Boltedfruit Archive

Liar

lie to me, pretty boy: Part 1: Liar

Published: 2021-09-28

Category: M/M

Rating: E

Part: 1/?

Words: 6,061

Fandom: Stranger Things

Ship: Steve Harrington/Billy Hargrove

Characters: Steve Harrington, Billy Hargrove, Carol Perkins

Tags: Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms, Semi-Public Sex, Vaginal Sex, Dirty Talk, Mutual Masturbation, Public Masturbation, Sexual Roleplay, Feminization, Period Typical Attitudes, Pining

 

Summary:

Steve hates lies. Steve hates bullshit. Steve hates when the two coalesce into something heart deep and painful.

 

So he doubles down after the fiasco of Tina’s Halloween party and thinks what better way to move on than revel in the pain that chains him.

 

 

“But why?” Hargrove watches him smoke like it’s a gem he’s just unearthed, new and his to appreciate. “It’s gotta hurt like a bitch, making them lie to feel good for a while.”

 

Steve shrugs. He’s tired and wants to go to bed. He wants to finish this smoke and grab another cup of something bitter and stinging to forget the rest of the night. He’s still hard, and he’s annoyed he couldn’t get off with Carol. Annoyed more that she couldn’t come up with a reason to want him.

 

Annoyed that Hargrove, of anyone on earth he could have told this to, seems to understand it at its baseline.

 

“Sometimes you gotta lie to feel good at all. Sometimes nothing else works, because pretending now and then makes the rest of it feel a little less fake.”

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.

Hookups used to be fun.

 

Now, they hurt.

 

It’s what he wants now. Now, the pain. Now, the hurt. Now, the unkind, unfair world dissolving into a rough climax, unsatisfying and depressing in the darker hours that slide into dawn.

 

He knows what he should do.

 

He should stop burying himself in his own half-asleep misery.

 

He should stop having sex, all the time, whenever and wherever he can. Unprotected.

 

He should stop thinking of Nancy. Of the way her lower lip didn’t wobble when she was drunk and angry and mean. Meaner than he’d ever known her to be. Of the way she reached inside his chest and snatched out the open vault of his heart to spill his feelings onto the floor. Bits of paper left to the wind. Trash.

 

He should stop using old excuses. Nancy was a long time ago in the unforgiving timeline of high school. A month felt like an eternity. A month of sleeping around like he hasn’t done since he hit sixteen feels like a lifetime.

 

Girls blush when he passes by in the halls again. Girls try to get his attention. Girls argue over who gets to talk to him first. Who gets a piece. Who gets.

 

It’s disgusting, but he doesn’t feel enough to care much anymore.

 

It hurt too much to care. He needed to stop, so he did.

 

 

He leads Tammy Thompson around for a week. She’s sweet. Can’t sing for shit. Has great legs. She rides him until his dick is sore and kind of achy after and she leaves a bad taste in his mouth, metaphorically of course.

 

“God, I think I love you,” she says in the heat of the moment, and it sends such a rush of endorphins through Steve he immediately wants to hear it again. Keeps fucking her until she falls apart a second time, fingers digging into his shoulders.

 

All he can think about is how good it felt to hear the words. So much better than his own orgasm, and isn’t that messed up?

 

But everything’s been kind of messed up for a while.

 

So he says, “Say that again.”

 

And Tammy does. After she bites down a little embarrassed laugh, averting her gaze from him. Until he gently pries her hands away from covering her face. When he says, “Don’t worry about it. Doesn’t have to be real later. It can be real for now. No biggie.”

 

They go two more rounds and it doesn’t even matter that they’re on her bed trying to keep quiet because her parents are asleep down the hall. She feeds him lies, and he revels in them.

 

She’s given him a great idea.

 

 

“Tell me you love me,” Steve tells Carol, because it’s Carol and they’ve known each other since kindergarten.

 

Her and Tommy are off again on again. It’s an unsaid thing that when they’re off, she and Steve are on, given if he’s not seeing anyone. Which he’s not. Which he refuses to for the very long foreseeable future.

 

She still scrunches up her tiny nose even as she shifts her hips beneath him, adjusting to the stretch. She’s a tiny thing, and when it’s been a while, it always takes a while to accommodate again. Usually she gets back with Tommy right when they’re getting into a groove.

 

It’s normal. Used to be, anyway.

 

“Why?”

 

He rolls his hips slow. “Humor me.”

 

“I love Tommy,” she says, and he knows that. That detail doesn’t matter here.

 

The next thrust makes her moan.

 

“Come on. Just once. Just try it out.”

 

“Is this some weird new kink you saw in Playgirl or something?”

 

And because it’s a weird request, and he knows it’s weird, and because Carol is literally complaining while he’s moving inside her, he huffs and sighs and says, “Sure. Whatever. Does it bug you too much?”

 

They fall to silence parted only by grunts and sighs for a while, lost to how good it feels to have no strings attached sex. It gives them freedom to ask for things she usually wouldn’t of Tommy, who would probably judge her. He’s seen Tommy give her hell for less.

 

But Steve doesn’t care. He’s not like that.

 

If it feels good, it’s worth it. For the most part.

 

It’s a belief that’s served him well in life.

 

Carol grinds her hips up in small circles under she’s clinging and crying out, undone. Steve holds on, not particularly satisfied one way or another apart from the pride of knowing he’s still got moves at least.

 

He wants an answer, mostly.

 

When she comes back down, she slaps at his cheek cheerfully until he’s pulling out, letting her flip over onto her stomach and wiggling her butt until he slides back in. It’s better this way, always has been. They fall into rhythm.

 

“Is this like the time you wanted me to stick my fingers in your butt?” Carol suddenly asks him and Steve falters, slipping out of her wet heat.

 

“What?”

 

“That one time,” she says, groaning in frustration as she reaches back to grab him, lead him home. “That one time. With your butt. And my fingers.”

 

“I did not ask you to stick your fingers in my ass.”

 

Steve can sense Carol rolling her eyes at him. “Please. We both know that’s what you were asking for.”

 

He wasn’t. He hadn’t.

 

He tries to think back to the day. It had been years ago. She grabbed his ass and urged him deeper, and he’d just—

 

Okay, maybe he had? Had he?

 

“I’m not gay, Carol. I didn’t mean that.”

 

Carol laughs, and the moment is officially dead. He pulls out of her and falls to the side, chest pounding from something more than just sex.

 

Carol’s pouting face appears above him, eyes dancing with amusement. “Stevie, come on. I never told anybody. These fingers have a reputation to keep, though. That’s why I don’t,” she says, waggling her manicured fingers, “dabble.”

 

“Dabble. Because that’s what you call it. That’s not what this is. At all. Just forget it.”

 

Steve shuts his eyes and ignores the waning of his erection against his thigh. Carol’s witnessed him and Tommy have a piss fight in a snowbank when they were almost blackout drunk. Losing an erection is one of the least embarrassing things she’s seen him do.

 

“You could always ask a guy for a little help,” she says, and when Steve snaps his eyes to hers, she’s smirking. “Hear some in town are into that kind of thing.”

 

“Carol,” he warns.

 

He’s not.

 

“Don’t hate me,” she says, pout back in full force. She lowers her voice and bats her lashes. “Don’t you know I love you? Don’t you know you’re mine?”

 

His chest seizes for an instant.

 

His dick gives a little kick.

 

God, he’s messed in the head.

 

But Carol’s giving him what he asked for. And soon enough, her little whispers have him hard enough to turn her around and slide back inside, arm tight around her waist as she pulls her knees up, begs for more, begs for things Tommy doesn’t give her.

 

 

Tammy. Carol. Tina. Rebecca. Rachel. Stacy. Amy. Becky.

 

Old hat. Save for the new things he asks them to whisper. They all go along with it. Because they know him. The old him. The one they knew never to take seriously. The one they can easily convince themselves is joking.

 

They’ve all had him, he’s had them all. Before. Before Nancy.

 

Steve hates he has a line now. A line that separates before Nancy and after Nancy. Before his life fell to shit, to after everything went numb.

 

There are a few other markers that fall along the line too. Before monsters. Before Byers. Before Billy Hargrove.

 

After.

 

Several things line up at the same moment; Nancy breaking his heart, Hargrove peacocking into his life to make school even harder than it’s always been. New monsters, old shit.

 

Old hat, old life, new terrors.

 

“Stop it,” Hargrove demands in the locker room when Steve is hiking his jeans back on. “You’re sighing like an old bitch who forgot her knitting needles. It’s annoying as shit.”

 

“They were nice needles,” Steve replies, turning to face Hargrove fully, sighing loudly just to piss him off. “Haven’t seen them around, have you?”

 

Hargrove just smiles, eyes still mean. “You’re a real son of a bitch, you know that?”

 

Steve buttons his jeans and fists his polo as he stares Hargrove down. Hargrove’s doing what he usually does after practice, which is to linger mostly naked until everyone else leaves.

 

All that protects his dignity from the rest of the locker room is a white towel he always uses to dry his hair with after a shower. It’s like he wants to make as many guys uncomfortable as he can with his nakedness, tan skin on display as he walks around and strikes up meaningless conversation too aggressive to be conversational.

 

The guy’s got abs, so what? It’s weird.

 

And the thing is, nobody says anything about it. The first and last guy who did ended up with a broken nose he still sported bruises from.

 

Steve can (kind of) relate. He’d narrowly avoided a broken nose the night of their fight, but it was close. The bruises had only recently healed up.

 

“That’s a conversation you’d have to have with my mom,” Steve tells him, slinging his shirt over a shoulder. He crosses his arms and leans against his locker, feigning casual like Hargrove likes to do.

 

It’s a game he can play, too.

 

Hargrove’s tongue makes an appearance across his lips as he sizes Steve up. Holds his eyes and lifts a dark eyebrow. He takes a step closer. “Hear she’s not around so much, all those girls you’re bringing around.”

 

Steve shrugs. “It’s not a lie.”

 

Something dark twinkles in the depth of Hargrove’s eyes. He’s closer, a breath away. The knuckles of the fist holding the towel over his junk brushes against Steve’s hip.

 

“Good,” Hargrove purrs. “I hate liars.”

 

It’s probably the only thing they can agree on. He leans in, relishes the way Hargrove barely flinches at the almost contact.

 

“Funny. So do I.”

 

“When you two are finished jerking each other off, we’re heading to the diner!” Robbie calls from the front of the locker room. “Gotta plan for the away game. You coming or not?”

 

When Steve pulls back, Hargrove’s smirking up at him. He never realized he was taller than Hargrove. It makes something odd flutter at the back of his tongue.

 

“Yeah, Harrington,” Hargrove says, lifting the towel to swing it over his shoulders and pull, lazy. “You coming?”

 

Hargrove only laughs instead of waiting for an answer. He finally turns away and gets dressed, apparently wanting a burger and fries as much as the rest of the team because he’s ready to go only seconds after Steve is.

 

 

“I call Hargrove,” Tommy croons, proud of the announcement. “No way am I rooming with Robbie again. Sorry, man, you snore.”

 

Steve’s picking at fries and sipping slowly at his milkshake. The conversation is old. They’ve all had it before. Everyone rooms with the same people they always have. Steve usually rooms with Tommy and Robbie, because the team’s always had an uneven number of players, and even after their falling out it’s unlikely to change. Just look at him and Carol.

 

Nothing ever changes.

 

“Can’t,” Hargrove says around a cheekful of meat and cheese. “Already called Harrington.”

 

“No,” he says automatically. “No he didn’t.”

 

A rough arm slings around his shoulders to tug him in close. Hargrove breathes onion breath and palms at his shoulder with greasy fingers. “Too late, bud. You’re stuck with me.”

 

But now they’re not uneven anymore. Not with Hargrove to round them out.

 

“I heard Hagan plans on putting glue in your hair, pretty boy,” Hargrove informs him, and the table starts up a chorus of booing in Tommy’s direction. “What kind of friend would I be if I didn’t keep our star player from having to go into the next game bald?”

 

“And why would I be bald?”

 

“Coach would have to shave it, obviously.”

 

Steve rolls his eyes. “I’m not the star player.”

 

Not anymore.

 

“After me, of course.” Hargrove flips his hair and jabs a greasy thumb against Steve’s pulse. He smells rich like too much cologne, hair product. He’s got a little eyeliner under his eyes and wonders when he managed to apply it. It certainly wasn’t in the locker room.

 

He’s acting buddy-buddy. Like they worked through issues they haven’t even begun to touch.

 

It’s weird.

 

Hargrove’s steadily working his way through Steve’s fries. He wonders if the guy even notices he’s doing it.

 

Something old rears its head at the thought. Anger, laughter, a rush of resentment. Then a wave of familiar numbness washes everything out until he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care that his food is being eaten by Hargrove. That Hargrove is going to room with him at this weekend’s away game. That Hargrove is pulling away from him and giving him a strange look at his lack of response.

 

Steve sips at his shake and doesn’t care.

 

 

There’s a party at Tommy’s after. His folks sometimes take a few nights off and go out of town. Then it’s Tommy throwing a party he can’t quite manage the longer the night stretches.

 

Steve’s halfway to drunk when Carol corners him on the back patio. Her and Tommy are off again. She’s got a leg hitched up, her hips undulating against Steve as he cranes down to kiss her.

 

Sometimes it just feels good to touch someone else with no expectations. But lately it’s not about that. He expects. It makes it better. Make it worse only later.

 

“Love you, bud,” she says, smiling into his kisses. It’s close to what he’s already asked of her, but not enough. Not quite there. “Love it when you get so worked up for me.”

 

“Yeah?” he asks, because it’s expected of him. He has a part to play too. “Tell me what else you love about me. Why me?”

 

Steve moves to her neck as she thinks of a response. Carol’s always been so short. He hoists her up with hands under her knees and pins her gently against the back of the house. If Tommy were to see them, he’d probably cry. Oh well.

 

“‘Cuz you’re so tall. And good looking. You know how to get a girl going.”

 

Steve groans. That’s not what he meant. “What else? About me, Carol. Come on, why d’you want me?”

 

“Um. You’re…you’re…”

 

“Begging for it in public?” comes Hargrove’s rough voice out of the dark.

 

Steve drops Carol all at once. She stands with a squeak, swaying a little from the impact. She swears at him and jabs her fingers into his side before stomping away.

 

“Thanks for nothing, Billy,” she sneers as she sidesteps him into the house.

 

“You too, toots.” He’s still looking at Steve like he just found something out. A juicy secret.

 

And maybe he has.

 

Steve sees he’s not so much emerged from the dark as he has from the confines of the house. An unlit cigarette dangles from his mouth, and he waggles it between a grin as he approaches.

 

“You look like you just got sucked off,” Hargrove states, leaning against the house in the same spot Carol had been pressed to only moments before.

 

Steve turns away, smoothes his hands through his hair to try and get it under control. His face is warm from having Carol pressed so close, from the alcohol in his bloodstream. He’s hard and hates it’s not going away in the presence of the last person he wants to be around.

 

He reaches down and adjusts himself, not caring Hargrove can see.

 

“You didn’t though,” he continues, like it’s a conversation Steve is engaging in at all. “You were just out here smacking lips and begging for your best guy’s chick to whisper you sweet nothings.”

 

It makes him snort, shocked more than anything else. “You’ve been watching the show, Hargrove?”

 

“What if I was?” he says, and Steve eyes him.

 

The cigarette wags.

 

Hargrove’s just fucking with him.

 

“He’s not my best guy.” He corrects himself. “Not anymore.”

 

“Still, sleeping with his girl is pretty fucked up.”

 

“We have an understanding.” Hargrove whistles low at that. “I don’t expect you to understand.”

 

“I don’t have to. Just wondering how much more there is to King Steve.”

 

Steve hates him. Sudden and all at once. He plucks the cigarette from Hargrove’s lips and pulls out his own lighter. He lights it and puffs away, leaning back against the house at Hargrove’s side like any of this is normal.

 

“Tetchy tonight.”

 

“Then leave.”

 

Hargrove doesn’t, because he never does. He picks until he locates boundaries and pushes for all he’s worth.

 

“I know it’s weird,” Steve says, not really knowing why he wants to go into it. Maybe because nobody’s really asked. And telling somebody like Hargrove, somebody who doesn’t actually matter in the scheme of his short high school life doesn’t make it real. Make it sad. “Asking girls to tell me they want me. I don’t need you to tell me it’s strange.”

 

“But why?” Hargrove watches him smoke like it’s a gem he’s just unearthed, new and his to appreciate. “It’s gotta hurt like a bitch, making them lie to feel good for a while.”

 

Steve shrugs. He’s tired and wants to go to bed. He wants to finish this smoke and grab another cup of something bitter and stinging to forget the rest of the night. He’s still hard, and he’s annoyed he couldn’t get off with Carol. Annoyed more that she couldn’t come up with a reason to want him.

 

Annoyed that Hargrove, of anyone on earth he could have told this to, seems to understand it at its baseline.

 

“Sometimes you gotta lie to feel good at all. Sometimes nothing else works, because pretending now and then makes the rest of it feel a little less fake.”

 

Hargrove seems to take that in, not speaking for a long while. Chooses instead to wane in the night just like Steve.

 

“Ever had a girl make the big confession?”

 

Or so he thought.

 

Steve sighs. “The what?”

 

“You know, the big four letter word. Worth all the money. How many girls have told you they love you?”

 

“I don’t know,” he lies. “A few.”

 

“How many meant it?”

 

And that’s the problem.

 

Steve turns away.

 

Steve is almost down to the filter when Hargrove speaks again.

 

“You mind, Harrington?”

 

Steve doesn’t know what he’s asking. He looks over and puffs away, eyes skating over Hargrove’s face as his head tilts back against the house, eyes slits focused on the dark of the backyard.

 

His right hand is over his crotch, fingers tapping an outline that’s thick in his tight jeans.

 

Steve’s head thumps back on the siding. The cigarette almost falls from his mouth.

 

“What are you doing?” he asks, and is embarrassed when it sounds barely above a whisper.

 

“It’s late. I’m a little high. The bathroom’s been locked for an hour. I came out here to get some relief, pretty boy. But then I ran into you and the buzzkill. What’s it look like?”

 

“But I’m out here still.”

 

“So?” Hargrove counters. “You got your own problem to deal with as far as I can tell. Carol didn’t take care of her sidepiece like she should have.”

 

Steve frowns at that, equally annoyed that his erection was noticed. “I am not the sidepiece.”

 

“Whatever you say, cupcake.”

 

“Fuck you, Hargrove,” Steve bites out, unzipping his jeans enough to slip a hand inside his briefs. Hargrove isn’t even looking at him. What does it matter?

 

“Thataboy.” Hargrove slaps his hip, makes him jump. He’s still got his eyes trained on the dark, but his hand is squeezing now, purposeful and hard.

 

Steve tears his eyes away and focuses on himself.

 

Steve grips himself at the base, pushes at his balls a little before stroking from root to tip. His fingers run through precum the same moment Hargrove grunts something soft and low beside him, all deep base.

 

“Christ, that’s good.”

 

Steve barely looks his way. Sees Hargrove’s moved his hand inside his own pants. His other hand works at his button and zip, gets them open, dropping down a few inches, impossible to drop any lower over his thick thighs.

 

“Don’t gotta be shy around me, Harrington.”

 

Steve turns to him, finds Hargrove is looking at his face now.

 

“I wasn’t…”

 

“Hush.” It almost sounds kind. “The fuck you think, this is my first time doing shit like this or something? You never have a little fun with the boys when there’s fuck-all to do?”

 

No.

 

Definitely not.

 

“Must be a California thing,” he surmises, because he refuses to let Hargrove make him feel any more humiliated than he already feels at being caught sneaking a look.

 

“Must be,” Hargrove says with a quiet laugh. “This shit’s normal as can be. Nothing wrong with feeling good.”

 

“Yeah.” Steve nods, because it’s another thing they can agree on. “Yeah.”

 

“Go on, then,” he says like it’s a challenge. “Show me what the King is working with.”

 

He can’t be serious. Just whip it out less than ten feet from the door? Where anyone could walk out and find them? Where—

 

Hargrove brings out his dick and sighs gratefully. He squeezes the head and ruts into his own fist for several seconds before going back to stroking. He’s just, hard, and out there, and showing Steve up for how shy and lame he’s being about something that’s so clearly not the big deal he thought it was.

 

Still, his hands shake when he grips himself in one hand, paused in his own half-slick stroking to pull his pants and briefs away. The bite of the night air is a shock against his overheated skin. But he warms all over when Hargrove sucks in a sharp breath, eyes dark and trained on his dick.

 

“Impressed?” Steve can’t help but ask, smug because he knows what Hargrove’s thinking. He’s not a small guy.

 

Hargrove licks his lips, thrusts his hips up into the grip of his own fingers. He’s drier than Steve is, he can see that. But it doesn’t matter so much to Hargrove, not with how good it looks like it feels.

 

“Just surprised you were gonna inflict that monster on little old Carol.” Hargrove chuckles, but the sound gives way to a bitten lip, a cut off moan.

 

Does it really feel that good for him? Just watching like this? Sharing something secret, a little weird.

 

Something they shouldn’t be doing.

 

Steve has trouble remembering why he hates Hargrove so much in that moment, watching his tongue flick quick and pink across his full lips. Watching his hips work relentlessly slow into his own fist. Watching how he stares as Steve spreads his own spend over the flushed head of his dick, wanting more, imagining more. Imagining a body, imagining hands, imagining—

 

“Fuck, you look like you know how to fuck someone right. You’d rip them open at the seams, wouldn’t you, Harrington? Wanna know what it looks like, you giving it to someone. Wanna know what it feels like. Want you.”

 

Hargrove,” Steve gasps out, short, low, a hiss almost. What the fuck is he saying?

 

Those dark eyes find Steve’s. Half of Hargrove is illuminated by the light from the back door. It’s risk personified, what they’re doing.

 

He doesn’t care.

 

But Hargrove pauses, looks pained. Annoyed at having to stop. “That’s what gets you off, isn’t it? Pretending?”

 

And it is. But it also isn’t. How can he explain that?

 

But he nods anyway, because nobody else is here. Nobody else is giving him this.

 

And Hargrove is the riskiest person he’s ever met, and maybe that makes him safe.

 

It’s a different kind of numb that settles into his bones then. It burns.

 

“Tell me,” Steve says. “Tell me why you want me.”

 

Hargrove’s brows draw up, eyes falling closed briefly before piercing Steve to the wall again as he resumes jerking himself off.

 

“You seem like a good guy. Want you to show me some of that goodness. Wanna know what it feels like, being treated right like some kind of girl you take out for the night on a date.”

 

He can picture it. He likes dates. Dates are fun, easy. They give him an excuse to make moon eyes over someone without them getting embarrassed or weirded out by the attention.

 

Hargrove has the hair for a girl. He could pull it back and tie it up with a scrunchie. Put on a tight turtleneck crop-top under that disgusting, smoke-smelling jean jacket, show off his toned belly over a skirt that barely covers his ass. Throw on some fishnet, because he seems like the kind of guy to like that sort of thing.

 

“I’d take you out. Buy you dinner,” he whispers, because the words sting with shame. But they make his blood beat all the hotter.

 

“You’d treat me nice.”

 

“Yeah,” Steve echoes. “Real nice.”

 

“Harrington—” Hargrove bites the word off as he comes, spilling onto the deck. He strokes himself hard through it. Makes a pained face, lips swollen and eyes still fixed so completely on Steve.

 

It’s Hargrove saying, “I might even hold your hand,” that sets Steve off, shooting into his palm.

 

It’s Hargrove laughing after, “That’s what did it?”

 

It’s Hargrove handing him a handkerchief from his back pocket so he can wipe his hands clean.

 

It’s Hargrove zipping himself up and taking the cigarette and hanky back, smirking so devilish and handsome, barely flushed, and barely bothered with the many lines they just crossed that have Steve knowing he already wants more.

 

 

They don’t talk about it.

 

Not at school. Not at practice. Not at the next party.

 

It’s Friday study hall. There’s no practice because they’re due out to the city tonight for the away game on Saturday. Tomorrow night he’ll be in a hotel room with Hargrove, and they haven’t talked about it.

 

He wants to. He needs to.

 

He refocuses on the English textbook in front of him. Something about grammar. Something about character analysis.

 

He reminds himself he doesn’t care.

 

He scribbles roughly in the margins because screw education and their standards for keeping useless textbooks clean.

 

A heavy book slams on the table next to Steve so hard he almost tips backwards in his chair.

 

It’s Hargrove, laughing with his eyes as he sits.

 

“Damn, what’d the book do to you?”

 

Instead of cracking open his own copy of their English textbook, he grabs Steve’s to slide it closer, situated between them. Steve points uselessly at the thing.

 

“I don’t get it.”

 

“I do.” Of course he does. “I’ll help. Where are you at?”

 

Steve figures he might as well let him. He points to the middle of the right page and sits back, cheek in palm as he watches Hargrove wordlessly comb through the text. He makes small notes between the margins as he goes. Much neater and far more purposeful than what Steve had been doing.

 

“Got any plans for after graduation?” Hargrove suddenly asks. He’s careful not to draw the wrath of the librarian.

 

Steve shrugs. “Haven’t thought much about it. Probably going to have to find a job if my dad gets what he wants.”

 

Hargrove hums. “I’m gonna move out of my pop’s place. Gonna find me a nice house. Big, with two floors at least. Gonna have my Camaro and a Mustang. Gonna have a nice white fence and a big yard. Two dogs. Whole collection of vintage electric guitars.”

 

He listens, strangely enraptured. He can’t picture Hargrove doing any of that.

 

“That costs a lot of money.”

 

Hargrove scoots in closer, lowers his voice. “Good thing I’ll have you to foot the bill, then.”

 

Steve huffs. Of course it’s a joke.

 

“Maxine says I’m a pretty good cook when I try.”

 

“Oh yeah?”

 

“Yep. You’ll see when you get off work and come home to a nice meal. Table all set real pretty. Might even throw on a frilly pink apron just to complete the picture.”

 

Steve looks up at him slowly. Wonders what it is he’s doing.

 

But Hargrove doesn’t seem smug. Doesn’t seem to be pulling punches. He seems strangely intent on the book. Lips turned up only enough to let Steve know the idea amuses him, but he’s not laughing at it. At Steve.

 

“Hargrove, what are you talking about?”

 

Hargrove barely meets his eyes before they’re back on the book. His thigh finds Steve’s under the table, and he’s all heat where he presses close.

 

“Making a nice warm meal is the least I can do for my husband,” Hargrove murmurs. “After working so hard all day and letting us live in such a nice house in a nice neighborhood.”

 

The words swim low and warm in his belly. He’s caught on to what Hargrove’s doing.

 

Hargrove.”

 

Harrington. What? You don’t like the idea of having somebody cook for you? It’s the language of love, isn’t it?”

 

“Of love, huh?”

 

Hargrove meets his eyes then. He nods, barely perceptible. “Yeah. Love. Wives love their husbands, don’t they?”

 

His own mother hates his father. Nancy’s is the same. Jonathan’s mom is divorced. So is Dustin’s. So is Max’s…which means so is Hargrove’s dad.

 

Steve can’t think of one happy couple in Hawkins outside of Lucas’s folks. If they can’t figure it out, how will he?

 

It makes him nervous, ill thinking how so few seem happily married. Makes him numb in a way that doesn’t burn. He wants to at least simmer.

 

And Hargrove is playing the game again, for some reason Steve can’t figure, hadn’t dared to hope for.

 

But even so. “We’re in the library, Hargrove!”

 

He gets a shrug in response. “Then keep it down.”

 

“Does that mean you’re my wife in this scenario?”

 

Hargrove’s eyes twinkle. His leg twitches, bouncing on the heel of his foot as Steve gives in, plays along, takes the risk head-on.

 

“Yeah, baby,” Hargrove purrs. “Sure does. I’d make a good wife, too. Great, even.”

 

“You’d cook and clean?” Steve asks him, feeling heat stir threateningly in his gut.

 

“I’d do all that wife shit.” Hargrove’s bouncing slows to a crawl, maybe a caress. Makes Steve feel unsteady. “And more.”

 

“Like what?”

 

Hargrove doesn’t have an answer to that, which Steve thinks is fair. They are in public after all. And they are both guys. This is weird. Beyond weird, really. Steve doesn’t even know why he’s doing this.

 

Why he’s okay with doing this.

 

But then warm breath ghosts along his ear and it’s Hargrove, and it’s him whispering, voice all gravel, “I’d blow you after. Blow you so good, you’d need me to help you stand after.”

 

And he doesn’t know why it’s turning him on.

 

“Shit.”

 

“Yeah, Harrington.” And hell, Hargrove sounds a little wrecked too. A little put out. Is this affecting him like it is Steve? Is he chubbing up in his jeans, making him twitch with the need to do something about it? “You ever think about it?”

 

“About…”

 

You, Steve almost says.

 

He doesn’t.

 

“About fucking your wife’s mouth?”

 

Steve winces, barely. “You’re so gross. I can’t stand it sometimes.”

 

“You like it some of the time?”

 

Billy,” Steve grinds out, not even caring how it sounds. But Hargrove doesn’t seem to take any issue with it.

 

They never use each other’s names. That would make them something better than enemies.

 

“Fine,” Hargrove coos. He nonchalantly turns a page in the textbook, like he’s not begun a terrible unwinding of Steve’s entire reality. “You ever think about getting your pretty wife on her knees, her cherry-red lips all wet and inviting parting as she waits for that monster between your legs? Ever think about parting those lips and slipping just the tip inside? Just to get it wet and hot, to get her jaw used to the stretch? To make sure she’s ready.”

 

Hargrove turns another page.

 

Steve is fully hard. In the library. It’s officially a code red situation, and it’s Billy goddamn Hargrove’s fault and Steve doesn’t get it, or why, but he still doesn’t care.

 

He burns.

 

Relief. He needs some relief. He starts to move his hand under the table when Hargrove snatches it, snake-quick. He pins Steve’s wrist to the table and almost growls.

 

Steve’s aching erection gives a kick.

 

“Not so fast. We’re in study hall. Someone could see.”

 

“I can’t. Hargrove, I can’t—”

 

Hargrove shushes him. It’s a gentle sound. Steve wants more. Wonders why Hargrove isn’t like this all the time.

 

The sane part of himself, the one who can still think clearly, knows why he’s not.

 

It doesn’t stop him wanting though, intense and all-encompassing.

 

Steve’s never been the best at keeping his distance. But they’re playing a game, and the lack of rules warrants it. So it doesn’t matter, because Steve doesn’t care, and neither does Hargrove.

 

“I do. All the time. All I want is to find someone to marry, who wants me. Forever.” He’s panting, but trying his best to hide it, keep it under wraps. Hargrove is the only one who knows what he’s doing, and damn him for it, bless him too. But if the librarian caught on? “I just want a normal life.”

 

“A sweet dream, baby,” comes the next whisper, an endearment that makes his hands sweat. “Tell me more. Tell me what you’d do to her.”

 

“I’d go slow. So slow. Make it good for her, too. Let her know what she’s doing to me. Let her know just how bad I want her.”

 

“How?” Hargrove asks, demands. The fingers around Steve’s wrist go so tight his own begin to tingle.

 

“I’d reach the back of her throat. Make her taste it. Go slow, beca—because that’s my favorite way to—”

 

“To what? Harrington, your favorite way to what?”

 

“To fuck,” he breathes, rolling his hips into nothing, wishing it was something close, and tight, and wet.

 

“Knew you’d be sweet about it. I’d make it good for you. Make it tight like a girl. I’d swallow everything you gave me, pretty boy.”

 

Steve meets Hargrove’s eyes, swimming in black. He’s as turned on as Steve is, he’s sure. It makes sense, talking about what they are.

 

But it’s Hargrove on his knees that Steve is picturing. It’s Hargrove painting a real clear picture of what it would be like to have his lips around Steve’s cock, until he came, until Hargrove finished it all.

 

God. God, he’s gonna come in the library. From nothing.

 

“I can’t,” he tries, words strained more than he’s ever heard himself sound. “I need.”

 

Steve can’t even finish the thought.

 

Hargrove shuts the book and stands, hands shoved in his pockets. He jerks his chin toward the door.

 

And then he leaves.

 

Steve waits a very difficult two minutes before he shoots up and follows, holding the book over his lap like some freshman as he goes.

 

He finds Hargrove waiting in the entry to the guy’s bathroom.

 

He’s standing on a precipice. Follow him inside to the unknown, where anything could happen unbound by the established rules of reality.

 

Or he could not. He could stomach a case of blue balls for the afternoon like he’s done a hundred times before.

 

But Hargrove’s standing there, waiting for him.

 

Steve steps over, falls, finds himself pushed into a stall with Hargrove close, wearing too much of his usual cologne, panting breathless and—and maybe just as anxious as Steve feels.

 

And then he’s spinning them around until Hargrove is sitting on the toilet, protected only by the seat and his jeans, with Steve standing in front of him, legs bracketing his knee.

 

Hargrove tilts his head up and waits. For permission.

 

Steve swallows hard. Licks his lips.

 

Hargrove’s fingers tentatively brush Steve’s zip, ghost over the bulge in his jeans.

 

What the fuck are they doing?