Boltedfruit Archive

First to Burn

Chapter 6: interlude iii: wake up

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.

Steve’s never had a problem with girls.

 

He’s never had a problem with keeping them around either, because he doesn’t need to. Hook ups are just that, hooking up, having a good time, parting ways without any strings attached. No harm done. No broken hearts on Steve Harrington’s watch.

 

He prefers it that way.

 

“You’re like, seventeen already, right?” Carol asks in his general direction. She’s perched on Tommy’s lap in the backseat of the Beamer. They’re looking at the liquor store kind of like they’re getting ready to rob it, but he doesn’t want to bring that up. “You look totally old enough. You’ll get through, no prob.”

 

Steve bites his lip as Carol and Tommy titter among each other behind him. It’s like a nest of bugs scraping behind walls. They’re annoying him more and more.

 

“I’m only sixteen and a half,” he reminds her, moving on from biting to chewing.

 

She scoffs. “Close enough!”

 

“You shave too,” Tommy tells him.

 

Steve frowns.

 

Tina exits the liquor store, stack of bright pink flyers in hand, a cigarette dangling out of her mouth before she’s fully through the door.

 

“Woah.”

 

“Wait here,” Steve says and scrambles to meet Tina on the sidewalk before she can get too far.

 

Steve’s never had a problem with girls.

 

They’re easy.

 

He pops a hip and leans down, close, in her space. A flush spread pretty pink and fast across her cheeks, her nose. She’s got these freckles in the right light. He thinks people should pay more attention to them.

 

She blows smoke in his face, he coughs. She apologizes again and again, hands him a flyer, touches his arm, rubs his arm, squeezes his fingers before hooking her pinky with his while he convinces her she should grab them a six pack of beer.

 

“Oh, Steve,” she coos, “Come to my party and you won’t need a silly six pack.”

 

“Why?”

 

She cocks an eyebrow at him and smirks. “Come to my party tonight. I have a keg.” She meets his eyes, stands on the tips of her sneakers to press a peck to the corner of his mouth. “And a very nice bedroom. But you know that.”

 

And Steve smiles. And Steve promises to see her soon.

 

And so it goes.

 

 

They spend the rest of the afternoon smoking through a box of reds and lounging at his pool until it’s time to hit the road to Tina’s.

 

They stop to get gas, because between

scoping out the liquor store and heading back to smoke the hours away, Steve forgot.

 

He’s just turning around, trying to stuff change back into his wallet, when he bumps into a girl. She squeaks on impact. Looks up at him with almost terrified brown eyes. She’s with Barb.

 

“Sorry, I didn’t see you there!”

 

“Oh, no. Totally my fault,” the girl says, waving him off. She takes a prim step back and smoothes down her long navy skirt.

 

Barb is glaring at him.

 

“Hey Barb.”

 

“Steve.”

 

“I don’t think we—”

 

“Nancy Wheeler,” Nancy Wheeler informs him before proffering her hand. They shake and she holds his hand firm and solid, like a man would. She probably shakes hands like Steve’s dad wishes he did. “You’re Steve Harrington. You’re on the basketball team.”

 

Barb gives her friend a strange look this time.

 

“Oh, yep. Yeah, that I am. A few months now. I’m still on the bench a lot.”

 

Nancy nods erratically. Ducks her head shyly. Steve thinks she’s pretty.

 

Barb steers her friend toward the register. “See you in class, Steve.”

 

Steve feels a little windswept. Pushes a hand through his hair. Says his goodbyes and leaves.

 

There’s a rumble of an engine he thinks he knows—he misses, he mistakes—but then it’s gone and all he can think about is the keg he’s sure to dominate just like he always does, every time.

 

 

He’s drunk.

 

He’s beaten his record for the keg stand.

 

The crowd is cheering Harrington and Steve is drunk and feeling good, feeling sloshy, feeling seen and hidden all at once.

 

And then his world screams to a halt because Billy Hargrove appears before him for the first time in six months, and he’s got his favorite leather jacket on, and he’s a little taller and he’s—

 

Really, really pissed.

 

Or something.

 

Man, he’s drunk. Steve’s too drunk. He laughs.

 

The phantom in front of him doesn’t laugh.

 

Steve reaches out and pokes his chest. He doesn’t give. It’s a body in front of him, all right. A body wearing a phantom’s face. The face of the boy who was his best friend, his—the one who abandoned him.

 

And phantom Billy, he says, “Look who the cat fuckin’ dragged in.”

 

And Tommy laughs like a little beast beside him, and Steve feels ill.

 

“I could say the same about you,” Steve slurs back, feels good about it.

 

Billy’s stoic. More stoic than Steve’s ever seen him, under all that anger on his face. Acting like this, acting drunk like he is, being drunk like he is—it would have had Billy annoyed, teasing. Not whatever kind of hate he’s wearing now.

 

“Six months. Twelve hours.”

 

Something flashes behind those blue eyes and then like a blur, he’s gone. The night goes on.

 

And so it goes.

 

 

Later, Steve finally finds him again. Billy. Real and in the flesh. High def. Lit up bright and vivid like some kind of MTV special.

 

Late night for sure.

 

He’s arguing across the room with a girl Steve kind of recognizes. The longer he stares the closer they seem, and Steve realizes he’s been pushing his way to get over to them. To confront. To ask and rib and bark and hug. To—

 

“I wasn’t even in your way,” the girl is saying. “And yet somehow, you still managed to spill my drink on my friend.”

 

“Your friend,” Billy laughs. “Sure.”

 

The girl scowls. “I don’t know who you think you are, but you’re an asshole.”

 

Billy sneers. Laughs cruel and short and as unkind as Steve’s ever heard him. “Whatever you say, dyke.”

 

And the girl freezes. And it’s Billy who turns and sees Steve standing there, a deer in headlights.

 

And Steve’s stupid and drunk and mad, so mad, but mostly he’s—he’s heartbroken. And he hasn’t seen his best friend in six months and he might have maybe spent more than one night alone in bed, thinking Billy might have died. And what would he have done then? How could he have gone on?

 

It’s relief and sorrow, holding Billy’s eyes now.

 

Because of all of it, because of so many other things, all Steve can bring himself to say is, “I missed you.”

 

And just like before, with the girl, Billy sneers and laughs and snorts and says, and says—

 

“Don’t be such a fucking faggot, Harrington.”

 

And walks off.

 

Steve and the girl are left in his wake, still, not knowing what to do next.

 

Only—Steve’s brain kicks in a second later, a second faster.

 

It’s like sobriety sinks into his bones all at once. Ice water. So much of it, all over again, like he’s waking up alone for a second time and not the thousandth. Or however many mornings six months adds up to.

 

Steve turns.

 

And he catches up to Billy as he swaggers mean, unseeing, uncompassionate—

 

Steve’s never had a problem with a lot of things in his life. His parents, sure. Figuring out how to operate daily life mainly on his own, yeah, okay. Billy Hargrove, his best friend, the one he still thinks about feeling tingles over—he’s been a six month long problem that’s just presented its own solution.

 

So maybe, yeah, a lot of things have been easy, while so few haven’t.

 

Billy’s become one of the more difficult, painful ones.

 

But this, now—it’s easier than a lot of things he can think of doing.

 

So Steve raises his fist and—