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treading water

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Two weeks after the battle with Vecna things around Hawkins started to return to normal. Or as normal as it ever got in Hawkins.

School resumed even though over half of the student population was gone. Most of them had fled with their parents but Nancy knew that a few of the empty seats were because people had been lost during the 'earthquake'. She avoided looking at the desks the best she could and for the most part, she was able to avoid the guilt, the feeling like she should have done more to stop Venca/Henry/001. She still hadn't decided on what to call him, it usually depended on how mad she was.

If there was anything good to be found in the aftermath of their final battle it was that they were able to clear Eddie's name. It was hard to convince the police at first that golden boy Jason Carver was behind the murders but he wasn't exactly around to defend himself. Add in the fact that Lucas, Erica, and Jason's own cronies attested that he had been in the Creel house the night when Max was hurt while Dustin dragged a barely alive Eddie through the Upside Down clear across town, the story held a lot more weight to it. No one felt particularly good about framing an innocent person for multiple murders but well that's what Jason himself had done and if it wasn't for him barging in that night Max might be in better shape.


More than the deep caverns gouged into the roads, the entire missing neighborhoods, the clusters of empty seats at school, Max was what reminded Nancy that while they had won the war against Vecna it had come with a heavy cost.

She hadn't shown any signs of waking and while Robin tried to get them to look on the bright side ("Bright sliver, it's not really a side, way too small to be a side, but it is like a teeny tiny bright speck!" as she actually called it) Max's bones were healing right on target so the longer it took her to wake up the less time she would be conscious for the pain and discomfort of over half the bones in her body resetting.

Nancy drove the kids to the hospital every day after school. She takes Max's mom casseroles and helped her clean up the trailer. She helped Eddie study so he can graduate with her in a few months. She volunteered with Steve at the relief shelter and tried to put the town back together as she clung to her school newspaper and tried to make something out of it with her three remaining staff members. Jonathan and her amicably agreed that their relationship had run its course and sure she was a little sad about it but mostly all she felt was relief. She helped the Byers, El, and Hopper rebuild the cabin and helped brainstorm ways to announce to the town Hopper was suddenly back from the dead. ("That makes two miraculous resuscitations, Hopper and Will. Do you think people are going to start thinking one of them is like Jesus or something and can perform miracles? Maybe they should try! Have they been to see Max yet?" Robin helpfully pointed out during one brainstorm) Nancy had a lot to keep herself busy and she threw herself into it all with a renewed vigor, even for her. She realized as the days passed that she would do anything, anything if it meant she didn't have to be alone with Robin.

It wasn't that she didn't like Robin, it was the opposite really. Nancy was beginning to think that she liked Robin in a very familiar yet entirely new way. She looked at Robin and felt her chest warm the way it used to when she looked at Jonathan, the way she used to look at Steve. Except Robin was well, a girl and Nancy had never felt this way about a girl before. She knew that people were gay, she was not completely sheltered. Nancy had just never considered she might be gay herself.

She started a list in her journal about every woman she found attractive and a separate column for every man she found attractive. The lists were nearly even which confused her even more because she thought that one would be longer than the other and that would prove to her what she is, gay or straight. It wasn't until late one night, nearly a whole month after that fateful spring break, that she realized she might not have to choose.

Sleep was evading her as usual and Nancy grew tired of tossing and turning. She flipped on the TV in her bedroom (the one Mike was still annoyed that she'd been allowed to have) and turned the volume down low enough that no one else would hear it as she flipped through the channels trying to find anything playing. She just wanted noise, something to distract her from her own thoughts. She'd watch public broadcasts at this point. She was nearing the end of the channels when she finally landed on something, a movie that seemed to be half over. Nancy didn't care that she'd already missed most of the plot, she settled back against her pillows and let the idea of the fictional people take over her thoughts.

The more she watched the movie the more confused Nancy became. The main female character was trying to choose between two love interests which was a pretty common narrative device except for one glaringly obvious thing. One of the love interests was male. The other was a woman.

Nancy watched the rest of the film with her full attention and while the ending didn't show who the woman eventually chose the fact that she could choose between a man and a woman was an entirely new concept to Nancy. Maybe she had been looking at this all wrong. Maybe this crush she was forming on Robin (she was fully ready to admit it was a crush now because she was done lying to herself or pretending it was anything other than it was) wasn't an indicator that she was gay and all the feelings she'd had for men in the past were false or lies. Maybe she was something else, something she hadn't even heard of yet.

In true Nancy Wheeler fashion, she spent the next three days holed up in the library researching everything she could on sexuality and trying to hide the book spines from the other patrons. She found what she was looking for in the second book, one word that the moment she read the definition clicked and she felt something settle inside her. Bisexuality.

Knowing what she was, and that there were other people like her made Nancy feel like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders and she stopped trying so hard to never end up alone with Robin. In fact, now she found herself looking for excuses to get Robin alone. She didn't know if Robin liked her or even if she liked girls at all but there had to be a reason that her and Steve had never dated. Sure they could just be Platonic but the way they were both so adamant about not dating Nancy was pretty sure there was more to it than that.

With the school year starting to come to an end Nancy didn't have many options to get Robin alone so she invented some and formed a study group so they could be ready for finals. Even though finals were sure to be a joke this year, a few of the teachers left in the mass exodus, and those that stayed had no desire to make things hard for anyone.

"You could only write your name on the test paper and you'd pass," Robin told Eddie as they met for their first study group in the basement. Steve peered over Eddie's shoulder at his notebook, the writing looking illegible from where Nancy sat on his other side. The four of them had squished onto the couch, Jonathan on the chair to their side, and the younger kids scattered around the room. Steve and El didn't need to be there, El was still laying low until they knew for sure she was safe and no one was coming after her again and Steve had already graduated but neither of them wanted to be left out. Not that there was anything incredibly fun about studying like this. Mainly they were all trying to avoid bringing up the glaring absence in the room and mentioning Max.

"Yeah, you should have been framed for murder and nearly left for dead before!" Dustin agreed with Robin's statement grinning at Eddie. "Then you would have graduated on time."

Eddie flipped Dustin off and turned back to his notes. Nancy noticed that his shifting had brought him closer to Steve and she raised her eyebrows when Steve didn't pull away. She didn't want to draw any attention to them so she quickly looked back down at her own notes. Robin was sitting next to her, tapping her fingers on her thigh as she flipped through a Spanish textbook. The couch was small and not meant for four people, Nancy's thigh was pressed against Robin's. Even clothed Nancy felt like her leg was tingling from the touch. She wanted to reach out and touch her, to see if she would pull away or stay like Steve had, but her courage seemed to wan. Funny she could face down murderous demons without flinching but trying to tell a girl she liked her was something she couldn't handle.

Screw that.

Nancy's brow wrinkled as she realized how ridiculous that was. There were worse things to be afraid of than this. What was she even so scared of? That Robin would reject her? Or that once people realized she was bi she wouldn't live up to their expectations of her as perfect, proper, Nancy Wheeler. She'd never liked the pressure of that image anyway so why did she keep clinging to it?

Holding her breath Nancy reached her hand over to lightly rest on Robin's, her dancing fingers stilling at the contact. Nancy waited for Robin to say something or to pull away but she didn't move. Nancy risked looking over at her and found Robin staring at her with wide eyes, her gaze flickering down to their hands even though they couldn't be seen due to the angle of Nancy's book. Keeping her eyes on Robin, Nancy lightly brushed her thumb over her knuckles before pulling her hand away. Her fingers tingled from the contact and Nancy tugged on the collar of her shirt, the room suddenly feeling stifling. If anyone else noticed how warm it had gotten, no one mentioned it.




Finals were even easier than expected and Nancy found herself a little annoyed she'd spent all that time studying for nothing. Well, not for nothing. Robin sat beside her every study session and every time one of them found some excuse to touch each other. Just little touches; a brush of the arm to knock off some lint, a straightening of Robin's perpetually off-kilter collar. On one memorable occasion, Robin brushed an eyelash off Nancy's cheek and she felt like she might burst into flames at any moment. Nancy had turned away from her hurriedly before Robin could notice how severe her blush was and she made eye contact with Steve who was looking between her and Robin with a confused look on his face. It reminded Nancy of the way the neighbor's golden retriever looked when his owners pretended to throw his ball. Nancy silently pleaded with him not to call attention to it and a look of understanding flashed across Steve's face before he smiled at her and went back to quizzing Eddie. Nancy slumped against the back of the couch in relief and from this new angle, she could see Eddie's fingers intertwined with Steve's. She tried her best to hide her laugh of delight into a cough but judging from the looks she got she didn't think she was very successful.

"And that's enough studying for you Wheeler," Eddie announced pulling the book from her hands and tossing it carelessly over his shoulder where it hit the wall with a loud thump.

Nancy protested but before she could get up and retrieve her book Robin slid her civics book halfway into Nancy's lap. "Here," she smiled and Nancy's vision swum at the sight, "We can share. The shared economy in action."

"In case there's a practical component to the exam?" Nancy asked, silently congratulating herself for being able to form any words with Robin smiling at her like that.

"With Mrs. Ferguseon you never know."




Graduation blurred by in a mess of caps, camera flashes, and tears. Three things stuck out to Nancy, her parents giving her a beautiful gold necklace that once belonged to her grandmother as a present, catching Eddie and Steve kissing beneath the bleachers, and Robin spotting the necklace nestled against the hollow of Nancy's throat. Her eyes narrowed as she took a step closer to Nancy, reaching up to lift the small charm from Nancy's skin.

"Pretty." she smiled, her gaze flickering up to Nancy's. "Is it new?"

Nancy nodded, wondering if Robin could feel how hard her pulse was pounding where her fingers just barely rested against her skin. "Graduation gift."

Robin whistled appreciatively. "My parents got me this." She pulled her hand away from Nancy's neck, the charm thumping back against her throat, as Robin flashed her hand at her and pointed out the small silver ring on her middle finger. Nancy didn't know much about sheet music but she recognized the shape of the ring as one of the symbols.

"What is it?" Nancy asked, reaching out to grab Robin's hand and pull it closer to her.

Robin didn't say anything but Nancy heard her gulp. Nancy looked up at her in concern only to find a blush brightening Robin's cheeks.

"Sorry I missed that. What'd you say?" Robin glanced from Nancy's face to their conjoined hands and her eyes brightened in realization "Oh the ring! My ring! The ring I was just talking about yeah. Um yeah, that's a treble clef. It's in music. In sheet music I mean. For reading music." Robin rambled, her words gaining speed with each word and showing no sign of stopping. Nancy smiled as she listened but Robin had a look of fear on her face like she was afraid she wouldn't be able to stop talking. Even though she didn't want to, Nancy squeezed her hand and let her go.

"It's beautiful," Nancy told her softly, hoping that Robin could hear what she was really trying to say. She was beautiful.




She was spending the summer working at the Hawkins Post again. A real job this time, not just the lunch-grabbing intern. Her mom had been wary about Nancy working there again after it ended so badly last year but as Nancy pointed out the majority of the previous staff was no longer there. She left the reasons they were no longer there (Mind Flayer flesh monster, Vecna's earthquake, and the subsequent fleeing) unsaid but her mom still didn't look any happier about it.

The best part about working for the post (other than actually getting to write her own column now, sure it was only five inches in the middle of the paper but it was hers) was that her way home went right by the video store. Nancy had never made much time for watching movies, she watched what was popular and that was about it, but now she found herself stopping at the video store a few times a week. She only ever came by on Robin's shifts hoping the other girl would take the hint and make it easier for Nancy to make a move but so far she hadn't commented on it.

The hardest part about liking a girl, now that she had come to terms with her own sexuality, was making the first move. Nancy had never made the first move before. With Steve, he had pursued her and with Jonathan, they had met in the middle. Nancy had spent the last week since graduation gathering her courage and she was ready to ask Robin out. The problem was she didn't have the faintest idea how she was supposed to do that.

"You're going to have to just ask her out," Steve whispered in her ear one day as Nancy pretended to pursue the small international film section. Nancy jumped and shushed him as she scanned the store. The only other customers were at the counter with Robin who was recommending them other films based on their current selections. Nancy couldn't help but smile at the excited look on Robin's face and the way she flung out her arms wildly to emphasize her points much to the dismayed looks of the customers.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Nancy evaded although the smile on her face made her lie moot.

Steve leveled her with a look before sighing, "Look I love that girl but she's clueless. Like capital C Clueless. You're gonna have to just tell her you like her or she'll think she's making it up in her head."

Clearly done departing his wisdom Steve headed into the backroom to do whatever they did back there. Nancy suspected they rewinded tapes and avoided customers. She knew that Steve was right and more than that, she didn't want Robin to think that she was reading their interactions wrong. Nancy knew from experience how much that sucked, she still felt like that half the time. She'd noticed Steve hadn't actually told her that Robin liked her back but surely he wouldn't have offered her that advice if she was just wasting her time?

The bell above the door jangled as the frazzled looking customers left. Robin looked over at Nancy with a smile and Nancy drew a deep breath and squared her shoulders back. She had faced so much worse than the fear of rejection. She'd shot Vecna without flinching, she'd battle demons from the Upside Down more than once. She was Nancy Wheeler and she could do anything, including asking the girl she liked to go see a movie with her.

She could hear her heartbeat in her ears as she approached the desk, Robin's smile widening as Nancy came closer. Nancy liked to think it was because she knew what Nancy was about to ask her but she knew it could be for any number of reasons.

"Hey," the word felt like chalk in her mouth and Nancy wished she had water. She tried to discreetly clear her throat as Robin rested her elbows on the counter, leaning closer to her.


Nancy drew a shaky breath and remembered the weight of the shotgun in her hands, the kickback rough against her shoulder as Vecna approached. This was not scarier than that, she reminded herself forcibly.

"Do you have plans Friday?" Nancy asked before remembering Robin usually worked weekends. "Or it doesn't have to be Friday. Just are you free any day next week?"

Oh God this was already not going the way she wanted it to. Nancy was babbling, she almost never babbled.

Robin's eyes widened and Nancy watched her throat move as she swallowed. "Um yeah, I'm free. What day? You know what it doesn't matter, I can be free. Just say the day and I can be free."

They were both babbling now but Nancy found she didn't mind as much. Robin was saying yes, or at least Nancy thought she was saying yes. Although she realized now that she hadn't actually said why she was wondering if Robin was free.

"Great," Nancy began, cutting Robin off midtirade. She nodded, biting her lip likely to stop herself from continuing on. Nancy's eyes immediately went to her mouth, the way her teeth dug into her lower lip. Nancy wanted nothing more at that moment than to close the small distance between them and take that lip between her own teeth.

Shaking her head to herself Nancy forced her eyes back to Robin's and reminded herself of what Steve had said. She had to be obvious.

"I was thinking we could go on-" the words ' a date' were just beginning to form on her tongue when the door was thrown open violently behind them, the bell clanging loudly.

Nancy whirled around in surprise to see Dustin leaning over with his hands on his knees and panting. She felt equal amounts of concern and annoyance at his interruption. Could he not tell that Robin and her were in the middle of a very important conversation? Did the kid plan on how to interrupt romantic moments or did he just have terrible timing?

Steve came out of the back room drawn by the noise. "Dude what the hell?!" he cried, gesturing to the door still swinging on its hinges and knocking the bell with every move. "You nearly broke the door."

"You would have had to pay for that," Robin chimed in.

Dustin waved both of their words away, straightening up with his hands on his hips. "Forget the damn door." he panted looking at each of them with a wild grin on his face. At the sight of his grin, all of Nancy's annoyances with him faded away. She knew with a bolt of clarity what he was going to say before the words had even left his lips. She felt Robin grab her shoulder, her nails biting into her skin and Nancy reached up to squeeze her fingers tightly, Steve grabbing her free hand so they were all conjoined as Dustin held up his hands and crowed, "Max is awake!"




Max had to spend another few days in the hospital under observation to make sure there were no lasting effects from her coma but the doctors all seemed incredibly optimistic. Nancy was pretty sure if one more medical personnel reminded Max of her miraculous recovery she was going to use one of her mended limbs and hit them with it. Her casts were all gone but her movements were stiff and jerky. She would have to go to physical therapy for a while and Nancy, Steve, and Jonathan had already come up with a schedule of who would take her to her appointments so her mom wouldn't have to take any time off work. Hospital bills weren't cheap and every penny counted.

In the shock and joy of Max's awakening, Nancy hadn't yet found a chance to get Robin alone and continue their conversation. It was funny how she had spent so long avoiding being alone with her and now she couldn't get her alone if she tried. And she did try, all the time, but to no avail.

Much to her dad's chagrin and grumbling they threw Max a 'Welcome back to the world of the living!' (Eddie named it) party at the house. They had to do it on the first floor instead of down in the basement because Max's healing limbs weren't up to tackling the stairs yet. Nancy didn't think she would be kept down for long, she'd already brought up her skateboard twice that day alone.

"They're handling it better than expected," Robin said scooting up next to Nancy in the kitchen where she was stabbing cubes of cheese with toothpicks. She didn't know why she was bothering with the toothpicks, everyone would just grab them with their hands anyway. Nancy startled at Robin's voice, she hadn't heard her approach which was surprising both because Nancy usually had very good senses and she almost always knew where Robin was.

Nancy darted her attention to where the parents stood talking with Joyce and Hopper, miraculously back from the dead. She still wasn't entirely sure what story he had fed the general public. Whatever it was, no one questioned it too much because it turned out that when someone you cared about came back from the dead the last thing people wanted to do was question how and why.

"I did anticipate more screaming," Nancy agreed, abandoning the cheese to turn and look at Robin.

"Well Ms. Henderson did faint, that should count for something." Robin reminded her, reaching around her to grab a cheese cube. Her arm brushed Nancy's waist as she reached around her and Nancy shivered as Robin pulled out the toothpick and popped the cheese into her mouth.

"Good thing Mr. Sinclair caught her," Nancy tried to focus on the conversation and not get lost staring at Robin's mouth. Easier said than done.

It hit Nancy then that they were alone, finally. Reaching behind her Nancy gripped the counter and cast a quick look out of the kitchen to make sure no one was paying any attention to them before she turned back to Robin.

"So the other day, we were talking about maybe doing something..." Nancy began trying to think of what to say next. If she just asked her to go to a movie would she think Nancy meant as friends? She had just decided to just out and call it a date when Max came into the kitchen, walking as fast as she was able to on her cane.

She looked at Nancy with emploring eyes and Nancy sighed, not even able to muster up a speck of annoyance at the interruption she was so happy to see her back up and walking.

"I have to get out of here," Max leaned against the counter and looked between Nancy and Robin with begging eyes, "I can't listen to how miraculous everything is for one more minute."

Nancy smiled at her in understanding before flickering her eyes back to Robin who grinned in agreement. "I'll get the others."

Nancy sighed at the loss of yet another moment before gently squeezing Max's arm, "I'll get the keys."




The parents weren't particularly thrilled at the idea of the kids going out after dark (everyone was much more protective now than they'd ever been before) but when Joyce merely told them to be careful and have a good time everyone else stopped arguing. If Joyce was willing to let her kids go out of her sight then the danger must not be as bad as the adults were thinking.

They piled into two cars and Nancy was disappointed when Robin ended up in Steve's car but she tried not to let it show. After running through the very limited options of where to go they ended up driving out to the quarry. Like every place in Hawkins it held bad memories, it was where Will's fake body was found after all. But compared to many of the places in Hawkins the reminder of a fake body was a lot easier to face than that of the very real bodies they'd seen over the years.

"You sure you want to do this?" Lucas asked Max for what had to be the fifth time judging by the look she gave him.

"Swimming is on my approved list of physical activity," she snapped at him, wobbling as she toed off her shoes. Lucas quickly reached out to steady her, El's hands hovering midair on Max's other side ready to catch her with her hands or her powers at the first sign she was needed. Max sighed and reached out to grab both of their arms. "Just maybe don't go too far."

Nancy smiled at the sight and turned at the sound of splashing. Will and Mike were already in the water, Will handling being back at the sight of his supposed death better than Nancy would have expected. Steve and Eddie were undressing to their boxers and throwing their clothes at each other as they did so. Nancy rolled her eyes and wondered how no one else had seemed to notice the two of them were a couple yet. Erica was ignoring all of them and picking out rocks near the shoreline, she'd said she only agreed to come because she didn't want to stay with the parents but everyone knew that was just a front so she didn't let on how much she actually enjoyed hanging out with them. Jonathan and Dustin were sitting on the hood of Steve's car debating the ending of some movie Nancy hadn't watched yet. And Robin-

Nancy turned to face her and felt her throat go dry at the sight of her pulling her shirt off. Quickly Nancy looked away not wanting to be caught staring. She could barely hear the sound of Robin removing her shoes and jeans over the sound of her pulse racing. Taking a deep breath Nancy kicked off her sandals, only looking to the water when she heard Robin squeal about how cold it was.

"Don't be a baby!" Eddie cried grabbing Robin and pulling her underwater despite her shouting. She came up spluttering before grabbing Eddie by the shoulders and dunking him. He popped up splashing before pulling Steve to him and trying to sic him on Robin.

"Get in here Nance!" Robin cried dodging Steve's halfhearted splashing and looking back to the shoreline. The moon was full and bright enough to just make out where everyone was. "I'm outnumbered!"

Nancy didn't need to be told twice but she still waited until Robin was distracted by the boys before she slipped out of her dress, folding it and resting it on a rock so it wouldn't get too dirty. The water was freezing and Nancy gasped as she curled her toes into the rocky bottom. She didn't let herself linger for long, knowing it was better to just get the cold over with. She took a few big steps until the water was deep enough that she could dive into it. Careful not to make any splashes and give away her position Nancy swam in the direction the boys had been in, coming up behind them and splashing them with water.

Eddie cursed as Robin splashed them from the front and for several minutes Nancy could barely keep herself afloat from all the splashing and laughing so hard. Eventually, they wore themselves out and Steve and Eddie drifted off closer to the shore. Nancy stayed where she was, treading water as Robin smiled at her and swam closer.

"You know this time last year I never would have thought I would see you like this," Robin said, tilting her head to the side as she looked at Nancy.

Nancy flushed from the appraising look in her eyes but she couldn't help her curiosity. "Like what?"

Robin shrugged, the movement sending her collarbones above the water. Nancy's eyes traced them in the moonlight before they slipped out of sight again. "Happy, free." her smile widened as she flicked water at Nancy, "Messy."

Nancy laughed knowing she must look a fright. She could feel her curls stuck to her cheek and what little makeup she'd had on had surely either washed off or smeared by now. Yet with Robin looking at her like that Nancy felt for once that it didn't matter what she looked like. She still felt beautiful.

"I just never thought I'd see Nancy Wheeler look less than perfect," Robin said, her voice dropping to a whisper as Nancy swam closer.

Nancy's brow furrowed at the words although she didn't think Robin meant anything bad by them. She was just so tired of everyone holding her to this ideal image, this idea of a perfect girl. She wasn't perfect, she wasn't flawless. She was real and messy and imperfect and she was finally starting to be okay with that. Now she just had to figure out how to make everyone else feel the same way.

"I'm tired of everyone saying I'm perfect," Nancy admitted, finally saying the words aloud. Being perfect was hard, unattainable. "I'm tired of trying to be perfect."

"What would you do if you weren't striving for perfection?" Robin asked, the corners of her mouth tilting up at the question.

God so many things. She would go to a less expensive college for one, maybe wear more comfortable shoes. Have a hobby other than studying and working. All of these were things she would do but Nancy only thought of them for a moment. What would she do if she wasn't trying to live up to other people's idea of her? Images others had come up with of who she should be, who she should be with? Nancy knew exactly where she would start.

"This," Nancy whispered, closing the small distance between them to cup Robin's face. Her eyes widened as Nancy swam closer still, their legs bumping as they treaded water. Her eyes darted to Robin's lips, silently asking her for permission, hoping she hadn't been reading all of their interactions wrong.

Robin licked her lips nervously before nodding and before she could spend another moment overthinking it Nancy leaned forward and kissed her.

Her lips were soft and warm and Nancy couldn't believe it had taken her so long to work up the courage to do this. She wrapped her free arm around Robin's waist, startling at the feel of her bare skin. She'd forgotten for a moment where they were, what little they were wearing. Robin pulled away at her flinch, her eyes going wide.

"I'm sorry," Robin began the moment her lips were no longer touching Nancy's, "I shouldn't have-"

"I kissed you." Nancy reminded her softly, not letting her pull away and misread what was happening. "I kissed you because I like you and I've wanted to kiss you for a long time."

Robin stared at her for a long moment, long enough that Nancy started to wonder if maybe she'd misread everything. She felt a sinking in her stomach and it was a wonder she didn't sink down to the rocky bottom of the quarry. She thought that would be preferable at the moment. Nancy dropped her arm from Robin's waist and went to pull away but before she could Robin caught her around the waist and was kissing her again.

Nancy's heart soared and she might have been striving to stay away from being thought of as perfect but the kiss felt like perfection to her. Even when they both forgot to keep moving their feet and they slipped beneath the water, when they came up coughing and giggling, when Robin's hair got in Nancy's mouth as they laughed, it all felt perfect to her.

Steve called them all out of the water eventually, his inner lifeguard kicking in. Robin and her swam back to shore holding hands even though it made them move at a slow and awkward dog paddle. Neither of them wanted to let go. They stopped in the shallows, their entwined hands hidden in the water, and watched as everyone else started to shake off water and pull on their clothes. They hadn't thought to bring towels and everyone's clothes clung to their skin as they laughed and joked.

"We don't have to tell them," Robin whispered, starting to pull her hand away. "I understand if you don't want to."

Nancy turned to look at her in surprise, clinging tightly to her fingers. "I'm not keeping you a secret." she swallowed as she thought of all the ways Robin and her could be hurt if people knew about them. "We might not be able to tell everyone, or hold hands on the street yet, but here-" Nancy looked out at their family and friends, these people they had fought and bled for. "We can be ourselves here."

Robin squeezed her hand under the water and followed Nancy to the shore, only letting go when they reached their piles of clothes. Nancy felt like everyone was staring at her and she couldn't get her dress on fast enough, turning to Robin the moment she was dressed and reaching for her hand again. Robin grinned as she threaded their fingers together.

"Does this mean you two-" Eddie began pointing between the two of them with a wiggle of his eyebrows as Steve beamed at them.

Nancy squeezed Robin's hand and looked at her, her courage solidifying at the feel of Robin's hand in hers. "Yeah." She turned back to survey the rest of the group who were looking at them with varying stages of shock. "Is that a problem for anyone?"

Everyone quickly shook their heads and Nancy could feel the tension leaving both her and Robin as everyone went back to doing their own thing, accepting this change in her and Robin's relationship with an ease that surprised Nancy.

"That went so much better than I expected." Robin breathed beside her, leaning against her. "I thought they'd have questions or be weird about it. Do you think they realize we're dating? Not that one kiss means we're dating. Unless you want it to mean that. I want it to mean that but if you don't that's okay."

Robin continued on, her words growing faster as Nancy dropped her hand and turned to face her. "I want to date you." Nancy interrupted her to reassure her, cupping her face gently in her hands. "And if you're worried they don't understand we're dating let's clear it up for them."

Nancy pressed slightly up onto her toes to close the small height difference between them as she kissed Robin, Robin's arms sliding around her waist at the first brush of Nancy's lips. If anyone looked surprised by the kiss Nancy didn't notice. She was too distracted by the girl in her arms.