Title: Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town Author: amidalachick Notes: Post-season 3 AU where everyone is alive and happy. Sweet, sappy, sugary, holiday fluff. And did I mention it's fluffy? Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Be safe, be well, and enjoy the season. ***** Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town It was the day before Christmas Eve, and Hawkins was in the midst of preparations for the Christmas parade. People were putting finishing touches on floats and costumes, the high school and middle school marching bands were running through final practices, and there was a general air of excitement over the whole town. After the July Fourth disaster Hawkins' residents were ready to celebrate. No one was more excited than El. Joyce had taken her and Max Christmas shopping, insisting they needed some girl time, and she couldn't wait to see how everyone liked the presents she'd found. Hopper had even put up a tree and they'd decorated it while listening to old Christmas songs. Best of all, Hopper had agreed to use his truck to pull the float with Santa's sleigh, and he had said that El and Max could ride with him if they wanted. El hadn't been able to decide at first if she'd rather sit with Mike and the rest of their friends watching the whole parade, or if she wanted to be part of the action. She and Max had talked it over, eagerly discussing the pros and cons, and they'd finally agreed they would have more fun riding in the warm truck with the whole town watching them. But when Hopper came into the cabin that afternoon and pulled off his hat muttering a word that El knew she wasn't supposed to repeat, she got a sinking feeling in her stomach. "What's wrong?" she asked timidly. "Oh, nothing much," Hopper said. "Santa called in sick, that's all. If we don't find a new Santa by tomorrow night we'll have to cancel the whole thing." El and Max, who'd been watching TV and talking about the upcoming festivities, exchanged horrified looks. "No!" El said. "Not happening," Max agreed. "You can be Santa," El said. "Then we'd need to find someone to drive the truck," Hopper said. "Wait!" Max sat up straight. "I've got it." El and Hopper both turned to her. "Who?" Hopper said. Max smiled impishly. "Can I get a ride home?" ***** Billy was on the couch watching music videos and lifting a set of small weights when Max and El burst into the living room. "What are you doing home?" he asked. "We need to talk," Max said. She grabbed the remote and turned the TV off before Billy could snatch it away. "I was watching that, Maxine!" Billy said. "Don't call me that, jerk," Max snapped. "Now listen to me. We need your help." "Nobody hurt you or anything, did they?" Billy asked, sitting up straighter. "No!" El plopped down on the couch next to him and smiled reassuringly. Billy tousled her hair, then looked back at Max. "What's wrong, then?" he said. Max cleared her throat and crossed her arms over her chest. "We need you to be Santa tomorrow night," she said in a rush. "The hell?" Billy said. "No! No way." "You're, like, the last person I'd ever ask," Max said. "But we don't have any other options." "Hopper said the parade is cancelled without Santa," El said. "Why can't he do it?" Billy asked. "He's driving the truck," El said. "Well, there's got to be someone else," Billy said. "What about Harrington?" "Steve and Robin are already in the parade," Max said. She uncrossed her arms. "Come on, Billy. There is no one else. And it's El's first real Christmas, and we're all going to the Byers' after for hot chocolate and stuff. It'll be fun." "Yeah, fun for you twerps," Billy said. "Please, Billy?" El asked. Billy groaned. El and Max both gave him hopeful smiles. "Alright!" Billy leaned back against the couch. "Fine. I'll do it. Happy now?" Max and El shrieked and both launched themselves at Billy. He grumbled but didn't push them away. ***** It seemed like the whole town had turned out for the parade. At the staging area, people were rushing around putting last-minute touches on the floats and cars. El and Max had helped Hopper decorate his truck earlier, and it looked festive with garland, lights, and the big bow on the hood that had been placed there despite Hopper's objections. Jonathan and Nancy had elected to stay behind at the house and get things ready for the after-party. Joyce had gone with Mike, Lucas, Dustin, and Will to find a good viewing spot. Steve and Robin had shown up a little while earlier, dressed as elves with big bags full of candy canes and Family Video coupons to hand out. "I didn't think anything could be worse than the Scoops uniform," Steve grumbled, tugging on the shapeless green smock decorated with holly berries. "It's not so bad, dingus," Robin said, adjusting her pointy ears. "Besides, it could be worse than this. You could be a reindeer, or a snowman, or jolly old St. Nick himself!" "Where is Santa?" Hopper asked, looking at his watch. "There!" El said, pointing. Everybody looked to see Max and Billy approaching. For a few seconds nobody spoke as they all took in the sight of Billy Hargrove dressed as Santa Claus. "You're Santa?" Steve blurted out. "Surprise," Billy said. He wiggled his tongue. "You wanna sit in my lap, Harrington?" "In your dreams, Hargrove," Steve said. "Alright, it's time to get going," Hopper said. "You heard him, ladies and dinguses!" Robin clapped her hands. "Let's get this show on the road!" "Have fun," Max said to Billy. Billy rolled his eyes, but gave Max and El a quick smile. "Enjoy, twerps." El and Max ran over to Hopper's truck and scrambled to climb up, both of them grinning widely. Billy climbed onto the sleigh while Steve and Robin positioned themselves on either side of the float. The line of floats began to move, cheerful Christmas music blaring from every vehicle and the sounds of the school marching bands drifting through the air. Hopper began driving, pulling Santa's sleigh. As they slowly made their way down the street, following the other floats through town, El and Max giggled and leaned out the window, waving and smiling to everyone. They heard Steve and Robin shouting "Merry Christmas" over and over as they darted around handing out coupons and candy canes. And then, as they got closer to the town center, they even heard Billy join in. They grinned at each other. When they passed the spot where Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will were sitting with Joyce, El screamed, "Mike!" She and Max waved frantically. The boys waved back, yelling happily. "Hey, Steve, save some extra candy canes for me!" Dustin shouted. "Shut up, Dustin!" Lucas called. El and Max giggled. None of them could stop smiling. ***** Back at the Byers' house everyone was still excited and happy from the parade. Billy had yanked off his beard as soon as the parade was over, but he was still wearing the Santa suit. Steve and Robin were still in their elf costumes. Dustin had a hideous Christmas sweater underneath his coat, and everyone started teasing him as soon as they saw it. When everyone had arrived, they helped themselves to the hot chocolate and popcorn Jonathan and Nancy had prepared and found seats on the couch, chairs, and floor, chattering excitedly. El ran to Mike and gave him a big hug. "So?" Max asked, sitting down next to Billy. "Was it okay?" "Yeah," Billy said. "It was okay. I guess I could even call it fun. In a lame small town kind of way." "I told you so," Max said. She hugged her step-brother quickly. Billy gave her a one-armed hug in return, then plopped his Santa hat on her head. "Go have fun with the nerds," he said. Max stuck out her tongue at him, then bounced up to join her friends. El looked over and caught Billy's eye. He winked at her. She smiled. "Hey, Hargrove," Steve called, tossing him a candy cane. "Have one before Dustin eats them all." "Thanks, Harrington," Billy said. He unwrapped it and stuck it in his mouth. "You're a good elf." "You're not so bad either, Santa," Steve said. "Picture time!" Jonathan shouted, holding up his camera. Everyone reacted with groans and varying degrees of reluctance, but they all crowded together around the couch. Steve and Robin squished on either side of Billy, Nancy, Hopper, and Joyce took up the rest of the couch, and the kids piled on the floor. Jonathan set the timer and ran over to join Nancy. Everyone was smiling. El knew she still had Christmas day to look forward to, but she couldn't imagine anything more perfect than this.