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The Morning After

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            It was cold, and so dark you could barely see your hand in front of your face. Jonathan was standing in his living room, Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling, hastily painted letters of the alphabet scrawled on the wall behind his couch. His hand ached, his breathing hard, his heart pounding out of his chest. He was all alone.

            "..Nance?" he tried to say, but nothing came out. Startled, he tried again. "Nancy? Nancy ?!!" he pleaded with his vocal chords, but to no avail. He was hyperventilating. And then he heard something.

            It sounded like a quiet, high pitched... growl. He looked all around him, desperate to find Nancy, or his mom, or Will, or anybody. The growling grew louder, sounding as if it were coming from above him, as if it were coming from the ceiling. It grew louder and louder and louder. And then it ceased. Jonathan relaxed his shoulders, tried to steady his breathing. He turned around and there was the Monster, opening its flower like mouth and screeching before leaping onto him.


 

            Jonathan's eyes shot open, a loud gasp escaping his throat, breathing short, heavy breaths as he came to. He woke up, lying on his back and drenched in a cold sweat. Just a nightmare, he thought to himself, closing his eyes and trying to calm himself down. Just a nightmare. He breathed, slowly remembering where he was. He was lying in a bed at Murray Bauman's, the freelance investigator. He was safe, no monsters. It was morning, slightly chilly, but light and warm enough to calm himself down.

            It was then that he started to remember some other things. He suddenly realized that he was completely naked, save for a sheet covering his pelvis. And that this was, in fact, not the pull-out sofa that he was given permission to use last night. Everything came flooding back to Jonathan as he realized that he was accompanied by another equally as naked person in the bed.

            Nancy was still asleep, her slim, exposed arms wrapped around Jonathan's bicep. Jonathan could barely muster the courage to glance over at her. Her curly brown hair was messy, her cheek was pressed against his shoulder. He could feel her steady breaths on his arm and her slightly cold toes touching his leg from where her foot was exposed from under the blanket that was wrapped around her. She was beautiful, and looked so peaceful. Jonathan sighed a sigh of relief, content that she wasn't having a nightmare like he had been. He turned his head, his nose falling right into her curls. That strawberry vanilla scent of hers was intoxicating, the smell suddenly sending a wave of feelings of affection over him. He swallowed, gently kissing her head. And finally he slowly untangled her arms from him, careful not to wake her, placing his feet on the cold floor to search for his discarded clothing strewn about the small room. He stole glances at her sleeping face as he hastily pulled on his clothes, heading for the door and closing it as softly behind him as he could, walking toward the bathroom.

            He ran cold water from the tap, splashing it on his face. He gripped the sides of the sink, looking at himself in the mirror and trying to get a handle on the situation. Shit... shit!! What the hell did I do? he thought to himself. He kissed Nancy last night. But it isn't like it was all his fault. Why did she have to put that thought in his head, from the other night at the motel?

            I waited for you.

            She waited for him? She had to understand, he thought he lost his brother forever. But, looking back now, he could have tried harder to see her. It wasn't like the two of them weren't aware of the other's feelings. Instead he pushed her right back into the arms of Steve Harrington. But he never would have thought that she would be pining after him of all people. Even after all this time? And that kiss. He'd gotten back up and headed to her door, but she opened it before he could even try to. She pushed him away when he kissed her, but she immediately kissed him back, with such intensity that it initially took both of their breaths away. Had he pushed her through the guest room door, or had she pulled him through? He didn't know.

            What he did know was what happened after the door slammed shut. Loud kissing noises, the sound of clothes being ripped off and thrown on the floor, the squeaking bed. The memory of the way she moaned his name sent a shiver up his spine. He could feel the dull pain of the scratches she made from raking her nails down his back. He stopped for a moment, hoping that he didn't hurt her from gripping her thighs too hard. This couldn't all have come from the vodka, they maybe had two glasses each, tops. At least he hopes it didn't all come from the vodka. What if she would regret everything that happened?  What if he didn't?

            He was in deep shit. Dammit... he thought to himself, raking his hand through his hair. He finally steps out of the bathroom, only to be met by Nancy a couple feet away, wearing her pink nightie once again. The two stopped in their tracks, a mimic of the night before.

            "Hey," he said quietly.

            "H-Hey," she whispered back. They stood in silence for a couple seconds, just blue staring into brown before Nancy spoke again. "You're done... in the bathroom, I mean?"

            "Oh, uh. Yeah," Jonathan said awkwardly, stepping to the side as she walked past him into the bathroom. Before she stepped in, however, he saw them. She was gripping her bag so tight to her chest that her nightgown was farther up her thigh than it normally was, and he saw them.

            Bruises.


 

            Jonathan, Nancy and Murray all sat at the table, eating the breakfast Murray had made for them all. Nancy was dressed in her clothes for the day, bathed in the fresh smell of strawberries and vanilla. They sat in silence, quietly eating their food as Murray stared at the both of them. Finally, he spoke.

            "So, Jonathan," he said, as Jonathan took a sip from his drink. "How was the pull-out?"

            Jonathan sputtered into his cup, nearly choking on his tomato juice. Nancy stopped chewing, her eyes getting wide, but she managed to stay calm as she stared at her plate. "I'm, sorry?" he hastily inquired, trying to remain composed.

            Murray simply stared back at him, calm albeit a small glint in his dark eyes. "The sofa," he stated.

            Jonathan felt like such a dumbass. Of course he meant the sofa. In his study. Where he was supposed to sleep last night. "Oh, yeah. Yeah, it was-it was good," Jonathan trailed off, glancing at Nancy in the corner of his eye, seeing what he almost believed to be a smirk. Couldn't be though.

            "I bet," Murray smiled, trying to eat his scrambled eggs but accidentally bumping the piece off his fork before articulating a faint "Oops!" and letting a breathy laugh escape his throat.


 

            Finally getting out of that eccentric investigator's bunker felt like a breath of fresh air, literally and metaphorically. Jonathan and Nancy were both on the road, on their long way back to Hawkins, sitting in a silence that somehow felt both awkward and comforting at the same time. Jonathan kept his hands steady on the wheel, Nancy just watching the road stretch out in front of them. He stole a glance at her, realizing that she was glancing at him in that moment. They both stared forward, Jonathan's face burning hot. Jonathan never would have imagined it could feel this awkward between them. He thought that was supposed to happen before sex. How can there still be embarrassment after experiencing something so personal with one another?

            "I-"

            "Um-"

            They both tried to speak, and then silence fell again. After a moment, Jonathan said, "You-you go ahead, Nance."

            Nancy nodded her head, clearing her throat, suddenly looking serious.

            "It's about... last night," she said quietly, her jaw clenching, as if her words didn't want to leave her mouth.

            Jonathan's chest tightened. His mind went a mile a minute. It took all that he had to keep from breathing too fast and focus on driving. She had to be regretting it. He should have never gotten back out of his bed, he should have stayed put, like his brain told him to. But no, he had to listen to his gut instead. Get up, it said. Go kiss her, it said. God, idiot. He realized he began thinking all of these things before Nancy even opened her mouth. Maybe he does have trust issues.

            "What we did last night..." she began to say. "After we closed that door, what we did, it-it was, um.. it was-" Jonathan's hands gripped the steering wheel tighter. He could just hear the word ringing in his ears before Nancy even said it. Started with an M.

            Mistake.

            "...Magical..." Nancy breathed, Jonathan almost not hearing it. But he did, and his stomach flipped over.

            "What?" he replied back in disbelief.

            Nancy put her face in her hands, Jonathan knew her well enough to know she did this to try to stop herself from crying. It didn't always work. "H-H-I know that last night shouldn't have happened, and-and I can't deny that we have such an amazing connection, Jonathan, and I would never, ever want to jeopardize that," she said, looking at his face, her blue eyes as big as dinner plates. "But I felt so much last night."

            All he could do was swallow. He had no words. He tried to find them, but nothing came out. For once he had absolutely nothing to say back to Nancy, and at the most crucial of times too.

            "When you kissed me, I wanted to listen to reason. But my emotions took over," she confessed. "I'd never felt anything like what I felt last night... The only time I've ever been so comfortable and secure is when I'm near you. I like you so much, Jonathan. And our relationship means so much to me. I don't want to push you away... not this time."

            She looked over at him, his shoulders tense, eyebrows furrowed, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. He suddenly felt her hand on his and he jumped, breathing a hard breath.

            Her eyebrows creased, a worried expression appearing on her face. "Jonathan? Are you  alright?"

            He loosened his grip on the steering wheel, realizing he was gripping it so hard his knuckles were turning white. She took his hand in both of hers, bringing it up to her lips and placing a soft kiss on his skin, sending a shiver up his spine.

            "... Jonathan?" she whispered. He loved the way she said his name. He loved it when she said anything at all.

            She was saying that she liked him. That she wanted him. That what happened between them wasn't just a onetime thing. He felt like he could fly. He felt like he could puke.

            He needed to say something back, anything at all... Anything!! Jonathan! For god's sake!!

            But he didn't say a word. Not because he didn't want to, but because he just couldn't find the words to reply to the confession of the girl he liked much too much.

            So he huffed a breath, running his fingers through his chestnut brown hair, and pulled her flush against him across the seat. She was taken by surprise at first and almost immediately buried her face in the shoulder of his jacket, letting out a shaky sigh and closing her eyes.

            He held her tight, one arm around her shoulders, with one hand still on the steering wheel. He moved her hair from her forehead, placing a long, warm kiss on her skin and then laying his cheek on her head as he kept his eyes on the road. He could feel her fingers drawing small circles on the front of his sweater. It was such a subtle movement, and yet it made his heart beat fast. Could she feel it under her hand? He didn't care.

            After a couple of minutes of wonderfully comfortable silence, he leaned forward a bit, taking her with him, Nancy not even opening her eyes at the sudden movement, and turned on the radio. Soft rock, guitars started playing.

            "...I just couldn't carry on that way/Oh, I did some damage, I know it's true/Didn't know I was so lonely, till I found you/You can go the distance/We'll find out in the long run..."

            The Eagles. Jonathan laughed, feeling a smile coming from Nancy. Fitting, really. They'd been through so much together. Seen so much.

            They can go the distance.