The Golden Girl @creativewoman88
Chapter 30

Chapter Thirty

No matter how good an idea Jessica thought Dustin going to camp with other people who was as interested in science as he was, she still missed him terribly. It was fine the first few days, but then she started missing his overenthusiastic ways, or the way he would sometimes tease her about Steve even though they'd been together for more than four months now.

She and her mom received their first letter from him about four days after he'd left. He was having a great time; he'd made some new friends; he was studying space at the moment and their project for that was making a galaxy jar out of a milk bottle. He wrote that he was planning on giving it to Jessica because it was pretty and he thought she would like it.

She couldn't wait to see it.

She wrote a letter back and her mom sent it with a care package that included snacks and extra bug spray and things like that. Jessica got him the newest x-men comic book.

"Tell the nerd I said hi," Steve said, taking a bite from a sandwich her mother had made him when he'd arrived.

Jessica grinned and nudged his leg with her foot. "I'll tell Dustin you said hi."

Her mom left to take the letter and the care package to the post office so they would be shipped off that day, but Jessica stayed at the house. She wanted to talk to Steve about something coming up – his birthday. She'd already gotten his gift, but she needed to know what he wanted to do party-wise.

"I was thinking maybe doing like we did for me," she suggested. "Have a party type thing with your friends and all, and then have, you know, us after . . . but it's up to you because it's your birthday."

This time Steve nudged her with his foot. When he spoke, his voice had a playful edge to it. "What kind of us stuff are we going to get up to?"

Jessica felt her face heat up at what he was implying, but she still looked at him. "We won't get up to anything if you're just going to tease me about it."

Steve placed a hand over his heart and gave a pained groan. "But it'll be my birthday."

"I know. I'm planning it, I'm planning it. I just wanted to know what you wanted to do before I did."

They had moved to the living room and onto the couch after Steve had finished eating and she now turned to him to pull him closer for a kiss. He reacted like he normally did when she pushed her fingers through his hair: he made it sound like it was the best thing he'd ever felt – or at least second best.

Just to tease, she grabbed onto his bottom lip with her teeth. He made a tone of surprise because she wasn't usually aggressive.

She let go and pulled away just a little. "That was for teasing me earlier."

"Well," Steve said, lips red and glistening, "consider that lesson learned."

"Uh-huh."

Her hands were still in his hair. She tugged gently, exposing the length of his neck to her mouth. She nipped the skin there as well, careful enough not to leave a mark, and she grinned against him when she felt his hands land in her hair now as well. He was pulling her closer to him.

"Jess." He was already breathless. "Your mom, she could be back any minute."

"No, we have at least twenty minutes."

"I thought you said your house was off limits."

"Well, yeah, when we're not alone in the house."

She appreciated Steve being such a gentleman and checking in because the truth was they never had really fooled around in her house, but she felt certain enough now that her mom wouldn't be home any time soon. When her mom left the house, she always took longer than necessary to get back home because she would find someone to socialize with.

Steve became playful then and said, "Are you saying you wanna have a quicky?"

"Shut up," she said, shoving his chest playfully, "and come upstairs."

Steve let his head fall back against the couch and he groaned. "Jess, I don't actually have a condom on me right now. I thought we couldn't . . . here."

She kissed him quickly again before standing up. "We don't have to have sex to make each other feel good. Now come on."

She turned around and began running up the stairs. It didn't take long for Steve to follow.


Gathering Steve's sports buddies was easy enough to do. Most of them liked to party anyway. Jessica extended an invitation to Nancy and Jonathan just to be nice, but she wasn't sure either of them would come. Sure, Nancy was still sort of friends with Steve, but they weren't close-close, and Jonathan wasn't really his friend at all, they were just two guys who had been together when the crazy stuff had happened in November. They hadn't really hung out much since aside from that one time at Jessica's birthday party and that had been for her, not for Steve.

It was when she'd called to invite Nancy to the party that Nancy had asked if they could meet somewhere. She had something she wanted to talk to Jessica about, but she didn't want to talk about it in front of her family or on the phone at all.

"Is everything okay?"

"Well, as okay as it can be."

"That's not cryptic at all," she said. "Where do you want to meet?"

"The picnic area at the park? It's public but we can still talk."

"Sure. Give me, like, thirty minutes."

The local park did have a small picnic area. Given that it was after lunchtime when she and Nancy had decided to meet, it wasn't exactly packed, but there were a few people around. There were kids on the playground nearby. Nancy and Jessica walked by there as they headed to a picnic table. Jessica recognized some of the younger children – the blessing and curse of a small town, knowing almost everyone.

"So . . . what did you want to talk about?"

Jessica could tell that Nancy was hesitant to say anything at all. The fact that she'd asked Jessica specifically made Jessica more patient to wait and listen to what she had to say.

"Did you know the Department of Energy used to be called Hawkins National Lab? I mean, it probably still is to people who know about it. The other name is just a smoke screen."

Jessica let that sink in for a moment before asking, "How do you know that?"

"I just . . . I've been researching. The building has been there for a while, but it didn't open as a lab until 1968. Dr. Brenner started his research there almost a year later."

Jessica didn't know much about Dr. Brenner, just that he'd been the man El had called Papa and that he'd been an evil scientist who'd done experiments on people. She also knew that he was dead. The demogorgan had killed him before El had been able to destroy it . . . and herself with it.

"Nancy . . . why are you –"

"I just want to know what was going on. It might . . . give me closure with Barb. Besides, I signed up for journalism as an elective for next year. Research is kind of like studying for me now."

"Journalism? Well . . . it's not like you can write about what you find out. If you did, you could get in trouble or even be in danger."

"It's not like I plan on publishing it. I just want to know. I'd like your help . . . just researching."

"Just research?"

Nancy nodded.

"Okay, I can do that. But if they start getting on us about it, I'm going to stop. I'm not risking everything for something that happened in the past, something we can't change or do anything about. Agreed?"

"Sure." Nancy seemed relieved and then smiled. "I thought we could start at the library."

"Actually, I have a better idea," Jessica said. "Hopper already researched it. We could just ask him . . . and then if that goes south, we can do it ourselves."

"Okay. I doubt he'll help."

"I think he will as long as he knows you aren't going to go public with it. He's lost people too, he knows what it's like to need closure."


Nancy and Jessica showed up at the police station about an hour later. Hopper was in his office, so they were ushered in by his secretary. He had a folder open in front of him, but he closed it when he saw the two girls.

"What's going on?"

"We, uh, needed to ask you something," Jessica said.

"Uh, the phone?"

"It's not something we should talk about over the phone," Nancy hinted.

"Ah." Hopper gestured for them to sit down and then told Flo to close the door on her way out. "So what's going on?"

Jessica and Nancy looked at each other before Nancy began. "I want to know what goes on in that lab, what was so important that Barb had to die for it."

"Nancy, you know that's not –"

"She just wants to know what you know," Jessica said. "She's been doing research on her own, so she's going to continue if you don't help her. The information is obviously available to the public because we know the lab didn't tell you anything."

Hopper sighed and rubbed a tired hand over his face. "What do you know already?"

Nancy told him about learning when the lab opened and when Brenner began to use it.

"We know they were doing experiments they weren't supposed to be doing. I mean, we know El was placed in deprivation tanks for some reason. They were experimenting with superhuman abilities."

"You ever heard of MKUltra?" Hopper asked. "The government started the program in the 50s. It was an experiment on mind control. They used certain drugs to try and make their subjects more susceptible. The project was stopped in 1973. We think Brenner was doing something similar, using drugs for his own purpose – his was to make humans something more so they could have the advantage over others. He was either trying to discover abilities or find a way to make people have them.

"During my research, I came across the name Theresa Ives. She went to college about an hour away in a town called Bloomington. The psychology department there subcontracted with Hawkins Lab. She wasn't the only one from the college to participate in the experiment. They were willing participants, at least in the beginning. They were being paid and they were getting college credit for doing it.

"Theresa Ives became pregnant a few months after she started with the lab. I found a few articles about her. She claimed a government facility had stolen her baby."

"Had they?" Nancy asked.

"If I had to guess, I'd say, yes, they are very much capable of doing that, but her sister said Theresa's water broke and she lost the baby."

"You've talked to them about this?"

"I haven't been able to talk to Theresa. She's not able to talk to anyone."

"Why not?" Jessica asked.

"It . . . could be all the drugs she was dosed with during her time at the lab." Hopper sighed again. "It's probably something else, though. If she tried to take on the lab . . ."

"They would've stopped her," Nancy said. The coolness of her voice worried Jessica.

"Yes. Like they would stop you if you try to do anything."

"I just want information."

"Hm. Be careful what you do with it once you get it."


Once outside the police station Nancy and Jessica went to their respective cars. They were parked next to each other, and Jessica really wanted to say something before leaving.

"Nance, I don't think this is a good idea. I mean, I'm still going to help you research, but I meant what I said. I'm not putting my family and friends at risk for this. The lab people have been leaving us alone because we've been doing what they want. We should keep it that way."

Jessica opened her car door before turning back to Nancy. "Look, I know I didn't lose a best friend like you did, but Mike lost El and he really liked her. If something were to happen to him because of that lab, then her death would've been for nothing. She sacrificed herself protecting everyone else."

Nancy looked down to the ground. "I know. I know you're right. It just doesn't seem right. I still have dinner with her parents every couple of weeks. They just . . . they don't believe she ran away and they think she was taken or something. They don't know that they're never going to see her again."

"That must be awful."

Jessica didn't tell her that she thought Nancy was just punishing herself by making herself be around Barb's parents. It couldn't be fun to see the anguish the Holland's must have been feeling. She wasn't sure she could do it if it had been one of her friends who had been killed.


Jessica and Steve had dinner with her mom that night. She tried to spend more time with her now that Dustin was at camp. Her mom had a life outside of her children, but Jessica knew she must miss Dustin's enthusiasm about things – he really did bring life to the house.

It would've been a quiet, normal night if Hopper hadn't come in a little after dinner time. He wanted to talk to Jessica and Steve.

Jessica's mom teased her about it, about what kind of trouble she'd gotten up to now.

"She's not in any trouble. I just need to ask them a question about something I'm working on. They may be able to help."

Jessica and Steve stepped out into the heat of the summer night and walked to the end of the driveway to Hopper's Ford. Jessica could see and feel the tension that Steve had picked up as soon as Hopper had revealed he'd wanted to talk to them.

She grabbed his hand and squeezed. She hadn't had the time to tell him what Nancy had asked her to do, what she had agreed to do, so he had no clue what was going on. He probably thought some weird Upside Down stuff was going on.

Jessica wasn't sure what this was about. She'd seen Hopper only a few hours ago. Surely, he could've said whatever he'd needed to then.

"So . . . what's going on?" she asked.

"How long has Nancy been researching the lab?" was Hopper's response.

"She just told me about it today."

"Wait, what?" Steve asked, turning to her. "She shouldn't be doing that."

"Look," Hopper said, "as long as that's all she's doing, I don't think it's going to be a problem. But she's always wanted to go public about what happened, and that's what worries me."

"I know, I –"

"You're helping her, so just keep an eye on the situation. Don't let her do anything rash. Okay? We've already got some idiot named Murray running around talking about a little girl running around, and his description of her sounds a lot like what El looked like. I don't know where he got his information."

"What?"

"Yeah, he comes by the station at least once a week. He's a reporter nosing around for a story. If he finds out about Nancy, he'll get one."

Jessica shoved her hands through her hair and pulled a little when she realized how much could go wrong.

"Okay, I'll make sure Nancy doesn't do anything stupid. I tried telling her that earlier, you know, but she's still messed up about Barb."

"I understand. Losing someone is hard, and everyone grieves differently. But if she even hints at going public, you need to let me know."

"Got it. I don't want anyone getting hurt, Hopper."


Once Hopper left, Steve and Jessica took a short walk around the block. There was still enough light left in the day to make it if they didn't take too long.

"So . . . I guess we need to talk," Jessica said.

"Uh, yeah, I would say."

Steve wasn't mad that Jessica hadn't said anything. From what she'd said to Hopper, she'd only known for a short while that Nancy was doing any type of research at all, and they hadn't really had time alone since he'd gotten to her house.

"I, uh, I was going to tell you later, when Mom wasn't around."

They were walking hand-in-hand, and she drew closer to him as she began talking.

"I told Nancy I'd help her research and that's it. We probably won't find much. I mean, the lab did cover it up. And I told her that if I thought it was getting dangerous that I was going to stop."

"Okay."

"Okay? I mean, you're honestly okay with it? Because if you don't want me doing it, I won't. If you –"

"Jess, I'm not gonna tell you what to do. I mean, am I happy about it? No. But I trust you to the make right call when it comes down to it."

Steve stopped walking when Jessica did and he noticed the soft expression that had taken over her face. He must have said the exact right thing. To be fair, he'd learned a long time ago that Jessica didn't like people telling her what to do.

"I love you," she said, leaning forwards and tilting her head so she could kiss his cheek.

Steve grinned at the show of affection and then brought his arm up to wrap around her shoulders to pull her closer. He kissed the side of her head and told her he loved her too before they continued their walk without any more discussion of the lab or anything dealing with it.

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