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Billy loves the attention, is the thing. Loves to bask in it like it’s a warm ray of sunshine on his skin, has always been made for fire and heat, and now that summer has finally made its way to Hawkins, he can’t help but indulge in it.

Getting the lifeguard job at the local swimming pool over the summer has turned out to be a blessing in many ways. Growing up on the coast seems to have made him more qualified for it than most people around here by default, it seems, or maybe it was just his good looks and the hope that he’d draw a crowd of high school girls to spend their summer afternoons over here.

And their mothers, Billy thinks with no small amount of pride. 

It’s not like he really cares what it was that got him hired, as long as he gets paid to sit in the sun and look pretty. He can use the money, knows he has to save up now if he wants to get out of this shithole town next year, and any excuse to be out of the house all day is a good one, but having a job – being responsible – is even better and lets him off the hook with his old man most of the time. He has to get up earlier than he usually does over the summer, but he gets to spend the rest of the day sitting by the water, bossing kids around, working on his tragically neglected tan, and after – after. Billy can feel a flutter in his stomach that he’d never admit to out loud. After is nice, too.

He can hear children shrieking outside as he changes back into his trunks. Fucking brats. He hopes they’ll give him an opportunity to yell at them, the hour after his lunch break is always the worst, kids all keyed up on fries and ice cream, and the parents too lazy to keep them in check. Not that he minds being the one to do it for them, but it’s still fucking annoying.

He snags his shirt off the hook, then changes his mind and puts it back, walks out the door in just his trunks and sunglasses.

It’s been a boring day, he figures he deserves some fun.

Just like he expected, Mrs. Wheeler and her friends are in their usual spot, and he can feel their eyes on him as soon as he steps out into the sun. Heat and attention on his bare skin. Yeah, this job ain’t so bad.

When he climbs up into his chair a couple of minutes later, he already feels more satisfied with the day after getting to charm some ladies and yell at Vincent, who still hasn’t learned not to fucking run when Billy’s on shift. 

The sun is hot on his back as he looks around and spots Max with the Byers kid already sitting on their towels near the back of the deck. Knows they got a ride with Mrs. Wheeler as usual, Wheeler Jr. and the weird girl must be around here somewhere, too. Probably snuck off somewhere his mom can’t see, if the way they always stare at each other is any indication. What a cool kid like her sees in that nerd, Billy will never know, but then again he figures he has no room to talk. Christ.

He spends the next half-hour watching the pool and trying not to drift off. It’s a little bit mind-numbing, the only downside to a job that doesn’t require him to do anything most of the time. He wishes he didn’t have to stay alert just in case something happens and could at least be reading a book right now, but just as he thinks about going over to bother Max, or maybe go flirt with Mrs. Wheeler some more to pass the time, his attention is pulled toward the entrance where a new group of people just arrived.

Harrington.

Fucking finally, Billy thinks as he tries not to let it show how much more awake he suddenly feels.

The heat must be making Billy dizzy or something, there’s no reason why watching Steve turn his head in his direction for a second while he makes his way across with Henderson and Sinclair in tow should have him feeling like this, no matter how much he wants to get in his pants. It’s like everything is suddenly brighter, more intense, as if everything was just slightly muted before without him even noticing it. That’s – embarrassing, is what it is, and Billy wants to smack himself in the face for letting himself get into it so deeply.

He knows Harrington saw him, even if he couldn’t see his eyes behind his sunglasses. Also knows neither of them will do much to acknowledge each other in front of the kids.

Not like it’s a secret that they’re on better terms now, but there’s an unspoken agreement between them that the brats like to stick their noses in everything and don’t need to get the idea that there’s something to investigate, or some shit.

Mostly because there isn’t, really.

It’s just that they like to hang out sometimes, now that the fighting and apologies lie far enough in the past to not feel present anymore when they’re in the same room.

He suspects Harrington mostly hangs out with him because he has no other friends old enough to drink beer with, but that’s fine. It is.

Being kind-of-sort-of friends with Steve has made everything better and worse at the same time. He no longer feels that burning rage inside him every time he sees him, doesn’t feel like he could snuff out the wanting in him by bashing Harrington’s pretty face in, like he needs to, but that doesn’t mean the wanting stopped. Instead, it seems it just grew and grew into a low but constant simmering deep inside him, stronger and more tangible than ever, and never, ever going away completely. Not even for a second. No matter how hard he tries to ignore it. No matter how much he tries to tell himself that it’ll drive Steve away if he notices, in ways not even beating him unconscious managed to do.

So once again, he squashes it down, buries it until he can ignore it. He’s always been good at burying his feelings, but if he’s honest, it’s a lot harder without the anger to focus on instead. Without fuelling the rage in his belly, fighting fire with fire, until it snuffs out whatever else was burning there first. He’s trying not to do that anymore, though. 

Sinclair and Henderson have already made their way over to Max and the Byers kid while Steve is a ways behind, struggling to carry what looks like all of their bags, probably muttering something about not having signed up to be a babysitter, judging from the scowl on his face. Billy snorts to himself. As if he’s fooling anyone.

When Steve reaches the others, Wheeler and the girl – Jane? Elle? he’s still unclear – have somehow materialized next to them, and Billy can almost hear all the kids excitedly yell over each other from all the way over here. He almost rolls his eyes at them, they’re so damn excited, as if they haven’t been spending practically every day here together for the past three weeks.

Steve has been switching off babysitting duties with his ex-girlfriend and her creepy-ass boyfriend all summer. Whenever Steve’s working, one of the others seems to take over driving the kids to the pool since most of the parents are at work during the day and not all of them can fit into Mrs. Wheeler’s car, plus Max would rather skate twenty minutes in the blazing sun when Billy can’t drive her, rather than involve Susan in her business. It’s honestly a little gross how much Billy knows about it all by now, between not being on the warpath with Max anymore and Steve never shutting up about the kids as if they were his own. Billy even knows that Mrs. Henderson spends most of her time volunteering at an animal shelter one town over, even more so since her cat died last year, which Steve always gets strangely somber about.

Really, it’s a bit much, he doesn’t know why Harrington thinks Billy needs to know all of that. And it’s especially annoying because he soaks up any information coming out of Steve’s mouth like a dry, emotionally compromised sponge these days.

When Steve sits down on his towel, Billy realizes he’s been staring at Steve’s ass for a while, and thank god he can wear sunglasses on the job because it requires more effort than he’s willing to exert to keep his eyes off Steve with all that skin on display. Especially on speedo days. Today is not a speedo day, unfortunately, but his thighs still look pale and soft and tempting where they disappear under the fabric of his trunks, and Billy wants nothing more than to grab them, pinch them, mark them up with his teeth and lips.

He sighs to himself and finally turns his head away from the group and back toward the pool that he should be watching over. At least he’s not bored anymore.

 

***

 

Billy can feel the sweat drip down his neck and the hot air press around him like a thick blanket by the end of his shift.

His skin is sticky after four hours of sweating and occasionally getting splashed with chlorine water, entirely different and yet no less irritating than the crusty layer of drying salt that he’s used to after a day at the beach. He scratches at his shoulder and ignores the slight sting of it, absently wonders if he should have taken up Harrington’s offer of sunscreen earlier, but then again the mere possibility of Steve trying to put his hands on him in the middle of the crowded pool seemed like something best to be avoided, and adding more sunscreen to the grime on his skin doesn’t sound very appealing anyway.

The afternoon passed slowly but was completely uneventful, no one requiring Billy’s assistance as a lifeguard, barely any running around the pool, and Billy’s grateful. It seems like he’s not the only one left mellow and lethargic by the heat, hot air somehow even more oppressive than the last few weeks, and he wonders if there’s a storm coming or if this is just what summer is like over here.

The kids are gone, herded out into the parking lot by an exasperated Mrs. Wheeler – though not before her usual detour around the poor to throw a “Bye, Billy” his way – and led over to where Mrs. Byers was waiting to take half of them over to the Wheeler house for the evening. Steve came over a few minutes ago to tell him off for not putting on enough sunscreen – again, Christ, and what’s his fixation on that anyway? the guy really does spend too much time babysitting kids – before heading over to the changing rooms himself, leaving Billy to get the last stragglers to pack up and start stacking up the chairs.

The pool is deserted now as Billy grabs his stuff and locks up behind him. The parking lot is empty too, except for his Camaro and the lone figure leaning against another car, looking up as Billy approaches.

“Hey, man,” Billy greets him, as if they didn’t just spend the entire afternoon in the same place.

But he supposes they weren’t actually spending the afternoon together, not until now.

“Hey.” Harrington straightens up from his slouch against the car. “You coming over?”

“Depends. You got any beer in that fancy house of yours?”

Steve grins. “Might have.”

“Then lead the way.”

Billy’s grinning, too, as he turns and walks toward his car, tries not to show how eager he is, although he’s not sure why Steve even thinks he still has to ask. They’ve been doing this for weeks now, ever since that day when Steve stayed at the pool alone after the brats went home early, bought him an ice cream, and hung out with him until closing. It turned out Steve used to be on the school swim team and hated swimming in crowded pools just as much as Billy did. Except unlike Billy, he doesn’t have to because his parents are fucking loaded, and he has one all to himself at home. You could come over, Steve suggested. So Billy did.

And now it’s been weeks of hanging out at Harrington’s empty house whenever they’ve both spent their day at the public pool, and Billy knows he’s getting too used to it, knows it’s not good, but as he gets into his car, he can’t even imagine not following Steve home. He’ll take what he can get for as long as the offer stands and deal with the fallout later.

 

***

 

“I don’t know why you spend even one second at the public pool when you could be here all day,” Billy says.

He hoists himself up out of the water and onto the cement edge next to Steve, feeling more awake after a few laps. The pool isn’t really big enough to swim for real, but it’s deep and it’s cool, it does the job. It definitely beats dodging kids left and right in the ever-crowded community pool. It’s also heated in the winter, according to Harrington, and god does Billy wish this… thing between them, whatever it is, fucking friendship of convenience, will last long enough for him to get a chance to test that out. 

“I dunno,” Steve shrugs, kicks his legs lightly in the water. “It’s boring here. And anyway, the kids need someone to take them to the public pool, no way would their parents allow them to spend all summer over here with just me in charge.”

The words would sound annoyed if anyone else said them, and annoyed is probably what Steve’s going for, but Billy can see the fond smile on his face. No matter how much Steve complains about babysitting, he isn’t really bothered by it, actually likes to spend his days off with the little demons, and Billy doesn’t understand it, but he guesses it’s kind of cute or whatever. In a way.

“No lifeguard, huh?”

Steve smiles around a sip from his beer bottle. “No lifeguard.”

Leaning back on his elbows and squinting up at him, Billy grins. “Personally, I think Mrs. Wheeler just needs an excuse to be at the pool all day. You know, with the lifeguards and all.”

Steve wrinkles his nose like he smelled something bad, and Billy tries not to find it endearing.

“Yeah, don’t think I haven’t noticed you flirting with her and her friends every fucking day.”

Billy puts on his best leer. “What can I say, she’s hot for an older woman. Have you seen that new swimsuit?”

God, that’s – wait, you’re not actually, like, doing anything with her, though, right?”

“Come on, it’s just a bit of fun, it’s not–”

“Oh, my god, Hargrove, please tell me you’re not fucking my ex-girlfriend’s mother!”

What? No, I’m not fucking her, Jesus.”

Steve’s still looking at him all scandalized, and Billy can’t hold in a bark of laughter at the absurdity of the situation. God, he fucking wishes he could get it up for a hot mom and have some harmless fun, instead of hopelessly pining for straight guys as if he doesn’t know any better.

“Calm down, oh, my god, I’m not fucking Mrs. Wheeler, Harrington, what the fuck. She just thinks I’m hot, let the woman have some excitement in her life.”

“Well – it’s still fucking weird,” Steve grumbles, but finally seems to calm down.

“It’s not weird, you prude.”

“She shouldn’t be flirting with teenagers! You’re her daughter’s age, it’s– it’s weird!” 

Oh, Christ, Steve’s getting himself worked up again, and Billy doesn’t know why he’s so fucking bothered by this. Tommy fucking high-fived him when he was at the pool and saw Mrs. Wheeler and her friends waving at Billy. 

“Oh, come on, it’s barely even flirting. You’ll know when I’m actually trying to get with someone, I promise.”

Apparently that’s enough to shut Steve up, because the anger leaves his face as he looks away. “Right. Good. Because that would be way too weird, even for you.” He shifts. “You want another beer?”

Not even waiting for an answer, Steve gets up, disappears inside, and leaves Billy and his half-empty bottle by the pool, gentle waves splashing against the wall loud in the sudden silence.

Billy takes a sip of his beer and stares at the water.

The sun is getting low and the reflection of golden light is glittering on the surface, but the air around him still hasn’t cooled down, all thick and hot pressure around him. It’s not the same as back in California, with the ocean breeze only ever a bike ride away, but he’s missed the heat enough that he hasn’t gotten sick of the Indiana summer just yet.

His thoughts keep circling back to the conversation with Steve and his sudden retreat. He keeps staring at the water. Tries not to let himself consider that Steve might have another reason to get upset by his flirting with Mrs. Wheeler. Might be jealous of him. Might be jealous of her.

Fuck, Billy shouldn’t think like that, knows not to get his hopes up. But it’s just – sometimes Steve says things or looks at him a certain way, and Billy can’t help but notice. Can’t help but question if there might be something there. Can’t help but wonder if he’s pegged Steve all wrong. Thinking about the possibility makes something squirm in his stomach, and it’s less like butterflies and more like anxious worms because he knows he’s only setting himself up for disappointment, but he can’t stop.

Before he can distract himself from his thoughts, he hears Steve come back out and walk over, forces himself not to let anything show on his face.

Except he didn’t have to worry because instead of sitting back down next to him, Steve just sets two new bottles of beer on the edge of the pool and then gets on his knees behind Billy. Jesus Christ. Billy freezes, not expecting to suddenly feel Steve’s fingers soft on his right shoulder, stroking the skin there with a feather-light touch, inspecting the redness no doubt, breath on his neck when he speaks.

“Got you some aloe vera lotion,” he says, waving a green bottle in front of him for Billy to see, as if Billy could pay attention to anything like that right now. “My mom says it’s good for sunburns. She always makes me put it on, I think she got it from France or something. Hold still, okay?”

And, yeah. Billy’s already doing his best not to move a muscle, can’t, feels frozen in place like a deer in the headlights even when Steve’s hand leaves him, and he can hear him squirt some of the lotion into his hands.

He lets out a small, helpless noise when he feels those hands back on his skin.

“Sorry,” Steve says quietly, “it’s supposed to be cold.”

It’s not, really, because Steve’s hands are warm on his back, smoothing down his shoulders, slow and steady circles to work the lotion in, warm and wet and big, and Billy’s so fucking glad he didn’t let Harrington put sunscreen on him at the community pool earlier, didn’t let him do this in public, even if it got him sunburnt, this is torture, and he’s sure if anyone could see his face right now they’d see right through him.

See the way he’s biting his lips against the noises threatening to spill out, see the heat in his eyes, the longing, laid bare.

He wishes Steve would stop touching him. Hopes he never will.

“Man, your skin is so red. You need to be more careful, I fucking told you you’d get a sunburn one of these days.”

If Billy was able to think straight, he’d come up with something to snark back, but all he can do is murmur uh-huh, can’t concentrate on forming words, too busy trying not to let out any more obvious noises or lean back into Steve’s touch or do any of the other stupid things his body wants him to do.

Billy used to touch Steve a lot, in the beginning, back when it was uncomplicated, when it didn’t mean shit. But that was before the fight, before Billy started to care, before he had to worry about Steve flinching away from him. Before Billy got fucking paranoid about giving away his secret with one touch, one lingering look. It’s not like they don’t touch at all, it’s just, not like it used to be, bold, shameless. Not like this. Gentle. Intimate.

He gets a little lost in it, head bent to give Steve room to work the lotion into his neck, eyes on the water in front of him, one hand still holding his beer and the other gripping the edge of the pool, holding too tightly because he feels unsteady even as he’s sitting stock still.

Steve just keeps touching the curve of his shoulders, his neck, his back, alternating between broad strokes and rubbing soft little circles with his fingers, like he’s exploring his body, and Billy’s sure he must be covered in lotion by now, but apparently Steve’s not finished yet.

“Turn around. Got– gotta do your front.” Steve sounds a bit like Billy’s feeling, too, a bit unsteady, distracted.

Or maybe Billy’s just fucking stupid from the heat of the sun and Steve’s hands on him.

He lifts his feet out of the water and turns awkwardly so that he’s sitting cross-legged in front of Steve, who has to scoot back a little on his knees to give him space.

They’re still too close.

Billy feels dizzy looking at him. His face looks golden in the light of the setting sun, and when he drops his eyes from where he was holding Billy’s gaze to put more lotion in his hands, his eyelashes paint shadows on the light flush of red in his cheeks.

He looks so fucking pretty that Billy’s breathless with it. Doesn’t know what to do, just holds still and can’t tear his eyes from his face as Steve leans in close, too close, to put lotion onto the front of his shoulders, rubbing it in carefully, so carefully, as if he’s trying not to hurt Billy. Smooths his hands first down his biceps, then up the sides of Billy’s neck, and down, over his clavicles, the top of his chest, stroking, barely rubbing anymore, just touching. Touching Billy’s chest, staring at it where it rises with every shallow breath under Steve’s hands.

Then he looks up, straight into Billy’s eyes, and Billy’s sure his brain stops working for a second. 

Caught in Steve’s gaze, he thinks Steve might be swaying closer, thinks he might be going crazy, thinks he might do something stupid, can’t help but let his eyes drop to Steve’s mouth for a split-second, to where his lips are slightly parted, looking pink and soft and so, so inviting.

And Steve. Steve’s looking at him like he can’t look away either, like – like maybe he wouldn’t punch Billy in the face and throw him out of the house, if. If. 

But just as Billy feels like he can’t take it anymore, muscles tense and ready to do something – what, he has no idea, or maybe he does – Steve seems to snap back to reality and leans back, eyes widening just a tiny bit before dropping from Billy’s gaze, hands leaving his chest cold as he grabs the bottle of lotion and screws the cap back on.

Billy still feels like he can’t breathe. Can’t speak, can’t move.

Can’t look away from the boy in front of him who won’t meet his eyes.

“I’ll just put this – back.” Steve says, disappearing inside the house in the blink of an eye for the second time today.

Billy closes his eyes.

Takes a deep breath, holds it in until his lungs burn.

Downs the rest of his beer.

Fuck.

That was – fuck.

His stupid brain won’t stop replaying the way Steve looked at him, his big brown doe-eyes even wider than usual, so stupid and pretty, an intensity in them that Billy used to have to coax out with insults and punches. He wants Steve to look at him like that forever. Wants him focused on Billy like there’s nothing and no one else he cares about.

Wants his hands on him forever, too, thinks it might be worth getting a sunburn every day for the rest of his life if there’s even a slight chance that it’ll get Steve to touch him like that again.

Billy is fucking gone, and he knows it, and he’s terrified that Steve noticed it, too.

That he recognized the look on Billy’s face, the reaction to his touch, that that’s why he left so abruptly, left Billy sitting there like an idiot and still hasn’t come back outside even though it’s been five minutes and putting away lotion can’t be that big of a task.

Or maybe he’s scared, too, his traitorous brain supplies, but Billy shuts that train of thought down immediately. 

It’s not the first time that he thought he might have seen something in Steve’s eyes, but fuck, he can’t let wishful thinking get to him like this. Get his hopes up, like an idiot.

It’s not going to happen. 

Stuff like that doesn’t happen, straight boys don’t just develop a taste for dick out of nowhere, and certainly not for some asshole like Billy. It’s not going to happen. Steve was probably just confused that Billy got all fucking worked up from Steve doing him a simple favor, and now he’s inside the house coming to the conclusion that Billy’s fucked up and into him, not someone he wants in his house. All because Billy couldn’t keep his damn cool.

And yet, he can’t stop feeling Steve’s hands on his skin. Seeing the look in his eyes. 

He kind of wants to throw his empty beer bottle against the wall just to hear it shatter, just for the satisfaction of it, but he can't bring himself to. Doesn't seem worth the effort of lifting his arm, hearing Steve bitch at him, cleaning up all that glass when it's already getting dark. He hasn't really been in the mood to break things in a while, if he’s honest, and he's not sure how to feel about that. Tells himself it's the heat making him lazy. Sets the bottle down and dives into the pool instead.

Maybe Steve’s just in the bathroom, oblivious to the way Billy looks at him, as always.

And maybe he should just stop overthinking it.

So he forces the thoughts out of his mind.

Focuses on the cool water surrounding him. The sun has set, and the pool looks peaceful in the low light, the surface of the water disturbed by the warm breeze that’s picking up and by Billy’s movements as he swims in circles, dives to the bottom, comes up for air, repeats. 

Eventually Steve comes back out and stands at the edge of the pool. 

“We should go inside, I think it’s gonna rain,” he says after watching Billy swim for a moment.

Billy looks up at the dark sky and notices the clouds that were nowhere to be seen an hour ago. Pulls a face. Are they really gonna talk about the weather? Maybe he was right about something happening earlier, if Steve’s getting out his awkward small talk. He still doesn’t know if Steve just noticed him being weird, though, or if he realized what was going through his mind, or, well. If the interest he thought he saw on Steve’s face was real.

Steve puts out a hand to help him out of the pool, and Billy grabs it, looks up at Steve who’s illuminated by the blue light of the pool and the last dregs of daylight. There’s something insecure in his expression, hesitant. Nervous, almost, but his hold on Billy’s hand is solid.

And, Christ, okay, no, he can’t fucking do this.

He can see Steve’s eyes widening at the sudden grin Billy aims at him in the split-second before he tightens his grip, pulls sharply, and drags Steve back into the pool with him in a big splash, water surrounding them both.

Billy’s already up and laughing when Steve breaks through the surface, spluttering and indignant. He tries to dunk Billy in retaliation even as he’s still coughing and cursing at him. 

Billy’s back hits the wall. He’s splashing water at Steve, laughing obnoxiously as he tries to get away from him, and for a moment he thinks it works, thinks they’re back to normal again, just giving each other shit, the weird tension diffused. Even if he still feels like he’s going out of his mind a little bit at the possibilities racing through his head as they chase each other in the water.

He’s still grinning, but so is Steve in his attempts to dunk him, clearly trying not to laugh with him, when it starts to rain. They look up at the dark sky, and Billy can feel the raindrops on his face, a few at first but rapidly picking up, and he has to close his eyes against them, mouth open wide and grinning, sticking his tongue out to taste. 

The rain cascades down his face, finally cooling him off, finally cutting through the heat, finally letting him breathe. 

Billy tilts his head back down to tell Steve that he was right about the weather, but when he opens his eyes, the words get stuck in his throat because Steve is right in front of him. Just looking at him, and they’re close, so close, close enough that Billy feels the brush of his legs against his as they tread water, close enough that he can see the water dripping from Steve’s hair in the low, eerie blue light illuminating the pool, dripping down the slope of his nose, catching on his slightly parted lips.

Billy’s not laughing anymore.

The tension is back all of a sudden, thick in the air between them, and Billy can’t even begin to diffuse it this time. Steve’s got that look on his face again, his eyes flickering between Billy’s like he’s searching for something, and Billy feels frozen in place. Couldn’t move a muscle even if he wanted to, caught in the intensity of that gaze, and he’s sure he’d let Steve do anything to him right now. Steve could drown him if he wanted, and he’d go under without a fight.

“Billy,” Steve says, voice soft, quiet, barely audible over the sound of the rain.

He watches as Steve’s eyebrows twitch, something almost pleading in his eyes when Billy stays quiet. The wind picks up around them, rustles through the trees, the water lapping gently at his chest.

“Billy.”

And something in Steve’s voice is finally enough to break this trance that Billy’s caught in, makes him move, move into Steve's space, close the distance between them, slowly, damn the consequences, damn everything, until their lips meet, and oh

Oh. Maybe he’s drowning after all because Steve’s lips on his feel like a wave crashing over his head, all pent-up tension releasing, all around him, muting his senses, nothing in the world but the taste on his lips, and he’s almost confused when it's chlorine instead of salt water. 

And Steve's kissing back.

Like he's been waiting for it. Like he's starving. Soft lips parting and quiet gasps contrasting with the strong grip of his hands on Billy's shoulders, digging into him, not letting him go. 

Billy can't fucking get enough. Doubts he’ll ever get enough, could do this for the rest of his life, probably. It feels so good, better than a fumbling first kiss tasting of pool water has any right to be. Would be perfect no matter what because of the rush of getting what he thought was unattainable, because of the sheer release of all that tension between them. Because it’s Steve.

His fingers slide up Steve’s back, his neck, find his wet and tangled hair, cupping the back of his head as he pulls him in, one hand keeping them steady on the edge of the pool as Steve melts into him and relaxes his fingers, puts his arms around his shoulders, and lets his weight rest on him. It’s pouring rain now, but Steve doesn’t seem to care any more than Billy does, just plasters his warm body against his, wet slide of skin, and Billy gives back as good as he gets, his kisses deep and hard, pulling him closer, until there’s not an inch left between them.

It could have been minutes or hours of Billy losing himself in Steve before a flash of lightning followed by rolling thunder breaks them apart.

Steve tenses in his arms as his head whips toward the forest, sweeping his eyes along the treeline in the dark almost as if he’s expecting to find something there.

Billy blinks his eyes to clear the fog in his mind.

The rain is closer to a downpour around them now, making it difficult to gauge Steve’s expression, but whatever got him so tense seems to have passed. Another flash of lightning finally gets Billy’s brain working again and reminds him that it’s probably a bad idea to stay in the water during a thunderstorm.

“Come on,” he yells over another growling roll of thunder in the distance and reluctantly puts some space between him and Steve, who’s watching him and looks a little dazed. It makes Billy’s blood rush, I did that to him, I put this look on his face, and he has to stop himself from leaning back in to see how far he can push Steve.

But whatever Steve will let him do to him, it’ll be better if they’re inside, out of the rain, and preferably horizontal, although he’s not very particular about that last part.

He hoists himself out of the pool, then holds out a hand to Steve, who lets himself be pulled up easily, but he doesn’t let Billy go once he’s on solid ground. Uses the grip on his hand to reel him in instead, gets him close, close enough to get his other hand on his neck and put his lips on his, and Billy’s gone, gone, until he feels a shudder wrack Steve’s frame beneath his hands.

“Steve,” he mumbles into the kiss, then again, louder, laughing, “Steve!”

Steve seems to understand, because he frowns up at the sky as if he forgot about the storm, as if he’s angry at the rain for interrupting, for stealing precious seconds from them, for making him wait, and pulls Billy toward the glass door leading inside to the sound of thunder rumbling above them.

Billy just lets himself be dragged along mindlessly, too busy thinking about how fucking cute Steve’s grumpy little face is, too charmed by the idea that Steve seems to not only want to kiss him at all but to actually want it so badly that he’s annoyed at having to stop, even for just one minute, and Billy really doesn’t know what the fuck to do with that.

He kind of has the urge to pinch himself, just to make sure, except if this is a dream, he damn well wants to stay asleep as long as possible.

They stumble into the living room, hands clasped tightly, and Billy can’t stop smiling, can’t quite believe what’s happening, feels breathless with it. He wants to get his mouth back on Steve. In fact, there’s nothing he needs more than that right this moment, so he pulls him in by the waist and kisses him.

Steve opens his mouth immediately, and Billy takes his lower lip between his, sucking on it aggressively and making Steve moan, deep and sweet, and Billy loves that he almost sounds surprised, like he didn’t expect it to feel this good. He loves everything about this. Loves Steve’s deep voice as he curses when Billy nips at his plump lip, loves being pulled in by strong arms, loves that he has to lean up slightly to kiss Steve.

He walks Steve backwards until he has him up against the wall, narrowly avoiding crashing into the coffee table on the way because he can’t bring himself to stop kissing him, can’t pay attention to anything but the drag of their slick lips against each other. He crashes Steve’s back into the wall too forcefully, but Steve doesn’t seem to even notice, just pulls him closer, closer, never close enough.

They’re all wet from the pool and the rain, swim shorts soaked with water, dripping on the carpet and probably leaving stains on the mint green wallpaper, and Billy gets a thrill out of it, kind of hopes it'll stain permanently, and he should probably feel bad about that, but he wants to leave a trace. Like a fucking dog pissing everywhere to mark his territory, Jesus.

Billy can’t even bring himself to be ashamed, just drops his mouth to Steve’s throat and sucks, intent on leaving his mark on Steve’s body, too, right there on his throat where he’ll see it for days, where everyone will see it, and, fuck, that thought has Billy reeling, even if no one will ever know who put that mark there.

Billy will know. And more importantly, Steve will know. 

Even if he decides this was a mistake, and he wants nothing to do with Billy from now on, he'll still have to look in the mirror and remember

The thought makes him shiver as he bites down on the skin beneath his mouth, and Steve groans, bucks his hips up against Billy’s. He’s hard, god, and Billy’s reminded of just how big he is. Not like he forgot – as if he ever could forget, watching Steve strut around in basketball shorts and swimming trunks and fucking speedos all the time – but it’s something else entirely to feel it pressed against his hip. He releases the skin between his teeth and moans against it, into it, where it’s hot and throbbing and wet with his spit.

It’s all too much, not enough, and he’s helpless to do anything but get a hand between them and cup Steve’s obvious bulge through his trunks, pressing against him, drawing more sweet sounds out of his mouth.

Billy waits a moment, lets Steve rut into his hand but doesn’t tighten his grip, wants to tease him, draw it out.

Until he can’t bring himself to wait any longer and pushes his hand down Steve’s trunks to get a hand around him.

And, fuck, it's been too long since Billy last had a cock in his hand other than his own. Not since back in California, back before the move to this too-small town in Indiana that he doesn't know well enough to know where to get some discreet dick.

He loves it. 

Loves the silky-soft feeling of Steve's skin down there, the hardness, the weight of it in his hand.

Loves the way his hips stutter when Billy gets his hand around him and pulls, touches his thumb to the head to feel the wetness there. 

Really, really just fucking loves cock, he knows that about himself, has known it since he was 14, or maybe forever, but goddamn his head is getting all cloudy from it right now. He’s missed this.

Missed it so much that he feels like he could shoot his load right now, after only a couple of minutes of groping, and that just won't do. Who's to say that he can convince Steve to do this ever again? He's got him right where he wants him, up against the wall with his dick out, ready and willing for Billy. Better to take advantage of that. Better to get the most out of it, get his fill.

In case this is the only chance he gets. 

Because, sure, the heat in Steve’s eyes and the greedy moans spilling out of his mouth are encouraging, he’s clearly into this, so into it that Billy hopes he’ll come back to ask for a repeat once it’s over, but.

Billy knows it’s not always that simple. He’s had enough boys backtrack after an orgasm, seen the panic in their eyes, the denial. Hell, he wasn’t much better himself the first time he let a guy blow him behind the bleachers all those years ago.

So he eats Steve’s reactions up, every single gasp, every twitch of his hip into Billy’s hand, the way his hand paws down Billy’s back and squeezes his ass, pulling him in to grind his cock against Steve’s hip as he keeps working him with his hand almost trapped between their bodies now, and, god, it feels so fucking good.

Tries to commit this moment to memory, wants to remember everything.

The rain splattering against the windows.

The wet carpet under his bare feet.

Steve in his arms.

Ragged breathing, hot, sweat-slick skin moving against his, the taste of chlorine, beer, and sun lotion in his mouth.

But Billy wants more, too. The hand not on Steve’s cock finds its way into the back of his shorts, peeling the wet fabric from his skin with some effort, and grabs at his ass, kneads it, sneaks his middle finger between his cheeks, feels soft hair and heat, and rubs over his rim lightly, then lets his touch turn rougher when he’s rewarded with Steve biting out a surprised “Oh, shit!” and letting his head drop onto Billy’s shoulder, tilting it to press wet, open-mouthed kisses to his throat.

“Fuck, yes, you like that? You like my hands on you?” Billy asks, to which Steve only lets out a guttural moan in response and nods weakly against his shoulder, making Billy chuckle. Steve pants harshly, jolting slightly every time Billy rubs over his rim with the pad of his finger, like his body can’t handle how good it feels, can’t contain the pleasure.

Steve’s reactions are intoxicating.

Billy feels breathless with it all, like he can’t get enough air in his fucking lungs because his body is too busy grinding against the boy in his arms.

He lets go of Steve’s cock, trying to keep both of them from coming so early, desperately wanting to give Steve more than just a sloppy handjob, wanting to give him something to remember. He grabs at his hips to turn him around. “Let me – I can make it better, c’mon, let me make you feel good,” he grinds out.

But when he frees his own dick from his trunks and pulls Steve’s trunks down to his thighs, Steve grabs his wrist and says, “Wait, don’t...”

“Calm down, I’m not gonna – just, trust me for a second, okay?”

Steve relents and lets his wrist go but still looks at him over his shoulder.

“Just, like this.” Billy steps closer, fitting his body against Steve’s so that he can push the length of his cock in between his cheeks. He ruts against him, and when Steve realizes what he’s doing, he lets his head fall forward against the wall with a moan and a hard thunk.

Ow.” Steve reaches up to cradle his forehead, and Billy stills, concerned.

“Shit, sorry–”

“I’m fine, don’t stop, keep going,” he whines and grabs at Billy’s hips behind him, his own head forgotten, trying to get Billy to move.

Billy laughs, “Yeah, I can do that,” and bucks up into him as Steve huffs out a laugh that turns into a pleased keen.

“Oh, shit, oh, fuck, Billy, yeah, yeah –”

Billy pushes his hips forward harder, imagines he can feel his shaft rubbing over the puckered rim, and everything feels so fucking hot, hotter than sitting in the sun by the pool all day and so much better. He knows he can’t fuck him, even if Steve would let him, it would be too much, take too long, neither of them would even make it through the prep. But he can do this, the next best thing, his cock on Steve’s ass, so fucking close.

Steve pushes back in response, braces one hand against the wall above his head, and grabs blindly behind himself with the other until he gets a grip on Billy’s hip to pull him forward while he ruts against him.

Jesus, he’s so fucking beautiful, moles scattered across the soft skin of his back, begging to be kissed and licked, muscles bunching as he moves, all eager and desperate for Billy.

He wants to tease Steve, draw it out, wants to slow down and get his mouth all over his body, see if he can make him beg. Wants to drop down to his knees and choke on his cock, bets Steve would fuck his throat so good. But there’s no way he’s gonna last long enough to do any of that. Not with this fantasy come true in front of him, under his hands.

Billy runs his hand over Steve’s stomach, follows the trail of hair downward until he reaches his cock, and wraps a hand around him. 

Steve only lets him get a few strokes in, muffling a moan with the arm braced against the wall, before he turns in Billy’s arms to face him. Billy bites his lip at the feeling of cool air hitting his cock where it was pressed against warm skin a second ago.

“Wanna see you.”

Steve is breathing hard, looks almost feverish with glassy eyes and a delicious blush splattered over his cheeks, down to his chest. It does things to Billy, seeing him like that. Makes him want to keep him like this forever, get him off over and over again.

He presses close to Steve where he’s leaning against the wall and catches his mouth in a deep kiss. Steve returns it with the same desperation, licks and pants against his mouth as he takes Billy’s cock in a tight grip, making him bite Steve’s lip viciously, unable to rein himself in. It’s all moans now, neither of them speaking, too far gone as they move against each other, stroking each other hard and fast, losing themselves in the moment.

Billy has one hand on Steve’s ass cheek, soft and plump and pretty under his touch, muscles tensing with every movement. He’s gripping so hard that it must hurt, digging his fingers into the skin and holding on, but it gets a delicious noise out of him as he encourages Steve to roll his hips, chase his pleasure in Billy’s fist.

Steve’s head falls back against the wall as he’s watching Billy through dark, half-lidded eyes.

His cock is so fucking big and thick, and Billy hopes he can get his mouth on it someday, feel the weight of it on his tongue, taste of sweat and come in his throat.

He leans in close to suck on Steve’s tongue instead, presses him more firmly against the wall as he takes what he needs, wanting to fill his mouth, feel the slick muscle move between his lips, get Steve’s taste inside of him, all over him, eating up the moans spilling out of Steve as he grabs onto Billy’s shoulder to steady himself, rutting into him with abandon.

Panting for breath, Steve’s movements turn jerky and uncoordinated, body going tense against Billy’s where they’re pressed together, and Billy can tell he’s close, almost there, so he speeds up his strokes, tightens his grip, licks and bites at his lips, barely able to contain himself.

When Steve comes, it’s intense.

He’s completely silent, mouth open wide against Billy’s, gasping for breath, and his entire body goes stiff with it, muscles spasming, nails digging into Billy’s skin where his hand is clutching at his shoulder. Billy hisses against the bright-hot pain, loves it, loves the way it brings everything into focus, makes everything even more intense. 

Steve only makes a sound when Billy’s touch gets too much, a quiet whine, hips stuttering.

And Billy’s so fucking close now, almost there, but Steve’s grip on his cock went slack with the distraction of his own pleasure, fingers now curled loosely around him, unmoving, not giving him enough friction. Billy covers his hand with his own, his fingers fumbling with need, folding over Steve’s. He tightens their combined hold and thrusts his dick in and out of it, fast and sloppy, just using Steve’s hand, using his body to get off, fuck. And Steve just lets him, mouths at his lips in a lazy kiss, content to let him take what he needs, and Billy’s gone, waves crashing over him as he spills all over their joined hands with a moan.

Afterward, satiated and breathing hard but slowly coming down from their high, Billy turns their kiss into something chaste and slow, gentle, almost sweet.

It’s too much. Billy can barely think straight, head still buzzing with pleasure even as he tries to gather himself.

He feels open and raw, doesn’t want this to end, but he knows that it has to. He needs to get himself back under control. He needs to back off before Steve notices and freaks out or takes it back or, worse, feels the need to let him down gently, like he’s one of those fucking girls who chased him back in school.

So Billy gathers all his willpower and pushes away from Steve, skin cold where it misses his touch. Even though he wants nothing more than to wrap himself around Steve’s sweat-drenched, exhausted, beautiful body, he needs to get a fucking grip before he says something he’ll regret or gives into the weird urge he has to thank Steve, or something, and the only way to clear his head is to distance himself from Steve’s intoxicating presence for a few minutes. 

The mint green wallpaper is dark with wet stains where Steve was pressed up against it. It makes Billy’s insides twist.

He works hard to keep his thoughts off his face. Awkwardly pulls his trunks up from halfway down his thighs, wet fabric cold and uncomfortable on his spent and messy cock. He watches Steve scramble to do the same, shoots him a casual smile as he tells him he needs a shower and makes his way to the guest bathroom.

Closing the door behind him and looking in the mirror at his flushed face, he feels cold, the sun-fueled heat of the day long gone, the cooling rain outside only just now slowing down to a drizzle.

Steve’s already done with his shower when Billy comes back downstairs, finally free of all the sweat and chlorine and clad in a soft pair of shorts but with a heavy feeling in his stomach. He doesn’t want to go home; he doesn’t want to leave Steve. Doesn’t want to lie awake all night and wonder if this will be the last time Steve would be waiting at the pool to take him home after his shift.

Billy never even got to try out the heated pool in cold weather. Never got his mouth on Steve’s dick, either.

He walks up to Steve, who’s standing awkwardly in the hallway – looking remarkably like a wet dog with his hair drenched from the shower and his big, stupid eyes trained on Billy – and braces himself to be kicked out of the house in what he imagines to be a very particular brand of practiced yet clumsy and uncomfortable rejection that many girls must have been on the receiving end of before him.

But that’s not what happens.

Instead, Steve stands there, rubbing the nape of his neck and looking like he’s the one who should be nervous. Maybe he’s waiting for Billy to freak out on him, Billy thinks. Not like that wouldn’t be a fair assumption.

“Um, so I was gonna order pizza?” Steve asks, shifting on his legs. “I’ll get you one, too, if you can stay that long. I mean, if you want to.” 

Steve’s voice is casual, but there’s something on his face that almost seems – resigned. Like he’s expecting Billy to say no.

And Billy doesn’t quite know what to do with that, didn’t expect Steve to want him to stay, but. Doesn’t want to risk reading this wrong, either, because chances are Steve’s just bored and lonely as usual, so he puts on a big grin. “I’ll stay for as long as you’ll have me, darling.”

If he meant to diffuse the tension with a joke, it doesn’t work, his voice comes out entirely too honest, and Steve clearly notices. Drops his shoulders.

“Yeah?” he breathes.

Billy shrugs in agreement and sits down on the big couch as he waits for Steve to place their order.

He feels weird. Unsure of how to read the situation.

Sitting still and doing nothing isn’t his usual course of action. He wants to either blow full steam ahead and throw Steve on the nearest flat surface to convince him that he’s worth the time or be the one to leave before Steve has the chance to ask him to, but he’s not sure which option is less likely to freak Steve out. Or more likely to be what Steve is after.

And he’d go for one or the other regardless, normally; with anyone else, any other person, he wouldn’t hesitate. It’s just that, well. This is Steve. Steve, who he hasn’t been able to take his eyes off since the first time he saw him. Steve, who he’d definitely notice the absence of in his life if he did something to drive him away. No matter how often he tells himself it shouldn’t matter, that Steve shouldn’t matter – he does. And Billy never really had to deal with that before.

So here he is, caught in limbo, not acting on either impulse because Steve makes him weak. Makes him care

He hears Steve’s footsteps behind him, then a quiet, “Oops.”

When he turns, Steve is pointing at Billy’s shoulder, biting his lip against a smile, and Billy twists his head to inspect his skin.

He sees the angry red lines from Steve’s fingernails clutching at him earlier. They look worse than they feel on his already sunburnt skin, but now that he’s paying attention, Billy can feel the sting of it again. Revels in it, happy to take home his own souvenir, a temporary reminder of Steve’s pleasure.

And, shit, but the smug look on Steve’s face sends a spike of heat straight to Billy’s gut.

“Sorry,” Steve says, almost succeeding in sounding apologetic, eyes lighting up when Billy just grins in response.

Still not cured of his babysitting tendencies, Steve brought the aloe vera lotion with him and sits behind Billy on the couch. He works it into Billy’s skin in gentle, broad strokes, and if Billy wasn’t so spent, he thinks he could get hard from this alone. Is probably conditioned to associate the smell of aloe with Steve and heat and unbearable tension forever, now. 

“I’ve kinda been hoping this would happen all summer,” Steve says out of nowhere, his hands still smoothing up and down Billy’s back.

Billy swallows, throat tight. “For me to get a sunburn?”

Steve swats him lightly. “No, asshole. You know what.”

Billy’s heart is beating faster. He wishes he could see Steve’s face, but then again, maybe not.

“Well, shit, you mean I’ve been holding back for no reason?” 

“You’ve been holding back?” Steve asks, and Billy wonders if he’s imagining the vulnerability in Steve’s voice. Decides he must be. Wishes again that he could see Steve’s face, see what’s in those expressive eyes, see a hint of what’s going on in his head right now. Steve’s thought about this.  

Billy hums. “Been holding back whenever you wore those speedos at the pool, that’s for sure.”

He doesn’t really know what else to say, doesn’t know how hard to push. Feels a bit like they’re teetering on the edge of something. Have been for a while, maybe, even if Billy’s been trying his hardest to ignore it.

Even now there’s still a part of him that’s convinced he’s being an idiot. That he should quit while he’s ahead. That he’s making a mistake, that his imagination is running wild, that he’s only seeing what he wants so, so badly to be true. Except that part of him was convinced that Steve Harrington would punch him in the face if he ever kissed him, so. A bit hard to trust it at this point.

“You should have let me put sunscreen on you at the pool,” Steve says, filling the silence. “I told you.”

“You spend too much time with those brats. You’re turning into a mom.”

“Yeah, well, I was right.”

“Yeah, well, maybe I thought it would be a bad idea to let you put your hands all over me and get a stiffy in public,” Billy grins.

“Oh.” Billy can actually hear Steve blushing. It’s adorable. And hot.

Billy lets the silence stretch, still grinning, and after a moment, he says, “I bet you just wanted to feel me up, anyway. Have an excuse to get your hands all over me, huh?”

Steve recovers quickly and seems to be intent on giving back as good as he gets because he leans in close and puts his mouth to Billy’s ear. “Maybe,” he smiles, and kneads Billy’s shoulders lightly, teasingly.

The tone of Steve’s voice strikes a fire low in Billy’s belly. It sounds like. Like a goddamn invitation. An invitation to tease back, to flirt, to take. To push. And Billy’s suddenly done with all the hesitation, all the doubt and indecision and reluctance he’s been driving himself crazy with all fucking day. He finally turns around to face Steve, brackets him in with his legs on either side of his hips, and leans in so close that he can see the little constellation of freckles on Steve’s cheeks, feel the warmth of his breath on his face.

He looks straight into Steve’s eyes, sees nothing in them but raw honesty and a twinkle of mirth, feels the smile on his own face turn soft as he tries to convey to Steve that he’s serious, that he’s being just as honest. Needs him to know that he’s not fucking with him, either.

“You don’t need an excuse to touch me. Can touch me as much as you want, baby.”

Steve’s hands are back on his shoulders, stroking down his arms as if to prove that theory. His touch is slow and hesitant, careful, like he’s exploring something precious. All of his attention is focused on Billy, nothing but Billy, and it all feels so good. He feels connected to Steve, in this moment, like he’s in the middle of a trashy romance novel all of a sudden. And he can’t even pretend he doesn’t like it.

He rests his hands on Steve’s knees to return the touch, rubbing soft little circles into the skin of his inner thigh.

“That’s gonna be a lot of touching then,” Steve says like it’s a warning. Like he doesn’t know it’s all that Billy wants. Has been wanting since he saw him for the first time, back in the fall.

He puts his own hand up to Steve’s face, gaze never wavering from his, and holds his chin between his thumb and his forefinger, brings his mouth closer to his, not quite closing the distance.

“You might never get rid of me,” Steve breathes.

Billy hums appreciatively, low in his throat, his lips catching on Steve’s.

“Good.”