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imagine me again

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It's the third day of November. Nancy's not having the greatest month.

Tina's bullshit Halloween party really set a great tone—she's even got a ruined shirt and a boyfriend's bruised ego as a souvenir. If Steve even is her boyfriend anymore, that is. (She's still hearing his last words to her play in circles around her head, "You're bullshit," spit out as he left her behind the gym with the kind of finality and vitriol she'd forgotten he was capable of.)

He probably thinks that she's off with her "other boyfriend" right now, which couldn't be further from the truth. Just the insinuation that something was going on between them has soured her on Jonathan. Of course, she knows that's irrational and unfair and uncalled for, she knows Jonathan has done nothing wrong, she knows everyone's perfect except for her, she gets it. She's allowed to be a pissed-off seventeen-year-old sometimes, right?

This increasingly self-deprecating train of thought starts to nag her on her way to first period, and by lunchtime, she's in a horrible mood. She avoids Jonathan when he tries to beckon her to his table at lunch and doesn't have to avoid Steve, as he's got that covered by himself. It's how she finds herself skipping lunch entirely, because even an aimless walk around school in the ugly November chill is better than the minefield of feelings and bullshit waiting for her inside.

One lunch period, that's all you get, she thinks, setting off towards the football field, which she knows will be mercifully empty at this time. One lunch period to lament her teenaged problems like a normal girl, and then she'll get back to monster-hunting and conspiracy-chasing.

It becomes immediately apparent to her that her idea of being alone at the field isn't going to go as planned. As she heads towards the visitor-side stands (where she and Barb used to cram for chemistry class together because it was the only place to get some goddamned peace and quiet during the school day), she sees a trace of movement under the bleachers. Great. Some kids are probably smoking pot in her and Barb's spot.

She starts to turn back, but she can't help but notice that whoever's back there is being suspiciously quiet. The natural investigator in her can't stand the thought of leaving without getting at least a little peek. Moving with care, she comes around the side of the bleachers and peers into the shade under the metal slats. It takes all of her restraint not to gasp out loud.

It's not some kids getting stoned after all—in fact, it might be worse. Nancy watches, a little dumbstruck, as Robin Buckley, the band girl, pushes Heather Holloway up against one of the support pillars holding up the bleachers and kisses her with what Nancy can only describe as reckless abandon. Heather's hands come up to hold onto Robin's neck like she's hanging on for dear life, but the way she presses into Robin makes it abundantly clear that she's not being forced into anything.

A sensible voice in the back of her mind is practically screaming at Nancy to get the hell out of there—she doesn't think she'd be able to form a coherent sentence if they confronted her at that moment—but she feels physically entranced; the way Robin's hand skims up the side of Heather's thigh and bunches in her skirt is hypnotic. In fact, everything Robin's doing is hypnotic—her other hand tangling in Heather's hair, pulling a little, and the flash of her teeth on Heather's bottom lip for just a second—

Jesus Christ, Wheeler. It takes a surprisingly loud moan from Heather to snap Nancy out of it, and with that, she's turned heel and is halfway up the hill to the cafeteria, breathless for more reasons than one.

The good news: Nancy doesn't think about Steve or Jonathan or even monsters for the rest of the day.

The bad news: the one thing Nancy is thinking about it somehow harder to stomach than any of that.

She autopilots through the rest of her classes, completely absorbed in the scene she witnessed under the bleachers. The shock of seeing two girls kissing takes all of fifth period to parse through. Obviously, she's familiar with the concept of homosexuality—she's just never really had to think about it too hard, because of course there aren't any gay people in Hawkins, Indiana. Or at least, that's what she thought for most of her life.

Sixth period, she spends the whole class thinking that she can't believe Robin Buckley and Heather Holloway are lesbians or—gay? Both words feel foreign just thinking them. Heather was definitely the bigger surprise of the two, as she's had her fair share of boyfriends, and Nancy's seen firsthand that Heather can flirt with the best of them when the boys come swarming around her lifeguard tower in the summer.

And Robin—well, Nancy's not a mean girl, and she's never joined in on the whispers of dyke that seem to follow Robin around the school. But she won't pretend she's surprised, either. Nancy doesn't really know Robin outside of her name and the fact that she's in band (and, with a twinge of sadness, she remembers Barb pointing her out in the hallway once and mentioning that Robin had helped Barb clean up the mess when all of her books and papers fell out of her locker that morning). Robin, who's always strutting around school with choker necklaces and black nail polish; Robin, who smokes cigarettes behind the cafeteria like she doesn't want people to see her doing it.

By seventh period, to Nancy's dismay, Robin Buckley is all she can think about. (She convinces herself that it's purely scientific; she just wants to know more about her and how exactly she does that with another girl.) She keeps thinking about Robin's hand on Heather's thigh, her lips, the way she pressed one of her legs between Heather's, and—mortifyingly, but constantly—Nancy keeps remembering the way Heather had moaned. Every time she replays it in her head, she feels a little bit of color rush to her cheeks. When did it get so warm in the biology room?

On the way home, Nancy realizes why she's so stuck on the moan: she's never made a sound like that in her life. Not that sex with Steve is bad or anything; he's just never touched her the way that Robin touched Heather, never drawn that kind of moan out of her. It maddeningly feeds back into her persistent thoughts of Robin—her scientific thoughts, mind you—and by the time Nancy gets home, she sees no other recourse but to collapse into bed in a confused, frustrated heap.

She figures that it'll be off her mind soon enough, and by dinner time she'll be back to bickering with Mike and maybe call Jonathan up and apologize; she's very wrong. The thoughts follow her through dinner, through her half-assed calculus homework, through her shower (maybe a little too much in the shower), and that night, she dreams about it.

Well, not about it. About Robin. In the dream, Robin is Robin and Nancy is Heather, back pressed hard against the bottom of the bleachers, Robin's fingernails digging into the top of her thigh. Her other hand is threaded in Nancy's hair, tight enough that it hurts a little—and somehow that makes it better—and every part of her is so warm to the touch, so real, that it doesn't feel like any dream Nancy's had before. It only ends when her alarm clock starts to ring.

She spends way too long in bed over-analyzing this particular dream and ends up being late again. Heather Holloway sits two rows ahead of her, completely oblivious to the daggers Nancy's staring into the back of her head for all of first period. Nancy can't figure out what it is about Heather of all people that has Robin Buckley kissing her like that. Sure, she's pretty—sort of boring, if you ask Nancy. She doesn't seem like Robin's type.

And what the hell do you know about Robin? With a pang of irritation, Nancy realizes that she's jealous. Or at least, something close to it. It's really the only explanation for the dream and the way Nancy's been glaring at Heather's stupid perm for the last hour. It's so absurd that she almost lets out a startled, harsh laugh when she realizes it. She's fucking jealous.

Clearly there's something deeply wrong with her, she thinks. Maybe her brain is malfunctioning from Upside Down contamination. (She knows it's not that.) Whatever it is, she quickly moves onto a new plan: stay the hell away from Robin, and Heather, for that matter. And if she's lucky, all of this will just go away. (She really doubts it will.)

Just like the day before, her plan goes bottom-up in record time. When lunch period rolls around, and Nancy finds that she's still not in the mood to talk to Jonathan and his puppy-dog eyes over in the corner of the lunchroom (this time for reasons related to girl problems, not boy problems), she makes a beeline for the backdoor and escapes outside, onto the quiet back steps of the cafeteria.

Right where Robin Buckley is having a cigarette, leaning calmly against the railing.

Nancy's not sure what happens to her expression in that moment, but Robin looks at her like she's expecting her to keel over, so she figures it must be pretty bad.

Robin tugs her headphones off with one hand and pokes the pause button on her Walkman. She sizes her up for a moment before seeming to recognize who Nancy is. "Uh, hey. Are you okay?"

"Um—" she sort of chokes out. Just looking at Robin's face is giving her startlingly real flashbacks to her dream.


"I had a dream about you last night." She says the words. She hears herself say the words. She doesn't really register that she says them, not until it's far too late, and now she thinks she really might keel over after all.

Robin raises her eyebrow. "Was it a good dream?"

Yes. "It was, I mean—it's not important." Nancy genuinely feels like the decision-making part of her brain, the part with all the tact and good sense, has totally disintegrated, and now her mouth is just running with absolutely no control or filter. "I saw you kissing Heather Holloway yesterday."

As soon as she says it, Robin pales, and her relaxed demeanor disappears. She's holding onto the rail so tightly that Nancy can see all the bones jumping up against her skin. A beat later, Nancy realizes: she's terrified.

"I didn't tell anyone," Nancy assures her, putting up both of her hands in a gesture of good will. "And I won't tell anyone. I swear."

Robin, still guarded, looks her in the eye with a skeptical expression. She must decide that Nancy looks sincere, because she relaxes almost imperceptibly, loosening her grip on the top of the rail a touch. "Thanks."

"No problem." She's not sure what else to say. The lingering feeling of panic still hangs in the air.

Robin cocks her head to the side, her mouth now twisting into something like a smirk. "So, was that what your dream was about?"

"Was what?"

"Me. And Heather."

"Not Heather," Nancy says, barely above a whisper. There's a primal look in Robin's eye that steals the conviction right out of her voice.

"Not Heather," Robin repeats. The smirk is now full-blown. She takes a step closer to Nancy. "So, me?"

"Yes, you."

"And you?" Now she's close enough to touch, smiling with the kind of confidence Nancy would have never expected from a fringe band girl in black nail polish.

"And me."

It's all the invitation that Robin needs to lean down—God, she's tall—and kiss her. Not hard, like she kissed Heather, but gently, taking Nancy's face in both of her hands, and damn is it better than the dream. She tastes like tobacco and cherry gum and somehow it's good, ushered in on the softest lips that Nancy has ever kissed (not that boyfriends past are much competition). She completely forgets where she is; there's nothing in her orbit right now but Robin, Robin's mouth, Robin's thigh against hers, Robin's hand that's tracing down the side of her torso now—

It's like her dream all over again.

Nancy could probably stay there all day, pinned between the cafeteria wall and Robin fucking Buckley, but the school bell rings shrilly over their heads and snaps her back to the real world. Robin pulls away—she'd just graduated from Nancy's lips and had been planting soft kisses down the side of her neck, which, to Nancy's extreme embarrassment, made Nancy start to tremble like the heroine in a bad sixties movie—and wipes her mouth with the back of her hand. It's simultaneously attractive and infuriating.

"Well, that's the bell," Robin says, trying to sound casual, but her raspy voice is lower than usual and a little breathless, too. She steps away, pulling her headphones back on like nothing of note just happened. "I've gotta run."

Nancy just stares, not in full control of her speech capabilities just yet.

"But I'll be here after school," Robin continues, slipping her hands into her pockets as she heads back inside. Over her shoulder: "In case you want to tell me some more about that dream, I mean."

Maybe November's not going to be such a bad month after all.