Late December 1984

Billy sat up in July's bed, reaching for his pack of cigarettes that laid on her nightstand. Grabbing them and his cheap plastic lighter, he was ready to throw back the comforter and go to the window as he usually did to have his after sex smoke. Instead July muttered, holding onto him and shook her head as she laid beside him.

"Don't. Smoke it here...keep me warm."

Billy stared down at her, before shrugging.

"You sure?"

"Yeah, a little second hand smoke isn't gonna kill me, lay here."

Billy smirked, as he pulled a cigarette out, popped it into his mouth, and grabbed the lighter, lighting it, before he took a nice long drag of it. Sitting up against her headboard, he glanced down as she snuggled up close against him. He felt the warmth of her breasts against his side, and stared down at her naked form. Tonight he had snuck over, and both had successfully had a pretty fun past hour, trying to keep it down, and prevent her bed from creaking since her mother was just down the hallway watching the late show in her bedroom. He sat smoking his cigarette, when he stared down at her and smirked.

"Hey firecracker, what would it take for you to consider marrying me after graduation?"

July glanced up before she sadly smiled. Her hands went across to his flat tanned stomach and rubbed. "I all ready told you Billy..." Billy who usually lost his temper, simply sighed, taking another long drag of his cigarette and stubbed it out into a can of ginger-ale July had brought upstairs to settle her stomach. He turned instead, frowning, before he cupped the sides of her face, staring down at her with serious eyes.

"I told you...you're gonna beat this fucking thing, and we're gonna leave this Hell hole, and we're headed straight to California."

July sighed, staring up at him, before she nodded, and sat up, laying her head against his chest, nuzzling against him, playing with his St. Christopher necklace.

"Then what?"

"We're gonna get married. July Hargrove, how does that sound?"

He stroked her back gently, as she kissed his chest and smiled.

"Has a nice catch to it."

"You'll go to school, I'll work a few off jobs at garages, then open our surf shop and teach lessons."

"You'll teach me right?"

"Of course, you'll be my first student. I can't wait to show you. The sunrises off the beach are beautiful. My mother used to..."

He stopped for a second, and July lifted her head staring at him. Looking right in his eyes she understood why this was so hard to talk about.

"You used to go there with her?"

Billy hated it, but he felt tears starting to fill his eyes. Embarrassed, he blinked and looked off to the side.

"Yeah..."

"You miss her don't you?"

July stared at him, before Billy nodded, allowing a single tear to roll down his face. Seeing it, July reached and wiped it away for him, leaning in close. Pressing her forehead against his, she reached for his hand and squeezed it tight.

"You'll take me there someday, promise?"

Billy sniffled, before smiling and nodding, wrapping his arm around her and pressing her as tight as he could.

"I will, I promise..."

Present. July 4th 1985

Before Billy climbed into the Camaro after finding El's blood at the market, he knew which direction they were heading in. The Starcourt Mall. Part of the shadow had bitten the girl and was inside her. They were all connected, and he had plans on driving out there and waiting, trapping them inside until the monster had grown large enough to arrive and kill them all. He knew everyone who had been infected, including Heather and her parents were dead, absorbed inside it, causing it to be massive. It would kill everyone, and destroy the entire town. He had spoken to El when she had entered his mind, and he had located her to that piece of shit cabin the sheriff owned in the middle of the woods. Billy thought Hopper was a piece of shit, but ever since that night July had been taken to the hospital, the two had a strange understanding for each other. Just two months ago he had been pulled over for speeding while driving to go visit July's grave. He tried to have a huge attitude with him, but the sheriff wasn't having any of this. He told Billy to cut the shit, that his "charm" wasn't working on him.

That's when Billy thought Hopper might have noticed the black eye he was sporting underneath his sunglasses. For a mere second Billy wanted so badly to tell the sheriff what his father had been doing to him. Instead, he just sat back waiting for him to write him a ticket and send him on his way. Instead, the sheriff stared at him for a second, and finally shook his head.

"I'm gonna give you a warning this time, but watch this speed."

Billy didn't respond. Instead, Hopper sighed.

"She's buried in the same cemetery my daughter is buried at. Trust me...I get it."

Without so much as another word, Hopper turned and walked back to his cruiser. Billy was left feeling puzzled, and it wasn't until he casually asked around that he found out Hopper had a little girl who died of cancer...same as July. He decided it was for the best to steer clear of him. Now here he was, being controlled by whatever this thing was, unable to stop it. He could feel whatever it was pulsing in his vines like poison. Before he climbed in from the market, he noticed his trunk had been left open. He couldn't remember even opening it, but figured if it flew open while driving the chances of him getting pulled over were pretty high since this was a holiday after all and extra officers were scattered all over for checkpoints. He circled around and went to slam it shut when something caught his eye. He raised an eyebrow, opening the trunk completely, and reaching down.

Here he took out July's framed photo of the two of them Max had made. His copy had been destroyed shortly after July had died. This one had been given to her by July's mother the day of her funeral. He remembered tossing it into the trunk, and had completely forgotten about it. He looked down and saw the framed photo of him and July.

Staring at it, he felt himself...the real him come to surface for a second. He slowly reached down, holding it before staring at the photo that seemed to be taken a million years ago. He looked down at it, and a horrible ache had replaced where his heart was. He lowered his head, shaking all over, as the shadow seemed to take over him again. His brain was poisoned as he so badly wanted to scream. It wasn't fair...it wasn't fucking fair.

Why did she have to die?

Why did this have to happen to him? He thought back on all the endless years of abuse by his father since his mother took off. How angry he had became, and how all of his mistakes seemed to be leading up until now. California, the move here, and losing July. He thought back on those brief happy months he had shared with her, and then hearing July's mother inform him that she had died in the middle of the night.

It wasn't fair, it wasn't...

He closed his eyes, feeling rear tears squeeze through his long lashes, before the darkness overtook him. He threw the photo back inside the trunk and slammed it shut. Turning, his chest heaved before he went around front, and climbed behind the wheel. Glaring, he started the engine, and began to drive straight towards the Starcourt Mall.

Later...

He couldn't stop. He was trapped. Even when he raced his car towards Nancy Wheeler at the entrance of the mall. He had made the engine roar, desperate inside as he watched through his eyes, praying the kids would get out of there in time.

Max with with them...

He remembered something hitting him, as the car crashed, and minutes later crawling out, seeing the engine just starting to get engulfed by flames, as he climbed out, hissing in pain. His ribs were broken. He saw Max, some other kid, and the girl that the shadow was after and he was ordered within his mind to get her. He walked, prying open the gate, screaming inside at the pain of his broken bones, but limped forward, his dark vines surging with the chemicals and blackened blood. He walked through the back hallways, before he reached them. Max tried to plead with him, saying his name and his address, but the shadow forced him to smack her and throw her to the ground. He did the same with the boy, and finally the girl that the shadow wanted. He threw her over his shoulder and walked, knowing the creature was near. He suspected he was dying, but as much as his mind screamed for him to stop, his body wouldn't allow it. Tears ran down his eyes as he marched into the mall, ripping open the metal gate to the front of the ice cream shop, and towards the food court. The creature had broken in, glass shattering everywhere. He had done it...this would all be over soon. Carefully he laid the girl down, before climbing on top of her and whispering.

"It will all be over soon..."

The same as he did with his other victims, including Heather and his unborn child which were now inside this massive creature that loomed over them. The girl's eyes looked frightened as she stared up and Billy stood back. That's when the explosives started to happen, brilliant flashes of red, gold, silver, and blue flashed about as Billy felt pain as the monster screamed. The crackles and bangs became louder and louder as he cried out knowing that if the creature was harmed, so wasn't he. He was its host, and he felt everything. The fireworks continued to go off above him, as he screamed in agony and defeat. The girl had tried to get away but he roared and climbed on top of her, straddling her and slamming her down onto the ground, pinning her down as she yelled. He stared down at her, furious when suddenly she locked eyes with him, no longer scared, but tears falling nevertheless as she looked at him.

"Seven...feet."

He froze.

"You told her the wave was seven feet. You ran to her...on the beach. There were seagulls. She wore a gat with a blue ribbon...a long dress with a blue and red flower. Yellow...yellow sandals, covered in sand. Then...there was a girl, who wore a scarf, she sat in your car, and made you laugh. She had green eyes. They were pretty...they were really pretty...and you...you were happy."

Billy froze staring down, images of his mother and July appeared before him. The girl reached up, gently cupping his face, her hand soft, cool, and gentle. He nodded, a tear rolling down his face. That's when he knew, those terrible things hadn't been him. It was whatever this monster was. He hadn't been in control. He knew this was it. As soon as he drank those chemicals he was as good as dead. Now it was up to him if he died trying to do one thing right, or allow it to take him over. Staring down at the girl, he thought of Max, and knew he wouldn't allow this creature to touch her. Standing, he stared up at the massive creature, and just as it lunged out to grab the girl, he reached forward, slamming his fists into it. The teeth clamped down on him, ripping into him. He screamed out, as more tentacles of the creature shot out, stabbing him from all over. He felt the shooting burning pain as it ripped into him.

He stared up, and no longer saw the monster. He saw his father, he saw the cancer that had killed July, he saw all the hurt and miserable pain he had suffered from...standing before him. He stared up, and screamed, black blood gurgling up his throat and through his mouth. That's when the last tentacle stabbed him right in his chest, a white hot burning pain hitting him straight where his heart was, ripping apart muscles, and ripping into his heart.

He felt suddenly everything slow down, sounds fading out. He swayed, strength draining out of him, as he thought he heard somebody scream his name, before he fell backwards down hard to the ground. Max was there, climbing over crying. Billy suddenly felt very cold, he couldn't feel his arms or legs. He tasted chemicals, and knew he was dying. He coughed up the black blood, before staring up at his sister. He knew this was it. Staring up at her tear filled eyes, he sighed, knowing he could barley move.

The pain was gone, which was nice...now everything was fading out and getting dark.

"Sorry..."

He was able to say, barley above a whisper...then less than five seconds later, his heart stopped, and Billy Hargrove died.

His step-sister Max weeped over his body, begging him to wake up. Instead, his black blood splattered body laid there lifeless, no longer in pain, no longer suffering. When the paramedics loaded his body up, zipping it in a body bag, they exchanged confused looks. They couldn't quite understand why his blood was black, or where these massive puncture marks were from? In the end the cause of death was a combination between a lethal dose of chemicals drank by Billy, as well as entry wound that had punctured his heart. Neil IDed the body, and paid for the cheapest casket there was. He was buried in the same cemetery as July, less than give rows away from her. Max broke down crying that day, surrounded by her friends, while Neil rolled his eyes, muttering that he knew that boy was going to die an early death with the way he lived. Max meanwhile was left heartbroken, knowing with the coverup, they would never understand the sacrifice Billy had given to save El's life. She demanded they didn't do anything with his room yet. Susan had brought some boxes for donations, but Max wasn't ready yet. She had cleaned up around there, and often sat on the bed whenever she felt overwhelmed and lonely. Neil acted as if nothing happened, in fact he seemed almost happy Billy was gone. Max meanwhile missed him, and mourned him in private. While cleaning one day, she found July's scarf underneath his pillow and sighed. She hoped wherever Billy was...he was at least with July and happy. Before the Camaro was taken to the junkyard, a complete loss, Max had seen a small box of personal belongings left and given to them by the garage that Neil had cashed the car in for parts.

Max had seen it was his jean jacket, a few tapes, and finally...the framed photo of him and July in that stupid frame she had made for them. She decided to keep this in her room. She didn't have any other photos of Billy, and felt in at least this one he seemed happy. She missed her brother, and day after day when things seemed too overwhelming, she would sit in silence on his bed, praying he found peace in death he couldn't in life...

Elsewhere...

At the exact moment Billy's heart stopped, and Max's cries faded out, so didn't the pain. Billy suddenly opened his eyes and instead of finding himself in the destroyed mall, the smell of chemicals, gunpowder, and blood, he was welcomed to the smells of ocean water, and sand. His eyes squinted at the bright warm sunlight and shinned down on him. He took a second, adjusting to wherever he was, when he saw he was on a beach in California. He was sitting in swim trunks, and on the warm sugar colored sand. He looked around, confused, as he stared up and down the vast beach as seagulls cried and flew around. He stared forward at the water, watching the crystal clear water crash against the surf, foaming, and looking completely perfect. He sat there, and couldn't believe it. He was home. He had his earring on, the same one July had given him. He ran his fingers through his curling hair, and sat back, his skin unmarked, and tanned. He looked around and smirked. Was he dead? He knew something had happened, but he couldn't quite remember.

All he knew, was that he was home, and nothing hurt now. The sun was shinning, and it was a beautiful warm summer day. He sat back when suddenly he heard a voice, the same voice he had so desperately wanted to hear for what seemed like a lifetime. "So, when are you teaching me how to surf mister?" Billy's eyes widened as he froze. Slowly, he looked over his shoulder, and saw her. July stood there, healthy and alive. She had her hair back, pinned up like how he loved it, tiny strands curled down framing her beautiful face. She wore a black two piece, and her skin wasn't sickly and pale. No, it was tanned and golden like his. She smiled, staring at him. Billy blinked. No...it couldn't be. He scrambled to his feet, and stared at her blinking, unable to believe it. "July?" July smiled and stepped forward, cocking her head to the side.

"I've been waiting for you...now are we surfing or what?"

Billy felt his chest heave, as he stared at her, suddenly beyond overwhelmed. Tears of exhaustion and relief broke through before he stepped forward, scooping her up as she squealed with delight as he lifted her up and gave her a tight squeeze. Holding her, he passionately kissed her, pressing his lips against hers, never feeling he had wanted to kiss somebody as badly as he had wanted to more than now. She tasted sweet, like honey. Breathing heavy, he pressed his forehead against hers, and held her so tight she laughed. Finally, he swayed and set her back down on her feet. She smiled, reaching and brushing his hair back out of his eyes. "What took you so long?" Billy smirked, kissing her again before laughing. "It's a long story..." July smiled, lacing her hands into his. "Well tell me...trust me, we have all the time in the world now." Laughing, Billy scooped up July as she laughed, kicking her legs as she laughed as he spun her around. Both tickled and chased each other. They swam, and he taught her how to surf. They made love in the shore, and later laid in each other's arms watching beautiful fireworks in the summer night sky. She told him it would be like this very night.

He stared at her smiling, kissing her temple, and holding her tight. His little firecracker. This might very well be Heaven, and if it was, it was perfectly fine for him. July with with him, and as the brilliant beautiful fireworks exploded in the sky, reflecting against his eyes, he smiled and kissed the top of her head. This was their beach, they were together, and nobody could ever hurt them. They were in their own perfect world...together forever.

The End.