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not the ribbons in your hair

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If Robin had to put her finger on it, the exact moment her opinion of Nancy Wheeler really started to change was when she bald-faced lied their way into a medium security psychiatric facility.

The needle moved a little when she started to get to know Steve, to see something genuine underneath all of, y'know, the hair, at which point she started to think, well, he must have seen something there. Then it was back to square one when she saw the pastel monstrosity that was her bedroom. And her wardrobe, and that ballerina in the jewelry box. Also the jewelry box. Plus all the little fiddly bits on her white wicker dresser and shit—like, okay, there was this thing of roses on her bookshelf, right? But they were all made of ceramic. The most fragile, delicate, prissy things in the world, made of the second most fragile, delicate, prissy thing. That made sense.

But then she witness Nancy staring down the entry guards at the gates to Pennhurst and lying straight to their faces, which was stone cold badassed even with her winning smile. Robin was approximately two seconds from shitting her britches (which were still her own, and she definitely wasn't thinking about borrowing from Nancy Wheeler's panty drawer, which she didn't peek into when left alone to change, but if she did it was out of pure curiosity once she saw the bra Wheeler handed over on second thought) under her borrowed Sunday best, but Nancy just flipped her pretty perm over one shoulder and lied through her perfect pearly whites. It was impressive as hell.

So were her driving skills; she was evasively maneuvering like a fucking pro as they peeled out of Pennhurst and skidded through the winding, tree-lined paths out of there. For the first time in her life, Robin felt genuinely justified in reaching for the handle over the window (minus that time Keith let her try doing donuts in his car, which was a disaster for enough reasons without adding no hands to the equation). High speed car chase wasn't on her agenda for the day, but here she is.

Glancing back, she caught a glimpse of a few security guards scrambling to get into their own vehicles, but it seemed like they were headed for golf carts, so they were probably in the clear. Still, Nancy drove like it was Satan on their asses. Or maybe Meat Loaf.

"Bat out of hell!" She shouted, rolling her window down. "Holy shit, Nance, what—"

"Are they following us?" Nancy shouted back, shoulders hunched and eyes glued to the road.

Robin twists around in her seat to get a better look. Some of the guards have started their own cars, but there's no way they'll catch up at the rate Nancy's tearing out of there. The director is in a golf cart is swearing at someone, though whether it's the girls or his flying monkeys, Robin can't tell.

"They're trying," she says with only mild hysteria in her voice, "but I don't think they're gonna be a problem."

Nancy's concentration doesn't break. "Did you see a police station on our way in?"

"What?" Robin's finally got the window down and the wind whips through her hair, almost but not quite too loud to hear Nancy (or the walkie, still in her lap but silent) through. She tugs the comb from her hair and flings it out the window in jubilation. "Whoo! Oh, shit, wait, that was yours. Uh—"


Her attention snaps back to see Nancy looking at her.

"They're probably calling the cops right now," she says. "Did you see a police station on our way in?"

"I don't know, I wasn't looking."

"Get the map out." Nancy merges confidently past another station wagon, paying no attention to the weird look the dad behind its wheel shoots them as they pass. "Glove compartment."

For the first time in her life, Robin follows instructions without commentary. "Uhhhh, there's one on the other side of the highway, but it's a while away and not between us and the trailer park, so if they do get us, they're still trailing."

"Alright. Can you find me, like, an off road? Something small, maybe by the river? Close enough that we can hear sirens but out of sight, nothing residential where we might be spotted."

"Okay..." An odd request, but Robin is a diligent co-pilot and Nancy's still gunning for it. She manages to catch a street name, though, and gets searching. "Uh, take a right onto Culpepper, then there's a brown squiggly line that leads to a parking lot, uh, shape in the great Roberts Birding State Park."

"Culpepper?" Nancy repeats, but she doesn't wait for confirmation before hooking right at the last moment, just in time.

Robin grabs the handle again, but a laugh startles out of her this time. Look, g-force is fun, and it's been awhile since she was an accomplice to a heist. She forgot how addicting the thrill was.

By the time the high fades, Nancy is throwing (and boy does Robin mean throwing) the station wagon into park. Just in time, apparently, because it seems like the engine has only just started to quiet when they start hearing sirens. Both girls sit with bated breath and they screech up the road just out of sight, not moving a muscle until the sirens are not only dimming in the opposite direction but completely out of hearing range.

"Okay..." Robin finally manages to be something approaching quiet, mostly because of the sudden void left by the sirens. Birdsong has never been so sweet. Hell, she doesn't even want to reach immediately for the radio dial, and not even because Nancy very politely but (as Robin later decoded) still ticked off asked her to stop fiddling with it on the drive out here. "So my math may have been a little off."

Nancy doesn't say anything, just exhales seemingly all the air and then some out of her tiny little body. She collapses back against the seat in relief, every muscle going loose until her head sags back against the seat. After a moment of this, she reaches up a limp hand to roll down the window, letting the spring breeze in. Robin hadn't even noticed how stuffy it was getting, what with all their panting, but she sticks her head out her own window at the reminder.

"Oh yeah," Robin sighs to herself. "That's the stuff."

As she turns back, the sun breaks through the overcast haze and her eyes follow the ray right to the driver's seat. Nancy is slouched back again, perma curly bangs plastered to her forehead and stuck between the back of her neck and the seat's leather. Her eyes are shut and they stay shut as she huffs, flips her hair back over the seat, and relaxes again.

She doesn't look like she's Sleeping Beauty. Or, what Robin means is, she doesn't look like a princess or a doll or something. She doesn't look pristine and perfect. She looks human. She looks like an exhausted, slightly sweaty, human being, like she really could take down a monster with a single shotgun blast the way Steve outlandishly claimed. (The monsters she could buy, Robin witnessed those, but Nancy Wheeler sharpshooting a monster? That strained credulity.) With the sun at this high angle, glinting off the shine of her forehead as she breathed deeply, Nancy looked like a heavy body, not a china doll. Like she could get and has got shit done.

And it's... Well. Robin's learning a lot about herself today, and not just that she may have a future in the theatre.

Luckily, before she can blurt out any of this, Nancy lurches back into motion, her determined look settling into place like a tumbler in a lock. She sits up, turns the car back on, and cranks the AC as high as it goes.


"Okay!" Bright side of all the anxious rambling she's been doing lately: Nancy probably doesn't know her well enough to recognize the unusually high pitch of her tone.

Nancy asks without expecting an answer, "They said they were at the cemetery?"

And away they go.

They back out of the parking lot square, down the wiggly dirt road, and up Culpepper without incident, though Nancy keeps her eyes peeled regardless. As she points the car's nose towards Hawkins, Robin gets to work dismantling the most offensive parts of her outfit, undoing the clasp at the back of the shirt's neck and chucking whatever bits and pieces she can detach into the backseat. A bracelet clacks against the back window, quickly followed by the balled up cardigan, balled up tights. She'd rather go barefoot anyway: it turns out there's a worse sensation than nails in styrofoam and it's wet grass through nylon.

"No thank you," she mutters to herself as she throws those in back, despite how badly she wants to chuck them out the window too. She's lost enough of Nancy's belongings today.

Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Nancy shrug off her jacket one arm at a time, the other hand always steady on the wheel. It's kind of hot, to be honest, but whatever: competency is hot. Everyone knows that. That's universal.

Sensing the blank stare on the side of her face, Nancy glances over, eyebrows worried. "You're okay? You didn't bang your head on the frame and give yourself a concussion, right?"

"Nope! No, you are, uh, you are in the clear as far as your getaway driver record. Zero fatalities on this end."

Nancy huffs something that might qualify as a laugh. "Sorry. Steve's our usual designated driver. Firearms are more my department."

"Can't say I was exactly prepared to reenact Bonnie and Clyde today either, but I think we did okay," Robin says, glancing in the rearview mirror just to double check and, upon catching her own reflection, frowning at her hair. As she messes it back to normal, she sings in bad French, "Bonnie et Clyyyyde..."

When Robin hears her own voice, she grimaces out the window, but before she can stick her foot back in her mouth, Nancy... snorts?

"Oh my god."

"Wow," Robin over pronounces. "Ho. Lee. Crap. That is the least dignified sound I have ever heard."

Nancy laughs, slightly more dignified but still not the girly giggle Robin would've expected. "Sorry, I just—"

"Didn't know you had Serge Gainsbourg riding shotgun?"

"Didn't expect somebody who willingly hangs out with Steve to know Bonnie and Clyde," she corrects.

"Well, there's two such somebodies right here in this car, apparently."

"I only know it because I got stuck doing a club-of-the-month puff piece on film club," Nancy admits, "so I think it's just you."

Robin lurches forward against the dash indignantly. "I recommended them that! God, they'd be lost without my rental guidance."

"Why aren't you in film club, then?"

"Uh, you've met those guys. Total pretentious douchebags." She flops back into her seat. "Plus, it's such a boy's club: I'm pretty sure they only take my recommendations because they have to go through me to rent Barbarella again."

Nancy huffs, merging onto the interstate in a way that's somehow disgruntled. "Say no more."

"Faye Dunaway is a babe, though, and I heard Mr Douglas sometimes helps them get the good shit on film. What I wouldn't give to see The Arrangement on even a slightly bigger screen."

"It's just the pull down screen in Mr Douglas's room," Nancy says. "Believe me, it's nothing special."

"Sometimes I think it's still gotta be better than watching Animal House for the millionth time on Family Video's 25 inch," she mutters back mutinously. "Although I'd honestly rather listen to Steve rant about Peter Riegert's comedic genius than whatever those dweebs think film criticism is."

When Nancy laughs again, it's technically closer to what Robin expected at first, but it's different. Less girl next door in a movie and more just... Nancy. Specific just to her. And it cracks a smile across Robin's face, wider than she means to let through but real and bright.

The road around them is clear (not a lot of traffic in Furley County on a Tuesday afternoon) and her death grip on the wheel loosens.

"You know," Nancy says, "you're really not what I expected."

Instead of asking what she did expect, Robin just meets Nancy's eyes when she glances back from the road. "You're really not what I expected either."

A smile tugs at the side of Nancy's mouth. "Thanks."

When Robin sits forward to slap the radio on and start scanning for something decent, this time, Nancy doesn't stop her until they land on a song she loves. Funnily enough, it's one Robin loves too.