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❛ say yes to me ❜

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Steve’s surprised the world is still intact when he comes back down to it. His head rests on Billy’s lap as Billy smokes a cigarette out of the window and gazes up at the clear sky. The fabric rustling under Steve’s head tells him Billy has pulled his red lifeguard shorts back on.

Steve glances down at himself. Billy has covered Steve's lower half with the acid blue denim jacket he wore to school almost every day for a year and sometimes when the mornings were chilly, like today. Steve glances around, relieved to see they’re still in the back of Billy’s Camaro with its familiar scent of leather and woods and Billy. 

Shit. Steve groans. He must have fallen asleep or something. He tends to slip into naps when they have multiple rounds on scorching days like today. Steve’s already forsaken his lunch break, another ten minutes probably won’t change how angry Mr. Seymour will be with Steve.

“Hey, Sleeping Beauty,” Billy says above him, his deep voice seems to roll in waves through Steve and zings between his bones. “The witch is slain, you can wake up now.”

And because Billy is a bastard, he leans down and presses a sloppy kiss to Steve’s forehead. 

Gross, Billy,” Steve complains as he pushes Billy off him and sits up in the car. Billy just laughs like he always does, like the world is one funny joke after the other and he can hardly believe it. 

He keeps Billy’s jacket resting over his lap. He winces at the familiar ache in his joints and muscles. Yep, he’s going to be sore in the morning. More from how far Billy bent his legs back than anything else. He seems to be under the impression that Steve is a gymnast with infinite flexibility.

If Billy keeps doing that he might end up being just that. He cricks his neck, wondering what kind of excuse he can dredge to avoid his manager’s — but then another middle-aged man with a moustache comes to mind. Billy’s dad. Billy’s dad looking in the trunk of his car not far from them.

Steve starts. He grips Billy’s arm and pops his head out the window to look at the cars in the parking lot. He searches for that familiar (balding) head of hair and that crumpled blue coat he constantly wears like he’s a cartoon character, seriously —

“What are you doing?” Billy asks. 

It’s only then that Steve realises he’s leaning over Billy. He looks at him. Billy has leant back in his seat and he gazes back at Steve and Steve takes a moment to admire him.

Post-Orgasm Billy might be his favourite. Billy’s tanned skin flushes rose gold. He’s got his red and white lifeguard tank top back on. Steve is tempted to reach out and trace the light sheen of sweat on his collarbones and — wait, shit, what was he doing? He meets Billy’s gaze, the same startling blue shade as the cloudless sky above them. What was he doing? 

“You made me drop my cigarette,” Billy says, his voice carries that rough edge from a particularly intense orgasm. 

“Your dad.” Steve blurts, feeling his cheeks heat up, “I saw your dad.” 

He looks out of the window again, trying to find any sign of the man. He wouldn’t be surprised if the guy was hiding under the car. There’s something very Freddy Kreuger about him. Steve gets off Billy and sits back down. Steve looks at Billy again when he realises how quiet the other boy's gotten.

He expected Billy to freak out, tell Steve to get the fuck out Harrington or I’m gonna push you out the goddamn window myself, I don’t care if you break your legs. Steve was sure Billy would kill him that night. It had been the last week of high school and the night before graduation and Steve, giddy at the thought of a high-school-free life, had drank a whole six-pack by himself in his back garden. It was there he had the bright idea to sneak into Billy’s bedroom for a surprise booty call. It might have been one of the worst ideas Steve’s ever had. Top two, definitely. 

The thing is Billy Hargrove isn’t really one for rules. He lives life at two hundred miles an hour. Fast and hard and wild. Steve can tell Billy intends to ride this thing called life until he’s thrown off. So, yeah, Billy Hargrove isn’t really one for rules but when he does have them, he sticks to them like gospel. It’s fucking weird but also weirdly kinda hot? Steve doesn’t really do “discipline”, if he did he would be planning his move to college and he wouldn’t be forced to work at Scoops Ahoy of all places.

One of those rare Billy Hargrove rules made especially for Steve is don’t come to my house. Ever. And look, despite what’s written on Hawkins High bathroom walls, Steve isn’t (that) stupid. Billy’s house is a no-no because his parents (and little stepsister) are always there. Duh. Steve’s house is a yes-let’s-go because Steve’s parents are (never) rarely there.

It’s just — Steve has his stupidest ideas when he’s drunk and most people like Tommy and Carol know he turns into an idiot when all he does is shotgun drinks (and he did that night. He shotgunned. A lot). Steve really thought he’d screwed it up. Screwed up whatever fragile thing had grown between him and Billy. Screwed it up like he screwed that very thing up with Nancy. Man, had that been a fucking disaster.

A week had passed, a week of nothing, no phone calls, no secret menu codes, no lunchtime hookups, nothing, nothing, nothing. A week had passed and Billy had the gall to sneak into Steve's bedroom in the middle of the night smelling like whiskey and bonfire . They both tumbled onto the floor when Steve had tried to help Billy out (because the idiot’s belt got stuck in the window). Billy landed on top of him. Steve groaned as Billy pushed himself up to stare down at him and Steve had stared back up at him, heart thundering somewhere in his body or the air (who knows). It was then that Billy swept down and buried his face in Steve’s neck. 

Let me blow you, Billy had whispered into his skin in a gravelled voice like sin. 

You’re drunk, Steve had whispered back when he managed to swallow the choking noise Billy’s request broke from him. Billy’s hands were already wandering, circling, coasting Steve's topless torso. 

And am I supposed to say I'm drunk and you’re beautiful? Billy chuckled and sucked a kiss into Steve's neck. It dropped a fiery stone into the pit of his stomach. Steve had to bite his lip to stop himself from crying out. 

Steve wrapped his legs around Billy’s hips and distantly wondered how he had gone from getting an early night (for a pointlessly early shift at Scoops Ahoy) to illicitly grinding against Billy Hargrove on his bedroom floor. 

Fuck off, Steve had scoffed but the thought made his head spin in a way only those childhood swings could, s’not a movie.

Billy had ground down, sparks burst through him, Steve bit down on his lip again to stifle a moan. I thought you’d like that romantic shit, Billy said, his hands wandering past the waistband of Steve’s boxers now, y’know, Sixteen Candles, Molly Ringwald — and Steve had to shut him up with a kiss. It was the only way to shut him up. 

“Oh, right,” Billy says, pulling Steve back to the present.  He picks up the packet of cigarettes from the floor and pulls one out. He lights it with a single click. The swirling smoke drifts into the sky. “Don’t worry, he didn’t see us.”

Steve blinks. He says, “wait—”

“Relax,” Billy says, rightly sensing Steve’s oncoming annoyance.

Wha— you knew he was there?”

Billy taps the ash off the cigarette as he says. “Not really, I only saw him after. You were still spaced out when I looked around and he was walking back to his car. He didn’t see us. I wouldn’t be here or alive if he did.” He scoffs and takes a deep drag of his cigarette, “The dickhead probably forgot his wallet. He’s been doing that a lot lately. Forgetting.” Billy goes quiet for a moment, deathly silent and the world seems to follow, not a bird call or chatter. Another drag. A puff of smoke. “Sometimes, I wonder if it’s serious, y’know? If his mind is going to rewind all the way to beginnin' or  near the beginnin'. If he’ll be someone else entirely.” A dark smile tugs at his lips. He looks at Steve. “A guy can only dream, huh?”

This moment feels like the one after the coffin is lowered into the deep earth and soil is thrown over it until the ground is level again. Steve has the odd inkling that Billy has just buried someone in that coffin, in this moment with that melancholy smile. Whether it’s Billy or Mr. Hargrove is something only time will reveal or a version of Steve Billy trusts enough to open up to. Ha. A version of anyone Billy trusts enough to open up to. 

Steve swallows. On his lap, he plays with the tattered frayed denim of Billy’s jacket. “Dads. I can’t think of a single good one.”

Maybe it’s just another one of those things Steve doesn’t get but surely, dads should try a little harder to not be such dicks to their sons? Steve’s already sworn he won’t be like that. He’s actually going try listening to his son and try hugging him too and just telling him he’s proud of him every once in a while because it doesn’t cost a fucking thing and — 

“What about your ex’s dad?” Billy asks.

Billy doesn’t say Nancy’s name. It’s always your ex, that Wheeler chick or the rejected member of the Famous Five and once Little Bo and Peeping Jo the Boyfriend. 

Steve blinks. “Mr. Wheeler?”

Not that Steve has looked but — Nancy’s mom is hot and Steve can only imagine how hot she would have been at his age. He doesn’t get how she ended up with a dud like Ted Wheeler. You could swap the guy with an egg and there’d be no difference. Wait. Is that what’s going to happen to him if he stays in Hawkins? Either he marries someone like Ted Wheeler or he becomes Ted Wheeler. He can’t tell which is worse. Shit. Is that what Nancy saw in him? Is that why she ran head-first to the opposite of him? To quiet yet creepy Jonathan Byers? 

“Mr. Wheeler’s not good,” Steve shakes his head, trying to curb his spiralling thoughts, “He’s not good…he’s just not bad either. He’s kind of — blah, I don’t know. He’s not good.”

“None of them are,” Billy says, a little wistful, a little resentful.

Fuck,” Steve groans as he throws his head back against the seat. He digs his hands into his eyes, “I don’t even wanna know how I late am.” 

There’s a rustling noise then something lands in his lap. Steve puts a pause to his Self-Pity/Freakout Sesh to glance down. It’s a paper bag. A Burger King bag. Steve looks through it and pulls out a burger, obviously, and a large coke. He looks at Billy who’s just gone back to smoking and looking up at the sky. 

“What’s this?” He asks, genuinely confused. 

Billy looks at him. His eyes narrow, “it’s my dad's severed head. I chopped it off and brought it to you like a proud cat.”

Oddly enough, it pushes a laugh out of him. He says, “it sounds like something you’d do.” 

Billy’s mouth twitches in a faint smile. He looks away again and shrugs, “you missed lunch, didn’t you?” 

Steve is about to object then he realises Billy’s right. He snatched off his apron and ran off to meet Billy in the parking lot the second his lunch break began.  

Next to him, Billy says, “if you leave a single crumb anywhere in my baby you won't see tomorrow.”

“I’ll pay you back—”

“It’s dirt cheap, Harrington,” Billy says with another roll of his eyes, “don’t worry about it.” 

Steve places the coke between his thighs and bites into the burger to stop himself from smiling too brightly. It'll avoid Billy calling him a sentimental dork. 

After he’s finished eating and Billy has finished his cigarette, Steve pulls Billy’s jacket off his lap to find his Scoops Ahoy shorts are back on and when he sticks a hand down his pants, everything's dry. He looks at Billy again, surprised at the care he’s taken in looking after Steve and Billy just avoids his gaze and keeps his eyes on the flock sparrows on a street lamp.

It does something to Steve. Somewhere in his hollowed out chest a flower unfurls in the summer light and he feels like he can really breathe, like he can really smell the cedar trees behind them and faint waft of sugary waffles drifting from the mall. 

Steve opens his mouth to thank him, but he closes it at the last second. Billy will only turn weird if Steve mentions it and he'll claim Steve's the one making things weird. Sometimes, Steve can’t believe he’s fucking someone with the emotional maturity of a basketball. 

So, yeah, he doesn’t do that. Instead, he throws the food and the rest of the packaging into the Burger King bag it all came in and says, “how long was I asleep?” 

“Ten minutes,” Billy says, then throws him a smirk, “you get loopy if I fuck you long enough.”

Steve snorts, sipping the last of the coke from the drink before he shoves it in the bag, “that’s why you do it.”

“Oh, yeah? Why are you going commando to work you little pervert?”

Before he went to meet Billy, Steve quickly took his briefs off in the staff bathroom and stuffed them in his locker with the rest of his shit. 

Billy’s eyes had darkened when he saw Steve had not worn anything under his shorts. Steve had blushed and tried to explain but Billy had devoured him in deep, breath-stealing kisses and there wasn’t much time for talking. 

Steve says, “because last time you stuffed my briefs in my mouth in the middle of it.”

“You were making too much noise,” Billy says like that’s a reasonable explanation. 

Steve glares at him, “so put a hand over my mouth or tell me to be quiet, don't stuff my underwear in my mouth, asshole.”

“…yeah, well,” Billy says with a shrug, “thanks for the ease of access, pretty boy.” He grins, sharp and quick and it goes straight to Steve’s groin, “I prefer it actually.”

Steve dismisses him with a wave of his hand. Arguing with Billy is a slippery slope. Steve leans down and picks up one of his sneakers jammed under the passenger seat.

There are a few ripped-open condom wrappers on the floor. Steve’s heart skips a beat. He vaguely, vaguely remembers Billy taking too long to open the wrapper and Steve had to knock his hand away and do it himself because hurry up, asshole, we only have thirty minutes. They didn’t even pay attention to the time. Steve grabs the wrappers and throws them into the Burger King bag with the rest of the trash. 

Slowly, as Billy smokes his second cigarette, Steve puts himself back together. Although, Billy did most of the work when Steve was far too dazed to do anything but nap. Steve leaves Billy in the back and climbs into the front passenger seat. He pulls down the small mirror above the dashboard to check his reflection.

Steve frowns. His mouth is a red mess, he’s flushed all over like he’s just ran thirty miles and his hair, which was perfect when he came into work, is nothing less than a bird’s nest. It’s going to take a good ten minute of work in the staff bathroom to get it back to its former glory.

“Oh, fuck,” Steve breathes, “I look nuts.”

“You look well-fucked,” Billy says behind him. 

Steve frowns as he cards his hand through his messy hair, “they don’t pay me to look well-fucked.”

Steve looks at Billy. He always makes the mistake of looking at Billy. He’s lounging and smoking like he’s back in the California sunshine.

“No?” Billy’s smirk is attractive as it is infuriating. He takes a drag of the cigarette, “coulda sworn I saw must be well-fucked at least once a week by William Hargrove in your employee contract.”

Steve ignores him and looks back at the mirror. He yanks the collar of his Scoops Ahoy shirt to the side. He frowns at the faint bite mark on his shoulder. Wait. It’s not too bad.

The first miracle of the day was Billy’s dad not seeing them and the second miracle is that Steve’s shirt just about covers the bite mark. Also, it’s pretty faint so it should fade in a few hours? Is it really not as bad as he thinks or has Billy turned him dopey? 

Steve checks his uniform for any stains or tears or —“Hey, asshole,” Steve glances back at Billy, “you ripped my uniform.”

"Huh?" He says. Steve gets up and returns to the back seats. Once he's sat down, he points to his shorts. Billy glances down at Steve’s hip and the rip half way through the waistband of the Scoops Ahoy shorts. He rolls his lower lip into his mouth and says, “sorry.”

“You don’t sound sorry,” Steve says, wavering on the verge of petulant. 

Billy takes one last drag of his cigarette and flicks it out onto the parking lot. The Starcourt employee part of Steve wants to tell him not to litter. It's people like Steve who have unstable bosses shouting at them to clean up. The thought disappears when Billy looks at him, as does most of Steve’s thinking when it comes to Billy. 

Billy leans into him, smelling like sex and Steve. He’s all grin, sharp and predatory and it shouldn’t make Steve quiver but it does. 

Okay,” Billy begins slowly, “I’m sorry I accidentally ripped your little sailor shorts cos I thought you looked so hot in that little sailor costume I had to fuck you.” He pauses, then far dirtier than necessary, “sailor.”

Steve goes beet red and Billy laughs next to him.  “Asshole,” Steve huffs as he looks out the window at the flashes of the main road beyond the strip of bushes and trees. 

Billy bumps Steve’s leg with his. Steve looks at him. Billy looks back at him. Steve waits. His eyebrows pull together. It takes him a few seconds to notice the uncharacteristic shift in Billy’s gaze, the uneasiness in his shoulders and Steve is about to ask him what’s wrong when it hits him. Billy’s nervous.  

Billy avoids Steve’s gaze and glances out of the window, “I’m picking you up after your shift ends, yeah? We’re going to your place?”

“Yeah,” Steve confirms, waiting to see if Billy will tell him what’s going on. Billy has been sneaking into Steve's bedroom every weekend for the last month.

If working at Scoops Ahoy for three bucks an hour with no college prospects isn’t punishment enough, his dad added the cherry on the top by taking away his Beemer. He’ll get it back at the end of summer if he’s shown he can be responsible and not a dumb loser, the Harrington name carries weight around here goddamn it, Steve! 

So, yeah, Steve has been biking to work since graduation which is super fun in a hundred-degree heat in a sailor costume that has him cat-called and honked at every two minutes.

So far, he doesn’t know how but he’s managed to avoid Tommy or Carol seeing him on the bike or in uniform. It helps that they’re too busy with summer jobs in the city to hang around Hawkins or the mall for long. Small miracles. 

He doesn’t bring his bike on Fridays. Billy’s taken to picking him up after work since they both have late starts at their respective jobs in the afternoon. Billy hums and hangs his arm outside the window and drums a beat against the metal door. The silence stretches on.

Steve says, “Billy—”

Billy grits his teeth, “I’m getting to it.” He licks his lips and lets out a sigh. He looks up at the sky and says, “your parents still in Cabo?”

Steve nods. They will be most of the summer. Dad’s old business partner invited him down to ‘talk shop and catch up.’ Mom, of course unable to trust Dad as far as she can throw him, invited herself along which means Steve has the house to himself.

“Cool, cool,” Billy says, "if you want, I can make dinner —” he clears his throat, “for us. If you want.”

“Dinner?” Steve says picking out the most confusing word in the sentence.

Billy glances at him. His eyes narrow again. “Yeah, dinner. The main meal of the day, typically had on or after sunset—”

“I know what dinner is asshole,” Steve snaps then huffs, flustered and still fluttery from sex, “it’s just — you want dinner with me? Together?”

Billy nods, mouth pursed like the admission pains him. It probably does. Steve wrings his hands together in his lap. He thinks of an argument another lifetime ago with a girl he thought he loved and the visceral cut of the bullshit she had used to label their relationship. It had torn his chest. It’s healed somewhat but the wound aches even now. It’s part of the reason he’s ended up at this dead-end job occasionally fucking a boy who almost killed him in a fist fight last fall. 

And because Steve is a sadist or masochist or both, fuck knows at this point, he gives a voice to the hopeless, pathetic romantic in him and says, “as friends?” 

Sort-of friends is more accurate. Sort-of friends with lots of benefits. What a reckless arrangement. What a reckless pair. Billy has gone deathly still, watching him with an expression Steve couldn’t decipher for the life of him. The summer breeze rolls by and sends his blond curls dancing in the wind.

Finally, finally, Billy says, voice hard, “Steve, I don’t fuck my friends in the most important thing I own or offer to make them dinner.”

I don’t do it for anyone, hanging in the air.

Steve wants to point out that Billy doesn’t really have friends in the first place, more like minions he bosses around but Steve takes the answer as he should have the first time Billy answered. An admission. A rare admission of desire outside sex or drugs. It’s the Billy Hargrove equivalent of a sonnet. Billy wants to meet him halfway. Maybe, together, they can build something in this wreckage of a summer.

“Okay,” Steve says, the fluttering in his gut manifesting into a swarm of butterflies as Billy looks at him. His lips quirk up, “what are you making?”

“You’ll see,” Billy says, glancing away as he opens his passenger-side door but Steve catches the smile he’s trying to hide. He steps out of the car and slams the door shut. “Now, get out of my baby. You have ice cream to scoop and I have lives to guard. Pretty obvious who the valuable member of society is here.”

Billy lights another cigarette he pulled out from his shorts. He leans down to look at Steve, settling his elbows on the open window and the lit cigarette dangling between his fingers. The mid-summer breeze washes over them, carrying sweet notes of roses and tobacco.

“Hey, Harrington,” Billy says, taking a drag of his cigarette and turning his away to blow smoke in the parking lot. He smirks, back to the Billy Hargrove everyone knows. “You lose all brain cells ‘cos of a few rounds?”

Steve lies back in the leather seats and throws an arm over his eyes. He could sleep the whole summer away. “Fuck off,” Steve huffs out a laugh. “You know it wasn’t a few rounds.” He closes his eyes, “just — give me a minute.” 

Billy hums and mutters lucky you’re so pretty like he usually does when he thinks Steve is having a ‘blond moment’ or when Steve is being particularly bratty. Steve keeps his eyes closed and gives Billy the middle finger.

Billy’s laughter should be bottled up and sold in Starcourt. 

Back at Scoops Ahoy, his own personal purgatory, Steve steps behind the counter as he ties the mini apron around his waist. Steve hopes he might be able to get through this shift without Robin making a comment but of course, the universe cares little for him, and like a phantom, Robin appears out of nowhere.

She wears a wide grin, all knowing and wicked and Steve almost trips back onto the counter. He straightens himself out and flushes. Her blue eyes rover over his crumpled uniform, sex-mussed hair and flustered face and her grin widens.

“Shut up,” he says, already knowing what she’s going to say and having no desire to hear it right now when he still has five hours of this shift left. Five hours until Billy picks him up and makes him dinner as something more than friends, something he’s scared he’ll fumble and break like he broke whatever good thing he had with Nancy.

Steve, Steve, St-e-e-e-ve,” Robin softly sing-songs as she leans an elbow against the counter and cocks her head to the side. She has a lovely voice actually. “Your breaks get longer every week.”

“A little busy, Rob,” Steve says as he picks up a bottle by the till and starts spraying the counter. If he pretends he’s working she might leave him alone. Any sense of people doing actual labour makes Robin disappear in a heartbeat. 

“I can see that,” she says, “but this won’t take long unlike your break which was—” she whips out a mini-notebook from her apron, the one they use to take orders, and flips it open. Steve closes his eyes, dreading the reveal. Robin’s grin widens as she tells him, “one hour and forty-three minutes. Highest record yet. I think you kids can break two hours if you keep practicing.”

Steve’s opens his eyes and stares at Robin, mouth agape. He’s going to throttle Billy. Or himself. Or steal his Beemer back from his dad and drive them both off the quarry.

“Don’t worry,” she laughs and pats his arm, “I covered for you with Mr. Seymour.”

Steve heaves out a sigh of relief. He might dislike this job but he’s going to stick it out and prove to his dad he can be responsible. He's not a loser. He just acts like one. There's a difference.

“Dude, thanks,” Steve says, throwing her a grateful smile. “You’re a lifesaver—”

“Hm, yeah, I told him you got mono from your grandma and you haven’t been feeling too great hence the long breaks.”

His smile falls, “mono? Isn’t that the kissing disease?”

“And by the way that isn’t anti-bac spray it’s mayonnaise,” she says pointing to the bottle in Steve’s hands, the one he’s been using to wipe the counters. She leans in to whisper, “you might want to lay off the sex on your lunch breaks. Either he’s an animal or you’re insatiable, either way it’s turning your brain into soup dingus.” She leans back and laughs in delight at Steve’s flushed face. She says, “oh, I’m going for my break, I’ll see you in — let’s say — one hour and forty-three minutes?”

Robin laughs again, wind chimes in the breeze, and gives him a mock salute before she saunters off.  She disappears into the staff bathroom in the back to indulge in the joints and comic books she keeps stuffed in the ceiling. 

He mumbles a few colourful curses and turns to drop his forehead on the opposite wall with a light thunk. Steve glances down at the streaky white counter he coated with mayonnaise. Sleeping with Billy is turning him stupid. As always, Robin Buckley might have a point. As always, Steve Harrington is going to ignore it.

“Excuse me?”

Steve spins around at the voice and turns to face a middle-aged mom and her little pig-tailed daughter. The plastic smile is automatic now and the catchphrase is too. He’s become a performing monkey. Correction. Sailor. A performing sailor. For three bucks an hour. He forces himself to think of a positive, any positive associated with this job before he marches into Mr. Seymour’s office and quits this shitty— Dustin. He might be earning three bucks an hour but he has Dustin. Dustin and their dorky handshake and Robin and her amused commentary on his life and —  shit, yeah, Billy. He has Billy now too. It’s enough. It has to be.

Ahoy, ladies!” Steve begins the spiel, “Welcome to Scoops Ahoy! I’m Steve Harrington and I’ll be your captain. Which flavour of the ocean would you like to set sail on?”

The little girl giggles and Steve’s plastic smile turns genuine. Her mom smiles too, “no ocean of flavour for her, she’s lactose intolerant but I’ll have…” the woman's gaze wanders across to the ice cream display near him, “…oh, perfect—” she points to the swirling blue and white tub of ice cream in the middle, “I'll have Mermaid Mania.”

Graceful as ever, Steve almost chokes on his spit.

The sun has set when Steve finishes his shift. Nine hours of ice cream purgatory. Seven more tomorrow. Eight the day after. This must be his punishment for being a (slight) douchebag in high school. But —  did he not pay for it tenfold with the Nancy Wheeler Fiasco™? Apparently not. 

It’s a warm Friday night in Hawkins and in another life, Steve would have been knee-deep in a keg party or listening to Tommy complain about Carol for the millionth time. In this life, Steve sends Mr. Seymour his last plastic smile of the night and makes his way through the neon landscape of Starcourt Mall after-hours. He goes to the rear parking lot where he and Billy usually meet for their lunchtime hook-ups and where Billy usually waits for him.

Tonight is no exception.The parking lot would be empty if it wasn’t for a rusty old truck in the corner and the blue Camaro under the full moon. Billy has one leg crossed over the other as he leans back on his hands, propped up against the hood of the car.

Unlike Steve, he’s changed out of his work uniform and he’s back in his double denim combo. He looks like he belongs on the cover of Rolling Stone. A smouldering vision of youth set alight. It would have a pretentious title like THE ROCK GENERATION and Billy would be under the title with his sharpest grin. 

 “Evenin’ sailor,” Billy says. His voice echoes in the vacant lot. 

Steve’s heart quickens. It’s only been five hours since he last saw Billy but it feels longer, closer to five years. He wants to run across the parking lot and pull Billy into a crushing hug and whisper something stupid like I missed you.  He wants a lot of things. He’s learnt the universe cares very little for his wants. It turns out even the people he thought cared about him (his parents, Nancy, Tommy, Carol) couldn’t give less of a shit about what he wanted either. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. He’s so fucking stupid. No wonder he couldn't get into college.

Hey,” Billy’s voice, so uncharacteristically gentle, pulls him out of his reverie. Steve’s gotten close enough for Billy to reach out and hook a finger into the waistband of Steve’s shorts. He pulls him close until Steve is standing between Billy’s parted legs and rests his hands on Steve’s hips. “What’s wrong?” Billy keeps one hand on his hip and holds Steve's chin with the other. He brushes his thumb over Steve’s bottom lip. “You’ve gone all pouty.”

“Nothing,” Steve mumbles as he plays with the lapels of Billy's denim jacket. There’s no point in getting into it and he doesn’t have the energy. It’s been a long day and an even longer shift. Steve knows the dangers of spewing out his heart. No good can come of it. The last time he did it, it ended with heartbreak. Then again, there's no guarantee Billy won't do the same. 

Billy drops his hand from Steve’s chin and grimaces, “did your manager give you shit for being late?”

“No,” Steve says, playing with one of the jacket’s silver buttons, “Robin covered for me.” 

“Then—”

“Billy,” Steve drops his head onto Billy’s shoulder. He breathes in Billy’s cologne. Sandalwood. Home. When did that happen? When did he start associating Billy with home? “I’m just tired. I’m fine.”

Or he will be. He always is in the end. It just takes a little time. Time heals everything.

Billy hums, obviously not convinced. A few quiet moments pass then quietly, so quietly Steve almost misses it, Billy says, “lasagne.”

Steve pulls back to look at Billy, except Billy is glaring at the ground for some reason. “What?”

Billy turns the glare on him, “are your ears stuffed with ice cream?” Steve just stares.  Billy rolls his eyes and says, “I’m making lasagne tonight.” Steve keeps staring.  Billy pinches his arm and Steve yelps. Billy frowns, “are you broken?”

“What — no, asshole,” Steve starts, rubbing his arm, “I was just — I heard you…you’re really making lasagne?” 

A part of Steve thought Billy was half-joking about the whole dinner thing. He thought they would get to Steve’s house, Billy would order pizza and drag Steve upstairs to make out until it was delivered but — he was serious. He seriously wants to cook dinner for Steve. He wants to cook lasagne for Steve. He must be dreaming. He should ask Billy to pinch him again. 

Billy nods. He defiantly holds Steve’s gaze like he’s waiting for Steve to object or call Billy that gross word a lot of people in this town use with brazen liberty. Steve can’t have that.

“I’m down for lasagne,” Steve says, gently, softly, “it’s my favourite.”

Before his parents got tired of playing happy house, Mom would make lasagne for Sunday dinner. It wasn’t the best lasagne in the world but it got them all talking. Mom would ask about Steve’s day and she would listen, or, at least, pretend she was listening. Dad would ask about Mom’s day and Mom would respond without a hint of resentment or sarcasm. It was — nice. Steve hasn’t had her lasagne since he was in middle school. He drunkenly told Billy about it once. He can’t remember when or where but he does remember Billy's bright laugh and how Billy had said, lasagne? Really, Garfield? 

Steve had shoved him and said, fuck off, it’s my favourite. I don't know. It reminds me of less shitty times. 

“I know,” Billy whispers and it sounds like confession, like it’s something he never intended to let slip. 

C’mon. Billy shouldn’t be allowed to say shit like that without giving Steve a ten-second warning. Steve smiles and he knows he’s smiling like an idiot but he doesn’t care. 

“Billy,” he says. 

“Yeah?” Billy replies, his voice always so rough. Steve wants to record it, record everything Billy ever says and keep the tapes under the bed for nights he needs to feel like he can wield lightning. Once, around late May, when Steve got high with Billy in the quarry he had the distinct and visceral feeling Billy had been Zeus in a past life. Golden and great and wielding breathtaking spears of lightning he cast down with abandon. He’d told Billy as much. 

You remind me of Zeus, Steve had said, although he'd meant to say something less lame but Billy got the message. In fact, Billy had laughed and pushed Steve back, back, back until Steve's back hit the rusty old bus. 

Do I? Billy had said with a smirk before sinking to his knees. 

“Billy,” Steve repeats. Billy meets his gaze and Steve’s smile softens. “Dinner sounds really nice. Thanks.”

Steve catches how Billy’s Adam’s apple bobs when he swallows and roughly says, “it’s cool, it’s — yeah, whatever.”

Steve bites his lip to stop his smile from reaching maniac level. Billy’s hands are still resting on his hips, his thumb dips under Steve’s shirt and he rubs slow circles into the skin. Steve rests one arm on Billy’s shoulder and use his other hand to play with Billy’s pendant.

“One more thing,” Steve says, knowing he’s blushing already, “we have to stop hooking up at lunch.”

Billy leans back to look Steve in the eye. His brows furrow in confusion, “why?”

“Why?” Steve repeats confused himself at how Billy doesn’t get it, “Because I can't keep going over my lunch break and getting fired is not an option. We were in there for almost two hours.”

He doesn’t know what he expected Billy to say but it certainly isn't, “huh...is that it?”

Steve blinks."What do you mean is that it?"

"I mean,” Billy begins, giving Steve’s hips a squeeze, “if it wasn't for the fact we need to eat and sleep and participate in society, I'd spend all day in bed with you.”

Steve blushes and Billy laughs and calls him cute like they’re twelve. Steve goes for nonchalance and definitely fails. “It’s a good thing we do then, isn’t it?”

Billy’s mouth parts, he swipes his tongue along his front teeth and says, “Debatable. Let’s leave this bummy mall and do exactly that.”

Steve swallows. "Fuck?"

Billy laughs and pinches Steve's side this time. Steve yelps again. 

“No, you little pervert, eat,” he says. A pause. He grins, “then fuck.”

Billy’s darkening eyes keep flitting down to his mouth and the ground turns to jelly each time. Steve leaves Billy’s pendant alone and he lets both his arms rest on Billy’s shoulders.

”Doesn't sound too urgent," Steve hums, "I think we can fit in something else before we leave."

"What?"

Steve leans in as he links his hands behind Billy’s neck and kisses him. Billy sighs into his mouth like he's been waiting for Steve to do that and the thought makes him dizzy. He smirks at how easily Billy groans when Steve tilts his head and deepens the kiss. Billy must feel the smirk since he pinches Steve’s other side and Steve yelps yet again. It has them both laughing into each other’s mouth between vanilla-sweet kisses.

Billy yanks Steve impossibly closer and draws the air right out of him. Billy buries one hand into Steve’s hair, gripping the locks tight enough to make Steve wince against Billy’s mouth. Billy mumbles a soft sorry and rests his hand on the small of Steve’s back. The tenderness of it all threatens to make his heart burst like one of those confetti balloons. Billy’s mouth is soft, impossibly soft thanks to the cherry lip balm he takes out when he thinks no one is looking. It would be funny if it was so adorable.

When they separate, Steve feels weak at the knees and Billy’s breathing softly into the nook of Steve’s shoulder. Billy says, “we should do it.”

Steve gives himself a moment to catch his breath before he says, “do what?”

Billy leans back and Steve is met with the arresting sight of a freshly kissed Billy.  “Spend the whole day in bed,” Billy says, then smirks, “spend the whole day fucking. Think about it. As much as booze, weed, pizza —” his gaze drops to Steve’s mouth, “—and sex as we like.”

Heat spills low into his belly at the images. It sounds perfect, it sounds like just what he needs but —“we don’t have that kind of time.”

And there’s no way Steve could disappear for a whole day without Dustin banging the door down.

“Ever heard of making time?” Billy says with an amused smile. He shrugs, “my manager wants to fuck me. I can ask for anything I want.” He squeezes Steve’s hips again, “think about it. Ask Robin to cover for you.”

Steve gives Billy a flat look. “I don’t think she’s going to take on an extra shift so I can laid all day.”

“If she was a true friend she would.”

Steve chuckles, “dude, shut up.” A beat. Steve bites his lip, “maybe. I’ll think about it.”

Billy is grinning at Steve like he already knows Steve’s answer and he probably does. Billy’s weirdly perceptive. Steve used think Billy was all bark and bite. Noise and violence but he's a supernova too. Bright, burning light. A great explosion of energy rippling forever through time but he can also be the cold vacuum of space. Silence and patience.

Back in high school, before Steve deciphered his confusing feelings around Billy Hargrove, Steve would catch Billy in those quiet moments. On the basketball court, tracking Steve’s moves with startling precision. At some house party, scanning the room with a cigarette behind his ear and a grin like a lion prowling the savannah. In his Camaro every morning before school, consuming book after book with ease and angering Mr. Upton with each A+ he was forced to give Billy.

“Maybe,” Billy says, “we shouldn’t make out on top of my car in the middle of the parking lot?”

Maybe, Steve can save up enough money to take Billy out for his nineteenth at the end of July. Maybe he could take them out to California, to the wide open beaches and salty air Billy would feel right at home in. Maybe, he’ll dredge up the courage to tell Billy he might want this thing to be less hook-up and more — just more. If Steve even tries to put a label on them his brain threatens to fry itself.

Maybe, he’ll even ask Billy out on a date or something like a date not to freak Billy out too much. Somewhere outside Hawkins, somewhere far from prying eyes and nosey know-it-alls like Mrs. Murphy next door. Maybe, maybe, maybe. This whole summer is made of maybe. It fizzles with potential. Steve wouldn’t mind indulging in a few maybes this summer before fall arrives with its icy fingers and real life smashes into him.

Steve mumbles back, “yeah, maybe,” before he presses himself closer to Billy and leans in for another kiss.  Billy doesn’t seem to have any more objections. 

Later, much later when Steve changes out of the uniform (despite Billy’s bribes to keep it on) and Billy starts setting up in the kitchen, when they’ve finished eating the delicious dinner Billy made for them and Steve has thanked Billy with soft words whispered into his neck, Steve will take him up to his bedroom.

He'll push Billy into the mattress and climb into his lap. Billy will look up at Steve with his curly mane spread out on the pillows, looking flushed and gorgeous under the soft amber lights of Steve’s bedroom. His blue eyes will be dark, dark, dark and he’ll bite his lip and he’ll look at Steve like he always does. Like Steve is the product of a fever dream and he has to touch him, everywhere, anywhere before he disappears in a puff of smoke and all Steve can do is try to keep his heart in control. Steve will lean down and kiss him and kiss him until the stars fall from the sky.

Pretty boy, Billy will call him in that wrecked voice when they break away to catch their breath. He’ll slide his hands up and down Steve's back then further down until he's cupping Steve’s ass with both hands. His grin will be nothing less than wicked and wild. Ride me. He’ll say in that same wrecked voice. With the sailor hat. Hard.

Steve will laugh at such a dumb request and his heart will do that thing where it somersaults and tries to jump out of his chest and he’ll lean down and whisper yes against Billy’s cherry-coloured, cherry-flavoured lips.

But that’s later, much later. For now, making out with Billy Hargrove under the twinkling stars on a warm summer night is enough. It’s more than enough.