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We Can Be Heroes, Just For One Day

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Chapter One: A Strange Arrival

 

It was dark. It was home, but it was empty. The air was suffocating. He fought to breathe. 

I’m going to die here, he thought. I don’t even know where here is.

“Help me.”

 

*****

She couldn’t sleep. Caroline tossed and turned in bed, unable to shut her brain up. He was everywhere. Almost six months ago, her brother had died in Hickville Indiana, yet she still saw his face everywhere. She hadn’t seen him in over eight years, but when the news had finally reached her she was devastated.

There was a loud rap on the front door. Followed by another frantic knock. Who the hell was knocking on her door at 3 am? This was California, crazy stuff happened everyday, but people didn’t usually come knocking at this time of the day.

The constant pounding continued until she made it downstairs and yanked open the door.

On her front porch was Billy, dressed in dirty clothes, blonde curls matted with blood and sweat.

 

“Billy?” She whispered.

“Caroline,” He collapsed to his knees in front of her.

“How did you get here? What happened to you?”

“Caroline you have to help me. I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”

“Billy what are you talking about? Come inside please.”

“You have to find me. Please, save me.”

 

She bolted up in her bed. Billy was gone. It had all been a dream. The lamp beside her bed flickered.

 

*****

The town of Hawkins had been strangely quiet for the last six months. Steve thought of the quiet as a blessing, but he and the remaining members of the party were still looking over their shoulders. 

All of their moods had drastically improved when the Byers and El had showed back up in town for Christmas and decided to stay through the new year. However all of the kids permanently had a tiny rain cloud of gloom following them around. Especially Max. No one could really blame her. She’d lost her big brother. Regardless of how much they had fought and claimed to hate each other, Max had loved Billy and he had loved her. Steve had done his best to comfort her, but it was hard. 

All of the kids had a hard few months and that resulted in mass sleepovers in Steve’s too big, too empty house. Not that he minded the company, what with his parents always being gone. It was nice to be able to keep an eye on them easier. That was something he’d promised Nancy when she’d left for college in the fall, take care of the shitheads.

Even though they all spent a lot of time with Steve, all of them but Max went home most nights. After Billy’s death she had caught Neil trying to throw out his stuff. Steve had received a tearful call from her that night, begging him to pick her up. She had loaded up the trunk of his car with everything important she had gathered from both her and Billy’s rooms and moved into Steve’s house. It was going to be hard to explain her presence to his parents when they came home (if they ever did) but he would burn that bridge when he came to it.

Three days after Christmas, Steve got a call from the police department while all of the kids were at his house. 

“Hello?”

“Hey Steve.”

“Hey Phil. What’s going on?”

“Look Steve this is going to sound weird.”

“I’m sure I’ve heard weirder. Try me.”

“Okay, there’s a kid from California at the station. Says she’s Billy Hargrove’s sister and that she needs to talk to you.”

“What the hell?”

“I told you it was weird.”

“Okay uh, keep her there. I’m on my way.”

“Who was that?” Dustin asked.

“Phil Callahan. Hey Max?”
“Yeah?”

“Did Billy have any other siblings that you know of?”

“Uh yeah. I think Neil said something about his little sister once. Apparently when Billy’s mom left she took her too. I don’t know anything else about her. Billy never mentioned her. Why?”

“Apparently she’s in Hawkins.”

 

*****

When Caroline finally made it to Hawkins she tracked down Neil Hargrove. He wasn’t home when she got there, so she picked the lock and made it into the house. She found the bedroom that looked like it might have been Billy’s. Most of the clothes and major belongings had been cleared out, but a few posters still remained on the wall. 

She searched around the closet and in his dresser until she came across a yearbook. Billy’s junior year. She flipped through to find any pictures of him or anyone who might have known him that she could talk to. The one that seemed most promising was a basketball picture. It wasn’t very clear but Billy was bearing his teeth at the only other player in the picture, Steve Harrington according to the caption. Most other pictures of Billy from that season featured Harrigton, so they were either friends or hated each other. She guessed it was the later. Billy didn’t have many friends as it was.

She returned Billy’s room to the way she found it and locked the front door behind her. Her next stop was the police station to track down Steve Harrington.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: The Doppelganger Theory

 

When they arrived at the station Steve instructed all the kids, who had insisted on coming along, to stay in the car. 

“But Steve what if it’s a trap?” Mike protested.

“I can handle myself kid.”

“He did knock out a Russian,” Dustin pointed out.

“Thank you Dustin. Now all of you shitheads stay in the car.”

Callahan was waiting for him when he got inside.

“Where is she?”

“Right back here. Her story is pretty convincing.”

“I’m not doubting her. Max thought she had heard of Billy having another sister but she wasn’t completely sure.”

“She’s right in there. Go on in.”

“Thanks Phil.”

Steve stepped into the office and closed the door carefully behind him. The girl was sitting in a chair across the small room. She definitely looked like she could be related to Billy, wavy blonde hair and big blue eyes. She didn’t have the harshness to her face that Billy had, but that could have just been the difference in the way they were raised. 

“Hey kid. Heard you were looking for me.”

“Are you Steve Harrington?”

“In the flesh. Who are you?”

“Caroline Hargrove. You knew my brother?”

“Billy? Yeah I knew him, but I wouldn’t say we were friends. We didn’t really like each other to be honest.”

“Yeah Billy never was great at the friends thing. Even when we were little.”

“So what’s your story kid? How did you end up in Hawkins and how did you know who is was.”

“My story?”

“Yeah. Start from the beginning.”

“Okay. Billy and I were born three years apart. I’m fifteen. My dad, Neil, didn’t want another kid so he never really paid attention to me. He paid a lot of attention to Billy, not great attention, but attention. He was always pushing Billy to play sports, baseball, football whatever. Billy never liked it. He always loved surfing and he was pretty good from what I remember. Our mom used to sneak us down to the beach when Neil wasn’t home. Neil used to yell a lot, especially at Billy, even when it wasn’t his fault. I think I remember him hitting him a few times. I know he used to hit my mom. He used to call Billy names and make fun of him. Then one day, we left. Just me and my mom. She left Billy behind and that was the last time I saw him. Mom and I moved to Nevada and stayed with her parents. Mom died when I was seven. My grandparents told me that Neil got married again and then they moved here to Hawkins. I didn’t hear anything else until almost six months ago when I found out that Billy died from a fire at Starcourt Mall. I always thought that was a little weird. Then three nights ago I had this really weird dream. Billy showed up at my house and he looked like hell. He was dirty and bleeding. It looked like someone had ripped his chest wide open. He told me that I had to find him and save him. Then I woke up and the lamp by my bed started flickering.”

“Wow,” was all Steve could think to say.

“Look I know it sounds crazy. But it was like some horror movie shit. Weird dreams and flickering lights. So I came here, the last place Billy was alive and I tracked down anyone who might know anything about what happened to him. That was you.”

“You know what? Two years ago I would have thought you were absolutely batshit. But some crazy stuff has happened in this town in the past couple of years. Come with me, I have some people I want you to meet.”

Steve led Caroline out to his car and motioned to Dustin and the rest of the kids to get out. They stood all together looking at him expectantly.

“Guys this is Caroline Hargrove, Billy’s sister. Caroline this is Dustin, Lucas, Max, Will, Mike, and El.”

“Max, you’re Billy’s stepsister right?”

“Yeah I am.”

“Okay Caroline, tell these guys everything you just told me. Trust me they’ve heard stuff crazier.”

She proceeded to tell the entire story over again. When she was finished Dustin slumped against the car and let out a low whistle.

“That’s wild,” Lucas said. 

“Steve, does this mean that Billy might be alive somewhere?” Max asked hopefully.

“I don’t know Max.”

“Upside down,” El said.

“Wait what? Upside down, what does that mean?” Caroline questioned.

“I guess it’s our turn to tell a story,” Will said.

 

*****

 

When the other six kids finished telling her their experiences over the past two years Caroline’s head was spinning.

“So let me get this straight. You,” she said pointed at Will. “Were kidnapped by a dungeons and dragons character and trapped in an alternate dimension and these guys got you out. You,” she pointed at El this time. “Are a walking science experiment, except  you lost your powers when the mind flayer killed my brother. The rest of you help hunt these monsters and he’s your babysitter. Did I get that right?”

“Pretty damn close. Good job new girl,” Dustin said. “Except Steve isn’t out babysitter, he’s our mom.”

The rest of the kids giggled and Steve rolled his eyes.
“Yeah yeah very funny shithead.”

“That story was great and all, but I’m still not sure what it has to do with my brother.”

“Well Billy was possessed by the mindflayer, which comes from the upside down. And when something that's in the upside down is near, or it’s trying to communicate, it makes lights flicker. Maybe when the mind flayer killed Billy, he didn’t actually die and he’s trapped in the upside down,” Mike theorized.

“But I watched Billy die Mike. I felt his heart stop,” Max said sadly.

“What if it was a doppelganger. You know a second version of Billy.”

“So the original Billy is trapped in the upside down or whatever and he was using the lights to try and get my attention?”

“Possibly. And the dream you had might not have been a dream. What if it was a vision?”

“So how do I get Billy to talk to me again? And how do I know what he’s trying to say?”

“When I was trapped in the upside down, my mom used christmas lights and painted letters on the wall to know what I was saying. Maybe we could go back to Starcourt and try and get Billy to talk to us.”

“Good idea Will.”

“Okay but even if Billy is still alive, how do we get him out of the upside down?”

“Into the upside down. That’s the only way,” El spoke up for the first time.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

 

He felt like he was dying. His lungs felt like they were full of water. He was freezing. Please find me. Please.

*****

That night all of the kids decided to have one of their massive sleepovers at Steve’s house. Steve had ordered them pizza and let them watch movies, but at midnight he finally sent them to bed. The boys piled into the room next door to Steve’s, and the three girls went to Max’s room across the hall.

Once they were in their pajamas and sprawled across Max’s bed, which was somehow big enough for the three of them with room to spare, Max spoke to Caroline for the first time all night.

“So, when your mom left, why did she only take you? Why leave Billy behind.”

“Truthfully I have no idea. She always just told me that Billy couldn’t come with us. I cried so hard when she made us leave him. She always promised she would come back for him, but she never did.  I didn’t think it was fair. And it wasn’t.”

“I didn’t know until the end, that Neil was hitting Billy. I mean I kinda thought it. I knew he yelled and got really angry at him over stupid stuff, but I thought that was it. I never realized that Billy was protecting me, or how much of my shit he got beat up for.”

“I don’t remember much of it when we were in California, but I remember a couple of times when he slapped Billy.”

“Billy always blamed me for us having to leave Cali.”

“Why?”

“When my mom married Neil, he made Billy my personal chauffeur. I don’t know if they were trying to force us to spend time together or what, but part of that was Billy driving me to my dad’s on the weekends. One time, Billy came back to pick me up and his face was all busted up and it looked like his wrist might have been broken. My dad made him come inside and let him clean him up. By the time he was finished Billy was freaking out, he was telling me we had to hurry because Neil was going to be mad if we were late. My dad put two and two together and called the cops. But Billy refused to tell them that Neil was hitting him so there was nothing they could do. So we came to the tiniest town in the midwest. I guess so Neil could beat his son in peace.”

“That’s why Billy was so angry. He was hurting,” El said.

“I miss him a lot.”

“I’m so sorry Max. I hadn’t seen Billy in eight years and I cried for almost two days when I found out he died. I can’t imagine how hard it was for you.”

“Billy and I weren’t really close. I realize now that he was just trying to protect me. But I loved him, even though he was mean to me. When the mind flayer was possessing him, he was still kind of there. At least he was in the beginning. And I saw how scared his was. Billy was still just a kid.”

Caroline leaned over and laid her head on Max’s shoulder.

“I know we’re both holding on to the hope that Billy is still alive. That everything I’ve experienced is real. But at the same time, I don’t want to get my hopes up, in case it turns out to be a bust and Billy really is dead.”

“I know what you mean. It almost seems too good to be true.”

At that moment, Steve peeked his head in the door.

“Hey girls lights out okay. We’re going to see Mrs. Byers tomorrow, maybe she can tell us something about how to talk to Billy. Get some rest.”

“Okay. Goodnight Steve,” Max said.

“Goodnight,” he replied, flipping off the lights and shutting the door carefully behind him.

*****

She was in the passenger seat of Billy’s car. He was driving too fast and listening to his music too loud. She didn’t care, she was with her brother again. 

“I missed you Caroline,” he said, taking his eyes off the road to grin at her. 

“I missed you too Billy.”

He took her hand in his and gripped it tightly. He pulled off the road and turned to look at her.

“You have to find me Caroline. You have to save me.”

“Where are you Billy? I can’t help you if I don’t know where you are.”

“I’m right here.”

The scene changed and they were standing somewhere underground.

“Billy what is this place?”

“It’s coming Caroline! Hurry please!”

“Billy! Billy!”

 

She woke up with Billy’s name on her lips, shaking like a leaf. Max and El both threw their arms around her, holding her tight.

Steve burst into the room, the boys right on his heels. He was holding a bat full of nails, ready to swing. 

“What’s going on?”

“I had another dream about Billy. We were in his car and then all of a sudden we weren’t. We were underground somewhere. He was yelling at me that something was coming and that I had to hurry. He sounded really scared.”
“Hey it’s okay. We’re gonna talk to Mrs. Beyers today and we’re going to figure this out. If your brother really is out there, we’re going to find him. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Alright, you guys get dressed and eat breakfast, then we’ll go meet Mrs. Byers.”

 

*****

After breakfast, Steve and the kids crammed themselves into his car and made the drive out to Hopper’s cabin. He made a mental note to find a bigger car if he was going to be toting seven kids around for another year. 

Joyce and Jonathan had rebuilt Hopper’s cabin to make it livable while they were staying in Hawkins. Steve and the other kids had all pitched in to help and to come back every once and a while when they weren’t in town to keep it in shape. 

When they pulled up, Jonathan and Joyce were waiting for them on the porch. Joyce gave all of the kids big hugs and Jonathan teased them and ruffled their hair. When Joyce reached Caroline she gave her a long hug. 

“You must be Caroline, I’m Joyce, Will’s mom. This is my other son Jonathan.”

Jonathan raised his hand in a slow wave.

“Steve says you might know something about how to reach my brother?”

“Maybe, come inside.”

The kids followed her inside and crammed themselves into the living room. Max and Caroline ended up sitting on the floor, leaning back against the couch.

“So Steve told me a bit of the story over the phone, but can you tell me again?”

Caroline started into her story again, for the third time in two days.

When she finished Jonathan leaned forward and said, “Well that explains why Billy was such an ass.”

“Jonathan,” Joyce scolded, lightly slapping his arm.

“Will said that when he was trapped in the upside down, you used christmas lights to talk to him. Do you think that would work with Billy?”

“It might. But I’m not sure if it would work here. Billy died at Starcourt right?”

“Yeah he did.”

“So you might have to go to Starcourt for it to work. The way the upside down works is still kind of fuzzy to all of us.”

“But Starcourt burned down,” Max said. “There’s nothing left.”

“Well the shell is still there. It’s worth a shot right?” Steve said.

“Is it really worth a shot though?”

“What are you talking about Mike?”

“In case I’m the only one who remembers, Billy was a jerk. He threatened Max, tried to hurt Lucas, almost killed Steve, and tried to kill us. More than once.”

“Friends help friends Mike,” El reminded.

“She’s not our friend,” he pointed to Caroline. “And Billy sure as hell wasn’t.”

“Mike,” Steve scolded.

“He’s right,” Caroline spoke up. “I’m not your friend. I’m a crazy girl who showed up out of nowhere claiming that my brother that we all thought was dead came to me in a dream. You have no reason to actually believe or help me.” 

With that she turned and walked out the door. She sat down on the front steps with her head in her hands. She could still hear Steve and the other kids bickering inside. Behind her the door opened, and quiet footsteps made their way toward her and sat down beside her.

“I know Mike can be a jerk,” Will said quietly. “He’s not great at accepting new friends. You should have heard all the shit he gave Lucas and Dustin when they tried to bring in Max. I don’t know why he’s that way.”

“I’ve never felt that. I was always popular, back home. Making friends was easy. I’m not really sure why Mike hates me so much.”

“He doesn’t hate you. You’re just not like us.”

“What do you mean?”

“Looking at you, you seem like the kind of girl at our school who would turn and walk the other way if we glanced at you. I know that you’re not like that, but Mike is big on first impressions, unfortunately.”

“So I look like someone he wouldn’t be friends with so he automatically doesn’t like me? That’s a little unfair.”

“Yeah it is. But the others don’t see it the same way. Max loves you. I think she’s glad to have someone who really understands what she’s going through. Dustin, Lucas and I really like you too. I think El does too, but she likes most people who are nice to her. I know Billy was a jerk, but I saw him at the end. He gave up his life so the mind flayer wouldn’t kill El. Somewhere deep down, Billy was a good guy who deserves to be saved.”

“Thanks Will.”

“Of course. And no matter what Mike says, if it comes down to it, I’d follow you into the upside down.”

“I’m going too,” Max said behind them.

Both kids turned to see Steve and the rest of the party in the doorway.

“I’m going,” Dustin said. 

“Me too,” Lucas agreed.

“Someone has got to keep you little shits alive,” Steve said with a shrug.

“I’m going,” El said.

They all turned to look at Mike.

“Fine, I’m going.”

“Alright,” Steve said. “Looks like we’ve got work to do.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

 

“Okay so here’s the plan,” Steve said the next morning as they sat around the kitchen table. “Tonight Lucas and the girls are going to the old mall to see if they can get in contact with Billy. The rest of us are going to stay here and look through news reports and see if we can find this new rift.”

“How do we know there’s a rift?” Dustin asked.

“How else would Billy be able to talk to Caroline dumbass,” Lucas asked.

“Boys! Focus please.”

“Sorry mom,” Lucas snarked turning back to his cereal.

Steve rolled his eyes and continued on. “This rift will have to be somewhere close to where the original Billy disappeared from if we’re going with the doppelganger theory.”

“Since it’s the only solid theory we have let’s go with it,” Caroline said. 

“Max do you know anything about where Billy was before he started acting different?”

“Not really. He mentioned something about a date somewhere but I don’t know if he ever made it. He came home and hid his car from Neil since he wrecked it. He was going to fix it and never got around to it.”

“Where is his car Max?” Caroline asked.

“In Steve’s backyard. We hauled it here after Starcourt.”

“Show me.”

Max and Caroline left the kitchen and went out back to where Billy’s blue Camaro had been parked for months.

“Jesus, he did all this in one night?”

“No. It was mostly just the cracked windshield and the dents in the front. Steve did the rest when he t-boned him at the mall that night.”

“Have you ever thought about trying to fix it?”

“Yeah. Steve and I talked about it but we never got around to it. And I don’t know jack shit about cars. Billy made me help him a few times but all I can do by myself is change a tire.”

“I used to help my grandpa fix up old cars. I might be able to do something to this one.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. The dents shouldn’t be too hard to get out, but if the frame is bent we’re screwed. I don’t know what it looks like on the inside but I might be able to fix it. We can get someone to replace the windshield.”

“If Billy really is alive, he’s gonna want his car back.”

“Tell you what we’ll fix it up and surprise him with it.”

“Billy’s gonna have a lot of surprises when he wakes up.”

“What do you mean?”

“Screw the car, you’re going to be the biggest surprise of them all. I mean he hasn’t seen you since he was like ten. He kept a picture of you stuffed in a book at the back of his locker. I only saw it once and he yelled at me for looking, but I’m pretty sure it was you.”

Caroline leaned back against the car with a soft smile on her face.

“You two okay out here?” Steve asked, stepping out the sliding door.

“Yeah we’re good. Caroline is going to help me fix up the car for Bily to have when he gets better.”

“That’s great. You know how much Billy loves his car.”

“Yeah I do.”

“Come on inside okay? Lucas needs your help getting the Christmas lights out of the attic.”

 

“How many boxes of Christmas lights does his family have?” Max asked after Lucas handed her the seventh box.

“They were rich, there was probably a tree in every room.”
“So what’s the deal with Steve’s parents?” Caroline asked from where she was sitting on the floor, untangling lights. “He never really talks about them.”

“I don’t know much,” Lucas said, sitting down on the attic stairs. “They’re rich and his dad has some cushy job. Apparently they travel a lot. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen them home for more than a few days at a time. And now that Steve is old enough to live on his own, they come home even less.”

“Not even for holidays?” 

“Nope. Why do you think all of Steve’s decorations are still in the attic even though Christmas was a few weeks ago? What’s the point in decorating when no one’s around to see it.”

“That’s sad. He must get lonely.”

“I think he was. That’s why we’re always around. Steve is a good guy and I know all this upside down bullshit has gotten to him. I know it’s gotten to us.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Yeah it’s rough. But we did it to save Will and we’re going to save your brother.”

“Thanks Lucas.”

“No problem. You think seven boxes of lights is enough?”

“It better be.”

*****

The next night, Lucas, Max and Caroline took Steve’s beamer and drove slowly and carefully to what was left of Starcourt Mall. Lucas drove way under the speed limit and pulled over into the woods at the slightest sign of another car. The last thing they needed was to get caught.

The backseat was full of boxes of lights and spray paint. Joyce had gotten them a bunch of old cans from the store and handed them to the kids with instructions to “be careful and don’t die or get arrested”.

Lucas parked, very crookedly, as close to what was left of the door as they could get, just in case they had to make a run for it.

Some of the walls still stood around them, but they were black from soot and looked like they were seconds from collapsing.

“I’m guessing that giant black spot on the floor was the mind flayer?” Caroline asked. 

“Uh yeah,” Lucas said, looking around warily.

Caroline almost choked when she saw the spots of dried blood on the floor. Billy’s blood.

“Alright let’s get this over with,” she said pulling out a can of spray paint.

She painted the letters on the floor while Lucas and Max followed behind her, laying down and duct taping the lights. 

“Well,” she said when they were done. “Here goes nothin’. Billy? Are you there?”

They waited for a few seconds, but nothing happened.

“Billy, it’s me. It’s Caroline.”

The lights flickered.

*****

“Billy? Are you there?”

What the hell?

“Billy, it’s me. It’s Caroline.”

“I hear you!”

She can’t hear you dumbass, use the lights. He concentrated on the energy around Caroline and made the lights flicker.

“Billy we’re at Starcourt. Are you here?”

Smart little shit, she put letters on the floor.

“N O.”

“Where are you? How do we find you?”

Too many questions at once kid.

“B R I M B O R N  S T E E L W O R K S.”

“Brimborn Steel Works? Lucas where is that?”

“It’s pretty much on the edge of town. What the hell was your brother doing there?”

“I have no idea.”

Billy made the lights flicker again to get her attention.

“What is it Billy?”

“N O T  H O M E.”

“I know Billy. We’re going to find you okay? Just hang on.”

“H U R R Y.”

“I know, I know, we’re trying. I love you Billy.”

“L O V E  Y O U.”

****

They waited for a few more minutes, but the lights never came on again.

“Guys I think he’s gone,” Max said. “Can we go now, this place is really starting to give me the creeps. And it’s cold.”

“Yeah me too. Let’s go. We need to tell Steve what just happened.”

 

*****

When Lucas, Max and Caroline made it back, Steve sent them straight upstairs to change. He then wrapped them in blankets, gave them mugs of hot chocolate and sat down to listen to their story.

“How the hell did Billy end up at Brimborn? That’s barely even in town.”

“Max said Billy had a date. I bet he wrecked in front of it and that’s when the mind flayer got to him,” Lucas pointed out.

“So the real Billy is still at Brimborn.”

“I don’t think so. At least not the Brimborn here. He said ‘not home’. He has to mean the upside down right?” Caroline questioned.

“I guess so. Will said the upside down was like home, but not at the same time. Maybe that’s what Billy meant.”

“So that means there’s a rift in Brimborn. We go, we get Billy out and we close the rift.”

“There’s one small problem with that plan,” Lucas said sadly. “The only one of us strong enough to close the rift is El and she lost her powers.”

“So what do we do?”

“We’re going to go to Brimborn and save your brother. El is going to try and close the rift, but if she can’t we’ll just have to make sure nothing follows us back. Go in, find Billy, come back. Quick and simple.”

“Except nothing is ever simple with the upside down.”

“We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

 

In the days leading up to their rescue mission, Caroline had more dreams. They were happening almost every night, Billy showing up at the foot of her bed, begging for her to hurry. Everyday he sounded more urgent. She didn’t sleep very much those days. 

She and Max spent all the time they could fixing Billy’s car.  Steve helped them hammer out all the dents that they could. The paint was scratched to all hell but they could work with it. Mike and Will found spare tires that fit in the junkyard and Jonathan came over to help Steve put them on. Dustin rewired the radio and somehow, Joyce knew how to fix an engine.

“Moment of truth,” Caroline said a few days before New Years, and the night before they headed out to rescue Billy. She was sitting in the driver’s seat, Max next to her. Steve and the rest of the party were huddled around anxiously. She pressed down on the brake and turned the key. The engine sputtered and groaned before rolling over.

Max cheered and she threw her hands in the air as a silent thank you to whatever higher being had allowed this to work.

The group stood in the backyard celebrating in the freezing cold before Steve called out, “Okay it’s bedtime for all the little shitheads.”

Their cheers died down and they all became solemn. Going to bed meant waking up knowing they were about to put their lives on the line. Steve noticed the mood change and wrapped them all up in a big hug.

“It’s going to be okay. I promise you that.”

As the other kids filed inside to get ready for bed, Caroline hung back.

“Caroline? You okay?”

“Yeah. Just thinking.”

“About?”

“Tomorrow. I mean, I’ve spent all this time hoping that Billy was alive and tomorrow I’m either going to see my brother again or I’m not and he’s going to be gone forever.”

“That’s rough kiddo. But I knew your brother. I didn’t exactly like him but I had some respect for him. Especially after what you and Max have told me about what he went through. Billy is a fighter. And he talked to you, we know he’s out there. He just has to hang on a little longer.”

“What happens if El can’t close the rift?”

“I don’t know.”

“She told me and Max last night that she can feel her powers but they’re different this time. She can’t move things anymore but she can see flashes of things. We tried to see if she could find Billy on Max’s radio but it didn’t work. We could hear bits and pieces of stuff but nothing concrete.”

“Hopefully it’s enough to close the gate. If it’s not, we have a whole other problem on our hands.”

“Do you think it’s possible to kill the mindflayer?”

“I don’t know.”

“Lucas said that the fireworks they set off in starcourt hurt it. I wonder if we could just torch it like you did in the tunnels.”

“I don’t know that we could burn the mindflayer itself, but Billy is it’s connection right? If we take him out that might weaken the mindflayer.”

“Then we light the place on fire behind us and get the hell out of dodge.”

“Caroline Hargrove you’re a fucking genius.”

Steve wrapped his arms around her and she laughed into his shoulder.

He pulled back and pushed a blonde curl behind her ear.

“Feel better now?”
“Yeah I do. Thanks Steve.”

“No problem. Now go get ready for bed. It’s gonna be a long day tomorrow.”

 

*****

 

The better part of the next day was spent pacing the house. Max and Caroline loaded and unloaded the car three times. The other boys made call after call to their parents, making up excuses for why they weren’t coming home tonight. Steve was sat at the kitchen table, alternating between hammering more nails into his bat and trying to formulate a feasible story for how they had found an eighteen year old boy who was presumed dead, and where the hell had he been all this time. Steve’s attitude for most of this time had been “we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.” But now he was starting to think someone had already set the bridge aflame and they were all standing on it.

He tried his best not to let the kids know how nervous he was, they had enough concerns themselves as it was, but he could tell that Caroline saw right through him. She had a bad habit of being able to see when people were lying or bluffing. It was useful when they were trying to call Dustin out for cheating, less so when he was trying to hide how freaked out he really was.

Somehow they managed to make it to seven that night and as they were sitting around the table picking at the under cooked pasta steve had served them, Dustin threw his hands up in defeat and shouted, “Can we just go already? It’s not doing Billy, or any of us any good just sitting around. If we get caught oh fucking well. I’m just ready to get this over with.”

“He’s not wrong,” Caroline pointed out.

“Yeah I know.” Steve’s fork clattered against the side of his bowl. “Grab your shit, no sense in delaying the inevitable.”

Fifteen minutes later, they were making the drive to the steel mill. Caroline was in the passenger seat next to Steve, the rest of the kids were piled into the back. Caroline was twisting one of her bracelets around her wrist, something Steve had seen her do when she was nervous. He reached over and stilled her hand.

“It’s gonna be okay kiddo. I promise.”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep Steve.”

“Hey, I don’t break promises. And I promise we are getting Billy out tonight and we will deal with whatever shit comes after. Okay?”

“Okay.”

The rest of the ride was relatively silent. Once or twice Mike turned his radio to an empty channel to see if El could get a sense of Billy but she couldn’t find anything.

Steve parked on the side of the road by the mill. He was tempted to leave the car running in case they needed to make a quick getaway.

They entered the mill, Max and El armed with flashlights, Steve with his bat and the boys with other makeshift weapons they had found around Steve’s house. Caroline needed her hands free so she could get to Billy.

“Down,” El said suddenly.

“Down? Like the basement?”

“Yes. I can feel it. A pull.”

“Do you think Billy is down there?” Caroline’s voice was shaking.

“Yes.”

They descended the stairs slowly, looking for signs of demodogs or the mind flayer, but it was strangely quiet.

That is until Dustin said, “Holy shit.”

The floor was littered with people. Their faces were unrecognizable, but they were all covered in the black veins that Steve had seen on Billy.

“These people were flayed,” he whispered.

Caroline covered her mouth with her hand as if she was about to be sick. 

“Billy,” El whispered.

“Where,” Max asked.

“There,” El pointed at a hole in the wall. It looked nothing like the other rifts they had seen. It was black and rotting.

“That doesn’t look good,” Mike whispered.

Lucas shushed him and Dustin slapped his arm.

“Okay, I’m going in first. El and Caroline follow right behind me. Max bring up the rear. Boys you stay here and get ready for us to come out.”

They nodded and got into position, holding their weapons in what Steve guessed they thought were menacing poses.

“Stay close girls,” Steve said as worked his way through the gap. It was a tight fit, even for the three small girls.

He felt one of them grab his shirt to stay close.

“El can you feel anything else for Billy?”

“I’m trying. He’s not far.”

“How do we know it’s Billy she’s feeling,” Steve heard Caroline whisper to Max.

“We don’t. We just have to trust El.”

Steve let El lead him through the twists and turns, praying that she could get them back.

“Here. It stops here.”

“He must be close then.”

They spread out as far as they could around where El stopped. Steve took a step forward and tripped. He looked down and saw what he’d tripped over. A hand. 

A hand attached to the body of Billy Hargrove.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

 

Billy was a lot heavier than he looked. Steve figured that out as he hefted the blonde’s dead weight into his arms and followed the girls out of the tunnels.

As soon as they were back into the open space of the basement Steve laid him out on the ground.

“Dustin call 9-1-1,” he gasped out.

He dropped to his knees and started trying to do CPR on Billy. He did he best but it had been a minute since high school health.

“Move Steve you’re not doing it right. You have to press harder or it’s not going to work.”

Caroline shoved Steve out of the way and took over.

“You’re going to hurt him.”

“Would you rather him die because you didn’t do it right or live with a broken rib?”
“Guys the ambulance is on its way! They’ll be here in fifteen minutes.”

“Mike, Will don’t just stand around. Light those tunnels up.”

The two boys nodded, spreading gasoline in the opening of the tunnel and throwing down the lighter.

They all watched anxiously as Caroline worked to revive her brother. It was a tense five minutes of silence before Billy gasped and coughed.

“Hey Billy hey. It’s okay. Don’t try to move.”

“Caroline,” his voice was raspy and his eyes were glazed over.

“Yeah Billy it’s me. You’re okay now. I’m here, you’re safe.”

“Max?”

“I’m right here,” she moved to the other side and grabbed Billy’s hand.

“Kay. I’m-i’m tired.”

“I know Billy but you need to stay awake until they get here.”
Steve could tell Billy was slipping away. 

“Hey Hargrove, I need you to hang in there. Don’t be a little bitch okay?”

“Harrignton? You’re the bitch.”

“Yeah I know. I know. Just hold on a little bit longer.”

“Steve they’re here,” Mike called.

“Bring them down here.”

Mike and Will disappeared up the stairs and returned with a team of paramedics.

They moved Steve and the two girls away from Billy and started working on him.

“Someone tell me what happened here.”

“He’s my brother. He went missing about six months ago. I came here from California to help look for him. A couple of days ago I got a call from him telling me to come here. We found him like this.”

“Okay. What’s his name and how old is he?”

“Billy Hargrove. He’s 18.”

“We’re gonna take care of your brother okay kid. Is anyone else here family?”

“I’m his step sister,” Max stepped forward.

“You two can ride in the ambulance with him. It’ll help keep him calm. The rest of you follow us to the hospital.”

“Frank we’re ready.”

They had Billy loaded on a stretcher, an oxygen mask on his face. He was wrapped in some sort of shiny blanket.

“Alright let’s go.”

The girls followed closely behind Frank and climbed into the ambulance. Steve and the rest of the kids piled into his car and took off behind the ambulance.

 

*****

January 1, 1986

 

When Billy woke up he was in a strange, stark white room. There was a slow rhythmic beeping coming from one side. He couldn’t move his arms.

He looked down to find two heads of blonde and red hair resting on his arms in the three square inches of space that didn't have some wire or tube attached to it. Harrington was slumped in a chair in the corner. 

He could see the rest of the brat pack asleep in chairs in the hallway with Joyce Byers watching over them.

Steve let out a soft groan and sat up opening his eyes.

“Oh my god you’re awake.”

“Yeah. I’m guessing I’m still alive. Unless I’m dreaming and this is heaven or some shit.”

“No you’re definitely alive. Thanks to her,” Steve tilted his head in Caroline’s direction.

“When did she get here?” 

“A couple of days after Christmas. Showed up and hunted me down. She’s smart.”

“Yeah she is. I missed her.”

Billy looked down at the sleeping girl with the softest look Steve had ever seen.

“She missed you too. She’s the only reason you’re here right now. She did CPR and revived your ass after we pulled you out. Do you remember any of that?”

“Not really. I remember the lights, I guess that was the ambulance. I was cold, colder than I’ve ever been.”

“How do you feel now? Shit I guess I should call a nurse.”

Steve reached over and pressed a button above Billy’s head. A stream of nurses flooded his room waking Caroline and Max. Before the girls could say a word they were ushered out, along with Steve. 

The nurses ran every test imaginable, drew tubes of blood and finally took some of the wires and tubes out of his arms.

“Mr. Hargrove, it is a miracle you’re still with us,” one of the said as she was leaving. “You’re a lucky kid.”

“Yeah. I guess I am.”

“Well you have two very excited girls waiting to see you. Your sisters?”

“Yeah.”

“That other guy, is he- sorry I shouldn’t pry. He was just very concerned about you. He’s barely left your side.”

“He’s uh, I guess we’re kind of friends.”

“You have good friends.”

“Yeah I do.”

The nurse offered him another soft smile before leaving and letting Steve, Caroline and Max into the room.

The girls instantly fell on him, hugging him tightly.

“Hey, I can’t breathe shitbirds.”

“Sorry.”

They pulled back and just looked at them. Max still looked almost the same, but Caroline looked so much different than the last time he had seen her, a tiny five year old girl, looking at him out of a car window as they drove away.

She smiled down at him with tears in her eyes. He reached up and cupped her cheek with his hand.

“Damn, you grew up.”

“You did too. I’m so sorry.”

“You’re got nothing to be sorry for kiddo. Nothing you hear me.”

Billy pulled both girls down to sit beside him on the bed.

“It’s me who should be apologizing,” he said turning his gaze to Max. 

“No. It’s okay Billy. I know why you did what you did.”

“That doesn’t make it okay.”

“No it doesn’t. But I forgave you a long time ago.”

Billy pulled both girls in for a hug as best as he could. He squeezed them tight, like if he let go they would be ripped away.

“Hey girls, Joyce is taking the rest of the kids down to get breakfast. You go, I’ll stay with Billy,” Steve said from his position in the doorway.

Both girls nodded, leaving Billy with a kiss on his cheek.

When they were gone, Steve sat in the chair by Billy’s bed. They looked at each other in silence before Billy spoke up.

“You look like hell Harrington.”

“You don’t look so great yourself.”

“I was possessed and dead for six months. What’s your excuse?”

“Fair enough.”

There were a few more seconds of silence before Billy spoke again.

“Thank you for taking care of them.”

“Of course. I’m glad you’re back though, you can get them out of my hair for a while.”

Billy laughed, then winced at the pain in his ribs.

“How has Max been doing? Neil hasn’t done anything to her has he?”

“No. I made sure of that. She’s actually been staying with me.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. It’s not technically legal but the new chief has given Neil a good reason not to make a fuss. About a month after the night at the mall, Max caught him and Susan trying to throw out all of your stuff. She went ballistic on them, called me and asked me to come pick her up. She’s got her own room, God knows we have too many.”

“I’m glad she’s got somewhere to go. I’m not sure I do.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I’m never going back to that house ever again. But I’m eighteen and until recently presumed dead. What options do I have?”

“Well I mean, both of your sisters are living in my house. What’s one more member of the Hargrove family.”

“You hate me. Remember?”

“I hated you. Because you were an ass. Then you sacrificed yourself to the mindflayer for El, or at least your doppelganger did, and she told us all about what she saw. With your mom and your dad. And Caroline has told us a lot. No one hates you Billy.”

“Well that’s nice of you Harrington.”

“Come on Billy, I have more than enough room in my house. It’s not like my parents are ever gonna be home, and I know Caroline and Max would feel a lot better with you around. You can stay until you’re fully healed and you find a place of your own.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course. But if you’re going to live with me, can you at least call me Steve?”

“I think I can do that pretty boy.”

Steve rolled his eyes at the nickname but counted it as progress.

“Mr. Harrington,” a nurse poked her head in the room. The kids were gathered behind her. “May I speak to you please?”

“Yeah of course.”

Steve followed the nurse out of the room. The kids filed in and piled up around Billy, talking a mile a minute.

“Mr. Harrington, I’d like to ask you a few questions about your friend if you don’t mind.”

“Of course.”

“Can you give me anymore details on what might have happened to him? You found him in the basement of the steel works correct?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“When you brought him in, he was suffering severely from poisoning from antifreeze. Do you know anything about that?”

“No. I have no idea what happened to him in those six months.”

“Okay. I have no idea what this poor boy has been through. I just know that he is very lucky.”

“Yeah , yeah he is.”

“Thank you Mr. Harrington.”

“Thank you.”









Chapter Text

Chapter 7

 

When Steve re-entered the room, he found the kids all sprawled out over the room talking a mile a minute to Billy. Caroline and Will were sitting cross legged at Billy’s feet. Max and Lucas were sharing a chair on one side of the bed, Mike and El were in a similar position on the other side. Dustin had taken Steve’s chair from the corner of the room and pulled it up beside Max and Lucas.

“Guys, guys. Let the man breathe.”

The chatter died down a little and Steve nudged Caroline over to make room for himself on the bed.

“What was that about?” Billy asked him.

“Just some follow up questions since I was the one who brought you in.”

Billy nodded and leaned back against the pillows. He looked so tired, the bags under his eyes resembled bruises. All of them were tired, but there was no way Steve was convincing them to go home to sleep. Especially not Max and Caroline, those girls were going to be attached to Billy’s hip for the foreseeable future. 

All of a sudden Billy gasped out, “Shit.”

“What is it?” Steve asked.

Caroline reached forward to grab his hand.

“It’s your birthday,” he said to the younger girl.

Caroline turned to look at the nurse’s whiteboard hung behind them.

“Holy shit it is.”

“How could you not tell us it was your birthday,” Will said hitting her on the arm.

“I forgot about it honestly. I’ve had bigger shit on my mind than my birthday.”

“I’ll be right back,” Steve said as the kids continued to berate Caroline for forgetting about her birthday.

Steve picked up the phone on the nurse’s station and dialled a number.

“Hello?”

“Robin, hey it’s Steve.”

“Wow dingus I thought you were dead. Where have you been?”

“It’s a really long story that I will explain later. But I need a favor.”

“What kind of favor?”

“How soon can you make it to the hospital with some cupcakes and candles?”

“Steve what is going on?”

“Okay short version? Billy Hargrove is back from the dead and it’s his sister’s, not Max his other sister that no one knew existed until a couple of weeks ago, it’s her birthday and she didn’t even remember it because she’s been so worried about Billy lately so I need you to help me out. Please?”

“Holy shit. You’re going to have to explain that in greater detail at a later date, but I’ll be there in twenty.”

“Robin you get like twenty tallies in your “you rule” column.”

“Yeah yeah, you owe me big Steve. I’ll see you soon.”

“Yeah. Thank you again.”

Steve hung up the phone and slipped back into Billy’s room. He reclaimed his spot next to Caroline and twisted a curl around one of his fingers.

Billy was sitting up in bed, laughing at something Will said. He looked happier than Steve had ever seen him. They sat together laughing at the kid’s dumb jokes until the door opened.

“Happy birthday to you.”

The kids and Steve turned to see Robin and Joyce in the doorway with a box of store-bought cupcakes with candles stuck in them.

“Steve what the hell did you do?” Caroline asked.

“Happy birthday sweetheart,” Joyce said when she and Robin finished singing.

Caroline stood in stunned silence.

“Well go on crazy blow out your candles,” Billy spoke up.

Caroline closed her eyes for a second, then blew out all sixteen candles in one go.

The kids gathered around Robin taking cupcakes and laughing.

“The amount of people in this room right now has got to be some kind of violation,” Robin said.

Caroline took her cupcake and snuck past the kids to sit up next to Billy on his bed.

“I don’t think you can eat cupcakes,” she told him a little sadly.

“It’s okay kiddo.”

He dipped his pinky finger in the icing and smeared it on the tip of her nose, which made her giggle and wipe a little bit on his cheek. Billy laughed and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

“What did you wish for?” he whispered under the commotion.

“I can’t tell you or it won’t come true.”

“Do you really believe that?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t want to jinx it.”

She leaned her head on Billy’s shoulder and he pressed a kiss to the top of her head.

“I’m glad you’re home.”

“Yeah, me too kid.”

 

*****
January 15,  1896

 

It was two weeks before Billy was able to go home. He was finally, semi-strong enough to walk, with the help of a cane. Billy hated the damn thing, said it made him look like an old man, but he had shut up about it when Steve offered to carry him.

The two had developed a strange relationship over the weeks that Billy was in the hospital. Max and Caroline had asked about it a few times but they had just brushed them off with a remark about working out their differences.

The other boys hadn’t noticed it, but they also hadn’t been around as much. After spending about three days at the hospital, Karen Wheeler had stormed into the ICU and drug Mike out by his ear. The Sinclairs had come for Lucas soon after and Dustin had gotten a very angry call from his mother the same day.

Joyce, Will and El had come and gone until it was time for them to go home. The kids had begged to stay a little while longer, but Joyce had told them regretfully that they had stayed too long already and that she had to get back to work.

The girls had hugged El tightly, with tears in their eyes, promising to call every day. Caroline had also hugged Will, thanking him for everything he had done for her and Billy. She sent him away with a kiss on his cheek that turned him bright red.

On the day that Billy could finally come home, the girls had gone ahead to Steve’s house to hang the banner they insisted on making and blow up some balloons. That left Steve and Billy making the drive alone.

Billy was still quiet and he spent more time sleeping than awake. When he was awake, he was pretty high on painkillers. Billy on painkillers was hilarious.

“You okay?” Steve asked, glancing over at Billy. The blonde boy had his head leaning against the window.

“Yeah, I’m okay. I just- I used to hate this town. I couldn’t wait to graduate, go back to California and maybe find Caroline. Now I’m glad I’m even alive.”

“Do you still want that? To go back to California?”

“I’m not sure, I mean it would be nice to go back to visit, but everything I want is here now.”

Steve nodded, a small part of him hoping that he fit in somewhere in everything Billy wanted. He didn’t know where these feelings for Billy had come from. They had hit him suddenly, out of the blue, watching Billy laugh and smile like he never had before. It made Steve warm inside, the way Nancy’s laugh used to. 

“Hey Steve?”

“Yeah?”

“Thank you, for everything. You didn’t have to do this.”

“I wanted to Billy.”

“I know that, it’s just, no one has ever cared about me that much. So, uh, just thank you for being there for me and the girls.”

“Of course. What are friends for?”

He turned to look at Billy and was met with blue eyes and a megawatt smile.

Steve Harrington was totally fucked.

Chapter Text

Epilogue

*****

March 1, 1986

 

“Billy keep your eyes closed.”

“They’re closed kiddo I promise.”

Steve kept his hands over Billy’s eyes to make sure he wasn’t peeking as Caroline and Max lead his by the hands. The boys were gathered around the Camaro that they had been hiding for two months since Billy had been released from the hospital. 

“Where the hell are you taking me?”

“Not much farther, you’re going to love it. I promise.”

“I’m putting a lot of trust in you right now pretty boy.”

Billy and Steve had been dancing around each other for a while, flirty words and teasing glances, but nothing more than that. Steve wasn’t sure how Billy felt, but he wasn’t about to push the boy who had just come back from the dead. 

“Okay, you can open your eyes in three, two, one.”

Steve took his hands away from Billy’s eyes and the kids stepped back to let him see the car.

“Holy shit, you fixed my car?” He turned to look at Steve.

“Don’t look at me,” Steve said holding up his hands. “It was all them.”

Billy turned back around and wrapped his sisters up in a bear hug. He picked them up and spun them around.

“Hey don’t hurt yourself,” Steve said placing a hand on his back.

“I’m fine Steve. Really I’m great.”

“Well then what are you waiting for? Try it out.”

Caroline tossed him the keys and Billy slid into the passenger seat. He cranked the car and it sputtered for a few seconds before the motor turned over. The kids whooped, excited that it still worked after sitting in the yard covered up most of the winter. 

“Alright hotshot you're not cleared to drive yet,” Steve said.

“Don’t be such a buzzkill Steve,” Billy said, killing the engine and climbing out.

“I’m serious, it’s time for your next round of meds. And it’s time for all of you shitbirds to go home,” he said pointing at the boys.

“Yes mom,” they all chorused in unison.

“Alright everyone out,” Steve said with a laugh, leading them inside and pushing them out the front door.

“Bye,” they called back over their shoulders.

Lucas glanced to make sure Billy wasn’t looking before giving Max a quick peck on the lips.

Billy was distracted, popping his handful of twenty pills. 

After Billy was medicated, he collapsed next to Steve on the couch. 

“I can’t believe they fixed my car.”

“Max and Caroline worked on it when we were looking for you. It kept them busy.”

“They did a pretty damn good job. It almost works like new.”

“Yeah the boys helped with some of the technical stuff, but they did most of the work.”

The girls came inside from saying goodbye to the boys and flopped on the floor in front of the couch.

“Did you like you suprise Billy?” Max asked.

“Of course I did.”

“It was my idea to fix the car,” she said proudly.

“I did most of the work.”
“Shut up Caroline.”

“Shut up Max.”

“Girls. Really?”

“Sorry Steve,” they both ducked their heads.

“Go brush your teeth. It’s getting late.”

They stood and raced each other up the stairs, blonde and red hair flying behind them.

“You really are like a mom,” Billy said teasingly.

“Shut up,” Steve blushed.

“It’s cute. I’m gonna go tuck the brats in.”

“Need help?”

“Nah I got it.”

Climbing the stairs was slow going but Billy was able to do it with minimal help. He entered the room that the girls shared and sat down on Caroline’s bed. Steve had promised the girls seperate rooms, but they had decided that they liked sharing better.

When the girls came in, Billy tucked them both in with kisses to their foreheads and sat back down at the foot of Caroline’s bed.

“How do you feel about going back to California?”

“For how long?” Max asked.

“A week or two. I’m not saying we move back there, just take a trip.”

“What about Steve?” Caroline asked.

“He can come if he wants. Or it can just be us three. We can go get snow cones and ice cream on the pier. I can teach you to surf.”

“That sounds like fun.”

“This summer. When you get out of school, we’ll drive out and stay for a while.”

“That sounds great Billy.”

“Good. Now get some rest. I love you.”

“Love you too Billy.”

Billy turned off the lights and shut the door softly behind him. He slowly climbed back down the stairs and reclaimed his spot next to Steve on the couch.

“I want to take the girls back to California. This summer when they get out of school.”

“Like on vacation?”

“Yeah. Stay a week or two, get some real sun.”

“I think it would be good for them, to get out of here after everything that’s happened. As long as your promise to come back.”

“I wouldn’t dream of leaving pretty boy.”