Boltedfruit Archive

First to Burn

Chapter 9: part v: limbo ii

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.

Tip. Tap. Tip. Tap.

 

Christ, he thinks.

 

It’s one in the morning. He should be fast asleep, but he’s not. Because he’s been thinking about almost blowing himself up all day, and about Billy saving him, and about Billy leaving him, and about Billy having a girlfriend, who’s moving out to Hawkins. Soon. Or something.

 

What the fuck.

 

Tip, tap, tip, tap.

 

His head throbs where he lays.

 

“Jesus Christ,” he mutters. His parents are asleep down the hall. Billy is seriously pushing his luck after everything.

 

Steve hauls himself out of bed and pads over to the window, glaring before he’s even got his fingers on the sill.

 

For a split second he keeps his line of sight on the trees straight ahead, peeling off into a dark, leafy mass. If he looks down and sees Billy, will he see bruises and blood? Or a face all smug and knowing? Like of course Steve Harrington will come to the window at Billy Hargrove’s beck and call.

 

But, if he’s hurt…

 

His fingers twitch. Steve hates he has the

energy left to even care.

 

So what if Billy’s dad beats him? So what if he ditched Steve to go and find a girl in California and—

 

What is he? A scorned chick?

 

Christ.

 

Fuck.

 

Steve looks down and sees Billy. Serious and with a handful of pebbles. Honestly, where does the guy even find so many? Between the pool and the trees there’s a lot of weeds and dirt, not much crumbled stone to pick through.

 

He’s stalling.

 

Steve bites the inside of his cheek and debates just going back to bed and pretending to sleep through the rest of the night. Nevermind Billy’s already, clearly, seen him.

 

Billy spreads his arms out wide, like come on, dickwad.

 

Seconds past. A match to the beat of his heart. One, Billy punching him. Two, Billy calling him a faggot. Three, Billy sneaking back into his room and asking can I, can I, can I. Four, Billy telling him once it’s just practice.

 

Steve deserves better. He doesn’t know what he and Billy are anymore, but it’s sure as hell not friends. Not like they used to be.

 

And if Billy’s proven anything, it’s that he’s just fine. He pulls through. Beaten or otherwise, he always manages to come out the other side unscathed.

 

He doesn’t need anybody else. He doesn’t need Steve.

 

Steve locks his window. Turns away and goes to the other side of his bed and sits on the floor, feels the carpet soft against the soles of his feet as he hunches his shoulders, hides his head, his face, and thinks.

 

Nobody really needs him.

 

 

Steve is early. He hadn’t slept a wink once he denied Billy the right to his room. The first time in–in probably forever. He can’t remember the last time he said no. It feels good to say no for once. Like maybe he does have some control over his life.

 

He gave Billy the cold shoulder after he saved Steve from burning to a crisp from his own dumb mistake in lab, and he’s watching Nancy walk toward him with Barb in tow and he’s smiling and he’s happy. He is. He’s doing great.

 

Nancy walks up to him and beams, her cute little smile twisting up at one corner. She’s cute. She’s beautiful. Doesn’t care what everybody else thinks, which tends to be verbalized quite loudly and often in her direction, especially with Barb Holland trailing next to her.

 

Neither of them really seem to pay any attention to the gossip. Steve wonders how that’s possible.

 

“Hey,” she says brightly, cheeks pink in the morning cold. “You look nice.”

 

“That’s my line!” he says, pouting. She giggles and he leans down to press a lingering kiss to her cheek. It’s sudden, unplanned. But it works to make her blush and look down, trying in vain to hide her grin.

 

Being around Nancy is easy.

 

“Ugh, get a room,” Barb complains, rolling her eyes at her friend. Nancy elbows her. “Or not, that’s worse.”

 

“Now ladies, I have more class than that,” he gripes, but he can tell it’s not that serious. If Barb had a real problem with him, he thinks he’d be able to tell. And, she wouldn’t suffer through eating lunch with them. “Same place at lunch? I heard they’re serving sloppy joe’s today.”

 

“Sure. I love those.”

 

“You hate messy food, Nancy.”

 

“Barb,” Nancy quietly admonishes her friend. Turning back to Steve she adds, “Did you start on the essay for history yet?”

 

“Uh.” He hadn’t realized there was an essay. “Not yet. Have you?”

 

“Not really. Want to study after school?” She tucks a lock of hair behind an ear. “Together.”

 

A giddiness lights him up from the inside out. “You–yeah, yeah! What time should I pick you up?”

 

“Oh. I was thinking we could, maybe, meet at the library?” She trails off, and Steve’s hope of getting to see what Nancy’s room looks like wanes. “But sure, we could study at mine. I’ll give you my address later. Check your locker after first period?”

 

Steve can’t help himself, he ducks down and plants a kiss on Nancy’s small smile. She giggles in his arms when he moves to spin her around.

 

“It’s a date!”

 

Nancy’s only got eyes for him, and he feels enraptured. Sucked into her orbit. It’s new and exciting and nice. The first kiss of many, he can just tell.

 

Tommy comes barrelling up to them, throwing his arms around Steve’s shoulders to wrestle. The moment is ruined. The magic is broken. Carol and Tommy can be mean, a lot of the time, and they’ve voiced their opinions about Nancy and Barb on more than one occasion. But now here they all are, in each other’s atmosphere, breathing the same air.

 

Tommy grips his shoulders hard when he finally settles his gaze on Nancy. The grip tightens.

 

Maybe the air is toxic. But Steve admires how Nancy just smiles at him like she doesn’t give one single shit what Tommy Hagan thinks and Steve decides it’s a new day.

 

And Billy Hargrove might not matter as much as he used to.

 

 

Steve’s standing at his locker, running his fingers over the indented lines of Nancy’s handwriting. It’s a piece of neatly folded notebook paper with her number and address on it. He’s going to pin it to his wall so he can see it as he’s struggling through homework.

 

His senses prickle a second before he’s being shoved against his locker. He turns, shoulders tensed and fist wound up, ready to go–when he sees Billy walking past, glowering over his shoulder.

 

Something just unburied and raw burns, making Steve sick to his stomach. Something about Billy and him; it takes almost nothing to boil. To get so angry it hurts.

 

Billy turns back around, throwing up a middle finger over his shoulder.

 

Billy doesn’t need him. Doesn’t need anybody.

 

The note with Nancy’s neat curling letters is crumpled in his fist when he finally relaxes enough to review the damage.

 

Okay, then. If that’s the way it’s gonna be.

 

That’s the way it is.