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Where Do We Go From Here

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Anxiously waiting for the first bell, Jonathan sat in his desk waiting for first period to start. He enjoyed his math class because it was simple for him. All he has to do is memorize the formula and use the steps to plug it in. He wished everything could be that way. Jonathan was usually the first or second student to sit down in class. Which was a pretty odd scene because he would sit away from everyone else in the back corner of the class. But he didn’t care, he did not know many people anyways and he kind of liked it that way. They knew him though or mainly they knew what was said about him. His classmates used to say awful things to him along with make up weird rumors about him and his family. They were the endearingly renamed the "fucked up Byers bunch". However, they’ve mostly avoided him since he fought Steve. The only thing that actually bothered him was right now. Sitting and waiting for everyone to come in before the bell. He already finished his homework a week ahead of time and had about fifteen minutes to think. To think about what happened to Will, happens now, and what happened with her. It had been awhile since he had really interacted with Nancy alone.

It’s mid-February and he still beats himself up over Christmas. He said he didn’t get her anything but the truth was he had several different things sitting in his room for her. He still listens to the mix-tape he made for her from time to time. He was so nervous to give them to her, which made him accepting her amazing gift to him even more worse. He had never felt so much spark and emotion from her when her lips pressed against his cheek. All he could do was that excited grin of his and say "Merry Christmas". His heart and stomach physically hurt when he thinks about the times he almost told her how he truly felt about her. Jonathan liked to think maybe things would have ended up a bit different had he confessed.

The night she asked him to sleep on the bed next to her was one of his most favorite moments of his life. Although most of that night was a long silence, when Nancy finally felt comfortable enough to fall asleep, it made Jonathan really happy. He wanted to protect her from everything. If it was anyone that was going to make it through this awful demogorgon bullshit, it would be her. He stayed up all night to ensure her safety. Jonathan was captivated by her lips and the way that she was able to breathe so softly. He would not have been able to sleep even if he tried. There was one moment where she started trembling and whispering “no”. Jonathan gently stroked her hair until her face softened. She had told him she was not able to sleep but she had for a second. When she was stirred awake he quickly closed his eyes so she would not discover how intently he had been looking at her.

Now things seemed to have gone slightly back to as “normal” (as normal as things can be for what all occurred). Nancy still greets him in-between class breaks and stops to ask how he is doing during lunch before sitting with Steve. She even invited him to sit with them but he truly thought it would be too much for him to handle right now. It kind of hurts to watch the girl you have feelings be with somebody else. Despite this, Nancy was still the person he talked the most with at school and considered her a good friend. Being "normal" again has just been a little perplexing for him. Still, each time they talk he still melts into her big puppy-dog eyes and enjoys their a-little-too-long stares. When he does talk with her, Jonathan wishes there was more he could say. Although there was technically more he could say, none of it sounded normal. He wanted to ask her the world. He felt close with her in a now-distant way. He was just too nervous to try start a conversation different than what happened and how Will was doing.

What makes matters worse is his current required readings for his English class. Ironically this month has been about The Great Gatsby. He was feeling like it should be renamed as The Great Jonathan minus all the money, parties, and flappers. Also Steve was no Tom Buchanan. All in all, Jonathan felt okay with how everything is going. Will is back and safe, Nancy seems happy, his mom is happy, and he able to spend quality time with his family. Although Will sometimes does act weird, like he’s having a panic attack in the middle of a conversation. Jonathan somewhat understands his behavior. That week was the scariest week Will had ever had in his life. Back before Jonathan was able to hold himself up so well before his parents split, Jonathan would do the same and shut everyone out. Deep down he knows that’s why he tries to keep everyone afloat now. There’s only a handful of people in this world Jonathan really cares about and he tries to make the best of each day. You never know what could happen tomorrow.

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Everyone was finally home and ready to eat. Jonathan pulled the chicken out of the oven and began making everyone’s plates. His mom and Will were already at the table talking about the next science fair at his school. Jonathan was really happy to see Will so excited because lately he had been getting more severe panic attacks. There had been some sleepless nights where Will would wake Jonathan up saying his arms hurt and that he felt like he couldn’t breathe. Jonathan would then sit on his bed until Will was able to fall back asleep. Jonathan and his mom have not brought up the Demogorgon or the upside-down since these symptoms developed to prevent any more attacks.

“Thank you, Jonathan,” his little brother said as he looked up with a giddy smile. “Uh oh,” Will ran to the bathroom, a frequent action now. Will had been complaining to his mom about stomach cramps lately. She figured it probably was from his recent anxiety. Jonathan sat down and looked at the delicious meal in front of him. His mother, wearing her usual overly-stressed expression, was stuffing her face already almost done with the meal. Honestly, Jonathan had not felt too hungry but forced himself to eat each meal anyways. He did not want to do anything that would make his mom worry more. He stared at his full glass of water while he heard Will washing his hands from the bathroom. He hadn’t realized it until now but he actually had to go to the bathroom too. Jonathan got up as soon as Will came back. “Where are you going?” his brother asked a little nervously.

“Um. I have to use the bathroom,” Jonathan wondered why he asked.

“You don’t want to go in there…I…uh,” Will stuttered.

“Haha. I don’t care. I really have to pee.” Jonathan took a step down the hall.

“Wait! I have something to tell you about school. Just go in a minute.” Will ran to his backpack and pulled out a vinyl. Jonathan’s vinyl, specifically Combat Rock by the Clash. “I wanted to borrow this for our show and tell tomorrow. I know it’s just a vinyl but I wanted to share with everyone what it meant to me. Is that okay?” Will asked.

“Yeah. Yeah, of course. I think that’s an awesome idea” Jonathan replied as he sat back down. The three of them continued to talked about music, what assignments were due that week, and eventually went to bed.

Jonathan’s eyes opened abruptly. Shit. I was finally able to sleep for a little while, Jonathan thought. He heard footsteps trail off into Will’s room. Jonathan picked up his watch, the one that he almost never took off, and checked the time. It was 5:30 AM which was just about the time for him to get up and get ready anyways. Jonathan tiredly stood up and silently crept into the bathroom. He did not know if Will decided to go back to sleep for a little bit but he was not going to try to disturb anyone. Jonathan grabbed his tooth brush and went to turn on the- WHAT THE FUCK. Every hair rose on his body as he looked down. He felt so breathless that he could not scream even if he attempted to. In the drain was a gross big greenish-blackish worm thing wiggling around. He rubbed his eyes hard and looked back and it was gone. Maybe it was a couple slugs somehow stuck in the drain, he supposed. Although, now he knew better than to assume. He checked the window to see if it crawled through but it was locked tight. He walked past Will’s room but his brother seemed asleep.

“Hey, do you mind-” Jonathan jumped at the sound of his mother’s voice.

“Woah! You just scared the crap out of me,” Jonathan laughed nervously. Had he not been gifted with a very pale complexion and had it not been the middle of winter, she would have truly seen how spooked he was right now.

“I’m sorry. I heard you get up and I was wondering if you could give Will a ride to school. I haven’t gotten much sleep and I just do not feel good. Maybe I caught a bug.” Yuck. Bugs were not what Jonathan wanted to think or talk about with his mom. He wondered why there had been a giant one in the drain.

“Sure. You need to get some sleep. Don’t try to overdo it, okay?” Jonathan asked and his mother slightly nodded. He knew she was going overdo everything if he did not intervene. Him and Will got ready and then Jonathan waited in the car for it to warm. Ten minutes had gone by and Will had not come out.

“Will! The car’s warm now. If we don’t leave soon we might be tardy.” He looked through the entire house but could not find Will. He was just about to search outside until the lights suddenly flickered in the hallway. Even their dog, Bowie, was barking and standing at the outside of Will’s room. Jonathan checked again and a flash of bright light took over. Once Jonathan could see again, Will appeared facing the opposite direction of him. Jonathan quickly hid and leaned up against the wall on the hallway. Was this really happening? He looked back into his sibling’s room. His little brother was now packing up his backpack like nothing had just occurred. Jonathan needed to do something.

“Will. What happened just now? Please, do not lie to me. I just saw you appear. You were not there a second ago and you just came back! And there was a big flash of light.” Jonathan’s voice was shaking but he tried to make it as normal as possible.

Will’s eyes widened but he was obviously not as surprised up as Jonathan. “What? No. Jonathan, nothing happened. I just had to grab something under my bed. I don’t think we’ve had much sleep lately. You’re probably just seeing things.” Will shrugged and put on his backpack.

“I know what I saw. I used to believe in seeing things until you disappeared! Now I know it is all too real. Something happened to you back in there, didn’t it? I can help. Whatever thing you’re fighting; you do not have to do it alone. Nancy, Steve, and I… together we almost killed that Demogorgon!” Jonathan was stern this time. He was not going to lose his brother again.

“I am not seeing anything! We all just do not feel well, okay? Everything is just fine. I was saved and I was sick but I am fine now. Even the doctors let me come back here. I promise, I would tell you- “

“That slug thing in the sink. How did it get there? I saw it. I knew you had been weird about anyone going in the bathroom lately. What is it?” Jonathan wished he could believe his brother but it all added up too well.

Will started getting that look like he was about to have an attack. He took a deep breath and put his hand on his heart. “Please stop. You are stressing me out. I am fine, okay? The slug probably came in through the window or something, I don’t know. Mom’s going to be really upset if we do not leave for school now.”

“Fine. We will talk about this later.” Jonathan and Will drove in the car in silence. He did not mean to be pushy with his brother but he was almost entirely positive he was covering up a lot. Who knows where they would have been had Jonathan tried to get Will back without his mother or Hopper’s help. He had not included them with his plans which was a mistake. Jonathan had hoped that getting Will back would be the end of this hell. Little did he know it was only the beginning.

Chapter Text

Jonathan finally pulled up into the school parking. Despite all the chaos this morning, he had ten minutes before the bell. A tense Jonathan grabbed his backpack and quickly paced towards his class. Here we go, he thought. Nancy and Steve were sitting together by the entrance with a few other ‘cool kids’, Tommy and Carol no longer a part of the pack, but they still partook in the same type of extracurricular activities at Steve’s house. He knew about this because Steve would personally give him the occasional invite. Jonathan appreciated this but he felt like he would have just come standoffish and not fit in with everyone, kind of like how Barb looked that night before she disappeared. He could now feel all of their eyes on him. Nancy and Steve typically greeted him with a short conversation when they would bump into each other, which Jonathan liked, but he wished it would not happen today of all days. The only thing on his mind was his brother and what was happening to him.

“Hey Jonathan. I haven’t seen you walk in this late.” Nancy looked at her watch and started to pick up her things, “How are you?”

“Hey Nancy, I am good. I hope you guys have been well. I gotta go to class. See you later.” Jonathan said while keeping his quick pace towards the door. He forced a fake smile and tried to look as genuine as possible. The truth was that he was not okay, he felt alone again, and he didn’t know what to do anymore.

Nancy jumped up. “Wait! We’ll walk with you. It’s about time to be heading in anyways.”

“Oh, Nance. You’re so cute when you’re being a goody two-shoes. Have you ever been late to class?” Nancy jokingly rolled her eyes at him and smiled. Steve smiled back and put his arm around her. “Hey Jonathan.” Steve patted him on the back.

The bell rang for lunch. Jonathan took his homemade sandwich, cafeteria food was a luxury for him when he could afford it, and walked past his chemistry lab. He looked in the room for his professor to ask him questions on his most recent lecture about rare earth elements, but Mr. Havery was not there. Out of the corner of his eye he saw some type of hazmat-like suit. Had that always been there? After he finished his lunch, Jonathan sat down outside on a bench by himself until his body went numb. He felt like a boulder was laying on his chest. It was so cold that he was able to watch his breath form to smoke. He felt a presence lingering and looked to the left. He saw a blur of brown hair disappear inside.

“I’ll see you soon.” Will said to Jonathan as he drove away from the Wheeler’s house. He couldn’t help but notice Steve’s car in the driveway and Nancy’s lights on her room. He hated how he couldn’t help but notice these things. John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good” started playing and Jonathan punched the radio off. He was done with today.

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Nancy and Steve were sitting on her bed talking about what movie they were going to see next. Steve got up and started dancing out one of the scenes that apparently was in the movie. He threw has hand back and accidentally slammed his hand against the glass of water on her nightstand which went flying.

“Oh my gosh, you crazy thing!” Nancy exclaimed and held Steve’s hand loosely. “How did you manage to cut your hand as well? Come on.” Steve cussed in pain and embarrassment. Nancy put Steve’s hand under the sink but before she ran the water she saw something weird. Something wiggling. “Ew, is that a slug or something?” She looked at Steve to see if he noticed but he was too busy talking to Mrs. Wheeler, who ran upstairs the moment she heard the glass break. When she looked back down it was gone. Nancy turned the water on, grabbed a towel, and applied pressure to his hand. Nancy started to wonder if she had even seen anything at all. She had been seeing things that may or may not have been there lately.

Ever since encountering the upside-down she had been having trouble falling asleep. She used to have Steve sneak over when he could to help her stay asleep. That was working up until the point of when her night terrors began. She did not tell Steve how bad they really were. Steve understood that she would get panicked during her dreams and may be a little disoriented when she woke up but she had not told him in vivid detail. She at least wanted to pretend to be as normal as possible to her boyfriend. She did not think that Steve would break up with her if he knew the truth but she was worried he couldn’t understand. Her family did not understand but, unfortunately, they noticed due to her uncontrollable screaming. She could not recall some of the things that occurred after she awoke that her family has told her. Her mother now takes her the psychiatrist weekly and watches her mouth as she takes her medications but Nancy takes them out when her mother isn’t looking. This kind of thing does not just go away and the sedation would just make her feel worse. Mike somewhat understood. He had his own episodes as well. Not of night terrors but he has drifted away from everyone in his own way. His expressions have grown bleaker. His friends were what made him feel better but he will never be the same happy boy that he used to be. For awhile Steve had made her feel better but she still felt a disconnect with him. He had encountered the Demogorgon but not like her and Jonathan had. Steve was able to sleep peacefully and believed this crazy show was over. Nancy knew better.

It was times like these where Nancy thought about how Jonathan was coping. By the looks of it today she figured the answer would be not too well. His eyes looked more sleepless than usual, at lunch she caught him sitting by himself (which was typical) but the way he looked almost frozen in the cold, it just seemed that something was different. When they started searching together for Will and Barb, they had each other and it was nice. She didn’t have to be ‘normal’ around him. She always felt like she could open up to him more than to Steve. Nancy had even planned to ask how he gets through his days and tell him about her night terrors but felt like she couldn’t. She felt guilty because she felt like she should be able to go to Steve about it but every fiber in her being wanted to go to Jonathan. Maybe it was just because that's what she was used to doing. At least, that's what she's been telling herself. She had been barely seeing Jonathan as much as she used to, especially by herself, and was waiting for the right time to talk to him. It was in that moment that she realized just how much she missed him.