Chapter 1: tender is the night
He doesn't particularly desire it, rather it begins like a creeping feeling that never quite stops creeping. Like the type of thing that fits almost too well with the saying an itch that you can't scratch. It's proverbial and completely exaggerated but oftentimes it just builds to such an extreme that he drifts off and loses himself. He's not exactly sure where he finds himself lost but perhaps that was the whole point of being lost—the fact of the unknown that could not be known. It sucked, terribly, kind of like what he figured fatherhood would feel like.
In a fit of honesty that disgusts him, he wonders about Billy. He could lie and conjure up any type of Billy—Billy from grade school, Billy from middle school with the chipped tooth and rancid breath but no Billy would compare to Billy.
"Fuck," His knee-jerked and body curled in on itself out of pure instinct to the pain.
The librarian hissed at him, it was hardly audible so it wasn't as if his mind was going to allow him to acknowledge it. He'd found it hard to acknowledge much about his life anymore, not since the world had quite literally fallen under his feet, not since he'd grown too familiar with the feeling of sinking without being able to swim.
The worn chair scraps when he stands and nothing is stopping him from getting another scathing look of disgust. It's not something he cares to think about eyes too focused on something farther than he could attempt to reach. He swallows and feels like his head is filled with compressed air. His hand smacks against whatever books he'd thrown along the desk he occupied and luckily enough nothing tumbles to the floor from the sudden action.
He throws himself into the nearest blockade of books, hands steadying himself on the shelves that surround him. It's a section filled with subjects he'd never bothered to look at before but it's away from prying eyes and lets him settle down enough to breathe properly. He drops his hands from the shelves like he's being burned and looks up, it's a mistake, the lights above him are too bright, too damning that it causes his eyes to water and shut rapidly.
Steve gives one strong blink before throwing his eyes open, this time he looks down and makes sure to keep it that way, stuck on a small piece of carpet that fights to tear itself from the library floor. It's at then where he finds it, nestled beside the tear where no one would be able to find it. Kept to itself as if it were waiting for everyone to leave but he notices it—circumstances to finding the book would never be brought up again.
It's plain and no one would ever give it a second glance although he feels like that was the purpose. He crouches down just enough so he could wrap one hand around the spine and cradles it in his hands.
It's called The Butterfly Effect and the author's name has faded so severely that nothing is visible. He feels like Dustin when he breathes in the courage to open the book, the courage to let his eyes skim the text and let his brain absorb the knowledge. There's a statement made, it makes him clam up, makes a lot of turning in his stomach that he'd rather be without.
I knew the power of a single wish, after all. Invisible and inevitable, like a butterfly that beats its wings in one corner of the globe and with that single action changes the weather halfway across the world.
He brutally snaps the book shut and tucks it under his arm, legs moving almost mechanically to the desk he had abandoned. He's quick to pick up his bag, throws it over his shoulder in a rush and leaves whatever books he'd collected in favour of the one single damning text that is placed by his side.
It's not opened until he's sure that he's alone, locked in his abandoned home in the richest part of the town, where loneliness is ignored in favour of wealth. He opens the book quickly but doesn't start reading until a few minutes pass as if the words would have vanished by then.
"What is the possibility for change?" He furrows his brow and then relaxes it when the action becomes a pain to maintain. "A single action like that of the butterfly which can diverge the current path of reality? If possible, may it become a reality?"
There's a theory the book refuses to put to rest, the complicated theory that a single small action when revisited and changed could cause a reaction more severe than a large action. It makes Steve think what would have changed had he decided to ignore eggs for breakfast if he had picked out the red jumper rather than the blue jumper. He lets himself think of Billy again.
Was Billy something that could be saved with a small action?
He thinks about Max, the tears that wouldn't stop no matter how many times Lucas tried to make her feel okay. Remembered the ground feeling unstable under his feet, remembers eyes watching and then fading away in a single snap. It's been far too long since then but what has Steve done with his life other than think?
He'd let his future crumble under his hands years ago, felt it shatter into small pieces because he was too much of a fool to stand on his own two feet without validation from someone else. The book shakes a little and Steve idly understands that he's the one that is shaking. He lets himself look at the pages one more time, presses a finger to the ink like he'd be able to smudge it away.
Would you attempt to make it an actuality? He answers yes subconsciously but it's the truest thing he's ever uttered.
The sun burns his eyes when it properly sets in the sky, he lets it become his wake-up call because it is not like he has anyone to do that for him. There's a thump below him, creaking from the first floor that causes any type of restlessness to escape him so quickly he almost develops whiplash. It's been a year since anyone has stepped foot in his home, a year of silence to where creaking alerted a type of primitive instinct within him.
He sets his feet on the floor has it swung over like he's been trained for years and lets his foot curl carefully against the surface of the ground. He's silent, not a single sound comes from the way he walks and that's the only way he will ever allow himself to move. The bat he normally keeps by his door is gone, it's something that doesn't ring out an alarm in his head until he's a step away from visibly seeing what was on the first floor.
There's a rustle, "Steve?"
"Fuck," He lets out a screech and almost falls down the rest of the steps when it's his mother's doe eyes look back at him.
She splutters at him, face flushed in the slightest from his tone, "Did you just swear at me?"
He presses his lips together, rolls his tongue along the inner portion of his cheeks and holds his breath for far too long, "Sorry, just, what are you doing here?"
There's hardly the number of wrinkles she used to have when her brows furrow at him, "I'm not sure why you're asking that Steve, your father and I usually stop by on Saturdays."
An uncomfortable little laugh falls past his lips before he can stop himself, "You haven't done that since I was eighteen."
His mother gives him a long look, it's not exactly a look of concern but more so one that a scientist would give a rodent that just won't behave properly. He almost feels insulted when she turns around and mutters quietly to herself, words sounding particularly like unfortunate and instability. He resorts to pinching his thigh and lets himself stand just before the steps begin. He studies his home first, the hole in the wall from where Tommy had shoved a pool rod in is not there anymore, his mom is exiting from a door he swears was repainted a dark brown colour and because of that shouldn't be the colour it was now.
He has ten toes and ten fingers, two eyes and two ears, one nose and— where did the photo of him and Robin go?
Things are familiar but wrong like they should exist but not in the particular order he was viewing them in. His hands clam up again, body leaning forward so severely that he may have already fallen on the floor had it not been for the way his body jolted towards the calendar hung on the wall. He chants the year in his head, shuts his eyes and chants it again and again until he makes it a mantra.
He almost throws up.
Slaps a hand over his mouth and swallows down anything that was fighting to make his nausea apparent. Maybe his face was a bit green but he wasn't able to catch his reflection on any surface for more than a second. He'd pushed the need to run at the forefront of his mind, heading back up to his room where maybe he pause and the nightmare would be over.
He takes a second to shut his eyes when the door closes behind him, hands against the door and head banging against the expensive wood. It's like a revelation when his head snaps up and his whole body seems to throw itself towards the worn book on his nightstand.
"Would you attempt to make it a reality?" Stares back and Steve thinks he can hear somebody laughing at him.
Chapter 2: a castle of doomsday
What's there to do in 1984?
It's October 27th, 1984 and Steve wants to laugh until laughter turns into uncontrollable heaving, until his lungs fill up with more air than they can take. He's never told anyone but his birthday is four days away and he thinks this must be a morbid type of birthday present, something that he had subconsciously desired but never really understood enough to realize the weight of pros and cons were not in his favour. He's going to be eighteen again and doesn't understand what he can do about that.
The book is no help, it talks in circles more than it ever gets to a clear point. Steve's not an idiotic teenager at least he wasn't—now he is, a teenager at least. He understands more than he did when teenage fun began to bleed away into teenage nightmares.
And more than anything else he understands that he's running against a clock that will not stop for him. There are events rushing past his head at a clarity more vivid than he had ever thought possible. It's Saturday, October 27th, 1984 and the world begins to go to shit on Monday, October 29th, 1984.
He throws open the book that damned him to this hell and writes anything and everything he can, wedges words into margins that are far too small for the number of things he has to note. He ends up taking every last bit of space, notes down things that stood out and by the end of it all he sits against his door and looks out to his room.
"What am I supposed to do?" No one answers him back but it would be stupid to expect a response.
Slamming the book open once more, he drags a finger across a page and settles it to a stop when a new paragraph begins, "'Small actions guarantee large results'. Small actions?"
A butterfly beats its wing and across the world, a tsunami touches down; a butterfly lies crushed under the foot of a boot and a child born no longer exists. What was his butterfly? The small entity that would change it all?
His parents are gone and will be like that for the rest of his life after his eighteenth birthday—no more Saturday drop-ins, so he doesn't care if he scatters things around too loudly, or if he huffs his frustrations in a tone that could easily be picked up. The walls in his house are thick and no neighbour bothers anybody in Loch Nora.
He falls back with the book tucked under the arm that's thrown across his chest, looks up at his ceiling and digs his brain to find anything he can think of. Why October 1984? Why not the year before then?
With eyes screwed shut he cards through the—his body flings upwards before he even knows he's moving at all.
His butterfly—hypothetically of course, because there was no way Billy Hargrove could be likened to a butterfly. He should have noticed it outright but the brunt of being in 1984 had taken far too much of his initial attention. When he'd read the book he'd been in one of his constant states, where he allowed that treacherous part of his mind thinks about Billy-fucking-Hargrove.
He takes what little amount of time left of the weekend to get his shit in order. Takes the discarded college essay and revises it so much that by the end of it his hands are numb and feel a second away from falling off. He makes it meaningful this time, knowing that he had never quite understood himself while writing those few words, had felt that he was trying to be something he himself never knew. He has one hand on the essay page and the other on the book that damned him and thinks that there is no better college essay than one that comes from the soul.
He's not going to ask Nancy to revise it, not going to listen to her large eyes and gentle demeanour rip away his heart like she was trained to do. Rather he tucks it away for safekeeping and decides that he'll submit it to the counsellor come Monday morning. It's like ripping a bandage off and Steve is littered in them.
So when Monday morning comes he breathes in deeply and takes a single whistful look at the novel by his side, questioning whether or not he would have to go through with his plans. The book is silent, like all things with no mouth to communicate and it makes Steve feel stupid. He takes it in his hand anyways, a little fearful of leaving it alone for too long, wedges it between two textbooks he knows he'd never bothered to bring to school before.
He makes sure he looks exactly the same to make up for what he knows is a different personality. Tries to hide away the hard expression in familiar clothes and rich fabrics. He feels like shit but it's not too far from what he normally felt like when he was in his final year. His biggest concern had always been how his parents and the world viewed him, the disappointment he knew his father held for him and the inability to amount to anything in Nancy's eyes. Tommy and Carol had never been a concern, not since he was in his third year and sick of hearing them talk about things he realized meant nothing.
There's something he has to have done as soon as possible before it eats away at him like a parasite. Tommy and Carol are leaning against Tommy's new car and although he knows it's protocol for him to acknowledge him he doesn't do that today. His eyes briefly fall over the familiar car where a redhead jumps out and heads off to the school on the other side. His lips thin and he has to stop himself from chewing the skin raw.
"Coach?" Steve clears his throat and looks unblinkingly ahead, "I'd like to quit the team."
The man looks at him like he's insane, and maybe that would have been the case for anyone who built the idea that his life was tethered to basketball. To everyone who assumed, basketball was his sport whereas it was just another way to make sure his father knew he could be a man—behave as a man should.
"Okay..." His coach drawls on and then gives a firm nod, "If you're sure about that, it was a pleasure having you on the team, son."
It really wasn't a pleasure but he keeps up the act anyways. It's a step towards completion, to get rid of the one thing that had driven Billy to have an unhealthy urge to outdo Steve in everything. He thinks it's silly now but that's because he's had far too long to ponder over the situation and had matured far past it before Billy was ever given the opportunity to.
If Billy wanted to be the king of Hawkings then Steve would let him, idly he thinks he'd let Billy have the world.
There's a quick sound from behind him and almost instantly he knows who it is. The word falls out of his mouth so easily that he almost winces, "Hey Nance."
In a way that only she could accomplish, she both makes him feel grounded and like he's on the edge of a cliff ready to fall. He knows that it has to end before she gives him those words that still torment him years later but he can't find it in himself to muster the courage. His lips tremble but he knows that she can't tell, she'd never been able to read him when her eyes started following Jonathan instead.
"Steve," He hates the way she says his name like she was speaking to a wounded child backed into a corner. "You said you wanted to get me to look over your paper what happened? and why are people saying you quit the team?"
She asks too many questions he doesn't want to answer but he can't let the world go to shit by avoiding these kinds of problems, "Don't sweat about it Nance, I had some time over the weekend so I got to that paper and about the whole basketball thing I just figured I need to focus on more important things, it's not like I'm giving it up forever."
That's a lie, he thinks if he ever holds another basketball in his hands all he'd be able to do is flatten it in a fit of rage. It would be therapeutic, he notes. Whereas before she used to openly reach out for his hands she now only settles at his side and gives a firm okay. He knows he catches sight of Billy stomping down the hall and swallows before he does something stupid.
Billy-fucking-Hargrove, he almost wants to forget it all and end the feud before it could begin. Yet he has plans, ones sketched in margins that can't be overlooked or he thinks that the feud will end up being the least of his worries. He knows Nancy is eyeing the book so he reluctantly tucks it away into his locker and lets her lead him on, chattering about whatever came to her mind while he couldn't help but wonder when Billy perfected hiding his bruises.
He tunes out those thoughts after a while and conversations are kept clean when it comes to Tommy and Carol. Steve doesn't attempt to change himself immediately, simply adapts and shows what he knows should have been clear from the start. He'd dug himself a mud pit when he had let his ego and a clear case of child neglect rule how he interacted with the world around him. While his ego is dissipated he does still find conflict with emotions, knows how fragile the connection between people can be because he'd experienced it first hand all his life.
That's what made it so easy for Nancy to open old wounds and leave new ones in her wake. He hates it, but there's no way to avoid hearing those words again. He's double-dipping into emotional trauma and it feels like his head and heart are about to cave right under him.
Then he stands there again, leaning up against his car and trying not to make it obvious how he watches him move. It had always been easy to follow his eyes along to Billy, subconsciously seeking him out like a moth to a flame. It was the air he illuded, the type that made a paradox far too hard to ignore.
Billy isn't particularly special and Steve is evidently aware that he himself wasn't much either. Yet he can't help but desire to unravel all the mistakes he had made, to right a wrong he hadn't realized existed until it was far too late.
It was a simple concept, Billy was under the impression that Steve was everything he wasn't. That Steve was well-liked, that Steve was nothing but another spoiled rich kid who lived leeching the wealth off his parents with nothing but a massive ego on his shoulders. It wasn't like Steve necessarily denied that, he'd grown so used to lying that to anyone, that description Billy made was his life.
He's stuck in a daze, fingers clinging to the book while he knows Nancy is off with Jonathan. There's nothing to stop the jolt of genuine shock when a shadow knocks him out of his stupor, when the idea of denim is all he can see. He thinks of Billy's eyes before realizing that they were directed at him and not elsewhere.
Billy's not particularly close but close enough to where Steve can see the crease on his forehead. Billy favours leaning himself on his left leg and Steve knows all too well why, "Heard they call you King Steve?"
God if there was ever a time to punch Tommy in the face it would be over starting the King Steve annoyance. He holds the book a little looser this time, Billy is the type to lash out but he's also someone ruled by the wanton desire to be free, "Used to, you're Billy right?" Billy doesn't like being reminded of the fact that he's a Hargrove so he omits the last name, "Considering the praise you're getting that's actually King Billy, not Steve."
Flattery, and by the look on Billy's face he doesn't care for it but fighting fire with fire is a sure way to get burned and Steve is far too annoyed to fight flames. Billy looks like he's going to retort back at him but his eyes trail and the line they follow leads down to the book Steve was idly turning in his hand.
The look that curves on his features is odd, unique to something he had never been privy to when he and Billy had met the first time. His face is relaxed but there's a pinch of something in his eyes that betrays that. Steve's not sure, he'd assumed the book was some type of freak creation so why did Billy look so familiar with it?
"Stop twisting the shit like that," Billy finally decided to say and although it was executed in a way that was supposed to be brutish it's not completely that, "You'll ruin it, pretty boy."
His heart murmurs in his chest when those eyes leave him and Billy leaves into his car, feels like a bag of bricks were poured down his pants and weighted him in place. He hadn't really acknowledged the world of Billy and his words back then, but hearing them play out now in a different setting held him in place like an excess force of gravity.
Maybe Steve was screwed but, he let his eyes fall on the damned book, maybe he had a way in at the same time.
Chapter 3: lovesick lullaby
what's in a birthday wish?
He inhales until it feels like his lungs are going to drown themselves under the pressure of constraint, does it again and again until his body frantically flings itself back and his face is drenched in water that rolls down in droplets. His hand blindly reaches out, curling against the first brush of fabric until he's almost violently dragging the towel on his eyes. It doesn't sting but he's not gentle with the way he drys off the water neither is he gentle about the thoughts that went through his head at his reflection.
"Think Steve," A clock ticks in the background. "Think, think. What can you do, Steve?"
It's impossible to stop his eyes from shutting, a numb travelling over his veins and pooling it down his fingertips. He can see it, a large form curling around the shadows and creeping ever so slightly towards the light. He needs to think, think Steve.
"It started Halloween," He murmurs to himself and sways on his heel, "Everything started up again on Halloween."
The men's locker room sink is flooded to the brim and it's all his fault, it's quiet but it won't last not until the janitor comes bursting into the room with a mop in hand. He snaps his hands away from the sink and shakes any remaining water off for good, it's the end of the day and everyone is gone so there's no obligation for him to care about how he looks.
He taps his fingers to the beat of a lullaby his mom used to sing to him back when she cared about him. It does the job to calm him, always had and always will, it's a last-minute resort because down the line he will always regret how easy it was to be swayed back into believing his parent's actions were acceptable.
If he's lucky, the trail he's left would be picked up by Hopper, projecting the inevitable to happen at a rate that may in fact help them all. He'd done it yesterday just a day before Halloween, a day before all the crops would wither and rot under the toxins. It's not enough, he swears under his breath and leaves the locker room because he needs to get back home and prepare to make his day worse.
It was enough to have to reenact the conversation he once had with Nancy in the library when she had been at the brink of collapse and wanted to ruin them all but the icing on top of the cake had always been that night at the party.
He stops at his locker and picks up the book almost sighing at the familiar weight. It's easy to forget himself until he's standing at his car door and juggling the urge to ram it into the school—it's a car his father gave him after all, a sorry for missing fourteen birthdays. The door snaps open and he's one foot in the car when life decides it hasn't fucked with him enough.
"You ever read that thing or is it just for show?" There's a meticulous sneer over rugged features, "Playing smart so your chick doesn't leave you?"
He cranes his head back, stares for a moment and then shrugs, "You're smart, you've probably noticed it's a little late for that."
Nancy's with Jonathan right now, probably finding it comforting how Jonathan is a breath of fresh air. Billy bristles, the type of movement that a predator may default to at first, makes him large and almost like he could be taller than Steve.
"And I've read it," He adds a little more quietly and can't help but curl his brows together, "A lot." He adds, after remembering that time on Monday, the way Billy lets words fall differently when it came to the book, "It's my favourite."
Bitterly it has to be his favourite, it did damn him after all. Although, maybe it was his fault for allowing the book to damn him. He really needed to stop blaming inanimate objects for his problems.
A distracted sort of look cards itself into Billy's features, lips parted slightly and features fully relaxed, "It was my mo—"
He catches himself and Steve almost wishes he hadn't. "I have to go, see you later Billy."
Steve doesn't let him say anything and only catches sight of him in his rearview mirror until even Billy decides to leave. He lets his lips curl, proud of himself for checking off one part of his tasks.
Billy's conversation with Steve set him back enough that he never meets the three preteens on the road.
Steve's able to down four solo cups and never once feels the buzz of alcohol running through his blood but Nancy can hardly take one before she becomes a stumbling mess, slurring into her hand that cups itself over her mouth. She downs another and she's off into the crowd, things are different as a result of his actions but nothing has significantly changed. He can hear the calls of his old teammates edging Billy on at the keg stand, the timing different from how it had been before.
It was his man-off with Billy in the past which had caused Nancy to seek out the spiked punch bowl. This time around he doesn't even know what he did to cause her to want alcohol over his company. Nowadays he thinks he could breathe and she'd lash out, he downs a cup of the punch for himself and almost whines at the fact that there's still no buzz. Even if he couldn't allow himself to be wasted he could have appreciated the way a buzz let his brain fuzz out and blur biting words into slightly softer remarks.
"Shit," Crushing the cup he dumps it into the bag in the corner of the kitchen.
"Talking to yourself now, Harrington?" Of course, it had to still happen, the way Tommy seemed like he'd want nothing more than to humiliate Steve because he'd decided to leave the team.
Billy's there, stuck in the middle between Tommy and another one of his old teammates. He kissed his teeth, by the looks of things they'd finished the keg stand, "Don't you have better things to do Tommy?"
Tommy loved to sneer, the type that made him look like a prune rather than a teen with a big mouth, "There's a new keg king now, Stevie."
Billy doesn't give him that same harsh biting look he had originally given, this time he studies him like Steve was under a microscope, "Another person do something you can't? Congratulations, Tommy. Better hurry, I saw Carol getting nice and comfortable with Mike from the football team."
It's almost funny how quickly his face falls, how his head snaps side to side looking for Carol until he finds her familiar hair colour next to the exact man Steve mentioned. There's a twist in his features like he's a minute away from giving a retort before he decides against it and heads off to where Carol is. Steve watches him leave and can't even muster a smile at the feeling of success, he's tired and Nancy is about to remind himself why he'll never be happy.
His mouth ends up involuntarily curling downwards and he knows Billy sees it, he's too close to hide an expression that large. Billy says nothing, he also says nothing when Steve moves off, simply observing in the same predator to prey way he enjoyed adopting. Steve can feel the stare even when he's back at the punchbowl trying to catch Nancy's arms in a gentle hold, trying to guide her away from an alcohol-induced coma.
"No," He keeps a firm tone and then pulls to use his body weight to stop her pursuit. "You've had enough, okay?"
She's lucid, body barely standing upright and almost has all her weight leaning against him yet she still finds it in her to slur out a, "Screw you!"
It hurts, like it had before and does now, probably always will because Nancy still has those wide eyes and dainty little features, "Nance, I'm serious, stop."
He doesn't even get a second to put his hands against her own before she ends up swaying so severely to the left that her drink ends up falling back against her. It's different than when he had held and tried to pull the cup out of her hands but she still looks at him with glowering eyes, so disgusted at him that he'd rather take Billy's look over this.
She leaves and he watches her go, knows other people are also watching her storm out so he has no other option but to follow her, crossing past Billy who has his arms over his chest. The door to the bathroom creeks when he shuts it and he uses it to keep himself grounded, there is no buzz of alcohol so he'll take this as he had before, a sober mind and a crushed heart.
"Nancy," He can't find it in himself to call her Nance, that primal need to distance himself taking over. "I'm sorry. It's not going to come off, Nancy."
He sounds tired—he knows he's tired. His voice cracks and strains too often for him to fool anyone but Nancy doesn't care, Nancy hadn't for a while. She digs deeper into the stained fabric, "It's coming."
Eyes lifting to the ceiling he takes a sharp inhale and exhale, "Let me take you home, okay? Just come here and I'll take you home."
No amount of talk will do him any good, drunk minds speak sober thoughts and Nancy has a mountain load of hate brewing for him. She'll go home but it's Jonathan who takes her because Steve isn't enough, Steve is just—"Bullshit, you're..you're just bullshit."
He's not pretending when his voice cracks, a sharp exclaim falling past his lips because she doesn't even say 'it's' this time, she digs right to the point, "What?"
She's a mess when he looks up at him, curls her bottom lip against her teeth because she can't exactly form words correctly while her tongue is numb, "You're just pretending like it's all okay. Like it's all okay, like we didn't kill Barb. Like everything is great. Like we're in love and we're partying."
He idly remembers a time long ago, when he'd first begun to show interest in Nancy, when he first noticed the way she smiled or the way she liked to curl her hands into small fists when she was upset. When Tommy had called him an idiot because girls like that, girls like Nancy ruined people like Steve. He just thinks it's a different type of ruin now.
His eyes don't waver from her own, too invested in watching the way she could never deny how much she agreed with her words. Tone soft, almost like he couldn't offer more than that, "Go to Jonathan Nancy, just go."
She almost snarls at him, smacks the towel down on the counter and easily makes her exit. Steve waits until she's completely gone before he catches his head in his hands, runs his palms harshly against his skin to save himself from freezing in the same expression. He knew Jonathan had come, had known that Jonathan was just around the corner watching like he always did. Nancy would get a drive back with Jonathan just like it had been the first time around and Steve would be alone just like it had always been.
"How long do you plan on fucking around in here?" He doesn't think he can face Billy without doing something dumb this time, doesn't want to look at him in the eye when his own eyes can't focus themselves.
He discards the towel off to the side and straightens himself up, he just needs to remember that he's already been through all this before and his body instantly relaxes into an easy slump. Steve still can't speak, not yet at least so he throws his hand out and ducks past the figure leaning to the right doorframe.
An arm sticks itself out and stops him from completely leaving, there's no one left at this part of the house so it's just the two of them, "Pick your shit up Harrington, don't be pathetic like she wants."
He grinds his teeth, throat dry beyond belief, "I'll try not to be a pathetic fuck, thanks."
One violent jerk forwards and the arm still doesn't part like it's supposed to, he doesn't have anything more to say to him although it was more a part of himself that was not ready to say anything. He only has it in him to look forwards at the shit-coloured wall and imagine that Billy had disappeared in favour of silence.
"I didn't—look Harrington," He does end up looking at him, although it's a slow turn of the head to meet his gaze. Billy doesn't waver and his hair still curls around the leather of his jacket. "Don't be fucking stupid about this, that's all."
He curls his lips and bares his teeth at him, if deludes himself enough he could almost imagine the buzz of alcohol lingering in his veins, "And what's 'this'?"
Billy rips his arm away finally, but it's done in a way that looks like he's just been seared in the arm with a pike, "Whatever, nothing in it to be a damn Mother Teresa anyways."
For a second, Steve let one leg rock forwards and take a small step, head inclined to the side where he could exit the house from the side door. He should stay, should do something the chase the feeling of being ripped apart internally and externally but his mind never strayed away from the choice to haul himself up into a lonely house where he could be with himself.
He's five steps down before he takes a final swing to match his eyes to a part of steady blue eyes, "Bye, Billy."
This year he introduces something new to what was normally the worst day of the year. A small candle sparks to life, wedged into a small cupcake that shakes in his hand because now he's finally drunk enough on his father's alcohol to feel a buzz. The cupcake was stale, left in the fridge for a month before he even bothered to put it to use. He enjoys it through a heavy heart, peels it apart like it's an all-new specimen and looks out of his window from where he was perched on his bed.
He doesn't care if crumbs scatter themselves all over the fabric, he doesn't care that the wax of the candle drips down because he hasn't bothered to make his wish. Technically he's already been given a wish and a part of him fears that asking for another would damn him to hell quicker than he could correct himself.
"Here's to eighteen," He murmurs to himself and casts a sideways glance to the novel at his side.
He runs a finger against the front cover and wonders if anything significant has changed at all. Silently, he makes one more selfish wish and blows the candle out.