes out as he approaches.

The sun set hours ago. Steve’s lit by the dim blue light of the pool, face shimmering and shifting as the water moves. Every other light of the facility is off, bathing everything else not illuminated by blue light in inky darkness.

The lighting looks eerie. Steve looks beautiful.

“King Steve,” Billy says. He keeps his voice low, not stupid enough to shout. This isn’t a party; it’s something intimate, instead. Just the two of them, sharing this moment in the near-dark.

“Hey Hargrove, fancy seeing you here,” Steve says. He sets down his can against the deck, and it sounds almost empty. There’s a six pack next to him, only missing the one can -- which means there’s plenty left for Billy. “I didn’t think you’d show.”

“Yeah, right,” Billy says. “It’s you who wasn’t gonna show.”

Billy comes over to sit next to him and toes off his shoes. Steve’s lacking a shirt, so Billy takes his off, too. But he pauses there. Steve’s wearing shorts, so he can easily hang his feet into the pool, but Billy’s wearing jeans. If he shucks them, he’s got nothing on underneath, as he figured he’d skinny dip like always, but it feels weird to lose them now. So, he sets himself down next to Steve, cross-legged at the edge of the pool, and snags himself a beer.

He shotguns it with the aid of his keys, if only to stop his heart from racing so goddamn quickly. Steve watches him, dark eyes glistening with icy blue light, as Billy swallows and crushes the can between his palms.

“Easy, tiger,” Steve says. “I’m not actually trying to play lifeguard tonight.”

“That shit,” Billy waves a hand at the remainder of the six-pack, “isn’t enough to get me drunk, even if I drank all of it.”

“Uh huh,” Steve says, and tosses Billy another can. “You’re not gonna be drinking all of it, anyway.”

“What, you didn’t bring enough for yourself, too?” Billy grins.

He hadn’t even thought to bring booze. He’d been too preoccupied by the idea of who he was meeting at night, at the thought of stealing an actual moment with Steve goddamn Harrington for himself. Not a smoke break, not a shift at the front desk -- but an actual, real moment in time.

“You’re hilarious, Hargrove,” Steve says, cracking open another can. “You’re wearing jeans. Did you even plan on swimming, or nah?”

Billy laughs, starting in on his own new can, too. “If I wanted to swim with trunks on, I’d swim during regular pool hours.”

Steve goes a little wide-eyed at that. It’s hard to tell if he’s blushing, midwest-scandalized, or just plain disbelieving. “What, seriously?”

“Nothing we haven’t seen before in the locker room, pretty boy. Why, you too chicken-shit?”

No,” Steve says, emphatically. “I just didn’t --”

“Of course you didn’t,” Billy says. “But what good’s breaking into a pool if you don’t skinny-dip, too.”

“I have a pool. I skinny-dip there literally all the time,” Steve says. His lips are set in a pout and Billy wants nothing more than to lean over and kiss that look right off of him. But he’ll take what he can get by just looking, by committing that perfect picture to memory.

Billy laughs. “Where’s the thrill in that?”

Excitement churning in his gut, Billy chugs the rest of his beer. He stands quickly, tugs off his jeans, literally drops them on Steve, and then -- with no warning given to Steve -- dives rather lazily into the pool.

The warmth of the water embraces him fully, instantly cocooning him in a familiar reprieve. The heat of the day still lingers in it, though the surface has cooled from the temperature of the air. He swims a few strokes underwater, to the other side of the pool, water tugging playfully at his hair as he moves. Without clothes, he feels free -- unencumbered. He turns underwater with a practiced flip against the wall and makes it halfway back to the middle of the pool. When Billy comes up to breathe, his lungs feel refreshed, rejuvenated. Lighter than they ever feel during the day. The summer air tastes like grass on his tongue, like night, the sound of crickets ringing in his ears. He pants with it, tongue out of his mouth, even though he’s not particularly out of breath.

Still at the side of the pool, Steve’s laughing. When Billy blinks the water out of his eyes, Steve’s wet, splashed with some of the water from Billy’s dive. He looks surprised and delighted, eyes so big.

“What, you aren’t going to join me?” Billy asks, lazily swimming up to the side of the pool to rest his arms against the lip, legs floating out behind him.

From closer up, even in the blue glow of the pool, Billy can tell that Steve’s blushing.

“Or are you too much of a prude?” Billy asks.

Steve kicks at him, a bare foot making contact with Billy’s ribs. It’s not hard, just a gentle shove.

“Jeez, I’m not a prude.”

Billy raises his eyebrows. “Well, then, what are you waiting for?”

For a quiet moment, Steve does nothing. He’s clearly thinking, chewing on his lip with the effort of it. For a brief second, Billy’s concerned he’ll say no, that he’ll decide he didn’t sign up for this and pack his shit and leave.

But then Steve’s raising his eyes heavenward and sighing a near-inaudible, “Oh, what the hell.

Steve pulls his feet out of the water and stands, thumbs going for the waistband of his shorts. Billy wants desperately to watch, but he knows better, pushing back and dunking himself instead. Giving Steve the privacy to tug off his shorts and jump in.

Billy feels it when he does, water displacing around him, rocking him as he floats underwater. He pushes up from the bottom and treds water, waiting for Steve to surface.

When he does, he’s a vision, lit underneath from the lights of the pool. The first goddamn thing Steve does is run a hand through his hair, giving it the patented Harrington volume, making it drip down the sides of his cheeks instead of into his eyes. He’s fucking beautiful, Billy thinks.

“Happy now, Hargrove?” Steve asks.

“Elated,” Billy says, and then splashes Steve right in the face.

Hey!” Steve shouts, but it’s a thrilled sort of noise, full of joy and surprise. It’s a rush, knowing he made Steve sound like that, even as Billy gets a faceful of water of his own.

He spits what ends up in his mouth directly back at Steve’s face, though, so he figures that’s payback enough.

Gross,” Steve laughs, but he’s grinning, paddling back over to the side to take another slug of beer.

Billy would join him, but he’s content to just watch Steve. It’s a rush of its own, like no amount of alcohol could ever give him. He feels happy right now, warm. His whole body is lit up with it, with the sheer wonder of getting this time with Steve, with the surprise that this is even happening. Back in the winter, when it was cold and dark, Billy thought Steve would never talk to him again.

“You’re pretty alright, Harrington,” Billy says.

“Only alright?” Steve asks.

He looks cool, relaxed, hanging off the side of the pool with one arm, eyes on Billy. It’s a glance at the person who used to be King Steve, but it’s overlaid with who Steve is now -- someone nice, someone caring. Someone who maybe, maybe, considers Billy to be his friend. That’s a rush, too.

“You could be worse,” Billy amends with a shrug. “Probably.”

Steve laughs at that. “I could say the same for you.”

“Yeah?”

“Didn’t think I’d ever be voluntarily hanging out with Billy Hargrove, actually enjoying myself.”

Billy flushes at that, chest going a little tight. It’s one thing to make Steve smile or laugh, and a whole other to have Steve admit, out loud, that he’s enjoying himself. That he’s having fun while voluntarily spending his time with Billy. That maybe, if Billy were to extrapolate, maybe he’d do it again.

Billy watches the line of Steve’s throat as he takes a long pull from his can.

“You trying to get drunk, King Steve? Should’ve brought something harder.”

Steve makes a face that Billy doesn’t understand. Instead of clarifying, though, he just finishes his can and sets it down with a clunk next to the other empties.

“Wanted to ask you something,” Steve says, after he swallows, after he licks his lips.

“Shoot,” Billy says. He’s still treading water, a safe distance away from Steve. Not too close, and not too far, either.

“You always ask me about girls. Got any of your own?”

It’s straight out of left field. Disarming enough to have Billy frowning a little, immediately on the offensive.

“More than I can count, Harrington. Why?”

Steve doesn’t seem deterred by Billy’s bite, though. He just shrugs and pops open another beer. “Just curious. You flirt with them all the time, but I never actually see you with any. Was wondering if you had anyone special.”

“Special? In Hawkins?” Billy laughs. “No.”

Steve shoves a wave of water at Billy with a huff. “Hey, watch it. Hawkins isn’t that bad.”

“I mean, sure,” Billy says. “It could be worse, I guess.”

Honestly, right now? It’s never been better.

“You’re an ass, you know that?”

“You’re still here though, hanging out with me.” He flashes Steve a grin, wide and full of teeth.

Billy dunks himself and comes up with a mouthful of water to spit at Steve, just because he can. Most of it misses, but it has Steve splashing him again, laughing something sharp and surprised.

“Yeah, I’ve got bad taste, what can I say?”

He punctuates it with another wave of water, which fills up Billy’s mouth as he laughs. They trade splashes from there, occasionally dunking themselves under the water to swim away from the onslaught.

It’s fun, Billy realizes, as he comes up for air only for Steve to get him again, eyes stinging with chlorine. He hasn’t had fun like this since California -- hasn’t felt like this about anyone since California, either. It’s a bone-deep thing, an aching yearning in his chest. More than a crush, more than an idle fascination. He likes Steve, wants to spend time with him and wants to make him laugh. He’s greedy for it, eating up every second with him like he’s starving, like he can never quite fill himself up.

The next time Billy comes up for air, though, Steve is right there. Billy takes in a breath, and then Steve’s arms are on his shoulders, pushing down, dunking Billy underneath the water with a shove. Sure, he could fight it, but why try? It’s everything he wanted, Steve’s hands and weight and attention on him.

Once he’s down, though, he swims under, grabs at Steve’s ankle and pulls. He feels the give as Steve falls, surprised by the attack, the retaliation. Even underwater, Billy can hear the garbled yelp. When he comes up, Steve’s sputtering and trying to push the hair back out of his eyes. Looking affronted.

“What the fuck, Hargrove?”

“What, you can dish it but can’t take it?” Billy says.

The air feels electric, charged with challenge. Billy can almost see it, sparking between the two of them.

Steve smirks, eyes going a little hard. His gaze is bright, though, still amused. It’s a fight, but nothing like their fight back in November.

When Steve comes at him, Billy’s ready. They’re close enough to the shallows now that he can bob down and push up from the bottom for some leverage to try and shove Steve down, even though Steve’s grabbing Billy by the arm trying to pull him down, too.

It’s easy, it’s fun. It’s like a dance, coming up for air and splashing and dunking each other in turns. There’s no real fight for the upper hand, not any more than a usual conversation between the two of them now -- it’s a game, and Billy loses himself in it.

Billy nearly yelps as Steve drags him under with a hand on the back of his neck. He goes so easy underneath Steve’s touch, helpless for it.

When he gulps in his next breath of air, he’s panting, flushed, hot.

Exhilarated.

He barely even realizes what he’s doing when he surges forward and pushes until he has Steve up against the wall of the pool, back up against the edge, both of their feet balancing on their toes to keep their mouths above water. They’re both breathing heavy, bodies slick with sweat and pool water.

Billy’s too close, he realizes, as he’s bracketing Steve in. There’s no hiding that he’s hard, given that he’s already brushed up against Steve’s leg. He hadn’t even noticed before now, or hadn’t thought to dwell on it much.

He freezes. Then, as soon as his brain catches the fuck up with him, he yanks back.

Or tries to, anyway.

Steve’s fingers are tight around Billy’s arms, from where’d been trying to push him around just a second ago. Now, they’re not pushing; they’re holding.

“Fuck, I’m --” Billy starts, but the sorry dies on the tip of his tongue.

Because Steve shifts in the water, and there’s no hiding that he’s hard, too. Pressed up against Billy’s leg, hot and wanting.

“Shit,” Steve breathes, but he doesn’t sound sorry at all, either. Just breathless and a little bit surprised.

Not surprised enough, though.

It’s enough to give Billy pause, to not make him want to keep pushing away. Steve’s apparently not outraged to be in this position, not shocked by the reaction of his own body. He’s maybe surprised that this happened, though, that Billy actually let him this close -- and he should be, really, because even Billy’s shocked at that.

But Steve -- isn’t at all stunned that he’s hard.

Billy watches him for a second, breath going shallow and tight. Because Steve might not be shocked, but Billy sure is.

Steve’s gaze drops, just for a second, to Billy’s lips. It’s that that slots everything into place.

“Yeah?” Billy asks. A question loaded with the fat weight of possibility.

“Hell yeah,” Steve breathes out.

It should be difficult, leaning in to kiss Steve Harrington, for all the times he’s denied himself. It’s not. Billy’s lips find his easily, though he’s helped as Steve surges forward to meet him halfway. He tastes like beer and pool water, and Billy groans as he licks into the wet heat of Steve’s mouth.

Steve’s grip on his arms tightens, but only to pull Billy closer. Billy’s more than happy to oblige, pressing forward until he’s flush up against Steve, warm skin against skin. It’s a rush, feeling his cock grind up against Steve’s hip, dizzying to feel Steve’s against his.

There’s a hand in his hair, gripping tight, a gesture that Billy returns instantly, wanting to touch Steve everywhere all at once, afraid to miss out on even a second of it.

“Shit, shit,” Steve groans against Billy’s mouth when Billy rocks his hips forward. Steve’s back has gotta be digging into the concrete lip of the pool, but he doesn’t sound like he’s in pain, not even a little bit. “You feel so good.”

Of course Steve’s a sweet-talker. Billy would give him shit for it if the words and the tone didn’t go straight to Billy’s gut, making his dick harder, making him rut his hips up against Steve’s body at the sound of them. Their bodies slide together easily, eased by the warm water of the pool. Billy’s hot with it, blood boiling in his veins with want.

This is everything he wanted, and nothing he ever dared to hope for.

Billy’s fingers skim over Steve’s skin, blunt nails dragging in ways that have Steve gasping, groaning, panting for more. Billy tweaks at his nipples, thumbs at the jut of his hips, and palms at his ass, using that leverage to rock the two of them together even more.

Steve whines. It’s a wanton, pretty sound. Needy at the peak of it, breathy and secret. Just for Billy’s ears.

He should ask, he should be careful, but Steve’s panting too prettily for Billy to sour that with his own words. He’s too scared to break his own silence, too scared what will come out. And maybe, he’s a little too scared Steve’ll say no.

But, when Billy reaches down between the two of them and gets his fingers around Steve’s dick, what he gets is an emphatic, “Fuck yes.”

Steve clutches at his shoulders for a second, eyes closing into something beautiful, face twisted up with pleasure.

“God, Billy,” Steve moans out, and Billy can’t help but lean forward to lick the taste of his name off of Steve lips.

His dick is huge and heavy in Billy’s hand. And sure, Billy knew it was fat, had seen it soft in the showers back in school, and a couple times here at the pool, but that’s got nothing on Steve when he’s hard. He’s thick and hot in Billy’s hand, the skin of him silky soft in the water, his head slick as Billy thumbs over it just to make Steve shiver.

It’s small town Indiana; Billy’s not expecting anything reciprocal. He wasn’t expecting this even at all. So, it’s a shock when Steve shifts and reaches down, fingers warm as they wrap around Billy’s cock.

Billy jerks with it, groaning into Steve’s mouth. Pleasure shoots through him, Steve’s touch so much better than just the friction Billy was getting by rutting up against Steve’s hip.

“Yeah, you like that?” Steve asks, as Billy jacks him.

It’s cliche, it’s stupid. It’s still hot as shit.

Billy can’t do anything but nod and kiss Steve again, feeling like he’s drowning, even though the only people in the pool are both Red Cross certified.

“You’re so hot, Billy,” Steve tells him.

Steve’s fingers are agile and skilled. He couples each tug of Billy’s cock with a twist of his wrist, and it’s enough to get Billy gasping, a whimper stuck treacherously in his throat. He touches Billy like he’s done this before, like he’s no stranger to his hand on another man’s cock. Billy wants to ask, and maybe he will, but not now, not when the only person in Steve’s mind is Billy, not when he couldn’t bear the thought of someone else’s name on Steve’s lips.

Not that he really has to worry about that, because Steve seems all too happy to remind Billy how his name sounds with nearly every breath from his lungs. Because the closer Steve seems to get, the more tightly his body winds up and the more he breathes out Billy’s name. In little pants of air, in little choked-off moans.

“Billy, Billy,” Billy gets in his ear, a litany of praise that Billy eats up, that he licks from Steve’s lips like sugar.

He feels just as strung tight as Steve seems, just as on-edge. He doesn’t know how much longer he’s going to last.

“You gonna come for me?” Billy asks. His own voice is rough, raw. Barely even recognizable to his own ears.

Steve nods, jerky and quick, lips still up against Billy’s as they breathe each other’s air.

“Yeah,” he says, squirming under Billy’s touch, hips bucking into Billy’s hand. “Gonna. So close, Billy.”

Billy twists his wrist and drags his thumb over the head of Steve’s cock, locking lips with him just in time to catch Steve’s full on moan as he comes, spilling himself into Billy’s hand. Steve kisses him hungrily, just as greedily as Billy does, and finishes in a whimper, as Billy strokes him until he’s over-sensitive, strung out.

“Billy,” Steve says, words half-lost against Billy’s lips, voice rough and still thick with pleasure. “Want you to come down my throat.”

Billy nearly loses it at that, but luckily Steve stops touching him, freeing his hands for the sole purpose of turning Billy, of coaxing him up and onto the side of the pool. Billy makes it easy for him and jumps, easing himself up and onto his ass, into the cool night air. Gooseflesh prickles his skin, but he barely has time to think about it, because Steve’s sliding between his spread legs, all up close and personal, blinking up at Billy with those big, brown eyes.

It’s the prettiest goddamn picture he’s ever seen.

“Oh fuck,” Billy says.

He repeats the sentiment when Steve smiles and swallows him down.

Stee’s mouth is a warm, wet heat. Sinful in how good he feels, in the way he moves his tongue. Practiced, skilled, indulgent.

Billy doesn’t last long.

Before he knows it, he’s pulling, tugging at that beautiful hair, getting his fingers all up in it like he’s always wanted. A warning. Kinder than Billy’s ever been with a girl.

Steve doesn’t stop. He swallows and swallows, head bobbing on Billy’s cock, until Billy’s choking on a moan, spilling himself into Steve’s mouth.

The pleasure is numbing, mind-blowing. Or maybe that’s just Steve. He’s still coming down from it when he looks down and focuses on Steve, whose pretty tongue is cleaning up everything he didn’t swallow down.

“Shit, that’s hot,” Billy says, fingers combing through Steve’s hair. His touch is a little softer now, a little more reverent.

“Yeah?” Steve says. When he looks up at Billy with those doe eyes of his, they catch the light and look bright as day.

“Yeah,” Billy breathes.

“So, what, you wanna go another round?” Steve’s eyes sparkle with a challenge, but there’s an underlying question there, something deeper and more curious.

An invitation for more.

Or a get out of jail free card.

“I think I’ve had my fair share of exhibitionism for the day,” Billy says thoughtfully. He keeps trailing his fingers through Steve’s hair, though, keeping Steve close in case he gets the wrong impression. “But you know, I think I know where there’s another pool that’s a little bit more private.”

“Yeah?” Steve says, a smirk starting to form over his lips.

“Yeah,” Billy says. “Pretty sure I can talk the hot asshole who owns it into letting us use it.”

Steve laughs and sets his head down on Billy’s knee. “What if the hot asshole who owns it would rather move this to a bed?”

A curl of excitement twists in Billy’s gut, electric and fierce. Steve’s voice is warm and fond, smooth with teasing, with desire. He wants, just as bad as Billy does. It’s impossible to miss, now that Billy’s looking, now that Steve is letting him see.

Now that they’re both on even ground, all cards face-up on the table.

Billy grins, wide and happy. “I think I could be persuaded.”

--

As Steve sleeps, face down against his pillow afterward, Billy watches him. He shifts and Billy catches a glimpse of something on his bedside table as he's looking: the corner of a polaroid, sticking out from underneath a comic book, catching the light.

Billy doesn’t have to look, doesn’t have to pry.

But he doesn’t have to do a lot of things that he does, anyway.

A gentle tug and it’s in his fingers. He squints at it, but even in the dark it’s unmistakable: a familiar looking staff picture -- of Billy, grinning a mile wide, tongue hanging right out of his mouth. Eyes only for Steve.