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all's well that ends well (to end up with you)

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There’s a lot in Nancy’s past that she’s unwilling to look back on, to remember. Little embarrassing moments like that time in junior year she’d dropped her lunch down her newest blouse in the middle of the cafeteria, or when she tripped down the stairs at a summer party. Slightly darker memories, like seeing her name and the word ‘slut’ painted together on the cinema billboard, bright, dripping red, by none other than the boy she’d once loved; watching her brother search desperately for his missing best friend, stress and worry coalescing into a shell of a boy.

Darker still: Barb going missing, their last argument. Other dimensions and monsters and a damp, shivering cold that still wakes her up sometimes in the middle of the night, teeth chattering and eyes watering, waiting to see creatures with flowering jaws clawing through the wallpaper of her bedroom. Those are the ones in particular she tries her hardest to forget—and the ones that seem most stubborn to release their vice-like grip on her subconscious.

But, despite the trauma and the pain, the mess that is her mind sometimes, there are also things in her past that Nancy clings to, remembers fondly. Things like listening to The Clash with Jonathan in his bedroom on a rainy day, heads bobbing to the music, not a worry in the world. Like seeing her brother reunite with Will after Joyce had moved them back to Hawkins, both boys clinging to each other with such tender joy Nancy had felt as though she was intruding just watching them. Like dancing with Dustin at the Snow Ball, the boy’s face lighting up as she’d tugged on his hand, seeing those bitches drop their smirks, shocked and humbled.

Like meeting Robin.

Well, the meeting itself had been rather unremarkable; Nancy shooting an accusatory ‘who are you?’ the other girl’s way, almost immediately bothered by her sarcasm and apparent closeness with Steve. And after that, all Nancy remembers is fighting for her life, so really, she should rephrase:

Like knowing Robin.

Because, really, she didn’t know the other girl at all for the first few months after their introduction. She’d known that she worked with Steve, that she’d helped crack the Russian code (something she’d been begrudgingly impressed by, even then) and not much else. Well. That’s not entirely true:

Nancy had known that she did not like R obin. Not one bit.

She’d seen the girl after Starcourt one day in the video store, goofing off with Steve, calling him ‘dingus’ in that raspy voice of hers, and the second Robin had turned to face her, Nancy had felt it in her gut; she just didn’t like her.

It was something in her smirk, maybe, something in her eyes when Robin had spotted her—Nancy couldn’t tell you, all she’d been aware of is that something about the other girl had rubbed her the wrong way. And then Robin had called her ‘Wheeler’ in that damn voice, which had really irritated her because who the hell does she think she is, and that had been that for the next few months.

Every time they saw each other—which was often due to Steve, who’d become a good friend of Nancy’s after the events at the now-decimated mall, adopting her as his new best friend and dragging her into the party—they’d snipe at one another. Robin would call her ‘priss’ under her breath and Nancy would call her arrogant. Robin would smirk and sass her any chance she got and Nancy would huff, roll her eyes at the sheer cockiness of the other girl and hate her, hate her, hate her with every fibre of her being.

It wasn’t until Robin came out that Nancy understood.

She’d been chatting with Steve at the video store maybe eight weeks post-Starcourt when it had happened. Robin, whom Nancy had pointedly ignored when she’d walked into the shop, had been helping another customer, a girl around their age who Nancy vaguely remembered from high school.

As she’d chuckled about some stupid joke Steve had made, Robin had returned to the counter, looking gleeful. Steve had turned to her, excited, and asked ‘did you get it?’; Nancy had had no idea what he meant until Robin held up a little scrap of paper with what was clearly the girl’s phone number scribbled on it. Ah, she’d thought, biting and mocking even in her head, she’s his wingman.

But then, the strangest thing had happened: Robin, instead of handing the number over to Steve as Nancy expected her to, she kept it. For herself.

It had clicked into place for Nancy as Steve poked Robin, cooing like a schoolboy, asking her when she was going to call, if she was going to take this…girl…out.

Oh my god. She’s a lesbian.

The knowledge of that fact had damn near knocked the wind out of her; Robin Buckley. A lesbian. It had spun her for an absolute loop. Sure, she knew gay people existed and she wasn’t entirely sure she didn’t know a few herself (Will was the sweetest boy she knew but if he thought he was subtle when he stared at her brother, he was dead wrong), but for Robin to be so brazen about it? She’d left the store pretty quickly after that, excusing herself and rushing home without even buying a movie.

Looking back, Nancy knows exactly why Robin being gay, and being so open about it too, had thrown her. It wasn’t just the rarity or the shock of it, and it wasn’t because she was homophobic or anything. No. In fact, it had been the opposite.

See, Nancy had been no stranger to a few errant thoughts about a pretty girl at school, had even pecked a few girls on the lips during rowdy games of ‘Spin the Bottle’. If she was honest with herself (which she mostly, it turns out, was not for the first eighteen years of her life), sometimes she’d wondered why those kisses made her feel more than the kisses she’d shared with Steve or Jonathan ever had. But she’d very pointedly not chased those musings, afraid of the path they would lead her down, what it would mean for her. No. Better to leave it well enough alone and carry on acting like boys were the be-all and end-all, like all the other squealing teenagers she knew.

Nobody had to know that Nancy Wheeler might like girls. Not even Nancy Wheeler herself.

Hearing Robin talk so casually about herself, about girls, had flipped a switch in her. All of a sudden, Nancy was aware of every single thought she’d tried so desperately to repress. White-hot and burning, Robin’s presence became dangerous. Because here was this girl, out and proud of being the one thing Nancy had tried to convince herself she wasn’t. And it made her hate her all the more.

Why did Robin get to be so confident in herself? Why could she just be herself, no regrets, and Nancy couldn’t? Why could she admit it to herself, to her friends and everyone around her, when Nancy felt like curling up into a tiny ball at the thought of someone knowing her secret? And God, why was she so fucking attractive?

It hadn’t been news to Nancy that Robin was pretty. She’d noted her cute freckles and her staggeringly-blue eyes upon their first meeting, a cursory scanning the other girls features—checking out the competition, she’d told herself then. Competition for what, she’d had no idea, but calling it that felt more comfortable than admitting she’d just been a little taken aback by just how beautiful the other girl was. So, yeah. Robin’s cute. Of this Nancy had been aware.

But there’s a difference between awareness and…whatever started happening to Nancy whenever she saw Robin after finding out about the other girl. A big one.

Because suddenly, Robin had been all she could think about. Her big blue eyes and her frizzy hair and her lips, fuck, her lips. Nancy would toss and turn at night thinking about the other girl; what it would be like to hold her hand, to run fingers through her hair, to—No.

She’d stopped herself before it could get any more…well, gay. And in public, on the outside, nothing changed. They still jabbed at each other all the time, Robin still called her ‘priss’ in a tone of voice that became less hostile every time it passed her lips, and Nancy still maintained that the other girl was arrogant and cocky and sarcastic and infuriatingly hot and shit, she’d been a mess.

Hating someone had never taken up quite so much of her time and energy before. But that, Nancy muses, reminiscing, had been the point. Everything had been different with Robin. Everything had been different because of Robin.

It had all come to a head a month or so after Robin’s casual outing of herself, at a party thrown by Steve. Nancy hadn’t wanted to go—Steve’s house held bad memories for her and plus, it was Steve: Robin was bound to be there and Nancy…well, she didn’t trust herself around the girl as it was, with her stupid smirk and her stupid freckles and her stupid, perfect eyes. Add alcohol to the mix (which there was bound to be gallons of) and Nancy had been unsure of where the night might lead.

But Steve had begged, puppy-dog eyes and all, claiming that it would be fun and that she needed a break, and so Nancy had found herself agreeing, half-heartedly punching his arm and stating she wouldn’t be drinking. Liar.

The night of the party had found her tipsy, all earlier promises of sobriety thrown out the window almost the second she’d stepped into the crowded living room. It had been maybe two hours since she’d arrived and she’d been leant up against a wall, watching as Steve flirted with some nameless girl, as couples swayed on the dancefloor, as evening turned to night before her still-sharp eyes.

The air in that living room had stunk of sweat, weed and teenage desperation and it hadn’t been long before Nancy had made an escape, ducking up the stairs to find an empty bathroom, needing to take a breath that wasn’t tinged with the acrid taste of bad alcohol or pot. The first two she tried had been occupied but the third was mercifully unlocked, and she’d turned the handle and stumbled inside with a grateful sigh.

Any and all semblance of gratitude had left her mind when she’d been greeted by the sight of Robin Buckley sat on the edge of the bathtub, smoking a cigarette with the window cracked and looking as beautiful as Nancy had thought it was legal for anyone to look.

Robin had looked up when Nancy entered and the smirk that stretched her lips had been positively sinful. Shit.

“Hey, Wheeler.” And the rasp of her voice, combined with Nancy’s irritation with the nickname, caused Nancy to spit back a venomous “Buckley.”

Robin’s smug little grin had only widened and despite how attractive it was, it had only served to infuriate Nancy further. She’d crossed her arms, asked if there was somewhere else she could smoke and Robin—smug, smirking, fucking gorgeous—had simply chuckled and responded, like Nancy’s frustration was funny, a game to her.

“I was here first.”

Boom. The last straw.

Before she’d even known what she was doing, Nancy was cussing her out. She was positively hurling insults at the girl, calling her arrogant, cocky, an asshole, all the words that had been building since that very first meeting at Starcourt. She’d spat them at Robin—goddamn, fucking Robin—who merely sat and watched, the only indication that she was actually listening the slight widening of her eyes as Nancy yelled at her.

Nancy had called her every name under the sun, shouted her annoyance at the girl, feeding upon the pit of anger that festered in her chest that grew whenever she looked at Robin; anger at the other girl for being so effortlessly cool and fitting in with her friends, anger at her attitude, anger for every time she’d called her ‘priss’, anger at Robin for being out and anger at herself for being a goddamn coward. Why can’t I just be like her? And why does she have to be so fucking pretty?

And then, the implosion.

Robin had stood, flicked her cigarette out the window into the garden below and taken a step towards her. Nancy had registered, for the first time, just how tall the other girl was. Robin had looked at her, really looked at her and asked, mocking and condescending and oh-so-fucking-smug, “Are you finished?”

And that had been it for Nancy.

She’d practically thrown herself at Robin, pressing her lips to hers in with furious recklessness. One hand tangling in Robin’s hair—surprisingly soft—and the other gripping her waist, she’d kissed her angrily, sloppily, a release of tension that had been building for months, simmering under her skin like the most delicate of infernos.

And, here’s the thing:

Robin had kissed her back.

With a grunt that had sounded half-shock, half-relief, the taller girl had responded just as fiercely, grabbing at Nancy’s hips and pressing her backwards against the sink, kissing her just as messily, just as passionately. And suddenly, it had all made sense.

The insults, the glares, the bickering. Nancy’s own whirlwind of emotion towards the girl. It had all clicked into place, Robin’s tongue tangling with her own, hands holding her tight enough to bruise. Nancy had finally got it, what it was that made her hate this girl, hate herself. And what she’d found was that it had never been hate at all; no, instead, something far different—admiration. Awe. A goddamn, stupid, unbelievable crush.

Robin had lifted her with surprising strength, sitting Nancy on the counter and moving to stand between her legs, pulling out of the kiss for a moment. There had been vulnerability in the other girl’s eyes, behind the arousal and the still-lingering shock. And Nancy, free and wild and going slowly crazy with Robin’s hands tracing patterns on her sides, had simply smiled—not a smirk, not a passive-aggressive flash of teeth; a real, genuine smile.

No words had been spoken but all was understood in the silence. Robin had smiled back, toothy and joyful, and kissed Nancy until she couldn’t breathe with the headiness of it all.

And in the midst of cheap beer, nicotine and the cherry-flavoured chapstick Robin wore, she had tasted hope.

-----

Realistically, the basement of the Wheeler house is not big enough for ten people.

Back before Starcourt, before the Upside Down, before Eleven, when it had just been Mike and his little gang of dweebs, it had been the perfect hang-out spot. Nancy would hear the boys down there almost every day after school, planning their elaborate campaigns and playing nerdy boardgames. Will, Lucas, Dustin and Mike—the basement had practically been where they’d grown up together.

But now, with multiple additions to the party, Nancy’s starting to realise how cramped the space really is—and if the disgruntled look on her brother’s face is anything to go by as he’s forced to take a seat on the floor in front of the precariously-balanced television, having been beaten to the last spot on one of the couches by Nancy herself, Mike’s starting to clock that particular fact too. Nancy fails to hide a triumphant smile behind her hand and Mike glares. It only makes her grin wider.

Over by the TV, Steve is fiddling. He’s got the movie they’ve planned to watch—Ghostbusters, for what Nancy’s sure is, like, the fiftieth time for Mike and his young friends—in one hand, whilst the other presses buttons seemingly at random. Nancy grins fondly at the sight; her and Steve may not be together anymore, both of them having moved on to greener (and gayer) pastures, but there’s still a lot of love for the floppy-haired boy in her heart.

As her friend muddles through setting up the tape, Nancy takes the time to look around the room.

If you’d told her from two years ago the company she’d keep in the future, the people she now considers her family, she’d have busted a rib laughing. But now, as she watches her friends laugh and chat and bicker around her, something very close to peace settles in her chest.

On the couch next to her, Dustin, grin toothy and wide and boyish, yells playful insults at Steve for his apparent incompetence with any kind of technology. He giggles when Steve glares, calls him an ‘old man’ in that reverently teasing voice he seems to reserve for his best friend. Beside him, Jonathan watches on with a faint smile. He’s always been a man of few words, this Nancy knows well, but everything she needs to know is written across his face: amusement at Dustin’s antics and love, clear as day, directed towards Steve.

It hadn’t been as awkward as Nancy had expected, finding out her two exes were now dating each other. Hadn’t been much of a shock either if she’s honest. The Byers and El returning to Hawkins had caused momentous shifts in the dynamics of the group—certain people pulled together by shared gravity of missing one another, having had the space to realise the depth of their muddled emotions.

Steve and Jonathan had been the first to come together after the Byers’ homecoming. There had always been tension between the boys, even when Nancy was dating one of them, but she’d taken it at face value and called it jealousy. Hatred. Back then, in what she’s started calling the B.R (before Robin), her mind had been narrow and unable to comprehend that maybe there might be something more to the thread of fire that ran between Steve and Jonathan. But when she thinks on it now, she realises that she hadn’t been seeing the whole picture.

When the boys had first seen each other after Jonathan arrived back in Hawkins, Nancy had been worried there might have been fireworks; had been expecting, whole-heartedly, a return to the old—fights and insults and discord.

She’d been dead wrong.

If she hadn’t watched it blossom with her own eyes, she wouldn’t have believed it, but when Steve and Jonathan met again, it was with a softness Nancy couldn’t have ever predicted. Both boys seemed bashful, almost tender around each other and before anybody knew what was happening, they were interrupting a party game night to announce their new relationship.

That had been a strange night. Watching her two (whom she’d both assumed to be very much straight) ex-boyfriends hold hands and press kisses to each other’s cheeks had been something she’d very much had to get her head around. But, surprisingly, when the shock of it all had died down, and she’d seen the look of absolute adoration in Steve’s eyes when he looked at the other boy, Nancy hadn’t felt jealousy or reproach or anything of the sort—instead, she felt happy. Happy for the boys for finding each other. Happy for their courage and their openness. Happy, privately, for herself; now, the ball was rolling. Now, she could start the journey towards her own self-acceptance.

And Steve and Jonathan hadn’t been the only ones circling each other, caught in each other’s orbit since the Byers’ return—as Nancy’s gaze travels from Jonathan to the other side of the room, to where Max sits, ramrod-straight, with El’s head in her lap, she allows herself a wry smile. Cute.

Nancy won’t pretend she knows either of the teenagers well enough to understand the ins and outs of their friendship. But there is something familiar in the way El looks at Max, curiosity and longing and newness wrapped up in big brown eyes, encapsulated in secret smiles; something that reminds Nancy an awful lot of herself.

The two girls have been practically inseparable since El came back, perpetual companions by each other’s side, always whispering and giggling and sharing tentative touches that make Eleven stare, wide-eyed and hopeful, and make Max turn the colour of her hair. Nancy wonders fondly, as she looks at them, if either of them will ever make a move.

And then, the final pairing brought closer by shared grace of longing and reunion: Mike and Will.

Both boys are sat on the floor in front of the TV, where Steve has finally managed to figure out the damn thing and is putting the tape in with a triumphant fist-pump, engaged in conversation with Lucas. Nancy can just about make out what it is they’re talking about—their next DnD campaign—but that’s not what holds her attention. As she watches, as the boys chat and gesture and plan, Will watches her brother. And she’s semi-used to it, the way Will’s eyes search Mike out in a room, the way he gazes, intense and pining, at her little brother. But now, after losing each other and coming back together (for what Nancy hopes, for both boy’s sake, is the last time), there’s something a lot easier to read in those baleful eyes—home.

It's been years in the making, Nancy thinks, her brother and his best friend. She’s watched them grow, up and together, watched them fight and laugh and protect one another. She’d seen the impossible sadness written clear on Will’s face when Mike had exclaimed that he loved El, had seen the bright-burning joy in both boys when Will had jumped out of his car, back in Hawkins, back home, and ran straight into Mike’s waiting arms. There’s an inevitability to them that’s so strong it makes Nancy think that it can’t be long now. The thought makes her grin, warms her heart as she watches Mike lean into Will, laughing at Lucas and the story he tells.

“Finally!”

She’s snapped out of her musings by Dustin’s exasperated voice as the movie’s opening credits roll. Steve rolls his eyes, sticks his tongue out at the boy and flops down next to Jonathan, his mission complete. Jonathan chuckles at his boyfriend’s childishness and wraps an arm around his shoulders.

“Shut up, Henderson. Watch your stupid movie.”

Half an hour passes without incident after that. Mike, Will, Dustin and Lucas quote practically every line in the movie to the point where Max tells them to “knock it off, or I’ll bash your heads together”, El falls asleep and Jonathan spends most of the time complaining about plot inaccuracies and shitty movie-making, but Nancy finds herself having fun, nonetheless.

She’s not ashamed to admit that a major reason for that may or may not be the fact that Robin’s eyes have been on her since the film started playing.

Her girlfriend is sat over on the other sofa with Max and Eleven, legs tucked under her body, chin resting on her fist. And she won’t stop fucking staring.

Nancy had been a little disappointed that Robin hadn’t chosen to sit next to her when they’d all bundled down to the basement for movie night, but not surprised. After all, the relationship is still fairly new—just over a month since the encounter in Steve’s bathroom, just under a month since Robin had asked, uncharacteristically nervous, if Nancy wanted to be her girlfriend, since Nancy had laughed, fondly exasperated, and pulled Robin in by the collar of her shirt, murmuring an adoringly teasing “yes, dumbass, of course I wanna be your girlfriend” against her lips—and, well.

The truth is, they haven’t exactly…told anyone yet?

Ok, it sounds bad, like Nancy’s ashamed of it or like they don’t think their friends would be cool with them being together—which, so not the case; Jonathan and Steve are disgustingly cute together, El and Max are two steps away from a full-on lesbian union, cat adoption included, and Mike and Will aren’t fooling anyone (or at least, Will isn’t)—but that’s not what keeps them stealing secret kisses and sending subtly-charged glances at each other across the video store.

It's just that it’s nice to have something completely and wholly theirs. Those moments together, just them, when Robin tugs her close and presses gentle kisses to her temple or snort-laughs at one of her dumbest jokes, when Nancy rests her head on Robin’s chest, listens to her heartbeat and just breathes, or spins Robin round her bedroom, dancing and singing along to Tears for Fears like kids at a sleepover—those moments belong to them and them only.

And sure, it’d be nice to be able to kiss Robin in greeting when the party makes their bi-weekly visit to the Wheeler’s house for movie or game night, to be able to cuddle up with her on the couch like Steve and Jonathan are doing right now beside her, but right now, Nancy kind of likes the secrecy of it all. She likes knowing Robin is itching to touch her but can’t do anything about it until they’re alone, likes the anticipation, the waiting for that time when they can finally be together again.

They’ll tell the others about it eventually, maybe even soon—Nancy won’t hide them forever, if hiding is what you could even call it. But for now, Robin’s burning gaze sending shivers of heat down her spine from the other side of the room, they’ll keep it just for them.

Keeping it to herself, however, is going to get thrown out the window if Robin doesn’t stop looking at her like that.

Nancy’s barely paying attention to the movie (she knows it largely by heart anyway), far too aware of her girlfriend’s heated gaze to concentrate. It feels almost indecent, the way Robin looks at her, like they’re doing something they shouldn’t be. It sets her ablaze, those eyes on the side of her face, makes her want to say fuck it and clamber into Robin’s lap right then and there, makes her want to kiss her breathless, shut those fiery eyes and shut her smirking mouth too, scratch her nails down her back and—

She manages another ten minutes before she breaks.

“I’m going to get more popcorn.” She announces, a little too loud to be totally natural. Luckily, nobody seems to think anything of it, most of them completely ignoring her with Mike hissing a “shh!” her way, and she thinks she’s gotten away with it. She stands from the couch. Then—

“I’ll come help. I need another drink anyway.” The familiar raspy response is met with similar reactions from the rest of the group and Nancy feels her cheeks heat.

She doesn’t even have to turn to know that Robin’s trying (and probably doing a horrendous job) to conceal a grin as the other girl stands from the couch and follows her up the stairs from the basement to the kitchen.

They barely manage to shut the interconnecting door at the top of the stairs before they’re on each other.

Nancy turns and grabs for Robin, the heat that’s been building in her belly all evening bubbling over and turning her brain fuzzy, making her act on instinct and want alone. She smashes their lips together and her girlfriend groans, sinful and heady, as she walks Nancy back towards the counter. Her back connects with it and she whimpers a little, though that’s likely more to do with Robin’s hands, currently sliding under her shirt, slow and teasing and driving Nancy fucking insane, to grab at her waist, than anything else.

Kissing Robin is something Nancy doesn’t think she’ll ever get used to. Not only is Robin the first girl she’s ever kissed (and hopefully, a small part of her mind thinks—the part that isn’t influenced by social convention or dating norms that dictate how long a person has to wait before knowing whether they want to be with someone forever—the last), which definitely adds a certain spark, a newness that thrills her with every press of lips against hers, but also, Robin’s just a damn good kisser.

Steve and Jonathan had been okay but kissing them had felt perfunctory, like something she should want, but could only ever want to want. And maybe it’s unfair to compare her exes to Robin, given that they were boys and also given Nancy’s recent self-discovery, but it’s not like she can blame it all on her own undiscovered gayness.

Steve had been an insistent, needy kisser; too sloppy, sometimes, and he’d wanted to do it a lot. Nancy can’t really fault him for that. It hadn’t been his fault kissing him had felt lacklustre, flat, only her own disinterest in the activity with him.

Jonathan had been slightly better. He was soft and gentle and he always seemed to know when she wasn’t in the mood for it. But with him, again Nancy hadn’t felt much—again, not technically his fault. True, sometimes she’d wanted to him to act like he wanted her more—the tender kisses were nice, but on occasion, when she’d wanted to feel sexy and desired and needed, they’d fallen short of what she’d craved.

With Robin, it’s different. Better. But, Nancy supposes, that was the case with everything these days: everything is different, everything is better with Robin.

Robin kisses like it’s what she was born to do. Never too messy, unless that’s the vibe they’re going for (Nancy remembers that time in the back of Robin’s truck, both too far gone on lust and each other to care about precision, kissing wild and sloppy as Robin’s hand had slid into her underwear), but never so soft that Nancy feels unwanted. Robin kisses with her whole body; her hands are always on Nancy in some way, whether it be gripping at her hips, holding her hands or gently cradling her face, her torso always moving in response to whatever Nancy does at the time, pressing close or twitching with need or relaxing into her, tension releasing from her shoulders. Plus, she does this thing with her tongue sometimes, like right now, that has Nancy seeing stars and wishing for nothing more than for them to be upstairs in the privacy of her room.

It’s a struggle to pull back from Robin, for all the aforementioned reasons, but pull back Nancy does because they’re still only a staircase and an unlocked door away from the rest of the group. When she does, she sees Robin’s pupils absolutely blown and almost loses it. She swallows.

“We’ve got maybe seven minutes before they get suspicious.” Breathy and uneven, her words make Robin, whose hands are still stroking frustrating patterns over her bare skin, smile.

“Seven minutes in Heaven?” Her girlfriend jokes and Nancy groans—at the gentle idiocy of her, at the infuriating pressure of Robin’s hands at her waist, at the fondness that swells in her chest.

“Shut up.” And she pulls Robin back down to her lips.

Nancy doesn’t know how long they stand there, making out in the kitchen like a couple of horny teenagers (which, she supposes, they technically are—she’s not twenty until next year and Robin’s only just turned nineteen). It’s long enough for their kisses to turn desperate, for Robin’s lips to move from her mouth to her neck, nipping and biting just light enough to avoid leaving a mark, for her hands to move upwards under Nancy’s shirt, carefully tracing the bottom of her bra. Long enough for Nancy to weave her fingers into Robin’s hair, pulling her closer, for her free hand to travel to the waistband of Robin’s jeans, scratching gently over the skin just above it.

Long enough that Nancy’s senses are overwhelmed by Robin enough for them to miss the footsteps coming up the stairs.

“Oh my god, my eyes!”

The shocked exclamation breaks them apart, Robin practically jumping off of her and whipping around to face their intruders. Nancy hastily pulls her shirt down as Robin wipes at her mouth.

In front of the now-open door down to the basement stand Steve and, slightly behind him, Jonathan. Both look absolutely flabbergasted, but whilst Steve stares between the two of them—and they look guilty as hell, Nancy is sure—with his mouth hanging open, Jonathan, his disbelief clear in the widening of his eyes, blushes and quickly looks down at the floor.

Mortification burns through Nancy’s body as silence envelopes the kitchen. She feels her cheeks flush to match Jonathan’s and she can’t even look at Robin, too busy waiting for her their friends’ reactions to catching them in an undoubtedly compromising position. There’s no way they can brush it off as anything close to platonic—I mean, Robin had been practically groping her, for fuck’s sake—and Nancy’s mind runs through the myriad of possibilities of what comes next. She’s tempted to reach for Robin’s hand, wanting at least the grounding comfort of knowing her girlfriend is right there with her, but she doesn’t.

It hits her then, as the four of them stand there gaping at each other, that this is the first time anybody’s finding out not just about her and Robin, but also just about her. That she isn’t straight. That she likes girls. Panic starts to creep in a little, despite the two boys in front of her also being very not-straight—her palms feel clammy and her heart thunders and oh my god, oh my god, oh my god—

Just as her chest starts to heave with rapid breath, as her throat dries and her hands clench into terrified fists, a smile breaks like dawn on Steve’s face. Slowly, unbelievably, he steps closer to Robin and raises his hand in a clear invitation for a high-five.

Just like that, the tension breaks. Robin lets out a throaty chuckle that sounds half-amusement, half-relief, and slaps Steve’s hand with a sheepish grin and a blush that rivals Nancy’s. Nancy calms down as Jonathan smiles too, watching as Steve playfully shoves at his best friend, joy clear upon his face.

“Buckley, you absolute stud!” He tugs Robin into a hug as she wrestles half-heartedly against him, slapping his arm but shrieking with laughter as the hug turns to a gentle scuffle. The fear and the worry melts away as Nancy watches on, replaced by warmth and happiness and a genuine, unbound love for these silly, wonderful people.

As Robin and Steve continue their play-fight, Jonathan, hands deep in his pockets, makes his way over to Nancy by the counter. She watches him settle next to her, waits for him to speak.

“So, you and Robin, huh?” And there’s not a hint of reproach or disgust or anything other than amicable teasing and sincere happiness in his voice, and Nancy positively beams. She nods, bashful and grateful and beyond thrilled all at once. Jonathan nods, grinning. He turns to her and Nancy thinks he’s got more to say, but instead he steps closer. Opens his arms. Draws her in for the gentlest of hugs. Oh.

Nancy melts into the familiar embrace and presses her face to his denim-clad shoulder, breathing him in and holding back tears at just how accepted and loved she feels. And then—

“I’m proud of you, Nance.” A tear, elated and touched, does roll down her cheek at that, and she squeezes Jonathan, feeling her love for him grow tenfold. He squeezes back before pulling away and she swipes at her cheek, grinning at him. He doesn’t point out the tear. She loves him even harder for it.

As she turns, she can see that Robin and Steve have stopped scuffling and are chatting, both with huge grins on their faces. Steve’s eyes flick to her for a moment and his answering grin, full of the same pride and love she’d felt in Jonathan’s embrace, lights up the room.

After a couple more teasing comments from Steve, for which he receives a few smacks to the back of the head from Robin, and some more bantering and shared smiles, they head back downstairs to the kids.

Nancy realises, halfway down, that they didn’t end up making any more popcorn and that it might look a little suspicious to her brother and his friends. But then she looks back at Robin, a couple steps behind her, sees that damn smile and those perfect eyes, and finds that she doesn’t care at all.

-----

Working at Family Video is what’s going to kill her, she’s sure of it.

Never mind sadistic Russians or monsters from another dimension or even exploding malls—no, Robin’s going to die of heat and boredom, she’s almost certain.

It’s the height of a summer afternoon and the air is unpleasantly thick inside the store. Her shirt is sticking uncomfortably to her back, her hair is frizzing around her face and she’s pretty sure Keith was supposed to get the AC fixed weeks ago, but apparently never got around to it, and the combination of blistering temperatures and the fact that they haven’t had any customers in over an hour is really starting to get to Robin.

Steve, much as she loves that dingus, has been no help. He’d stood with her at the counter for maybe half an hour, complaining about the heat like she wasn’t sweating her ass off herself, before retreating to the relative coolness of the back room, claiming there were tapes that needed rewinding—Robin had been tempted to beg him to trade, ask him to stay out front while she went and hid in the one place in the store that didn’t feel like the surface of the actual fucking sun, but that would have only led to bickering and she absolutely does not have the energy for that.

So she stays by the counter while Steve (the asshole) gets to chill in the metaphorical shade. She waits, chin her hand, for something, anything, to happen.

(She’d even take another interdimensional crisis right now—god, somebody shoot me.)

Robin must’ve dozed off, or at least dipped out of awareness for a minute, because the next thing she registers is the bell above the entrance jangling and her fist slipping out from under her lolling head. She just about catches herself before she knocks herself out on the counter, straightening up and trying to shake away the drowsiness, ready to serve their lonely customer.

“Hi, welcome to—oh, hey Max.” Her customer service voice, saccharine and overly polite, disappears as she spots the tell-tale red hair and freckles, the skateboard tucked under one arm of—if she’s brutally honest—her favourite member of Mike’s little gang of mid-teens.

“Hi, Robin.”

Immediately, she can tell something is off with the other girl—well, not off maybe, but definitely different. Her tone is subdued, but not in a way that suggests sadness, in a way that makes Robin think the younger girl is trying to control herself, trying to keep something—excitement or shock or any number of things—under wraps.

She doesn’t know when she became so attuned to the redhead. Admittedly, from the moment they’d met Robin had sensed a kinship with the other girl, facets of herself shining through in Max’s persona. She’d noted her sarcasm, her bravery, her evident well of insecurity hiding behind a mask of indifference and hostility and had been undeniably reminded of her own character.

But it had definitely taken Max a while to warm up to her. Robin gets it now, after deep conversations and shared admissions, why the younger girl had been cautious around her at first. Max had still felt a little on the periphery of the group—perhaps some leftover uncertainties from the way the boys and El had treated her upon her initial attempts at befriending the party—and watching as Steve and Robin had been so effortlessly included had been a little hard for her. Robin doesn’t blame her for that, doesn’t blame her for her early wariness. She understands it.

That’s the thing that had brought them closer, she thinks, the thing that had comforted Max and made her feel comfortable enough to start to trust the older girl—Robin understands.

Not just about monster fighting and parallel dimensions, the shared trauma between them that Robin knows sometimes wakes them both up in the middle of the night. Not just about loss or anything anyone else in the party could help her work through. No, what they share, Robin and Max, runs a little deeper than that.

Like she’s said, Robin had felt an instant kinship with Max the moment they’d met, had seen the similarities between herself and the younger girl almost instantly. She just hadn’t known then just how similar they actually were, until she saw the way Max looked at Eleven.

She’d kept it to herself, the longing glances she’d see the redhead send her best friend’s way, the secret touches and subtle blushes. It hadn’t been any of her business and anyway, back then she’d only just joined the party—everyone, other than Steve and Dustin, had yet to fully accept her as part of the group. She hadn’t wanted to ruin the tenuous trust that was building between her and this rag-tag bunch of middle-schoolers. But she’d noticed and she’d wondered and she’d let Max have her not-so-secret secret.

And then Max had come to her.

Previous to then, they’d exchanged few words—Max saying ‘hi’ when Robin turned up at hang-outs, Robin asking her politely how everything was going—but Robin could tell Max’s caution was beginning to fade the more she saw of the other girl. She was like some sort of skittish animal; guarded and slightly hostile at first, until you proved your loyalty and then by increments, she’d begin to seek you out. Max had sought Robin out, for the first and most important time, as the group had been heading back down the hill they’d just had a picnic on.

“Uh, Robin?” The younger girl had asked as Robin folded the blanket she’d sat on, and there had been something in her voice—carefully hopeful, fragile and strong at the same time—that caught Robin’s attention. She’d turned.

“Yeah?” And Robin hadn’t known what she’d been expecting Max to say, but it certainly wasn’t—

“You like girls, right?” And that hope, that all-too-familiar hope had shone through her tone, and suddenly, Robin had known.

It had all sort of tumbled out of Max after that. She’d told Robin she liked girls and boys, that she had for ages but had nobody to tell, that she was scared she was wrong and that she didn’t know what to do. Robin had listened, waited until Max had run out of words. Then she’d dropped the blanket and pulled the girl into warmest hug she could manage. And if she’d felt tears on her shirt, she didn’t comment on it.

“You’re not wrong, kid. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are.”

Since then, Max has been almost as attached to Robin as Dustin was to Steve. She’ll come hang out with her at the video store on days where the boys and El are busy or she just needs to be out of the house. They’ll chat and laugh and talk about the things they’ve never really felt free enough to tell anybody else.

Robin had been the first-person Max told about her feelings for Eleven, blushing and stumbling over her words as Robin, beyond delighted at being privy to this information, had cooed and squealed. Max, in turn, was one of the first Robin disclosed her awakening story to (Sigourney Weaver in Alien, can you blame her?) and the two of them had giggled and discussed movie crushes until Steve had come over and asked them when they became best friends.

Best friend isn’t the word Robin would use to describe Max. No, that title is reserved for Steve (though she’ll never tell him that)—nor does just a simple pal cover their relationship. She’s friends with Jonathan, friends with Mike and Will and Dustin and Lucas. Max is not that, either.

What Robin has found in Max, and what she hopes Max has found in her too, is a sister.

So, it’s easy for Robin to discern that there’s definitely something going on with the redhead when she walks over to the counter where Robin stands, wringing her hands together and refusing to meet the older girl’s eyes.

“Everything ok?” Her tone is careful; whatever’s going through Max’s head right now, Robin doesn’t want to scare her away with brashness.

There’s silence for a moment. Robin waits it out, watching Max patiently. Then—

“I wanna take El to the drive-in. You know, the one that opened up by the old water plant?”

Robin does indeed know the drive-in, has been a frequent visitor in the past few weeks, in fact. And she can’t remember a single movie that played while she’s been there—that’s entirely Nancy Wheeler’s fault, with her wandering hands and insistence that “I promise we’ll actually watch the movie this time!”; insistence that always ends in frantic kisses and muffled moans and Nancy in Robin’s lap, skirt hiked up around her waist and—

She stops that thought in its tracks before she gets carried away. Blinks. Refocuses.

“Yeah, I know it.” She says, far more composed than she’d expected and mentally pats herself on the back. She takes an even breath and only then does it register what Max has said. “Wait, you and El?”

And Max’s furious blush is enough for her to know, but she asks anyway.

“Is this a date, Maxie?” Excitement creeps into her tone even as Max rolls her eyes at the nickname she pretends to hate. The girl blushes again, averts her gaze and brings her hand to her chin. Robin, thrilled, punches the redhead’s shoulder. “Oh my god, it so is!”  

Max lets her have her moment, watching on half-mortified and half-entertained at the little happy dance Robin does—sue her, she’s happy for the younger girl, ok? The two of them, El and Max, have been building since before Robin met either of them. Nancy had told her they’d been dancing around one another for weeks before Starcourt, an unlikely friendship turned mutual pining, and Robin had watched it grow with her own eyes when the Byers’ returned to Hawkins. She’d heard all the details from Max, too, long afternoons at the video store turning from boring to thrilling on a dime as Max would come barrelling in and launch into the latest tale of El calling her ‘pretty’ or holding her hand or even just looking at her a certain way.

Robin’s over the moon for the other girl and after she finally calms down she tells her as much. This earns another blush and a bashful smile from Max before the redhead straightens up again.

“The thing is, I don’t have a car and neither does El, so I was hoping—”

“Yes, one hundred percent yes, I’ll drive you.” Robin cuts Max off, hopped up on the joy of their flourishing courtship. “What day were you thinking?”

“Friday, if that’s cool? They’re showing The Karate Kid and El still hasn’t seen it yet.” Max says and begins to ramble happily about all the movies El missed out on that Max wants to show her. Robin’s grin, for the first time since Max announced she wanted to take El to the drive-in, drops slightly.

Any other goddamn day.

Usually, Robin herself is not one for Friday night plans. She prefers to stay in and read or listen to music instead of going out and getting drunk or whatever it is kids her age do on weekends. It’s something Steve frequently teases her about, calls her a ‘shut-in’ and a ‘hermit’, and something he then subsequently gets a hearty smack upside the head for. But she’s content with her quiet Friday’s, and any other Friday night she’d be free as a bird.

This Friday though, this Friday she has plans. Nothing wild like a party or drinking or anything like that—no, this Friday, she’s got something better going on.

The plans had been formulated just the other day, in the relative privacy of Robin’s truck (at the drive-in, funnily enough). Nancy had been on top of her in the driver’s seat, seemingly making it her mission for the evening to kiss Robin so thoroughly she forgot her own name, when Robin had murmured, hoarse and barely audible, that her parents were heading out of town on Friday morning and wouldn’t be back until Saturday afternoon, against her lips.

Nancy had pulled back and the devious little smirk Robin had seen tugging at the corners of her mouth had almost been enough to break her.

“So you’ve got the house to yourself?” Her girlfriend had asked, hands playing with the baby hairs at the nape of Robin’s neck. Robin had nodded, dipped her fingers just below the waistband of Nancy’s jeans. “Invite me over.” Nancy had practically purred, moving to press her lips to Robin’s jaw. Overwhelmed and so wound-up she could barely even get a word out, Robin had babbled her way through half an invitation before Nancy had shut her up, tongue curling across the backs of her teeth.

So yeah, Robin had plans. Friday night plans that didn’t involve anybody but her, her girlfriend and her bed (and maybe the shower, if Nancy felt so inclined).

But, a little voice in her mind whispers as she looks at Max, hopeful blue eyes staring back at her, you’ve already got the girl. She hasn’t.

Much as she hates to admit it, as the prospect of an evening entirely alone and uninterrupted with her girlfriend begins to dissipate, the little voice is right. Max has been crushing on this girl for months now and seems to finally be doing something about it, and her plan to do that something hinges completely on Robin’s availability. Damn it. Fine.

She’ll figure out how to tell Nancy later. For now, she beams back at Max, mirroring the kid’s excitement with her own and nods.

“Friday it is.”

-----

Telling Nancy goes a whole lot better than Robin expects.

They’re in Nancy’s bedroom when she does it; Mike and Will down in the basement, Holly in bed, Karen and Ted watching (more like staring blankly at) some show on TV in the living room, the door to Nancy’s room safely—and quietly (Nancy’s mom, whilst unaware of her daughter’s proclivities, would still flip if she knew Nancy had a guest in her room with the door shut, no matter their gender)—closed.

The evening had started out innocent, if you can believe it, Robin having come over to help Nancy reorganise her wardrobe.

‘Reorganising the wardrobe’ had turned out to be code for ‘throw a couple of old shirts in a plastic bag for the charity shop’. That endeavour had clearly bored Nancy after only ten minutes, and as Robin had turned to her girlfriend, a ratty old jumper in her hands, Nancy had grabbed her and pulled her to her lips with a hunger that had both surprised and thrilled Robin, the both of them falling back onto the bed, jumper all but forgotten.

(Robin’s not exactly complaining.)

Now, kisses hot and heavy, Robin’s mind spinning like a top from their activities, Nancy just starting to get needy underneath her—hands pushing under Robin’s shirt to trace teasing patterns on her lower back, hips rolling ever so slightly, breaths coming fast and shallow—now is so not the time for Robin to remember she has to let her girlfriend down. Now is the time she should be tugging at Nancy’s shirt, letting her hands roam and her hips roll to meet Nancy’s. She should be feeling that delicious shiver of anticipation as Nancy tugs at her hair, should be moving her lips down, down, down until she reaches wet heat. Should be hearing Nancy moan and try to muffle cries of her name, should be holding her in the aftermath, should be whispering about round two in her ear.

What she shouldn’t be doing is pulling away and sitting back on her knees; watching, sheepish, as Nancy follows her up, eyes cloudy with lust and confusion. And she almost breaks when she sees how dark Nancy’s eyes are, sees how ruffled and flustered and riled her girlfriend visibly is. But then Max’s hopeful eyes flash in Robin’s head and she remembers the barely-controlled excitement in the younger girl’s voice. Common decency takes over. She takes a breath and composes herself.

“Rob?” Nancy asks, voice hoarse but concerned, and Robin melts a little at the nickname. “What’s going on?”

What’s going on is I’m a goddamn idiot who sacrificed a night alone with you to help out one of Steve’s adopted children, a vicious little voice in her head snipes. She cuts it off before it can start persuading her. Max needs my help. I’m being a good friend.

“Max came to the store today. She told me she wants to take El to the drive-in.” Nancy’s face lights up and Robin almost wants to warn her, tell her the bad news is yet to come, like she’s watching a play, yelling at the good guy that the villain’s right behind him.  Oh no, he isn’t!

“That’s great! Did she say if it was a date or not?”

“She said it was,” and Nancy’s grin widens but Robin’s quick to curb her enthusiasm “but,” she emphasises and her girlfriend furrows her eyebrows “I promised I’d drive them, since neither of them have a car.”

“Ok?” Nancy says, clearly puzzled as to why this is a bad thing. Robin swallows. Lets the other shoe drop.

“It’s on Friday night.” She mutters, apologetic as she can, and waits for a reaction.

Immediately Nancy’s smile drops and with it, Robin’s stomach. Annoyance fills her girlfriend’s eyes, still darkened a little by want, and her mouth screws up into an irritated frown. Robin, feeling cornered, cuts in before she can speak and most likely rip into her.

“I know, Nance, I know we had plans, but I really think Max might finally make a move and I can’t ruin that for her.” She rushes out, tone pleading, mentally praying that Nancy will understand and won’t be too mad about this. She waits.

The conflict plays out on Nancy’s face as clear as day: Robin sees the frustration at her own ill-timed promise to the younger girl, sees the annoyance for telling her in the middle of making out (Robin will give her that one though—she’s annoyed at herself for that too) in the narrowing of her eyes. She sees too the understanding, the half-resentful, reluctant awareness that Robin is doing a good thing in the biting of her lower lip. Even if that good thing is stopping you from getting laid, the little mental voice pipes up again and Robin winces internally.

Finally, Nancy seems to come to a decision on how she feels about Robin’s actions.

“Fine.” Robin beams. “Third wheel the teenagers, whatever.” And though annoyance still lingers in her tone, Robin knows she’s in the clear. She sighs in relief as quietly as she can—she’d been expecting much more vexation on Nancy’s part, had been anticipating anger and bickering and possibly an actual argument. This, this apparent apathy her girlfriend displays as she flops backwards onto the bed, head hitting the pillow where she’d been laying not five minutes ago (and likely having a much better time, if Robin isn’t sorely mistaken about her own skills), is probably the best outcome Robin could have hoped for.

So, she decides to push her luck a little.

“Hey,” she says, coaxing, and moves to lie on her stomach next to the other girl, “why don’t you come with us?”

Nancy scoffs.

“Oh yeah, that’s how I want to spend my Friday night: chaperoning kids on their first date when I should be fucking my girlfriend into next week. Sounds great.” Sarcasm coats her tone, and though Robin blushes at the reference to what their plans for that night, now ruined, had been, she shuffles closer and tries again.

“Come on, you love Max and El! You’re rooting for them just as much as I am.” Her girlfriend huffs but moves her glance from the ceiling to Robin’s face. “Plus, it’ll be a night out. When’s the last time we went out, hm?”

Robin watches as Nancy deliberates, chewing on the inside of her cheek as she stares up at Robin. After what seems like minutes, she sighs. Rolls her eyes in that fondly exasperated way Robin knows is reserved only for her.

“Ok. I’ll come with you guys.” Robin nods and grins like an idiot. “But you better make this up to me, Buckley.” Her tone, sharp and suggestive, has Robin moving again, smirking as she lifts herself back up to hover over Nancy, breaths intermingling.

“How about I make it up to you right now?” She murmurs before descending on Nancy’s neck, kissing and nipping and sucking over her pulse point. Nancy’s answering giggle is drowned out by the pride-fuelled blood roaring in Robin’s ears.

As she pulls Nancy’s shirt over her head, taking a moment to appreciate the utter perfection that is her girlfriend before leaning down to press kisses down Nancy’s stomach, Robin hears a breathy “you’re such an idiot.” She grins against Nancy’s skin, soft and heavenly, hands coming up to tug her sweatpants and underwear down her thighs.

“Maybe. But I’m your idiot, Wheeler.” She replies and Nancy’s sigh is lost to the moans that follow as Robin puts her mouth on her, her likely-teasing response carried off and away into the night.

-----

When Robin had agreed to give Max and El a ride to the drive-in, giving up her highly anticipated night alone with her girlfriend, it had been under the impression that Max, after months of pining and yearning for her best friend, would finally be making a move on El.

Sitting here on the hood of her car though, Nancy’s presence a small comfort beside her, watching as Max darts tentative glance after tentative glance over at Eleven on the picnic blanket in front of the truck, so painfully cautious it sort of makes her want to yell at the younger girl to just fucking kiss her already, Robin thinks she may have slightly overestimated Max’s move-making capabilities.

The redhead has been a mess all night. She’d fumbled trying to open the car door for El, somehow managing to smack herself in the face, earning herself a reddened nose and subsequent reddened cheeks as her best friend had stepped close, concerned, and rubbed her index finger down the bridge of Max’s injured nose in a way that had Robin nearly gagging from the intimacy of it. She’d then spent the whole drive over incessantly drumming her fingers against the window and tapping her foot against the ground—something Nancy had nearly snapped at her for, if the tense line of her shoulders, growing tighter with every passing minute, had been anything to go by—and had dropped the picnic blanket twice when trying to unfold it so she and El could sit down.

Since the start of the movie, of which Robin hasn’t watched a minute, far too preoccupied with watching the bumbling courtship in front of her play out, the only successful move Max has made was when she’d shakily moved her hand so her pinkie finger rested atop Eleven’s. That was about twenty minutes ago and since then, neither girl has done much more than send each other quick little pining looks and half-smiles that disappear behind a blush and a curtain of hair just as quickly as they had appeared.

Robin is really starting to wish she’d told Max no, or at least taught her some things (not like she’s saying she has game—she may be dating Nancy Wheeler but she’s still not entirely sure how she did it—but anything would be better than the agonising yearn-fest she’s being subjected to) so she wouldn’t have had to give up her Friday night for…well, not nothing, but if Max doesn’t do something soon, Robin might actually smack the child.

“If Mayfield doesn’t kiss this girl by the end of the night, I swear.” She grumbles, watching as once again Max looks over at El with that hopeful, loving gleam in her eyes and then looks away the second El turns to her. Jesus fucking Christ.

Nancy swats at her shoulder, eyes trained on the teenagers before them. On the screen in front of the gathering of parked cars, Mr Miyagi teaches Daniel the basics of karate—and damn it, Robin’s so invested in Max’s puppy love that she can’t even enjoy one of her favourite movies. Goddamn baby gays and their stupidly slow romancing.

“This was your idea, dumbass.” Nancy reminds Robin, hushed and a little annoyed. Robin sighs. Nancy’s right, of course, but surely she could share her frustration? It’s her night getting hijacked too, her evening that was supposed to be spent tangled in sheets and skin and sweat now being wasted while Max hesitates and hesitates and fucking hesitates. Surely Nancy wants the younger girl to hurry up and make her move just as much as Robin does.

Robin’s just about to bring it up, about to whisper her indignant response to her girlfriend’s reprimand, when said girlfriend elbows her very not-lightly in the ribs.

“Ow, what was that—” She’s cut off by Nancy, who points to the girls on the picnic blanket.

“Shh. Look.” Robin eyes follow Nancy’s direction and land upon a sight which makes her bite her tongue, holding back all pained remarks and sarcastic commentary.

In front of the truck, Max and Eleven are staring at each other. Not a fleeting, pining glance this time (thank god—Robin might’ve actually knocked their heads together if she’d had to sit through another of those), but actual direct and mutual eye contact. Their pinkies, still overlapping, are now entwined as both girls shuffle subtly closer to each other.

Before her and Nancy’s eyes, Max reaches out a shaky hand, brushing a stray strand of hair back from El’s face, tucking it behind her ear with the gentlest of touches, leaving her hand resting against the other girl’s cheek. El, eyes big and bright and hopeful, leans into the contact ever so slightly. Max, cheeks flushed and expression more vulnerable than ever, smiles at her best friend.

Robin, heart pounding for the redhead, holds her fucking breath.

Come on, kid. You can do this. Kiss her. Kiss her. Kiss—

Finally, finally, Max leans in and presses the softest of kisses to El’s lips. Relief and pride floods Robin’s body as she sees El stiffen in shock before relaxing, kissing Max back with one hand cupping the other girl’s face, the other resting against Max’s knee. Robin feels like cheering, feels like whooping and shouting and all manner of things that would certainly get her some odd looks from the other drive-in attendees, but instead she settles for her very widest grin and a small fist-pump. Beside her, Nancy’s reaction looks similarly thrilled and similarly subdued—a huge smile and a quiet squeal of excitement as she turns to fix Robin with a delighted stare.

Their shared joy is cut short, however, by Eleven pulling abruptly out of her and Max’s kiss.

At first, Robin thinks the worst: shitfuckcrap El’s rejecting her, oh no, oh fuck, oh my god poor Max, how am I gonna help her through this? She starts running contingencies in her head, starts counting up how many shift’s worth of pay she’s going to need to buy Max all the ice cream she will inevitably need in the wake of this most horrible of heartbreaks. She’s already got a list of sad movies to help her have a good cry and process her emotions mentally lined up to sneak Max for free.

But then El whips her head around, panic evident in her features as she stares back at Robin and Nancy sat on the hood of the car, and Robin understands.

One would think that after having her childhood ripped away from her, suffering through experiments and running away, being hunted, being lost, fighting for her life against creatures that should not exist, Eleven would have nothing to fear from the mundanity of society. But, and it fucking breaks Robin’s heart, homophobia is, for lack of better word, a bitch.

Looking at the younger girl now, Robin recognises the worry and alarm flaring in her eyes. She remembers it well, remembers it bitterly. Remembers that same distress, that same fear leaking ice-cold into her heart when she’d realised in sixth grade that she wanted to kiss Betty Marsden more than any boy she’d ever met. Remembers it from seeing it in her own eyes in her mirror when she was sixteen, the echoes of that word floating through her head as tears ran down her cheeks, the rumours about her, rumours that were true, just starting to flow through the school. Remembers it freezing her, stone-still and terrified, paralysing her on the floor of a bathroom stall, Steve Harrington across from her, trying to puzzle out why on earth Robin was talking about Tammy Thompson—a girl—and not him.

The panic in El’s eyes is truly haunting and Robin suddenly wishes, not for the first time, with a ferocity that nearly overwhelms her, that the world was different. That people didn’t care who you kissed, who you loved, because what could be so wrong about something as incredible as love?

It seems to click for Max too then and she turns, eyes finding Robin and Nancy and filling with that same fear. Robin’s heart breaks further. Because although she’s out, Nancy isn’t. Although she wants to grin and reassure the young couple that the judgement they’re so terrified of won’t be found with them, wants to take Nancy’s hand and say ‘look, we’re all the same here, don’t be scared’, it’s not her place to do so.

It's something they’ve talked about, her and Nancy, the fact that Nancy is still closeted. Something Robin completely understands, too. Coming out is difficult and tricky and needs to be navigated to each person’s individual comfort. She’s not upset that she and Nancy have to hide—she’s just happy to be with her, happy to have their little secret.

And she’s not angry about it, even now, with Max and Eleven staring back at them like deer in headlights—frightened and caught and almost ashamed—just desperate for some way to reassure the teenagers, frantically wracking her brain for a way to calm the two girls down that doesn’t involve outing Nancy. Shit, what do I do what do I do what do I—

“Hey.” Nancy’s voice, directed at her, breaks her out of her panicked mental rambling and Robin’s neck nearly cricks with how fast her head turns. “I’m gonna get more popcorn. Do you want anything from the concession stand, babe?”

Robin’s mouth, dry with shock, falls open. Babe? She stares at Nancy, all wide, searching eyes and tries to ask what the hell she’s doing with just her mind. Nancy, for her part, looks calm and collected, like she really is just asking Robin if she wants more food. Like she isn’t outing herself, and so casually too, for the sake of these girls. Like she isn’t exposing herself to protect her friends, like she hasn’t just flipped her own world on its head because Max and El were scared.

Robin stares at her, looking in her eyes for any sign of nerves or regret or anything, but what she finds is steadfast determination. She realises then what Nancy’s doing for these girls, for these young people they’ve fallen into a family with and sees in her face that she would do it a thousand times over if it meant Max and El, now staring at Nancy with matching expressions of shock and awe, were safe and happy and loved.

“Sure.” Robin manages to croak out, dumbfounded still, and Nancy smiles—a bright, beaming thing that has Robin grinning helplessly back, has her knees weakening and her heart racing—before leaning forward to press a kiss to Robin’s cheek. Then, with a final grin directed towards the two younger girls, she walks away. Just. Like. That.

Throat still dry and mouth still gaping a little, Robin turns back to face Max and Eleven. And she damn-near fucking melts at the awe and the joy on both of their faces.

There are people like me, their eyes scream, and there is no judgement waiting from the ones who love us. Robin, still dazed, aches a little at the sight. She wishes briefly that she’d had someone do for her what Nancy has just done for these girls when she was their age. But that faint bitterness is washed away as she watches Max shoot her a toothy grin, as she winks in return, and the redhead turns back to face the screen, El turning too.

She watches as Eleven’s head comes to rest on Max’s shoulder and Robin thinks, in the truest depths of her swelling heart, that she might just love Nancy Wheeler.

----

Nancy has seen many, many impressive things in her life—gunfights and monsters and parallel dimensions and the list just goes on.

Dustin’s eyeroll when Mike suggests they rent Empire Strikes Back over A New Hope for the boy’s impromptu movie night though, is really quite something to behold.

(I mean, really. Nancy wouldn’t be surprised if the boy reported seeing brain with how far back his pupils go. Damn, Henderson.)

“You’ve got to be shitting me dude.”

“No way!” Lucas pipes up after Dustin from the back seat, wedged in between Will and the car door. “We’re doing a chronological rewatch, remember? New Hope comes first!”

“But Empire is so much better! We can watch New Hope next time.” Mike, on the other side of Will, retorts and Nancy lets an amused grin creep across her face—despite the bickering, it’s nice to see her brother get to be a kid for once. After everything, he deserves to care too much about what film to watch on movie night, deserves to argue with his friends about things as ordinary as Star Wars—even if the bickering is starting to get slightly on Nancy’s nerves.

“Why don’t you rent both?” She offers, eyes not moving from the road ahead as she turns into a parking space in front of Family Video. A quiet falls over the four boys in her car and Nancy, grateful for the moment’s peace, pulls in and mentally pats herself on the back; both for the good suggestion and for surviving a drive with Mike and his little nerd gang.

“Both?” Will asks, as if the concept of watching more than one movie in one night is unfamiliar but entirely intriguing. Nancy hides a fond grin—Will always was a total sweetheart (and absolutely perfect for her brother, if you asked her).

“Yeah, both. You can watch A New Hope first, then Empire Strikes Back. That way, you’ll still watch them in order but you also don’t have to wait for next time to see Empire.

Her compromise is met with general agreement; Will and Dustin nodding enthusiastically as they undo their seatbelts and get out of the car, Lucas humming and shrugging, Mike sighing and rolling his eyes (brat, she thinks affectionately) but following his friends as they head towards the video store, blushing totally unsubtly when Will holds the door open for him. Nancy wonders, briefly, if her brother will ever get his shit together and kiss the boy already.

As the boys pile into Family Video and Steve, stacking some movies on a shelf by the door, greets them with a beaming smile, rushing over to do his weird handshake with Dustin, Nancy finds herself missing Max and Eleven. The girls had excused themselves from movie night in favour of a sleepover at El’s house—Nancy knows they’re gonna be milking the shit out of the fact that Hopper doesn’t know they’re a couple yet, not having to keep the door open three inches—and whilst she knows the girls need some time to themselves, the relationship still being relatively new and all, Nancy wishes for their company as the boys immediately start talking about the Death Star or some other nerdy shit like that. Max would’ve teased them and El would have looked to Nancy to explain any new words Max used, and god, Nancy doesn’t know when she got so close with the teenagers.

Any and all thoughts about missing the young couple are wiped away, however, when Nancy fixes her sights on the counter. Or rather, more accurately: the person standing behind it.

Robin’s always been the most interesting thing in the room to Nancy, even before they started dating. Back before furious kisses and clumsy confessions, when Nancy had labelled the swirling she got in her stomach whenever Robin was around as hatred, she still could never tear her eyes away, intrigued by the brazenness, the newness the other girl seemed to radiate.

Since then, it’s only gotten worse (or better, depends on how you look at it—it’s both a blessing and a curse, that’s for sure): Nancy’s honestly shocked nobody’s found out about her and Robin simply because of the way she stares at her. It’s really not conducive to their decided-upon secrecy, just how hard Nancy finds it to tear her eyes away from her girlfriend at any given moment; she risks it all every time she finds herself wondering, for the millionth time, about how goddamn pretty Robin is, every time she catches herself checking her out in a room full of people.

Can you blame me, the voice in her head defends as Robin locks eyes with her making her way over to the counter, when she looks like that.

It feels almost inappropriate, the way Robin looks at her as Nancy comes to a stop in front of her—her eyes run a path over Nancy’s skin, trailing her up and down, and Nancy burns under her gaze. It feels nearly sinful.

(It feels fucking brilliant.)

“What’s a sweet thing like you doing in a place like this?” Robin murmurs, husky and teasing, and Nancy’s knees go a little weak despite the cheesiness of the remark. She places her elbows on the counter, rests her chin on one fist and grins, holding back a comment about how bad Robin’s lines are and how she’s dating a goofball, heart near bursting with adoration. She plays along.

“Do you flirt with all the girls that come in here?” She replies, teasing.

“Only the pretty ones.” Robin says and she huffs a bashful laugh.

Later, Nancy will blame her lack of awareness on the bright joy in her girlfriend’s eyes, on the endearment burning in her chest at the lopsided grin on Robin’s face, or some other sappy shit that she never thought herself capable of. Really, her next actions are a result of instinct and the fact that it’s always been like this with Robin. When they’re together, nothing else, nobody else matters. When she’s with Robin, everything else melts away.

And so, completely forgetting that they’re in a very public place, that their friends are nearby, Nancy leans over the counter and kisses Robin.

It’s a good kiss, too. She and Robin are both still smiling, not enough to make kissing impossible, just enough that it sweetens the whole ordeal, and Robin hums against her lips like she’s been waiting for this all day (which, Nancy thinks, if Robin’s day has been anything like hers, she has). And they’re not touching each other anywhere else, just their faces connected, but Nancy still feels the connection in her whole body, still feels intimate and close and adored by Robin.

So, a good kiss. A great kiss, even.

One that is, however, broken abruptly by the sound of a gasp and something hitting the floor right behind them.

Nancy rips herself away from Robin and turns around so fast she’s lucky she doesn’t break her neck, eyes wide and panicked as they settle on the sight now in front of her.

Dustin and Lucas, both slack-jawed, are staring at her and Robin like they’re the most unexpected twist in their favourite TV show. Dustin is beet-red and Lucas blinks like he’s embarrassed and Nancy feels the silence that surrounds them in her very bones.

Just behind them, Steve looks apologetic but also proud, like he could’ve stopped this from happening but he’s also kind of glad he didn’t. His half-grin half-grimace sends a flood of fondness for the boy through Nancy’s frozen body, and if she weren’t currently freaking the fuck out, she’d probably reflect on how far he’s come as a person and get all mushy about it. Later.

She holds her breath as she turns her gaze on the two boys whose reactions she’s yet to discover, the first trickles of fear sliding down her spine as she finally looks to her brother.

There’s a tape on the ground between Mike and Will—one of them must have dropped it in their shock—and Nancy spends an inordinate amount of time looking at it before she drags her eyes up to their faces. When she does, a healthy mixture of embarrassment and apprehension fills her chest.

Mike’s face is absolutely unreadable. His mouth is slightly open, as if surprised, but his eyes betray nothing. Beside him, something like hope glimmers in Will’s eyes and Nancy mentally notes it before her mind goes into overdrive about her brother.

Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, he hates me, he’s secretly homophobic and now he’s gonna bitch me out or what if he isn’t and he’s just actually shocked and shit Mike, say something please—

The silence drags on and as Nancy overanalyses, another emotion, unexpected, rears its head—guilt.

Guilt because Mike’s her brother. Mike is her brother and she didn’t tell him about Robin, didn’t even tell him she wasn’t straight. God, now she feels like the world’s worst sister. She’s been sneaking around with a girl and he didn’t have a clue—in fact, he was one of the only ones left in the dark, after pretty much everyone else except Will, Dustin and Lucas found out in their own ways.

She should have told him. She should’ve said something because he’s her brother and she’s not ashamed, because half his friends already know and because he deserves that much at least and Nancy’s babbling before she can stop herself.

“Mike, we were gonna tell you, I swear, we just wanted it to be a secret for a while and we just didn’t know how you were gonna react and I didn’t wanna—"

Her panicked rambling stops suddenly when Mike strides towards her. For a second, Nancy thinks he might scream at her, might call her a liar and a bad sister and oh, god, now she’s even more afraid and—

Mike hugs her. He hugs her.

Nancy’s mind goes completely blank as her little brother wraps his arms around her and buries his face in her shoulder. After a confused moment, she hugs him back and all she feels is relief. This can’t be bad, right? It’s a little weird, sure, because they’ve never really been that close and Nancy can count the number of times they’ve hugged in the past couple of years on one hand, but it isn’t bad. It’s nice, even, and she allows herself to sink into the embrace before he pulls back.

He's still within arms reach and Nancy watches him smile at her with a happy, albeit still slightly puzzled, grin of her own as he speaks.

“Oh my god, thank fuck!” He exclaims, and Nancy doesn’t get the chance to dissect that, doesn’t even get to tell him off for cussing before he’s practically running back over to Will and kissing him.

The room fucking explodes.

Nancy is frozen with shock of her own as her friends go ape-shit around her. Lucas and Dustin are whooping and clapping, Steve is jumping around and yelling encouragement with the enthusiasm of a proud mama bear and behind Nancy, Robin is wolf-whistling. It’s total chaos, unburdened joy and Nancy, slack-jawed herself, finds herself noticing two things.

1: That it’s unbelievably nice to be a part of a group like this, where support and love comes in abundance, where people are accepting and happy and actually fun to be around—she’s found a family with these morons and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

2: That Mike and Will are still kissing and that it seems far more familiar than she’d expect from a first kiss, both boys grinning and holding each other by the face in a way that suggests, maybe, Nancy’s investigative journalist brain thinks, they’ve done this before.

Her brother pulls away from Will grinning and slides his hand down to intertwine their fingers. The noise in the room dies down, everyone waiting for an explanation. Mike is the one to oblige them.

“I guess now’s a good time to tell you all that Will and I are dating.” He says and his newly-revealed boyfriend stares at him like he hung the moon (the way he has, Nancy muses, all along). “We just didn’t know how everyone would react.”

As he says this, he looks to Nancy and she knows that ‘everyone’ means her, and her heart hurts a little. She gets it though. To his knowledge, until about two minutes ago, she was straight as a ruler. She can’t blame him for wondering if she may have an issue with him and Will, even though he’s seen her around Steve and Jonathan. Coming out is scary, especially when one doesn’t know if there’s potential for homophobia in the family.

It sort of sucks a little that Mike thought she might have been homophobic but again, who can blame him? So all she does is smile, huff an incredulous little laugh and walk over to him and Will.

“Two gay kids? Mom and Dad are gonna flip.” She teases and Mike grins, happy and relieved and with the hint of tears in his eyes, so she pulls him into another hug.

He sags against her, hand still tangled with Will’s, and she ruffles his hair.

“Love you, Nance.” He mumbles and it’s almost enough to bring tears of her own to her eyes. She squeezes him tighter, this brother of hers, who’s a sarcastic little brat most of the time and gets on her nerves more often than not; who’s fought monsters and lost people and is probably braver than she’ll ever be.

“I love you too.” She murmurs back and the truth of it nearly has her sobbing. She loves Mike, much as he can annoy her. He’s her brother and she loves him so much she’d fight any number of interdimensional creatures for him, loves him so hard she’d shield him from the world if she could.

Around them, her friends tease and laugh and talk and Nancy loves them too, loves them more than she’d ever thought herself capable of.

Over Mike’s shoulder, she makes eye contact with Robin. Her girlfriend smiles, real and toothy and perfect and Nancy, caught up in this moment of pure, ecstatic happiness, grins back. And in the depths of her heart, she thinks that maybe (definitely), she might just love Robin Buckley too.