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you know there's not another moment to waste

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They go to the game and get burgers after and it’s totally not a date.

Robin pays for them both, turning her body against Nancy’s attempts to get her silly little fake-leather purse out and unzipped by the time Robin’s wallet is open, emptied, closed.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Nancy says, pretending to be annoyed.

“I wanted to,” Robin responds, pretending it doesn’t matter.

Nancy squeezes her arm, a smile everywhere but her mouth, and tugs her towards a booth by the corner.

Just as well - if she’d picked a table, Robin’s not sure she could’ve resisted pulling her chair out for her. Which would make all this seem like something it is not.

“Can I ask you something?”

They’ve got their drinks and Nancy’d been quiet, so far.

Robin fiddles with the straw sticking out of her soda and pretends the girl she’s got a planet-sized crush on hasn’t just asked her the leading question to end all leading questions.

Anything, anything, anything.

Jesus, don’t say that.

Too intense, Buckley.

“I don’t get why people do that,” is what she goes with instead, and it’s a lie.

Nancy’s head tilts. She’s sitting upright, Little Miss Perfect Posture. One of her hands rests on the tabletop, the other in her lap. The fluro lighting overhead’s half-yellow. A streetlight coming in through the big wall of windows does a lot of the work.

God, is she pretty.

“Do what?” Nancy asks, voice light.

It tells Robin that she already knows. Wants to hear her prove her right. Wants to hear her talk. Most people aren’t into all of Robin Buckley’s talking.

Nancy Wheeler is not most people.

“Ask a question about asking a question,” Robin says. “It’s like, super redundant. If you’re already allowed to ask a question about asking a question, then just ask the question, you know? Why waste time on a preliminary question when you could get straight to the good stuff? It’s not just you,” she adds, clocking the way Nancy’s watching her ramble. “Everybody does it. Well, almost everybody. Harrington wouldn’t, but he’s like, totally abnormal, so that’s a pointless example.”

Shut.

Up.

She manages to, barely.

Goes back to the straw-fiddling, musses with her hair.

Nancy keeps… looking.

Anyway,” Robin says, high-pitched. “What gives with that, right?”

Nancy’s eyes flick to the ketchup bottle at the end of the table. She bites her lip. Swear to Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman and Jane Russell, she literally bites her freaking lip.

“Because,” she says. “It’s polite.”

“Polite?”

“To ask permission before asking something personal.”

“You – You want to ask me a personal question?”

“Yeah.” More lip-biting. This girl. “If that’s okay.”

“Well. I just. Wouldn’t it be more polite to just not ask the question?”

“Probably,” Nancy admits, eyes a-twinkle again. “But I really wanna know.”

“Ever heard of curiosity killing the cat?”

“I’m not a cat.”

“Thank God. You’d be dead.”

“Have you ever had a boyfriend?”

And – oh, shit.

Robin chokes on air, spit, surprise.

Alert alert alert al-

“What? Why?”

“I just – I don’t mean to be nosy.”

“Yeesh. Remind me to get my best poker face in order before you do mean to be nosy.”

“You said you didn’t mind.”

“Ah, no, I didn’t say I did mind, Wheeler. That is not the same thing as not minding. A difference. There’s a difference.”

“It’s not a big deal if you haven’t.”

“If it’s not a big deal then why are you asking?”

“Just – because. I’m…”

“A cat with a death wish.”

Nancy rolls her eyes in a half-assed kind of way, mouth quirked at the corner. Her little nose wrinkling and her little freckles standing out under the light. More endeared than annoyed.

Or so Robin likes to think, anyways, while alarm bells ring around in her head.

Nancy waits for her answer, and Robin all but bites down on her tongue to keep from saying anything until she’s had at least 0.5 seconds to think beforehand.

That’s the order it’s supposed to go – a crucial, crucial order.

1. Think.
2. Say something.

Okay, so:

I’m a lesbian.

Shit.

Okay, well, this is why we practice.

I am not a lesbian.

That’s not convincing.

God, I don’t wanna lie to her.

I can’t tell her, she…

She won’t care. Not in the way you’re worried about her caring.

The wide-eyed, don’t-come-near-me, lose-my-number kind of way.

Or she will care – She cares enough to ask about your non-existent boyfriends so she-

Shit, does she – does she know?

She might know. Or think she knows.

Oh, shit.

Okay. Okay you gotta – you gotta throw her off the trail.

Boyfriend. Yeah. Yeah, you could have a boyfriend.

His name was… Bob.

Bobby.

Bobby the… baseball player.

Bobby who played baseball and drank beer.

Bobby the boy.

That Bobby.

“Robin? You… okay?”

Robin looks at Nancy.

Nancy, with her nose and her freckles and her sharp, deep eyes.

Looking for the truth, as always.

I’m a lesbian.

Literally the only time I’ve understood the appeal of men is that one time Steve opened a jar of peanut butter for me and I swear to God I loosened it for him.

les. bi. an.

“Ah, no,” Robin says. “I mean, yeah. And no, to answer your - I just – I guess I never met a guy I’m interested in. You know, like that. Yet.”

It’s only a half-lie, so it only half-hurts to say.

The other half, she’s not sure she can let go of.

If she did, it might take on a whole life of its own, and then where would that leave her? Cut loose from the special part of her soul she’s had all to herself her whole entire life and never had to show anybody else ever?

Well.

Until Steve.

Some-freaking-how.

Nancy focuses on her forgotten soda glass, a wrinkle between her eyebrows. Like she was expecting more, or she’s not happy with what she got.

“All the guys I know are total dinguses,” Robin adds.

Just to really sell it.

“Yeah,” Nancy says, aiming the uncertain wavering in her eyes and her voice right at her. “Totally. Guess I can’t argue with that.”

“What about you?” Robin asks, like it’s reciprocal, determined to leave no room for whatever risky follow-up question Nancy’s clearly working on. “I mean, uh. How come you’ve… boyfriends? Had. Had boyfriends.”

“It’s what girls our age do?”

“And you always do what everybody else does, is that it?”

Look at that!

The truth, again.

Wait, shit.

It clangs onto the table between them, makes the cutlery jump. Nancy bristles. Robin swallows her stomach down.

“I didn’t mean–”

“Boys are – They can be cute,” Nancy says.

“Yeah. Totally.”

“And sweet.”

“Super sweet.”

“They can be really cute and sweet and thoughtful.”

“Boys like Steve Harrington and Jonathan Byers.”

“Yes, when they try to be.”

“Don’t you think it’s kind of bullshit that it involves trying, though? Like, you’re either a good person or you’re not, deep down. The idea of it involving effort is – It’s kind of alarming when you think about it.”

“I thought Steve was your friend.”

“Surprising nobody more than me, I promise you.”

“Do you accuse all your friends of having to put in special effort in order to be good people?”

“It’s called being a try-hard for a reason, Nance. Because they try hard. And Steve? Come on. Steve? Come on.”

Nancy’s mouth does the quirking thing again. Her face softens, and Robin’s insides unwind like she’s spotted the treeline in a vast, confusing wilderness.

Out of the woods. Phew.

“His hair alone,” Robin says, doubling down, and Nancy giggles, which is the point. “He’s late for every other shift and I swear it’s because of how long he spends on his hair in the morning. When I get bored at the shop, I imagine knocking him to the ground in the New Releases section and like, forcefully shaving his head.”

“Oh, my god,” she breathes, a soft laugh.

“That big square head without all that hair? Can you imagine?”

“He’d – He’d look like a LEGO figurine!” she gasps, shaking with it now.

“Like you’d just popped the hair right off him.”

Robin mimics the sound of an electric razor and Nancy’s giggling bubbles into cackling, to something harder to come back from.

They both fold over their edges of the table, wrapped in disproportionate hysterics at the thought of their big, stupid, bald friend.

“With the – the hands, too?” Nancy says, and she makes rounded claw shapes with her own hands to demonstrate a LEGO person’s, rolling at the wrists in an awkward display, and holy shit – that’s the end of it, for Robin.

She’s so far gone her stomach hurts.

But then, she’s been gone a while, really, when it comes to Nancy Wheeler.

Whatever.

She likes it more over here anyway.

When their food arrives, they’re both still coming down from it, and Nancy’s looking at her again.

“You’re sweet, too, you know,” she says, in this soft voice that drowns out everything and everyone around them. “And you don’t have to try.”

Then she steals a fry off Robin’s plate and eats it, pretending she didn’t just say the most bonkers-impossible thing Robin’s ever heard.

 

////

 

When she gets home she races up the stairs two at a time and slams her door and locks it.

From her armchair by the TV, her mom’s yelling again. Yelling and not getting up. Something about being late and rude and useless.

Robin digs a cassette out of the pile on her nightstand, loads it into her stereo. Turns it up.

Meat Loaf. Bat Out Of Hell.

She flops onto her bed and thinks of all her… parts.

Her halves.

Technically by definition if you wanna get scientific about it, she’s only meant to have two of them. Two halves making a whole, blah blah.

Robin stares at the ceiling with her hands folded over her stomach, turning the ring on her middle finger around and around.

Halves…

Could be corners. Edges. Sides.

Could be that she’s an impossible shape, made up of a hundred different angles, some complementary and some contradictory and some still in need of dusting off. Polishing up.

Maybe when you show someone else a private, special side of yourself, the only thing that changes is how much of you they see.

Sounds nice, to become shiny enough you could make someone else’s eyes sparkle.

 

////

 

They go to a movie and get ice cream and it’s totally, definitely not a date.

Robin walks her to her car after.

They drove themselves here, despite how much Robin wanted to offer to take her. Pick her up and drive with Nancy Wheeler in her passenger seat. Drive her home after.

Robin sips on the milkshake she got to go, can feel Nancy watching her. Catches her shiver, in her thin cardigan and her flowy skirt.

“Jeez, Nance. Here.”

She looks surprised, but lets Robin drape her jacket over her shoulders. Her favourite, faded black denim with the textured collar and the patches she put on herself.

“Buckley,” she protests, out of pride or who knows, “I’ll be in my car in five seconds.”

“So I’m saving you from five seconds of cold. I’m practically a superhero. Wonder Woman, eat your heart out.”

“Right. We’ll have to get the Mayor on the phone and get you a special commendation for your heroic good deeds.”

“Like a medal?”

“Okay, like a medal.”

“What kind of medal?”

“A big one. Big and gold.”

“With a ribbon, so I can wear it ‘round my neck and everybody can see what a heroic do-gooder I am.”

Nancy’s face is crinkling, caught in a bubble of laughter right before it bursts.

“Won’t even take it off to shower.”

Ta-da.

Nancy giggles, shoves at Robin’s shoulder, and Robin grins, chuckling, hey, and snags the offending hand out of the air.

Robin pushes at Nancy’s hand as if to give it back to her, and Nancy pushes at her hand being pushed as if she doesn’t want it anymore.

Their fingers have linked together, inelegant and tangible.

Nancy’s hand curls into Robin’s and Robin lets it.

Goes from chuckling to throat-clearing to staring at their hands hanging low between them and wondering how long it’s acceptable to hold a straight girl’s hand without doing anything about a separation.

Then Nancy Wheeler’s thumb rubs along the edge of Robin’s, and she looks up.

She’s eyeing off the milkshake Robin’s clutching like it’s the only thing tethering her to this reality.

And who’s to say, at this point.

“Never had strawberry before,” Nancy says.

Robin looks at her. And her shake. Can taste it on her tongue.

“You… Uh, seriously? It’s like, the best flavour.”

“Honestly, I always stick with vanilla. Old reliable.”

“Of course you do. Where’s your sense of adventure?

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s right here.”

W h a t ?

“Can I?” she asks.

Her eyes are big. She’s close.

Oh, shit, she’s really close.

Robin holds the takeaway cup out to her, thumb over the no-brand splash of pink and blue shapes curled round its sides.

Nancy leans forward with her eyes on Robin’s. Catches the straw between her lips. Sucks.

Robin watches berry shake travel up the tube and tingles violently from shoulder to fingertip.

When Nancy pulls back, a drop of it turns her bottom lip white. She folds her lips in on themselves to catch it.

Then it’s quiet, and Robin is resigned to death.

Let them drink milkshakes at my funeral.

“What, uh-” She clears her throat. “What’d you think?”

Nancy's lips purse. She is taking this very seriously.

Their hands are still joined together.

“It’s… different.”

“Uh-oh. Guess you're stuck with vanilla forever.”

“I didn’t say I didn’t like it.”

“You said it was different. Nobody likes different.”

“I do.”

Robin’s not great at reading faces, but she’s spent a frickin’ long time studying Nancy’s and she’s pretty much fluent in every kind of language that might paint across her skin. Her eyes. The spaces she fills with the things she doesn’t say.

The spaces she uses to say the things she can’t put into words.

Or maybe it’s wishful thinking.

Her mouth goes dry regardless.

“You do?”

Nancy nods, and Robin thinks she might go in for another mouthful, except she hasn’t looked anywhere else but Robin yet.

“Yeah,” she says, and tugs the cup out of her grip. “I like it a lot.”

 

////

 

Robin lets her keep the jacket.

Realises, when she gets home, she’d accidentally gone and slipped her entire heart into one of the pockets while she was at it.

Ah.

Too late now.

 

////

 

They go to pick Steve up from the video store when his shift finishes and it’s absolutely one hundred percent not a date because it just, it isn’t.

Steve’s here, for one. Or will be.

For two, what kind of date involves sitting around in your mom’s station wagon on a Tuesday afternoon?

“I haven’t seen that yet,” Nancy says.

She’s looking at the poster Robin put in the window the other day. Romancing the Stone.

Robin’s seen it. Robin’s seen everything in there, and most of the other things she can’t convince Keith to stock. She’s not sure what to say about it that doesn’t involve talking about Kathleen Turner. Specifically her voice, hair, hips and/or eyes.

The other girls in her class talk about Michael Douglas a lot. Robin supposes he’s like, handsome or whatever. His eyes are weird.

“It’s okay,” Robin says. “Kinda fun. Not as original as it thinks it is. Long, it’s too long.”

Nancy tilts her head at the poster.

“What’s her name again?”

“Who?”

“The actress.”

Robin looks at her over the centre console.

She’s wearing her jacket.

Which has nothing to do with anything, but seems worth mentioning.

It looks... good, on her.

It looks good on her in a way Robin knows she should not get used to.

Robin says, “Oh, uh, that’s Kathleen Turner”, like she didn’t steal the spare poster and put it up on the back of her bedroom door. “And Michael Douglas,” she adds, because of all the girls she went to school with.

“She’s really beautiful,” Nancy says. “Don’t you think?”

“Do… you?”

“I just said I did, Buckley.”

Robin looks at the poster, and her friend. Her friend wearing her jacket, and yet another unreadable facial expression.

Where the hell is Harrington?

“She’s okay, sure,” Robin says. “More of a Danny DeVito kinda gal myself.”

Nancy laughs, loud.

That smile looks even better on her than the jacket.

Yeah,” Robin says, grinning back. She feels like she has… permission. And she’s not interested in questioning it. “She’s really… really beautiful.”

And okay, fine. She is not looking at Kathleen Turner when she says it, but she can pretend she’s talking about her, and she knows that’s the cliché to end all clichés but she’s in it now.

The only reason clichés get to be so in the first place is they are truest truths in all things.

Which is what Robin feels, saying beautiful right to Nancy’s face.

The truth.

 

////

 

Nancy invites her over to watch Romancing the Goddamn Stone, and Robin says yes so fast she basically cuts her off.

It is not a date because if it were a date Robin would have picked the movie and it would have been a better one.

Spends an hour and a half deciding what to wear, which is as long as the freaking movie goes for. Decides on her acid wash jeans and her red Converses and the blue denim jacket she’s adopting as her New Favourite, since she’s apparently not getting the other one back any time soon.

She even takes the last packet of microwave popcorn out of the pantry, which her mom was probably saving for the next time Dallas is on and will for sure earn her a lecture later. Resists the temptation to break the speed limit on her way to the Wheelers’ house.

Robin keeps trying to tell herself it’s about the movie, or something, but it is not that good a movie.

But there’s Nancy, and her parents are out and her brother’s off with the other superdorks and suddenly they’re on the couch and Robin’s wondering just how beautiful Kathleen Turner is allowed to be.

Whether Nancy thinks so, too, in the way that Robin does.

She can’t be the only girl in the world who feels these kinds of feelings, right?

Like, statistically?

“Robin?”

“What? Sorry. What? Did you say something?”

Nancy smiles, soft and wry. The lights are all off and the TV screen flickering only catches one half of her face.

“I asked if you’re hungry.”

“Oh. Oh, no, I’m good. Why? Are you hungry? I brought popcorn, do you want popcorn?”

“No, I’m – I was just checking.”

“Okay. Cool. Thanks.”

Nancy doesn’t look away, and neither does Robin.

Robin’s little smile – she was going for chill, for calm, for not-at-all-having-a-crisis-no-sir – fades, with how serious Nancy’s looking at her. How she’s leaning against Robin’s arm, her side, and there’s a blanket over their legs and under the blanket she’s got her legs tucked up and her knee is pressed into Robin’s thigh.

It means her face is close, too. Her… whole entire face.

“What?” Robin asks.

“What do you mean, what?”

“What are you – Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Like what?”

Robin swallows. Licks her lips.

Catches Nancy’s eyes dart down to watch her do it. To watch her mouth.

“I don’t know,” Robin says, because she doesn’t.

She doesn’t know a freaking thing about what’s happening right now.

She knows what she thinks is happening and there’s no possible way so the rest is all just – wasted brain juice, even attempting to comprehend – to – to think-

“Yes,” Nancy says, entirely too confident. “You do.”

Robin can feel her breath on her chin. Warm.

“What if I’m wrong?”

“You won’t be.”

Ha,” Robin squeaks, entirely too terrified. “I dunno, Nance, I’m – I’m wrong a lot. You can ask anyone. Kinda my personal brand.”

Some other pressure joins the feeling of Nancy’s knee against her leg and oh God oh Christ - Led Fucking Zeppelin, Nancy’s hand is on her leg.

“I don’t have to ask anyone,” Nancy says. “I already know who you are.”

Yes, Robin thinks. Another truth. You do.

“But besides that,” Nancy adds, "you're not… wrong. Okay? Nothing about you is wrong.”

Robin glances down to where her fingers are making white-hot lines through the fabric of her jeans. She can’t see it, with the blanket and the near-darkness, but she sure can feel it.

God, this would never happen to Kathleen Turner.

“What?” Robin asks, again.

What are you doing?

What are you still looking at me like that for?

What the hell’s happening right now?

The first word’s all she can get her head around. Which is weird, for her. Shortage of words isn’t her style.

“What if,” Nancy says, like it’s a correction.

“What if… what?”

“What if I wanted to kiss you?”

oh.

“D-Do you?”

Nancy shifts. One hand – the crazy hand – stays on Robin’s leg, but she tilts away just enough to rest her elbow on the back of the couch, tips the side of her head against her knuckles. Studying. Face relaxed, eyes bright.

“Would that be okay? With you?”

“Why would you want to do that?”

Nancy shrugs a small, one-shouldered shrug. Her hand shifts on Robin’s leg, just enough.

“Why wouldn’t I?”

oh.

Nancy’s eyes fall right into Robin’s. Latch, and pull. Or so it feels.

One second she’s way over there with her head resting on her free hand and the next Robin can hear her breathing like it’s happening in her own head. Can feel it, like they share a set of lungs.

She wants to kiss me.

I want to kiss her.

Not so complicated, really, is it?

Except, Robin’s never done this before.

She’s seen it in movies and listened to all the songs and she has an imagination yes thank you, but she’s never done it.

Nancy fills the gap. If there ever was one.

Her mouth is small, soft. Presses against Robin’s at a slight angle. There’s a weight on her shoulder, too – Nancy’s hand.

Warmth erupts from every single point Nancy touches.

Robin giggles into her mouth – can’t help it. Nancy whispers what, smiling, too, and Robin whispers sorry and they get right back to it, legs touching more – the works.

Once a whole three seconds has passed and reality hasn’t folded in on itself and they’re still kissing and everything’s good, Robin carefully cups Nancy’s cheek with one hand and kisses her like she means to be.

She figures it’s just what Michael Douglas would do.

 

////

 

Nothing changes, and everything does.

They don’t talk about it, and they don’t talk about it loudly.

Robin thinks it could have been a mistake.

Yeah.

Oops, kissed you on accident.

She tells herself that all weekend, when the memory of it pops into her brain at random intervals.

Brushing her teeth - pop.

Alphabetising videos - pop.

Reading a Rolling Stone interview with Bill Murray – especially then.

Until Monday, when Nancy’s outside her house at 7:30am offering to take her to work, like that’s a thing that they do. Like she’s memorised Robin’s roster.

“Why?” Robin asks, resigned to a perpetual state of confusion as her like, baseline.

“Why not?” Nancy says, apparently resigned to a perpetual state of stating the obvious.

And then, in the front of Robin’s house in the middle of the street in broad daylight, Nancy steps to her, takes hold of the front of her overshirt, tugs–

Kisses her.

pop

Probably not accidental, then.

Pretty freaking deliberate, in fact.

Their mouths slot together and their hands tangle in clothing and Nancy’s standing on tiptoes and Robin’s leaning down.

Nancy keeps kissing her, and Robin does her best to kiss her back. She does. It’s just – this has totally gotten away from her. She’s goo. Nancy Wheeler’s turned her to goo.

She pulls in a breath through her nose, eyes closed. Sucks on Nancy’s bottom lip, soft and wet, and tilts her head or lets Nancy tilt hers and shifts herself accordingly - slow, is what she screams at herself. Careful.

Quietly, privately, she considers the possibility that just because she hasn’t done much of this, doesn’t mean she can’t be good at it.

She learns fast, after all.

Nancy pulls back just enough to get some real air in. One of her hands has found its way into Robin’s hair. Plays with it in a way that makes her head fuzzy.

And Robin’s hands – they’ve landed on Nancy’s waist. Stiff-armed at first until: screw it. Robin holds her close with a firm grip, lost in the feeling of flesh under fabric. Of skin and muscle and bone and cotton.

Nancy Wheeler has a lovely waist.

She has a lovely waist and she smells like hairspray and she tastes like spearmint and black coffee on this fine spring morning.

“Hey,” she says, quiet.

Robin realises she better open her eyes.

“Hey back,” she says, winded by how pink Nancy’s cheeks are.

“Sorry,” she says, pinker and pinker without breaking the eye contact. Can that be more intense than having their lips locked together? Because it is, Robin realises. “I just – I’ve been thinking about – Sorry.”

“I appreciate and accept your apology,” Robin says, very serious and very not loosening her grip on this girl’s body for a second. “I was feeling most inconvenienced, but I’m willing to let bygones be bygones.”

Nancy rolls her eyes, her arms slung around Robin’s shoulders.

Man, could she get used to this. Holding and… and being held.

“For someone who calls people dinguses a lot,” Nancy says, “you sure know how to be one.”

“Willyougoonadatewithme?”

“What?”

Robin swallows.

Push through, Buckley.

One word at a time.

“Date. Dating. You and – and me.”

More than that.

Dingus.

“I mean, um. Will you… go out… on a date. With me?”

“You… want to date me?”

“Is that – If that’s what you want?”

Nancy softens. Wraps her fingers in Robin’s collar to pull her face down again. Doesn’t kiss her, but it’s a near thing.

She pushes at Robin’s bangs with a fingertip, all affection and patience.

And says, “Haven’t we already been doing that?”