Boltedfruit Archive

First to Burn

Chapter 5: interlude ii: red pill

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


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


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.

Hopper knocks again.


Steve bites his lip and turns to catch the last few peaceful moments he’ll have of watching Billy sleep.


He’s stained pink in places. His bottom lip is crusted over with a black scab. He mumbles in his sleep sometimes, like now, and Steve almost asks him what he means.


“What’re you dreaming about, tough stuff?” Steve watches Billy mumble a while longer. Then he sighs and rises to let Hopper in.


“Hey kid, morning.” The chief peers over his shoulder to look inside. It’s dark and cold. Steve gets a chill the more his own bones wake up. “Can I come in?”


“Oh. Yeah, yeah come on.”


Hopper nods, tipping the brim of his hat. He steps quietly, sweeping appraising eyes over Steve’s parents’ home.


“Think you might want to turn the heater up a smidge?”


Steve shivers. “Uh, my dad’s not big on spending money on excess heat.”


Hopper’s thick brow turns down. “Turn the heat on, kid.”


Steve goes to twist the thermostat up. High.


When he comes back, Billy’s sitting up on his elbows, hair a mess and blinking slowly at the chief standing nearby.


“How about you give us ten minutes?” Hopper asks, aiming the question Steve’s way. “Go get yourself together. I’ll take you boys out for breakfast after. How’s that sound?”


“I want to stay,” Steve says. “I’m staying. I want to know what the hell happened too. I—”


“Kid, sometimes things like this…”


“I don’t care!” Steve’s just watching Billy. Eyes caught like worms in the mouth of a fish.


His friend is hurt and—


“Harrington, fuck off a while. I’m fine.”


Hopper sighs. Takes his hat off.


Billy glares. He meets Steve’s eyes and nods and that’s what makes Steve go in the end.



Steve goes into the bathroom, turns the shower on and wets his hair a little. Then he tiptoes back to the opening of the stairs to listen in.


It’s Hopper talking. “…This makes the third time now, kid. I don’t know what else to tell you.”


“I can fucking handle myself,” Billy snaps, low and upset. When Billy gets quiet that’s not great. Steve’s come to learn that typically happens right before some kid at school gets a bloody nose.


“Hargrove. You clearly can’t. I’m telling you I can—”


A pillow whizzes by into Steve’s eyeline of the lower floor. It clips the edge of one of his mom’s ugly lamps and it’s only saved from breaking when Hopper dashes in to catch it. He rights it and sends a withering look Billy’s way.


Then he glances upstairs, and he locks eyes with Steve.


And he doesn’t say a thing.


Just goes back to talking to Billy like they’re still alone.


“If you’re not wanting the city to press charges on your behalf—and since you’re a minor I have the authority to do that, remember—this will keep happening. I’m already stretching my rope here keeping things running your way, but that bastard can’t keep doing this, kid. Don’t make me live with that.”


“I don’t care about you.” Billy groans, makes a pained grunt. “And what happens to the brat, huh? What happens to me? I get bounced around like a goddamned potato until what? I run away? Because I will. I’ll fuckin’ run every time.”


A tendon in Hopper’s neck pops out. Then he’s walking closer to Billy, where Steve can’t see.


It’s a strain to hear them then.


“I know you don’t want to leave Hawkins. But if it means you don’t get hurt anymore…”


“I can handle my fucking dad!” Billy yells and Hopper sighs again and Steve feels his blood pressure dip.


He sways. Plants a foot on the first step down, but rethinks the benefit of bursting downstairs and joining the conversation. It wouldn’t go well.


He can’t keep listening to this.


Steve goes back to the bathroom. Makes a lot of noise about it. Runs into his bedroom and changes into jeans and a sweater and runs back down the stairs, his hands in his hair to make it look like he’s at work styling it.


He doesn’t care. He just wants the conversation to stop. He wants to get Billy alone, away from cops and his dad, and—god, his own dad—


They’re staring at him.


“So, breakfast!” Steve crows.


It works better than he thought it would.



Breakfast at Benny’s is, to say the least, awkward.


Billy won’t speak or look at either of them. Keeps his eyes trained on his plate of eggs and bacon and sausage. He starts in on Steve’s pancakes halfway through and Steve doesn’t have the heart to tell him they’re not even his, technically.


Hopper eats as he watches Billy eat.


Steve’s about to lose his damn mind.


“Will somebody say something? What happened?”


“Will you quit asking about shit that doesn’t concern you?” Billy says, pointing his fork. Ran into a tree.”


“Your car was fine.”


“Ran into a tree with my face. I was drunk.”


“No, you weren’t. You—”


“Steve,” Billy murmurs. Steve falls quiet. Feels Billy’s thigh press against his. It stays there. His eyes are shining. “Please.”


He swallows the words he wants to spit out. To demand.


It hurts. Billy’s leg by his doesn’t. Sends chills against the fire under his skin.


Hopper speaks around a mouthful of toast. “Eat up. It’s free food.”


“No it’s not.”


“For you two it is.” Hopper raises an eyebrow until they both start up again. “I think Billy here should hang around your house for a couple days, Harrington. How’s that sound?”




“Sounds just great,” Billy cuts in.


Billy shoves his leg. Steve swallows his tongue and hates every second of it.



They eat and drink and watch movies and swim and don’t talk about the night of Steve’s sixteenth birthday. Don’t even bring up the quarry.


Steve’s happy to pretend it never happened so long as Billy never has a rainbow of bruises against his skin again.


Billy heals and laughs and sleeps in Steve’s bed and he feels like the kid with a new neighbor all over again, for a little while.


Billy gets a call after school a few days later. His face gives nothing away. He only says, “Okay,” at the very end of the call before hanging the phone back on the wall.


They play ball.


They eat dinner.


They do homework and listen to music that Billy likes and has been trying to get Steve into for a few months now.


And Steve decides he’s a fan. And Billy smiles so big, whoops so loud, and smacks a wet kiss on Steve’s cheek just like that and Steve’s face tingles for hours.


Until they fall asleep. As they dream.


Until Steve wakes up alone. Until it feels like being splashed with freezing water.


He panics, because Hopper told him to stick around. He doesn’t know if Billy went back to his house, maybe ran into his dad, or—or all the terrifying maybes Steve has spent every second since the quarry trying not to think about and—


And he doesn’t see Billy again for six months.