"What'd you get for number nine?" Steve asked.
Jessica and Steve had been spread out on the living room floor for almost an hour. Steve had finished his history homework and they were both doing math now. Well, Jessica was. Steve was having trouble with the fact that the alphabet represented numbers now. He'd had trouble with math from the time the started learning algebra in ninth grade.
"Steve, there's no solution. The variables don't match, so you can't do anything with them."
"Why would they make you try to find a solution to a problem that doesn't have one?"
"Because school is meant to drive you crazy."
Math wasn't the problem, though, not really. Steve just couldn't focus. He wanted to fidget and mess with everything. He'd used up his concentration quota by actually reading the history chapter he'd been assigned. All he wanted to do now was tap the tip of his pencil against his notebook.
When they'd gotten to the house Jessica had still been a little pale, and her mother had noticed, but she'd believed her when Jessica had said she just wasn't feeling well. It made sense, because why else would Steve had picked her up from work? That had never happened before.
Dustin had already been in bed, so he hadn't even been aware of Jessica coming home late. Now her mom was in bed as well, and Jessica and Steve were on their own.
She felt fine now. She'd closed the curtain and was focused on helping Steve with the math homework. He seemed to be filled with nervous energy, though, and she knew she was partly to blame because of her freak out earlier. He'd been so good about it, so sure when he was there for her, helping her, that she hadn't really thought about how worried it had made him.
He was always right there when she needed him, and he didn't even complain about it. She'd called him that night and he'd come running, no questions asked. Most people wouldn't have done that.
"Hey, Steve?" She dropped her pencil down into the crease of her Algebra book.
She grabbed his hand to stop him from fiddling with his pencil.
"You know I love you, right?"
If she hadn't already stopped his hand from moving, he would have stopped himself. His entire body froze – not in a bad way, not like he was rejecting her words. More like he was just finding it hard to accept what she'd said. She'd said them before, that she loved him, but they weighed more now, because they – she and Steve – meant more now. Steve seemed to sense that.
"I mean that in the way that my life is better with you in it, and I feel like . . . I don't even want to know what it would be like without you. I am one hundred percent in this, and –"
Steve's lips were on hers then, firm but not rough, and his hands were cupping her face, and hers were in his hair. It was soft and thick. When she scraped his nails across his scalp Steve surprised her by letting out a moan. It was the same reaction he got from her when he kissed her neck.
"Maybe I should play with your hair more often," she teased breathlessly. "You, uh, seem to like that."
"Jess, I love you too," he said, rushed. "I, uh . . . I couldn't risk being the first one to say it."
"Were you afraid that I wouldn't say it back?" She was mostly teasing.
"Maybe," he admitted. "Or that if I said it first, then you might feel like you had to say it back."
"Well, I said it first, so . . ."
She kissed him once more, this one soft and lingering, but that was it. There hadn't been a huge declaration or fan fare behind it, but the words had been said and the words were true and, now that they'd been spoken, neither of them had to be afraid to say them again.
Steve stayed the night – why wouldn't he since his mom already knew where he was and he didn't care what his dad thought – and he and Jess went to bed together. Despite her earlier anxiety, she fell asleep quickly. She had basically plopped down, curled up against him, and was then out like a light.
It was after one because they'd finished their homework even though Steve was almost completely certain they weren't going to school. Snow had fallen and built up on the streets, and the cleaning crew hadn't been out to clear them yet.
It wasn't long after they went to bed that Steve heard something from outside and saw as lights came through the bedroom window. Being a small town, there usually wasn't anyone out and about at that time of night, and Steve knew it wasn't a snow plow. He made to get up, but Jessica's hand had clenched into a fist around his shirt. She obviously wasn't sleeping as deeply as she appeared to be.
He massaged her hand to loosen her grip and then got up to look out the window. He really wanted to know what the lights and noise were about. It ended up being Hopper in his truck. He'd connected Jessica's car to the back of his truck and had towed it to the house.
Steve wondered if Jonathan had called him or if Jess's boss had. Either way, Hop looked up at Jessica's window – probably because the light was on. Jess still had trouble sleeping in the dark – and threw a half-hearted salute this way.
Steve didn't try to hide the fact that he was in the room. His car was in the driveway, so Hop already knew he was there, and he wouldn't care anyway.
Steve lifted his hand in a slight wave before turning to go back to bed.
There was a creak from outside the room, and then, "Jess, why is –"
Dustin was just coming into Steve's line of sight, and when he saw Steve standing there and Jessica sleeping, he stopped talking to her and then focused on Steve. His voice was softer when he continued.
"What happened to the car? Why's Hopper bringing it here?"
"Jess had a bad night, little dude."
Dustin's eyes darted towards his sleeping sister again, as if he were checking her over for physical signs of distress. Steve thought it was sweet that Dustin had known exactly what he'd been talking about.
"Is she okay now?"
"I think so. It wasn't like last time. Or not when I got there."
"That why you stayed?"
That was all. Dustin, still tired and sleepy-eyed, went back to his room, and Steve climbed back into bed beside Jessica.
Jessica's head was throbbing when she woke up, and the brightness coming from the window didn't help at all. She looked at her clock, which read 9:00. She hadn't set the alarm the night before because she'd been fairly certain that there would be no school. Considering her mother hadn't woken her up, Jessica assumed she'd been right.
Jessica turned over to face Steve, who was still there and sleeping, and moved closer to him. He was on his stomach, face pressed firmly against the pillow. His arms had wrapped around the pillow, and she suddenly became jealous of it.
At some point, Steve had taken his shirt off. She began rubbing his back, no intention of fully waking him but of making him aware enough to listen to her.
All she got was a 'Hm?" in response.
"You're too far away."
"'M right here."
She poked the arm closest to her. He got the hint, apparently, because he flipped to his side and lifted his arm enough for her to slip under it. By the time she got comfortable, their bodies were so close they were sharing warmth.
"Mm-hm. Go back to sleep."
Jessica went back to sleep, too, after listening to Steve breathe for a few minutes. When she woke up the second time, it was still bright and her head was still hurting. Steve was still with her, and he was awake too. She didn't know if he had woken her up or not, but he was playing with her hair. It was sending little tingles down her spine.
"Time is it?" she asked.
Jessica groaned and then stretched. She didn't usually sleep so late. Steve, however, could sleep whenever and wherever, for however long he wanted. Or at least he'd been able to do that before all the Upside Down nonsense.
"My head hurts."
"Not that I'm an expert, but you're probably dehydrated."
"Mm. We should get up and get dressed."
"No . . ." he whined. He guided her head back so they could face each other. Neither one of them cared about morning breath as their lips touched.
The kiss was more a good morning than anything else and it was over in seconds.
"Is it bad that I'm already at the point of loving waking up next to you?" she asked.
"No. I love falling asleep next to you," Steve admitted. "Speaking of which, Hopper brought your car back while you were sleeping."
"Oh." She hadn't expected that. "Good."
She got up, Steve's arms and hands trailing after her, and went to the window. It had stopped snowing sometime during the night, but the ground was still covered. Her car had a light dusting over it, so it obviously hadn't snowed for long after Hopper had dropped it off.
"Everything is so bright."
The sun reflecting off the snow actually hurt her eyes if she stared too long, so she turned back towards Steve, who was still lying down and looking at her. He had a lazy smile on his face.
"Nothin'. You're beautiful, that's all."
Jessica did not duck her head, but she did blush as a grin pulled at her lips. She walked to the bed, plopped back down beside him and kissed him again.
"You are very sweet, Steve Harrington." Another kiss. "I love you."
"Mm." He kissed her this time, longer and sweeter. "I love you too."
Once Steve and Jessica were up for good, they went downstairs. Dustin and her mom were watching TV. Well, Dustin was watching TV. Her mom was knitting.
"Finally, you're up," Dustin teased. "I wanna build a snowman. I wanted to build one with the guys, but the roads aren't clear, so I can't ride over there."
"Okay," Jessica agreed. "Let us eat first, though, okay?"
In the kitchen, Jessica went about making sandwiches, and then she and Steve began to eat in comfortable silence. Jessica couldn't remember the last time she'd felt so content. She'd been able to sleep in next to Steve. She'd had morning snuggles with him, and he'd enjoyed them too. Well, he liked snuggling, anyway, and would use any excuse to do it, so it worked.
But Steve made her think about and feel things she never had before. Maybe it was because he was so good to her or maybe it was because she'd been a little bit in love with him since the beginning of high school, but when she thought about him it made her think about the future. Things like studying more together and going to the same college – or at least ones close to each other – maybe even getting a place off-campus together if they did go to the same school.
"What're you think' about?" Steve asked, hushed.
"Nothin'. Just us and . . . next year and then college the year after."
They were still eating and Steve had been about to take a bite, but he put the sandwich back on his plate. He looked as he had the night before when she'd admitted she loved him.
"You think we'll still be together in two years?"
"Part of me belongs to you, Steve Harrington, and has since I met you. Two years isn't a long time for me."
Jessica watched as Steve's Adam's apple bobbed up and down as he swallowed his emotion back.
"Since you met me?"
"Wow, have I been an idiot."
She grinned. "Well . . ." She shrugged. "You're a guy. I guess I can't hold it against you."
She leaned forward, kissed him quickly, and then went back to eating.
As promised, Steve and Jessica went out with Dustin to help him build a snowman. They all bundled up to keep warm, but Steve could tell Jessica wanted to go back inside within the first few minutes. She stuck it out, though, so she could help out.
They got through making the first snowball before Dustin flung a handful of snow at Jessica's face.
She hadn't had any problem coming outside, other than a small complaint about how cold it was. Steve assumed it was because snow wasn't actually falling and because it wasn't dark anymore.
Steve laughed as Jessica threw a whole mess of slush back at her brother, one right after another, making Dustin fall backwards onto the ground when he tried to get away.
"Hey, I only threw one at you! I only threw one!"
"Yeah, and I'm not giving you a chance to throw another one."
Steve filled his hands with snow as well and calmly made his way to his girlfriend.
"I dunno, that doesn't seem fair, Jess."
She stopped what she was doing and looked his way. Her cheeks were pink from the cold – the tip of her nose was too. When she noticed his intentions, she took a running stance. She was about to take off.
"No, Steve, you love me . . . that's not allowed."
"Oh, it's because I love you that it's allowed."
So she ran. Steve tossed the snow at her back, not really aiming for her, and began chasing her. Jessica was fast even if she wasn't athletic. Steve, however, was faster. He caught her around the waist and brought her smoothly and gently to the snow-covered ground.
"Dude, I got her," he called to Dustin, who had followed after them.
"Hey, two against one! I call foul or penalty or whatever. Unnecessary roughness!"
Jessica began laughing even through her terrible referee talk.
"Which sport are you calling shots for?" Steve laughed along with her as Dustin shoved snow down the top of her coat.
"That's for bombarding me," Dustin screamed in delight. Then he threw another ball of snow at Steve. "That's for tackling my sister."
Dustin started running then. Apparently, Steve was meant to spend his life chasing after the Henderson siblings.
He was okay with that.
Jessica, Dustin, and Steve were outside for maybe thirty minutes and they only got two parts of the snowman done. They would have to finish it later. At the moment, they were seated at the kitchen table waiting for hot chocolate that Ms. Henderson was making. They had changed into warm, dry clothes as soon as they'd come in – or Jessica had. Neither Steve nor Dustin were as cold or wet.
Jessica had scooted her chair right next to Steve's and he now had her hands folded into his to get them warm again. If they hadn't had so much fun, Steve would have felt bad about pinning her to the ground while Dustin basically covered her with snow.
Jessica only removed her hands from his when her mom brought her a steaming mug of hot chocolate.
"First cup is for the Snow Queen," Ms. Henderson said. She'd obviously seen the very unfair snow fight.
Steve watched as Jessica wrapped her hands around the mug and closed her eyes before taking a sip. He knew it had to be scalding hot, but she smiled and hummed at the taste anyway.
Ms. Henderson brought Steve's drink along with Dustin's. He had to admit that the warmth coming off the mug as he gripped it did feel amazing.
"Want the little marshmallows?"
"Of course," Dustin said.
Ms. Henderson pulled them out of one of the cabinets and tossed them onto the table. Jessica didn't want any marshmallows, and Steve took only a few. Dustin, however, put as many as he could fit without overflowing his cup. He was working towards a sugar high.
Steve wasn't sure he wanted to be a witness to that, and it turned out that he didn't have to worry about it. The roads were cleared and, after they finished making their snowman, Steve was able to make it home.
School was back in session the next day, though it did open two hours late. Nothing eventful happened during class – it was mostly a review of what they'd learned on Monday – and after school Jessica had to work.
Jonathan worked almost every day, and he was working the same shift as Jessica that day. That was what gave her an idea that would be brilliant for Friday if Jonathan agreed to what she wanted to do.
"Hey, Jonathan, you know that party I said I was going to Friday?"
"Yes . . ." His answer was hesitant, as if he thought she was going to talk about something unpleasant.
"Would you mind switching shifts with me? I work yours tomorrow and you work mine Friday?"
He looked relieved. "Sure. For a minute there I thought you were going to invite me."
She laughed. "I know you'd say no if I did that. Anyway, thanks. It's just Steve has a game Friday night and it would be easier to just leave with him from there than to have him pick me up at home."
"I get it. It's fine. He'll be happy you came to a game anyway."
"That's the plan."
"Meet me after your shift and I'll show you what I have to do tomorrow."
Jonathan did mostly janitorial stuff, so she knew basically what he did, she just didn't know the order in which he did it. It shouldn't be too hard.