Nancy Wheeler hasn’t been to many sleepovers.
At least, not any typical ones. The kind that consist of painting your nails and listening to loud music, rather than passing out in the basement.
But according to everything she does know about regular sleepovers, they’re supposed to be fun. Her brother has one practically every other week- with movies and snacks and board games- and he has always seemed to like them. The things that Mike considers fun, however, are very often the same things that Nancy sticks up her nose at, so his testimony is no sure guarantee of anything.
But as it turns out, she does enjoy this.
It’s the first winter break since she left for college. It’s nice to be back home, even if the advent in Hawkins isn’t quite what it used to be. The aftermath of everything that has happened is still tangible, and only furthers the inherent feelings of nostalgia and melancholy that always follow this time of the year. Still: there are nice moments, she presumes, even during the worst of times.
Moments like this one.
It’s just her and Robin, sitting on the bed of Nancy’s slightly too empty bedroom. Robin does her best to fill up the empty space, and Nancy is glad for it. She discovered a box of Nancy’s old Tiger Beat magazines almost instantly upon entering, and they now find themselves entirely surrounded. Nancy’s a little less glad about that - but Robin is clearly having the time of her life, acting like she has stumbled upon a brand new world.
The nail polish on Nancy’s hands is still drying, so Robin takes up the job of circling her answers to the quiz questions. She decided against repainting her own, already black, nails- claiming that holding her hands still for so long would be the true horror. Nancy almost joked about how she could hold her hands to make it easier, but the thought made her blush, so she didn’t.
“Okay,” Robin says. “Your perfect makeout song is…You Drive Me Wild! Huh," she grins, wiggling her eyebrows. “Who woulda thunk?”
Nancy smiles too, but also wrinkles up her nose.
“I don’t know about that.”
Robin clicks her tongue.
“No take-backs,” she counters. “Didn’t they teach you that at journalist school?”
Nancy pictures one of her professors teaching a lesson on Tiger Beat quizzes, and can’t help but stifle a laugh. “I must have missed that class,” she admits, nodding her chin towards the magazine. “You do it now.”
They’re both lying on their bellies, so Nancy can easily see all of the answers Robin circles for herself. She tries to be less interested about it, observing as Robin describes her ideal partner as someone curious and passionate and a brunette. This effort proves to be unsuccessful, so she eventually just shifts to her side instead.
That turns out to be an even worse idea. Now that she can’t see the magazine, all there is to look at is Robin.
The nights are cold, so both of them are wearing their warmest pyjamas. Robin’s hair is pulled away from her face with the combined effort of her own ponytail scrunchie, and Nancy’s old purple headband. This should look silly- and kind of does, actually. But it's also…quite cute, in a way. Her face is free of make-up, and scrunched up in concentration. It’s nice to see her again. It’s even nicer to see her so relaxed.
More than anything, really, it’s just nice to be relaxed with her.
Nancy from a year ago would have scoffed if she could hear herself now, but she truly thinks that Robin is exactly the kind of friend she needs. Or, more importantly, the kind that she wants, but has denied herself for so long. The two of them don’t always see eye to eye- but Robin is always ready to hear her out before ruling out any of her opinions. She appreciates that.
And yet, there’s still something that bugs her.
It's like no matter how much time she spends with Robin, and no matter how many phone calls they have, there still remains… something that needs to be said. Needs to be done.
She just hasn’t figured out what that is, yet.
Nancy is new to not being able to figure things out. She doesn’t think she’d consider herself a fan.
The snow storm outside rattles the windows, but the house is comfortable and warmly lit. It's late, and Robin’s pen moving across the paper is the only sound to be heard. Nancy doesn’t even realise that her eyes have begun to fall shut until Robin gently nudges her shoulder with the pen's end.
“Nance?” she whispers. “Wanna call it a night?”
Nancy groans, the thought of having to get up momentarily unimaginable. Still, after a second, she nods.
Robin grins at this, a strange expression crossing her face, and now uses the end of her pen to brush away a curl of hair that had fallen onto Nancy’s face. Before Nancy can ponder on that for too long, she leaps off the bed.
They do a quick job of putting the magazines back into the box, settling under the comforter, and turning off the lights. Then a minute passes. Three. Five. Ten, and Nancy still isn’t falling back asleep. And not because she isn’t tired.
Here's the thing. As nice as it is to have Robin around, she can sometimes be…
In all the ten minutes since they turned off the lights, she hasn't stopped tossing and turning. Nancy can tell that she's trying to be discreet about it, but that does little to help the situation.
She’s probably still nervous, and Nancy gets that. Nervousness seems like a natural state of being for someone who has been facing interdimensional monsters only some months ago. But Nancy is currently far too tired and sleepy to rationalise and sympathise. All she knows is that she’s half-asleep already, and that it’s very possible that she’ll never get to actually fall asleep if Robin keeps shifting every two seconds.
So she doesn’t think much about it, really, when she wraps her arms around Robin’s waist- any earlier reservations she had about holding her hand seemingly gone. It works almost instantly, and perhaps a little too well. Now that her chest is to Robin’s back, she can notice the way the other girl doesn’t even seem to be breathing.
“Uh,” Robin says- and does indeed sound a little breathless. “Nance?”
“It’s so you’ll stop moving,” Nancy explains, with all the calm logic and authority of someone just barely awake. She secures her hold, and rests her cheek against Robin’s shoulder. “Go to sleep.”
Come morning, she isn’t nearly so calm and collected about it.
Robin is still sleeping when she wakes up- but Nancy’s death grip must have loosened throughout the night, because they’re now facing each other. Gentle winter daylight comes through the window, making Robin’s hair appear lighter, and the freckles on her cheeks stand out. Nancy doesn’t linger on the sight for too long. She has things to do, anyways. Gifts to buy, cards to write, and people to visit.
Which is why it’s so infuriating that for the rest of the day, she can’t get Robin’s sleeping face out of her head.
Sometimes, Robin just doesn’t make any sense at all.
Which doesn’t mean that Robin is actually nonsensical, or that she isn’t smart. It’s the opposite, if anything.
In fact, there’s something about Robin that makes her stand out even among all the other smart people Nancy has met. She’s so interested in the world around her (and the world beyond just the one they know), in a way that Nancy can only admire. But she’s also the kind of person who thought that the English version of Inferno was missing something, and decided to read it in Italian.
And the only problem with that, really, is that Nancy doesn’t speak Italian.
It’s just after Christmas, and the days are terribly, wonderfully boring. The town is white and lit up with warm fairy lights- and it’s heartwarming to see that people have still come together to decorate it. By the time Nancy arrives to the diner- late as a consequence of Mike hogging the bathroom- Steve and Robin have already secured themselves a table. They’re leaning over their respective mugs of hot chocolate, locked in a conversation. For some reason, there is a blush on Robin’s face.
Nancy lingers at the coat hanger, taking her time to untangle her scarf.
“So just talk to her, then.”
“That’s the total opposite of my problem, Dingus” Robin says, “Whenever I have a crush, it's like I can’t do anything but talk. ”
Finally freed from the woollen fabric, Nancy raises an eyebrow. “What do you mean?” she teases, sliding into the empty seat next to Steve. “You always talk a lot.”
Robin’s head snaps up as she registers her presence, and she meets Steve's eyes for a meaningful look. Nancy would never admit it to either of them, but she kind of hates it when they do that.
It was almost easier before, when she could still blame her jealousy on some ancient remains of her feelings for Steve. But now that she knows that Robin and Steve are definitely just friends– and could never be anything more than that– the jealousy makes her weirdly confused; as though she's not even entirely sure what and who she's jealous of. She busies herself with stealing one of Steve's fries, because thinking about it too much makes her feel strange– and Nancy Wheeler has had just about enough strangeness for a lifetime.
The look still lasts, and for a second, Nancy worries that she took the teasing too far.
She didn’t mean anything bad by it, honestly. Most of the time, she likes it when Robin rambles. Finds it endearing, even. She’s about to say as much, but then Robin finally breaks her stare– and she grins instead. It’s the sort of sheepish smile that makes her lips tilt just so, and reveals a dimple on her cheek.
“Yeah, well,” she says, shrugging. “Don't think about it too hard.”
That is not an instruction that Nancy is able to follow.
It’s also a terribly infuriating thing to say. She furrows her eyebrows, squinting at her friend. And then, she notices something. Whatever words she had meant to speak only moments ago slip away, and are quickly replaced with a tone of soft wonder.
“Is that… my cardigan?”
She knows that it is, despite phrasing it like a question. The white one, that she had practically forced Robin to wear during their visit to Pennhurst.
“Oh,” Robin says, looking down at herself- as if to check. “I mean, yeah? I realised I still had it from last spring- it must have gotten mixed up while I was doing laundry- and I thought I’d give it back tonight. But then the heating was off and I got cold and- Well. You get it.”
Then, with even more urgency, she adds: “I can totally take it off, though. I'm like, super warm now. Toasty."
"Toasty," Steve repeats, and Robin kicks his leg under the table. Nancy pretends not to notice.
“No,” she manages, giving her a tight smile. “It’s fine. You can keep it.”
Robin raises an eyebrow, as though that smile hasn’t quite convinced her.
“Are you sure?”
And Nancy doesn’t know how to explain herself. How to say that if she looks weird right now, it’s only because she has just realised that she very much likes seeing Robin in her clothes. Even more so like this, when all the rest of the outfit clearly belongs to Robin. It makes that one piece stand out- an obvious part of Nancy settled over Robin’s shoulders.
But she can’t exactly say any of that, so she just nods instead, and tries to make her smile more genuine. “Yes, I’m sure. It suits you well. And I wouldn’t know where to put it now, anyways.”
Robin nods, but looks like there’s still something she wants to say. Nancy knows the feeling all too well.
Steve takes a loud sip from his drink.
He looks up, the chocolate staining his upper lip. “My bad,” he says. Robin snorts, rolling her eyes, and Nancy shoots him an unimpressed stare.
They change the topic after that, but Nancy still wishes she could understand what happened earlier. She wishes Robin would trust her as much as she trusts Steve (they’re close friends now too, she thought)- or at least enough to share these things with her. It’s Robin’s business, though. Nancy just doesn’t like being out of the loop, or being the last to know things. It’s not a big deal.
Still. That evening, once they say their goodbyes, Nancy heads to the library.
She borrows two language textbooks, a dictionary, and the Italian edition of Inferno.
Nancy doesn’t recall herself ever being the overly jealous type.
At least, not in her two past relationships. Had she been a subject of jealousy? Yes, probably. But it's strange to find herself on the flipside, for once.
Not that her friendship with Robin is in any way comparable to her past romantic relationships. But, well. It's just weird, is all. It makes her feel weird. Because sometimes Robin will make her laugh, and smile like it's the greatest thing she has ever accomplished- and then Nancy will think that maybe, there might really be something going on there. But then she finds out from Steve, of all people, that it's all surely just in her head; because Robin is apparently on a date with Vickie, and Nancy has been overanalysing every interaction they had this past week for nothing.
Which, fine. It's not like she cares that much, anyways.
It's just infuriating that Robin won't bring it up herself. They've been talking on the phone for a while, and she still hasn't mentioned it at all. Why would she tell Steve about it, but not Nancy? It's not like she'd have a problem with it. Or, fine, yes, maybe she does have a problem- but Robin doesn't know that. And it’s certainly not for any of the reasons she might suspect.
Nancy hopes she doesn’t suspect, at least.
Murray had called her hard to read, once, and she had thought that he was telling the truth. But when she’s around Robin, she sometimes feels far too transparent for her own good. She keeps acting like she’s fifteen again, all jealous and eager. And hopeful, which is maybe the stupidest part of it all. Robin likes girls, but that clearly doesn’t mean that she likes Nancy.
That day, Murray had also said that she’s afraid of people seeing her for who she truly is. She wonders if he knew just how right he had been about that.
She doesn’t want him to be right about it anymore.
"So,” she blurts out, before she has lost the courage. Robin pauses her story- something about a new movie that she can't wait to watch- and allows her to interrupt. “How was the date?”
The other line goes silent for a few absolutely nerve-wracking moments, and Nancy anxiously twirls the phone cord around her finger. Then she realises what she's doing (or, more importantly, how foolish she looks while doing it), and drops her hand immediately.
"The date?" Robin repeats.
"Yes," she confirms, "Steve said you went on a date the other day."
"Oh. I mean, I don't know? I'm not even sure if it was a date."
"How can you not know if it was a date?"
On the other line, Robin sighs. "I guess it's harder to tell, with girls,” she muses.
That, Nancy can understand. The two of them have been hanging out a lot recently, and many of their outings weren’t quite unlike dates, either. She shuts that thought process down urgently.
"Also, I don't know. I ran into Vickie at work, and she wanted to catch up, but it wasn't- I don't think it was like that. For me, at least. I mean- maybe once, but not in a very long time."
Nancy releases a breath. She’d feel stupid for being relieved, but there isn’t any room left for it.
"So… you won't be watching that movie with her, then?" she asks, trying to sound like she's only teasing.
And, more importantly, like the length of the therapeutic shower she'll take later doesn't depend entirely on this answer.
"Actually," Robin says. "I thought that maybe you'd want to watch it? With me?"
A huge smile spreads across Nancy's face. She absentmindedly realises that she has started to twirl the cord again, but doesn't make any moves to stop. She doesn't even care that her smile is big enough to be heard in her the shape of her words.
"I'd love that, Robin. Are you free tonight?"
When they finally hang up, she finds herself leaning against the wall for a while longer- still stupidly giddy. She covers her face with her palms, and feels the ways her cheeks have heated up. She doesn't even notice that someone is in the room with her, and nearly bumps her head against the shelf at the sudden sound of Mike's voice.
"Are you and Jonathan together again?"
Nancy quickly recovers from her surprise in order to frown at her brother. "Since when do you care about my love life?"
"I don't," Mike says, motioning behind her. "You're just hogging the phone."
She raises her eyebrow at him, crossing her arms over her chest.
"And what do you need the phone for? To talk to El?"
"No," he snaps. "We're broken up."
"Well, so are me and Jonathan."
If he had anything else to add, Nancy never finds out. The phone sounds, interrupting their argument, and Mike doesn't even let it ring twice before eagerly picking up.
"Mike speaking," he says- the annoyed expression from earlier immediately replaced by a smile. There's a blush spreading across his face, and Nancy feels endeared, but also ready to tease him about it until all of eternity. She wonders if she also looked like that, earlier. It's a sobering thought. Mike leans against the wall, the way she did just a minute ago, as though to confirm her fears.
"Nice to hear you too, Byers."
Of course, Nancy thinks.
It shouldn’t be so shocking, really. When was the last time she had been the only Wheeler sibling going through a very specific type of crisis?
She can’t help but grin a little- though she doesn’t know if she feels happy or sad. A little bit of both, maybe. They should talk, she decides. If she has been freaking out about this, she can only imagine how Mike is coping.
But for now, she’ll leave him to it.
After all, she has troubles of her own to worry about.
They decide to watch the movie at Nancy’s house, and Robin decides to walk.
It’s a bad idea, and that much is clear from the very start. It’s been snowing steadily for a few days now- but that afternoon, it really starts to fall. Robin shows up at the doorstep with her hat soaked through, and her hair entirely wet. Mike gets to the door before Nancy, and she watches as he greets her from the stairs.
“Hi Robin,” he says. “How’s the weather?”
Robin laughs. Nancy makes her way down before she can respond, and grips her hand to lead her upstairs.
She now sits propped up on the cabinet in Nancy’s room, while Nancy stands between her legs, drying her hair with a towel. Robin is perfectly capable of drying her own hair, of course- but Nancy barged on, and Robin had let her. The radio has been left on, and Robin hums along absentmindedly; until she suddenly smiles, as though remembering something.
“Hey,” she says, nudging Nancy’s hip with one of her knees. “It’s your make-out song! From the quiz?”
Nancy huffs a laugh, shaking her head slightly. “Right." Making use of every bit of boldness in her body, she adds: "Too bad there’s nobody to make out with.”
Robins hums again. For a while, Nancy thinks she won't say anything at all.
"Well, if you're down for it...”
Nancy’s head snaps up, and Robin’s eyes widen- as though she has only just realised what she said.
She opens her mouth to say something, but Nancy quickly places one of her shaky hands over her knee, and that sufficiently shut her up.
She’s about to apologise, that much is clear- but Nancy doesn’t want her to. Because if Robin backtracks now, Nancy might lose any nerve that she has worked so restlessly to acquire. She does want Robin to do a lot of other things, though. And honestly, maybe she should just reach out and do something about it. She smiles, tentatively and nervously, but feels more certain and unapologetic than ever.
“What if… what if I am?” she swallows. “Down for it, I mean.”
The distance between them seems intolerable. In a quick moment, Robin’s eyes fall to her lips.
It’s all the confirmation that Nancy needs.
She uses her hold on the towel around Robin’s neck, and pulls her in.
Kissing Robin is different from kissing a boy- but Nancy thinks a lot of it simply has to do with the fact that she’s kissing Robin. She gives into it enthusiastically, with the same dedicated curiosity that Nancy likes about her so much. Her lips are cold from spending a while in the snow, but she still makes Nancy feel pleasantly warm all over. One of her legs hooks itself around Nancy’s waist, pulling her closer, and it’s the best feeling in the world. Robin laughs into the kiss- like she can’t quite believe that this is really happening- and Nancy can’t help but mimic her.
Logically, she knows that they have to break the kiss at some point- but not being as close as possible suddenly seems unbearable. Nancy remedies the distance by pressing another kiss against her jaw- enjoying the way Robin leaves herself entirely at her mercy, head falling back against the wall- and then trails further down to her neck.
“Holy crow,” Robin says, suddenly. “Is that Dante ?”
At this, Nancy stops with the kisses. She looks up at her, but Robin doesn't even notice- far too busy looking at something over Nancy's shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” Nancy says, a little disbelieving. “Are you seriously talking about books right now?”
Robin ignores her. “It totally is! In Italian! I didn’t even know you speak Italian.”
Oh. Nancy blushes as she realises what Robin is talking about.
The borrowed copy of Inferno, sitting on her bedside table.
“I’m just starting out,” she admits, cringing as she remembers how obviously close to the beginning the bookmark is. “It’s been a slow process. But I knew that you read it, so…” she trails off, unable to finish that thought out loud.
She can’t believe this. They had been making out only seconds ago, yet admitting this feels far more intimate.
“You read Dante for me,” Robin says, just to confirm it. She sounds a little dazed.
Nancy pauses, then nods. Robin smiles, bright and genuine.
“That is so hot, Wheeler.”
Nancy looks down, blushing. She rests her head against Robin’s chest in an attempt to hide it. “Your heart is beating really fast right now,” she teases, though she’s sure hers is much the same.
“It always does,” Robin says, “Don’t think about it too hard.”
She’s the one to initiate the kiss this time. As Nancy connects the dots, she can’t help but grin into it widely, glad to finally be in on the joke. Kissing Robin is new, and sweet, and addictive- but it’s also, funnily enough, entirely infuriating.
And that’s exactly the way Nancy likes it.