Boltedfruit Archive

First to Burn

Chapter 4: interlude i: red omens

Published: 2020-11-07

Completed: 2023-03-20

Category: M/M

Rating: E

Chapters: 16/16

Words: 76,009

Fandom: Stranger Things

Ship: Billy Hargrove/Steve Harrington

Characters:

Steve Harrington, Billy Hargrove. Tommy Hagan, Nancy Wheeler, Jonathan Byers, Neil Hargrove. Maxine “Max” Mayfield, Robin Buckley, Susan Hargrove, Jim “Chief” Hopper

Tags:Slow Burn, Childhood Friends, Friends to Enemies to Lovers, Prompt Fill, First Kiss, First Love, Panic Attacks, Emotional Hurt/Comfort, Billy Hargrove Being an Asshole and a mess, Canon-Typical Violence, Mutual Pining, Alternate Universe – No Upside Down, Oral Sex, Internalized Homophobia, Angst with a Happy Ending, Hurt/Comfort, Mutual Masturbation,Protective Robin Buckley, Mental Health Issues

Summary:

Billy moves in next door on Steve’s tenth birthday. They grow up thick as thieves, sharing everything. When they become old enough to date…they turn to one another for practice.

 

“Since it’s us. Since I’m not Tina, and you’re not—you’re just you. It doesn’t count if we—if we practice.” Billy turns to face him, even though Steve can’t really make out his face yet in the dark. “Right?

 

Steve’s heart rate picks up. “Right. Yeah, that’s right.”

Author's Note

I hope you enjoy! And consider leaving a comment at the end of the fic to let me know what you thought.

It’s his sixteenth birthday.

 

He hasn’t seen Billy all day.

 

And, truthfully, Steve’s kind of fucking pissed.

 

They’d had plans to meet up at the quarry at five minutes to midnight. Steve would bring the beer, which he did, because his dad still didn’t notice when his only son raided the fridge for excess alcohol. Billy would bring the tunes, because Billy was the music guy, the go getter, the one with the tangled mullet who headbanged to solos hard enough to knock his brain stem loose. Hard enough to worry Steve he actually, one day, might.

 

They were going to sit at the edge of the cliff and drink and ring in the new day. Steve’s day.

 

He has snickerdoodles.

 

He’d made them himself this year because his mom was still on retreat in Cologne. The one where she went last month for four days to get established.

 

Onboarded.

 

She’d be gone for a while.

 

So, Steve baked himself cookies.

 

And they’re burnt and a little too hard, maybe way too hard and very crunchy, but he made them and wants Billy to try them. To be here with him.

 

On his sixteenth goddamn birthday.

 

It’s half past one.

 

Steve contemplates tossing the cookies into the dark abyss. Contemplates, for an instant, tossing himself. Laughs out huffy and bitter before drawing his knees to his chest to wrap his arms around them, to hang his head in the dark nook. Safe. Hidden away.

 

He sniffles.

 

The rumble of a familiar engine cuts off twenty minutes later and Steve is an ice cube. Certified frozen. His teeth clamp and chatter as he swivels stiffly around to confirm the sight of the Camaro. It sits parked sideways in the gravel beside Steve’s BMW. A birthday gift from his dad, who couldn’t bother to fly back from his business trip in Spain to gift it in person.

 

Steve kind of hates it.

 

Hates what it represents. The family he never sees anymore.

 

Maybe he can just drive the car into the quarry and kill two birds with one stone. Three, even.

 

Then again…maybe he shouldn’t have started early on the drinking.

 

He sighs when the headlights don’t flick off. They haze and buzz in the cold night air, lingering like eerie fog. Steve gets up and walks over, dutiful and determined to figure out what the hell Billy’s problem is, being so late.

 

Steve already has a hand poised to point accusingly to go along with some sort of accusing comment before Billy’s door fully opens—and open it does. And then…nothing. No Billy.

 

Just an open door and a dark silhouette in the driver’s seat that Steve can’t make out behind the headlights.

 

He squints. Raises a hand to shield his eyes. No luck.

 

“Billy?” No response. The shadow slumps. “If this is your idea of a joke, it’s not funny. It’s freaky as hell.”

 

The shadow spills out of sight and then Steve sees a blur of bare arms and golden curls as Billy falls to the ground.

 

Steve freezes. He can’t move. Did Billy…die? But he just drove—he can’t—maybe he’s hurt, maybe he’s—

 

Steve runs to Billy’s car and finds him slumped on his side in the gravel, eyes red and cheeks wet, blood smeared over his face and neck and shirt and—

 

“Jesus, Billy. What the hell happened? Who did this to you?”

 

He looks like he just got mugged. No jacket. Shirt ripped to shreds half down his chest.

 

Billy mumbles something slurred. Raises a hand up and knocks a light brush of knuckles across Steve’s chin. They’re split open and red.

 

A sweep of his eyes and Steve sees Billy isn’t wearing any shoes. One sock.

 

What the hell?

 

Another mumble draws his attention back to his hurt friend in his arms, head effectively cradled on his thighs.

 

Billy flashes a weak smile. Dopey. Bloody.

 

Missing a front tooth.

 

Steve blinks away ridiculous tears. Billy’s fine. He’s fine. He’s alive in Steve’s arms and he’s not sure why he’s worried about any other outcome but he is and he’s going to be sick and he—

 

Steve turns off to the side, coughing. Gagging a little.

 

Knuckles find his chin again. His cheek.

 

“Happy birthday, pretty boy,” Billy rasps out, his voice scratchy and rough before he passes out.

 

 

“I don’t know what happened,” Steve says into the receiver. He clutches it to his face with both hands, his eyes still locked on Billy’s bloody form on his couch. “He just showed up like, like he is and I didn’t know if I should call you or take him to the hospital or—”

 

Chief Hopper makes a shushing sound on the other end of the line. “You did the right thing, kid. Your folks in town?”

 

“No.”

 

“Okay. You said you had to leave your car by the quarry? You know how far down you parked?”

 

Steve sniffs. “Just at that top pull-off. The one with the sandbank to keep cars from going over? It’s new, like days old for my birthday, and if my dad finds out I just ditched it he’ll kill me.”

 

There’s a groan and a chuckle from the couch. Billy is bent halfway over the edge with his head hanging over the magazine rack.

 

He starts vomiting.

 

Steve winces.

 

The chief says, “I’ll have one of the guys pick it up and tow it over before the morning. I’ll drop by in the morning to take an official report. For now, keep him resting. He’s not throwing up blood, is he?”

 

Steve startles. He didn’t know that was even a thing.

 

“Uh,” he says. “Hold on let me check.”

 

Billy is grimacing at the mess he made. The magazine rack is a bust. Steve will have to replace them before his mother notices.

 

When Billy sits up and squints at Steve, as if tlhe can’t really make him out, Steve sees no new blood. He says, “No. He’s not.”

 

Billy’s frown deepens.

 

“Good. Take him to the hospital if that changes. Try to get some sleep.”

 

“Will do. Yeah. See you tomorrow.”

 

The chief hums, says goodbye, hangs up.

 

Steve is left with the drone of silence. He hangs the phone up. Billy is glaring at him.

 

“You called the fucking pigs?”

 

Steve hurries over to Billy, hands going to his shoulders to shove him, gently, to the pillow so he can lay flat. Billy scowls up at him like he just kicked him in the crotch or something.

 

“Have you even seen yourself?”

 

Billy doesn’t answer the question. He looks off to the side, somewhere over Steve’s shoulder. The tip of his pink tongue pops out to run over his lips.

 

“You’re missing a tooth.”

 

“And you’re missing more than a few brain cells.”

 

Steve laughs breathlessly. “What the hell happened, Billy?”

 

Billy tongues at the gap. It’s not bleeding anymore from the looks of it, but it is gone. His chin is already bruised where it wasn’t before, and Steve feels his stomach lurch just wondering at the possibilities.

 

Who could have done such a thing?

 

Steve sighs when Billy refuses to say anything more. He gets up and jogs between the kitchen, the living room where Billy is set up, and the bathroom in an effort to get Billy whatever he might need. Pills, water, towels, extra pillows and blankets.

 

He’s staring at pain pill labels from his mom’s stash, trying to figure out what one big word means compared to another, when Billy mumbles something.

 

Steve lowers the bottle. “What? What was that, Billy?”

 

Billy won’t look at him still. He’s buried under the blanket Steve dug out from the winter closet, his hair a mess. The place where his lip is split starts bleeding all over again as Billy chews at it.

 

“Oh. I said, uh. Kiss me and I’ll tell.” He pauses, chews fresh blood from his lip. “Bad joke, that’s all. You gonna let me wash this shit off or what?”

 

Steve raises an eyebrow but lets it slide. Billy’s moods are fragile lately, and even though he wants to push and pry and get the truth out of him, Steve knows it’s probably not worth the effort just now.

 

Billy usually tells him anyway. Just later on.

 

“Sure. Yeah, here.”

 

Steve gets a wet wash cloth and crouches on the floor by Billy’s face.

 

When the edge of the cloth touches Billy’s swollen cheek, he flinches. Says, “I can do this part you know.”

 

Steve ignores him and does it anyway.

 

“You can be a real son of a bitch sometimes,” Steve informs his friend while he swipes carefully at his blood streaked face.

 

His mouth is especially sensitive. Billy hisses and clenches his teeth as Steve drags the material across his mouth. After that it’s easy sailing. Broad stripes down his neck, the ripped collar of his shirt.

 

“Is there…are you bleeding anywhere else?”

 

“Like where, genius?” Billy snaps, and Steve tries to ignore it.

 

“Your—anywhere I can’t see?”

 

Something in Billy’s hard expression cracks. He sits up again to hook his fingers under his shirt. He winces and groans and Steve takes the hint. He gets Billy’s shirt up and off him without complaint.

 

He’s a rainbow of colors from his sternum to his belt. Red and purple and blue.

 

Steve can’t catch his breath.

 

“…Steve?”

 

He can’t breathe.

 

Billy’s been—he’s hurt so—and he still showed up—

 

“Steve!” Billy barks. It gets Steve’s eyes dragging from his torso to his face. Blue eyes big, all concern above raised hands. Like Steve is some kind of spooked animal he has to calm. “Steve, you gotta breathe.”

 

“I—you—I didn’t—Billy, I—”

 

Steve can’t breathe. He falls back on his haunches, then his ass. He feels shaky. Unsteady. When he pushes himself up, the farthest he gets is a couple inches from the floor before he’s back to sitting.

 

Everything is spinning.

 

Billy is a circular blur of gold and red and tan and Steve feels like he’s the one about to be sick.

 

“Count with me,” Billy is saying. “Count, okay? One, two, three, four, inhale.” Steve inhales, shaky and jerky. “Exhale, five, six, seven, eight…good. Do it again, asshole.”

 

Steve does, echoing Billy.

 

He does it again and again and again. Does it until he closes his eyes and there are hands on his neck and his face and he’s still shaky and then Billy isn’t counting anymore with him, but his mouth is pressed against his cheek like it’s another bit of practice. But it’s not. It’s not.

 

Steve blinks. The fog clears and it’s Billy in front of him on the floor. “You—get back on the couch.”

 

Billy shakes his head. “You okay?”

 

“I…I don’t know. Don’t know what that was.”

 

Billy’s mouth opens. Shuts. His thumbs rub circles against Steve’s cheeks.

 

“Panic attack, babe,” he murmurs, chasing the shakes from Steve’s skin with such easy touches. “You trying to kill me over here?”

 

“Why? I, no I—wait—tell me who did this to you. Billy this is so—so messed up.”

 

Billy’s voice, his face, give nothing away as he says, “My dad.”

 

Steve gags on nothing. Wretches for a second or two and he’s embarrassed, because like, what the fuck but Billy doesn’t go anywhere. Just keeps rubbing and rubbing and rubbing.

 

Steve meets his eyes.

 

“I’ll fucking kill him.”

 

And Billy laughs.

 

“Nice dream, birthday boy. Just…let’s watch a movie or something, yeah? Let me forget for a while before the morning comes.”

 

Steve is helpless but to do just that.

 

But first, he gets Billy one of his old shirts.

 

He sits on the floor by Billy’s head until it hits seven in the morning, listening to Billy’s breathing and his pained winces in sleep until a knock sounds on the front door.

 

It’s Hopper.