It started out as just visions or tricks of light.
Max had thought she was loosing her mind when she swore she saw demo-dogs all over the place, when in reality it was only her brain playing tricks on her based on her fears. Ever since the battle in the tunnels and the constant look out for anything weird in Hawkins, the Party had been on constant alert. Eleven had closed the gate, they knew that, but they were still on edge about the whole thing.
So, seeing far off glimpses of dark shadows lurking in the dark didn't seem that far fetched.
But then the night terrors began...
The first nightmare had seemed so real.
Max had woken up back in the tunnels, surrounded by those weird vines, musty air all around her making it hard to breathe. She could hear the distant sound of running feet behind her. Voices echoing off the walls around her, the boys and Steve arguing about something off in another tunnel. She'd tried to follow their voices but somehow she knew she was lost, unable to even call out for help.
Then the demo-dogs came.
Max had woken up in a cold sweat, jerking the covers off of her and rushing to turn on her bedside lamp. When light flooded her room she immediately looked around for any sign of danger, checking the shadows for monsters like a child afraid of the dark.
But she was afraid of the dark.
She knew what lurked in the dark.
By morning, Max felt like she'd been awake for days. All night she had stayed up, settled against her headboard with her legs tucked under her chin, waiting for the morning rays to come through the window.
It had been a rough night.
At breakfast, Susan had commented on how tired Max looked and asked if she wanted to stay home and rest for the day but Max had vehemently declined the offer. The last thing she wanted to do was go back to sleep.
Billy, who watched the whole exchange, just set a full cup of coffee in front of her after giving her an odd look.
Max had quietly thanked him before guzzling the whole freakin' cup in one go. She didn't normally like coffee but she would drink it on occasion.
This was one such occasion.
As tired as she was, she knew one cup wouldn't cut it. She refilled the coffee cup two more times, ignoring the weird glances her mom and Billy were sending her.
It was just one nightmare.
No reason to worry...
Now, Max was getting worried.
Night after night, the night terrors continued to haunt her. She had taken to leaving her bedroom lamp on every night, keeping the room lit up to banish the shadows. It seemed to work for awhile, the first week at least, but eventually even that couldn't deter the horrors creeping into her head each night.
Most nights, Max would stay awake reading comics or listening to her radio quietly. Most nights she wakes up in fear or just stays awake until her body succumbs to exhaustion. She didn't want to disturb anyone else in the house just because she was having trouble sleeping.
No reason to keep anyone else awake.
Except one night, she had almost been caught...
It had been late, very late, and Max had curled herself up by the headboard, leaned back on her pillows with her comforter bundled at her feet. She had been trying to read her comics to stay awake but after reading them so many times she'd given up. Her radio was playing softly beside her lamp, the light casting a softness around the room. It had just been her and her mom in the house, Neil was gone on a business trip and Billy had gone off to a party.
If Max had been paying attention to the time she would have known it was past midnight, around when Billy usually came home from his all night splurges. She had been so out of it she hadn't even heard the camaro pull into the driveway, nor did she hear the front door.
What she did hear was heavy footsteps coming closer to her room though.
Freaking out, Max quickly flopped down onto her pillows and shut her eyes, feigning sleep, just as her bedroom door opened. The smell of cheap beer and Billy's strong cologne filled her nose, making her want to scrunch it up in distaste. She should have known to shut off her lamp before Billy came home, knowing he would see the light on.
Max continued to stay still and pretend to be asleep even when she heard her brother walk into her room, listening to his footsteps come up to her beside. She heard him flip her radio off and turn out her night lamp, casting the room into darkness.
Billy probably figured she'd fallen asleep listening to music or something.
Max knew it was safe to slowly crack her eyes open just a little now that it was dark, watching Billy grab her comforter, pulling it up over her before turning and leaving, quietly shutting the bedroom door behind him. The second she heard Billy's own bedroom door close, she shot up and fumbled for her lamp to turn it on.
There was no way she could handle the dark.
From then on, Max was careful to always keep her ears open so she wouldn't accidentally get caught again.
Each morning, Max would make herself a large cup of coffee and refill it at least once before she and Billy left for school. It got to the point that her mom would just make a full pot of the dark liquid when she woke up. Thankfully, her mother didn't question Max's sudden inclination to drink coffee each morning, though Billy would still look at her funny each time she made herself a cup.
It was kind of sad, but Max knew that out of everyone in their family, Billy knew more about her than her own mother did. He knew she didn't really like coffee. He knew what she looked like when she was sleep deprived and not sick. There was no way for Max to hide her symptoms from Billy because he would see right through any mask she tried to put on.
Her mom, however, bought her innocent smile every time.
Billy would be harder to mislead, seeing as how he could somehow see right through her lies. Max had always thought she was a pretty good liar until Billy came into her life. She could pull the wool over her moms eyes no problem but Billy could tell when she was lying each and every time, it was kind of creepy sometimes.
But mostly annoying.
Thankfully, the only time they were alone where he could question her about it was either in the car or at home when their parents were gone. She could ignore him, which would only lead to a fight, she could lie to him which would also just lead to fight, or she could take the short reprieve in the camaro to try and nap before they got to school.
She went with option 3 each day.
The rumble of the camaro had a calming affect on her, one that could send her off to sleep quickly even with Billy's loud music rolling through the speakers. She drifts off in the car with the radio blasting almost every morning now.
The fact that Billy let her sleep in peace each morning was evidence enough that he was concerned about her. It was one thing to let her sleep, but it was another to keep the music a little lower and not drive like a maniac like he normally would.
Max was grateful for the pass, but unfortunately it wasn't just Billy that could tell something was wrong.
The boys were all growing concerned with Max as well. They could see the dark rings under her eyes, the far off look in her eyes like she couldn't focus, they could even hear the exhaustion in her voice.
Max didn't want to worry them. She knows they have all been through enough and doesn't want any of their attention on her, they had more important things to worry about than her childish nightmares.
Will was the worst out of all the boys. He could tell something was seriously wrong with her and constantly asked her if she was okay, did she want to talk, was she sleeping at all? His concern for her made Max feel cared for, treasuring their friendship even more. Each time Will asked her about her dreams, she would just hug him and tell him she was okay, everything was fine.
Max would continue to lie if it gave her boys some peace of mind.
Eventually, the nightmares won...
It was the beginning of the week and both Neil and Susan were away on a trip, leaving Billy and Max to take care of themselves. It was normal for Max to be left in Billy's care, even if it happened a little too often in their opinion.
So, Max wasn't too worried about staying up. She could stay in the living room watching TV or something, pretend she just fell asleep on the couch if Billy caught her.
Billy had ordered them pizza for dinner, even buying Max her own pizza for herself, spending most of their parents food money purely out of spite.
It was a little after 6pm when Max got a great surprise.
Billy had come out of his room dressed up with his hair freshly done, wearing his rings and had his leather jacket in hand.
"Listen shitbird, I'm headed out to a party on the other side a' town. Don't do anything stupid while I'm gone," he ordered, grabbing his keys from the counter.
"You coming home tonight?" Max asked, hoping he would say no so she wouldn't have to worry about him coming back.
Billy smirked and took out a cig, lighting it up with a leer.
"Don't wait up."
Max knew that was code for probably not but it wasn't a guarantee. She'd have to be careful. Turning back to the TV, Max watched Billy slid his jacket on out of the corner of her eye, twitching when she felt him grip her chin suddenly.
"Hey, I mean it, Max. Go to sleep tonight..." he rumbled, that no nonsense tone slipping in.
Max nodded softly just so he'd let go, knowing it would do her no good to argue. She smacked his hand away and watched him grab the rest of his stuff, heading out the door. A few seconds later the camaro roared to life, the engine rumbling out of the driveway and off down the road.
Coast was clear.
Getting up off the couch, Max headed for the kitchen to make herself some coffee. She didn't want to risk falling asleep in an empty house.
Better safe than sorry.
It was past midnight when Billy pulled back into the driveway.
Max had been drifting for the past hour, she was so tired. Just hearing the roar of the camaro had eased her fears enough to make her mind slip a little, easing her eyes shut as Billy walked in the door. Even while pretending to sleep, more like half asleep, Max could hear her brother sigh when he walked into the living room and spotted her leaned over on the couch. A moment later the TV was shut off and Max felt herself being lifted up off the sofa, strong arms curling under her to gently pick her up. She heard Billy kick her bedroom door open, walking over to the bed and laying her down beneath the blankets, tugging them up over her.
Billy walked out of the room and closed her door, his own opening and shutting a few second later. If she wasn't so damn tired, Max would have taken the opportunity to tease him, but she was so sleepy. The house was quiet now, perfect for some shut eye.
Maybe a few minutes wouldn't hurt.
She'd just close her eyes for a minute.
Just for a minute...
Billy was exhausted.
The party had sucked. The beer tasted cheap but, hey, free beer was free beer. The only people at the party were the hardcore kids, ones who didn't give a shit or could hold their booze and not get wasted.
He'd spent most of the night buried balls deep in some blonde, settling for a quick fuck when getting blown hadn't been enough. All he had to do was throw out a wink, some lustful words and he could have any girl he wanted drop to their knees for him. Normally getting laid would tire him out enough that he could sleep without issue, hence the reason why he bothered boning the chick in the first place.
After slamming a few beers and toking some shitty weed, Billy had called it a night and headed home.
He'd hoped the weed would be enough to let him get some sleep.
Most nights he would toss and turn until his body was finally drained. Doctors called it insomnia, or an inability to sleep properly. Billy had had it most of his life but it had gotten worse after moving to Hawkins.
Stress was a huge contributor, which he had plenty of.
It was the main reason he hit up as many parties as he could. Maybe if he drank and smoked enough he would actually sleep through the fucking night. The weed back in Cali had been strong enough to knock him out, he could deal with side affect of food cravings because he worked it all off anyway, but the smoke in Indiana was shit. The damn hemp here wasn't strong at all, barely even enough to get a high off of. He'd snuck a full joint off Tommy earlier but kept it hidden away by his bed for later.
He seriously needed to find a dealer soon...
After coming home to find Max passed out on couch, he'd almost left her there to sleep.
It was obvious the kid wasn't sleeping. Billy had noticed the weird way Max had been acting for the last month, downing coffee like it was water, falling asleep in the camaro every morning, seeing the dark rings under her eyes.
Even a blind man could see she was tired.
He'd carried Max to her room and made sure everything was off before heading for his own, intent on getting some sleep himself.
Shucking off his clothes, he tossed them over by his closet before pulling on a thin set of sweats for the night. It wasn't hot, per say, but he always ran hot at night.
Shutting off his lamp, he stretched out on top of the covers after punching his pillow a few times. His body ached, bone-weary and beat.
His mind, on the other hand, was still awake...
He was getting really fucking tired of being tired. The last thing he wanted to do was rely on pills to get some sleep, something his dad had tried to talk him into, but he didn't want to go down that road. He'd smoke all the weed in the world before he shoved a pill capsule down his throat.
'Just let me sleep...' he thought, rolling onto his back.
Closing his eyes, Billy could slowly but surely feel himself relaxing. A few more minutes and he would hopefully be asleep.
Or he would have, if he hadn't heard the bloodcurdling scream coming from Max's room.
Max gasped and clutched at her chest, her heart pounding loudly in her ears as she reached for her bedside lamp. When she suddenly felt cool earth beneath her fingers instead of her lampshade, she screamed and jumped back, seeing the dark tunnels instead of her bedroom.
How did she get there?
Fear spikes inside her chest as she turns around and around in circles, looking for any way to escape. The air was filled with the strange looking spores that made it hard to breathe. Max quickly covered her mouth so she wouldn't breathe in the deadly air, keeping her hands around her mouth as tears rolled down her cheeks. She was alone in the dark, her boys weren't there with her and Steve wasn't there to protect her either.
She had to find a way out.
A low rumbling from behind her made her jump and turn around, terror filling her gut when she saw shadows coming from the other tunnels.
The beasts were growling as they prowled closer, the sounds of running feet coming closer to her. Through the darkness she can see shadows running closer from the surrounding tunnels.
They were coming for her.
She had no weapon, only her fists to protect her. A sudden grotesque image of both her hands being bitten off rushed through her mind and made her shutter in fear.
Suddenly, one of the monsters rounds the corner and Max screams in terror, backing up and tripping on the vines beneath her, flinging her hands up to protect herself. She screams when the beast growls and lunges at her, blood stained teeth bared wide to rip her apart.
With a shriek, Max was instantly wide awake and felt two strong hands grip her flailing wrists, jerking her up on her bed.
She was on her bed, she was at home.
It was just a dream...
Max gasped in relief and looked up to find Billy holding her arms still, her body was half way up by her headboard and her arms were posed like she was fighting someone. She flung herself against Billy's chest and let the tears fall, burrowing as close as she could.
Billy couldn't bring himself to push her away, slowly bringing his arms up to wrap around her while she shivered and sobbed against him. When he'd heard her scream he'd jumped up in a blind panic thinking something was wrong, rushing to her bedroom to find her fighting against the blankets, throwing her fists out like she was striking something. He hadn't known what to do or think, he just quickly grabbed her wrists before she hit herself or him, screaming at her to wake up.
Max continued to cry, refusing to let go of Billy, hiccuping every time he tried to pull her arms off him.
She didn't want to sleep anymore.
She didn't want to go back to the dark tunnels again.
After a few minutes, Billy gave up on detangling himself and just picked Max up, carrying her back to his room with him. He was now beyond dead-tired and wanted to sleep. He'd let Max sleep with him so long as it meant he got to sleep!
Max finally let go when she realized where she was, curling up beneath the plaid comforter. The smell of Billy's cologne and his body wash filled her nose, calming her fried nerves after her terrifying nightmare.
Billy crawled back into bed, shoved Max against the wall side and laid down, pushing one of his pillows between them. He collapsed onto the comfort and soon drifted off.
Max didn't want to fall asleep again but could feel her eyes drooping. At least with Billy next to her she could focus one him, taking the opportunity to snuggle up against his side once he was asleep.
The nightmares didn't return that night.
When Billy woke up the next morning, the first thing he realized was that he was hot.
Why was he hot?
Next, he felt an extra weight against him, more precisely on him.
For a second, Billy thought it was the girl he'd slept with at the party, maybe he'd brought her home with him and couldn't remember?
A flash of red hair across his chest quickly nixed that thought.
Looking down, Billy saw Max's hair fanned out across him. The little shit had plastered herself against his right side, curling around him and using his arm and chest as a makeshift pillow! With a low growl, he pushed her off of him and rolled out of bed.
Max didn't even wake up, she just grumbled and rolled over to the wall and fell right back asleep.
Rolling his eyes, Billy stretched his back out and headed for the bathroom to start the morning. Annoying wake up call aside, he slept great.
Billy couldn't hardly stand to sleep next to someone. Usually he can't sleep at all when someone is next to him, it's why he never brought girls home to sleep over with him. He was not a cuddler. Last night, however, he had just fallen right asleep without a problem after hauling Max to bunk with him.
Grabbing a quick shower, Billy did his normal morning work-out before starting the coffee maker and woke Max up like usual so she can get ready for school. She hadn't bitched at him like she usually would, opting to just drag herself off to the bathroom to get ready.
For the first time in weeks, both siblings felt rested.
They leave the house like normal and Max can't help but be in a good mood. She feels rested rather than exhausted. In the car, she even hums along to the radio after a short banter over the choice of music.
At school, the boys can tell immediately that Max is better.
Will tells Max she looks like she feels better and asks if she got a full nights sleep. For the first time in God knows how long, Max can say that she did sleep for once.
It was a good day.
That night, however, was far from good.
By the time they got home, both Max and Billy were tired. They were still in good moods, but the day had caught up with them.
Billy had made them a quick meal for dinner and they'd watched a horror movie in the living room, sharing a bowl of popcorn while throwing kernels at each other. After that, Max had gone off to take a shower and wash all the damn popcorn out of her hair, growling at each kernel she found.
She had stopped counting after 14.
When darkness rolled around, Billy had headed off to bed and told her to do so too, not wanting her to stay up all night in the living room. Not wanting to argue, Max did as she was told and headed off to her bed as well, changing into pajamas and crawling under the covers.
She laid awake for hours until the clock read 11:00pm. She was too afraid to close her eyes, fearing she would be attacked by monsters from the Upside Down.
What horrors would await her if she closed her eyes?
She had no desire to find out.
When the clock rolled over to 11:43, Max gave in and threw her blankets off her, grabbed her pillow and left her room. Sulking down the hall, she barged into Billy's room dead set on crashing with him again.
Billy, who was half-asleep, glared at her but did move over so she could crawl up beside him. Once again, Max lays on the wall side, cuddling up beneath the blankets.
The moment Billy is asleep she snuggled up against his back...again...
The strange sleeping arrangements continue for the rest of the week. It's only when Friday rolls around that the siblings are hit with a sudden problem.
Neil and Susan are back home.
Billy really didn't want to deal with his dad finding out about Max sneaking into his room every night to sleep, that was just asking for trouble. He figured Max would call it quits anyway since Susan was back home. If Max had anymore nightmares she would just go to her mom, right?
At least, that's what Billy told himself.
Max was less than pleased when their parents returned. She realized that first night that her sleep pattern would be disrupted. There was no way she could sneak off to Billy's room with Neil and her mom in the house.
For one, she had a heavy foot and they would probably hear her.
Two, if either of them got caught by Neil there would be Hell to pay.
Max didn't want Billy getting into trouble with his dad because of her. If it kept Billy from dealing with Neil, then Max would stay awake at night like she'd done before.
The first night their parents are home, Max snuck in extra coffee before bed. She knew she'd need it.
When nightfall came, she didn't even try to sleep.
It seemed that sleeping alone had lost it's appeal.
Never before would Max believe she'd find comfort with Billy, of all people, but he kept the night terrors at bay for some reason. Without him next to her, the monsters would find her.
The next morning, Max is in the weird sleep deprived, hyper state of mind, where she acted energized but she was really just running on fumes. She was up and dressed before anyone needed to rouse her, taking a cold shower to wake herself up even more before throwing on some clothes.
The moment Max stepped into the kitchen and spotted the coffee pot, she made a beeline for it and poured herself a gross amount of the liquid gold.
"Morning, sweetheart," Susan smiled at her from the stove, the smell of bacon and eggs greeting Max when she stepped closer.
To be honest, Max hadn't even seen her mom was standing there.
Her brain was completely fried.
"Morning," she smiled, taking a large gulp of her coffee. The sound of footsteps behind her made her turn around to see Billy collapse into one of the kitchen chairs. He looked like shit, burrowing his head into his arms on the tabletop.
Max poured another large cup of coffee and set it next to him, tapping his arm. She watched him blindly reach for the cup, picking it up to down half of it in one go.
He looked like he hadn't slept at all.
Susan finished breakfast and dished out their plates, refilling both coffee cups for them with a soft smile. Neither sibling seemed too enthusiastic about eating anything but finished their food. By the time they were ready to leave, Billy seemed a little more alive and less zombie-like.
When they get to school, Billy considers skipping first period to just sleep in the car. He hadn't slept hardly at all last night, listening to his music most of the night until morning. It seemed like Max had slept fine though, given that she was wide awake.
"I've got practice today, wait for me," he warned her before heading off to the high school. Max waved bye to him before skating off for the middle school. She probably shouldn't have been skating at all since she felt dead on her feet.
In science class, Max almost falls asleep and Dustin keeps having to gently rouse her. He doesn't question her about it though, offering a patented Dustin Henderson smile instead. He'd even given her his pudding cup at lunch to try and make her feel better.
At recess, Max ends up falling asleep on the steps leaned up against Will. He could tell she was exhausted and let her sleep, offering what little comfort he could.
For the rest of the school day, the boys all try and take turns keeping an eye on Max just in case, knowing she was a little out of it.
For Max, the day could not end fast enough.
After school, Max walked out to the camaro to find it empty and no Billy. She was confused for a minute before she remembered that he had basketball practice. Figuring she could get some peace and quiet, she crawled into the passenger seat and leaned it back. She could have laid out in the back but there was no telling how many girls had also laid back there, so no thanks.
Drifting in and out, she knew over an hour had passed because she heard the driver door open. Glancing over she saw Billy toss his bag in the back before climbing in. She didn't bother with pleasantries, settling back down to sleep on the ride home.
Billy only has to look at her for a second to realize that she never slept at all.
At home, Billy does his normal work out routine and grabs a shower afterward. He hadn't done much during basketball practice, mostly just acted as defense, and hadn't gotten the exertion he craved. Doing a few rounds on the bench press had fixed that.
After getting dressed in some loose shorts and a tank top, he crashed on the couch to watch some MTV. He wondered if his dad and Susan would get home in time for dinner. If not, he could just order out for him and Max.
Speak of the Devil.
Max stumbled into the living room with a blanket around her shoulders and promptly crashed right on top of him!
"Shut up..." Max groaned, squishing herself between him and the back of the couch, tucking her arms against her chest while throwing one leg over Billy's thigh.
Billy glared down at her and briefly thought about shoving her to the floor.
"Do I look like a bed to you, shitbird?"
Max mumbled a quiet yes and tucked her head against his bicep. She didn't even make it through one song from the TV before passing out. Bulging muscles aside, Max had to admit her brother did make a great pillow.
Billy grumbled but allowed her to sleep, figuring he could use a nap anyway since he slept like crap the night before.
Just a few minutes wouldn't hurt.
Billy woke up with a jolt. He wasn't sure when he fell asleep but when he awoke the TV was off and there was another blanket on top of him and the lights were all off. He knew it must have been Susan because his dad would never be so kind.
Groaning from laying on the couch for so long, he slowly got up and looked at the clock on the wall.
It was late, like really late.
He wondered why Susan let them sleep for so long but figured the woman must have noticed how tired Max had been lately. Looking back down at the sleeping redhead, Billy honestly didn't have the heart to wake the kid up.
Instead, he gently scooped her up and took her to her room, getting her situated in her own bed before heading off to his own, just like he'd done the last time.
A year ago, Billy would have just left her to sleep on the couch all night or he would have woken her up by shoving her to the floor, but something had softened in him over the last year. He and Max had actually been getting along over the last few months, shockingly. They no longer fought each other about every little thing. It was much easier to look after the brat when she wasn't defying him all the time.
Back in his own room, he shucked off his clothes and got dressed in a new pair of sweats. Even though he'd been asleep for hours he was still tired as Hell.
Crashing to the bed, he turned on his lamp and fetched the hidden joint he'd stashed. Flicking his lighter open he lit up, taking a deep drag to fill his lungs.
Seriously needed to find a damn dealer!
It was still as shitty as the last time. Whoever the teens in Hawkins bought from needed to take a class on how to get fuckin' high.
Taking another drag, Billy let the smoke settle in his lungs before exhaling slowly, letting the smoke dance around his head. He'd kill for some good weed like he had back home, shit that could give you the best high of your life. The best all-time high he'd ever had was some shit he'd bought that came straight from Jamaica. It was called Purple Cash, smelled strong enough to kill a man and tasted even better. He and a few friends had smoked the bag on the beach over a 3 day binge.
The ocean turned into a moving rainbow.
Seagulls started tap-dancing.
He could speak Whale.
It was good shit.
This garbage couldn't even get him buzzed!
Growling in annoyance, he tossed the joint into his ashtray and flopped over on his side. He shut the lamp off and tried to relax, willing his body to obey him. For the next 5 minutes he moved from his back to his stomach, shoving the covers down to his feet.
This was bullshit...
After tossing and turning for another half hour, Billy gave up and got up from the bed, grumbling the whole time. Grabbing his pillow, he quietly walked down to Max's room and snuck inside, locking the bedroom door behind him just in case. If Neil or Susan tried to come in then he would have time to hide. He'd left his own bedroom window unlocked, worse case was he crawled out Max's window and snuck into his own room. After double checking the lock, he turned and walked over to the bed.
Max wasn't asleep either.
"Move over," he growled while shoving at her shoulders, ignoring her annoyed grumble as she rolled over to give him room.
Billy crawled into the bed and jerked the covers up to his chest, shoving his pillow under his head. Max's bed was smaller than his so they were practically pressed against each other. It only took a few seconds before Max rolled over and squished herself against his back, warm puffs of air hitting between his shoulder blades.
"Don't fuckin' cuddle me, shitbird," he growled, shoving at her.
In response, Max squished herself even closer just to annoy him.
"My bed, my rules. So, shush."
"Fuck you, I'll sleep on the damn floor."
"Shut up and go to sleep..."
Billy rolled his eyes at her, pushing his pillow further beneath his head to get comfortable. It took him a minute to find the right spot, not used to Max's softer mattress, all while jostling Max around behind him.
"Stop moving around," she grumbled, shoving her ice cold nose between his shoulder blades.
"Needy bitch," he growled right back.
They both settled down after tossing insults back and forth, though not before kicking at each other a few times.
Within a few minutes, they were both asleep...