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El was late.

About fifteen minutes late, as her phone kept reminding her. She was this close to throwing it across her apartment for going off for the fourth time to remind her that she should have been at the restaurant a quarter of an hour ago. Unfortunately, she was still about ten minutes away from actually being ready to go, her hair half up in a bun and no shirt covering herself.

And it was all her boss’s fault.

In the three years, three long years that El had been working for him, he had never, ever, kept her past five. Ever. It was something that El had always loved about working there. She got there at nine, left at five, every single day. Which is why she had been counting on being on time tonight, Max had specifically made the reservation for six, instead of her original plan of five thirty, all because El had practically begged her for an hour to get ready after work.

Which, in retrospect wasn’t totally fair, it was Max’s birthday after all, but it was a half an hour, how bad was it really?

Well, now it was pretty bad considering it was almost 6:15 and El hadn’t even left her apartment yet. Stupid boss who made her stay forty five minutes late all because he couldn’t decide between photos for the new ad campaign and had insisted that El stay until he made his final decision.

(Of course he hadn’t listened to her when she told him six times which picture she liked better, instead trusting the decision of the janitor who had come in about thirty five minutes in.)

Ugh, men.

Now here she was, a half an hour later, finally tucking the final strand of hair up into it’s bun and pulling a shirt on over her head so she could leave to go the restaurant. She was barely paying attention as she threw all her stuff into her purse and left her apartment, only about twenty minutes after she was supposed to arrive.

She could only hope that Max would understand.

Luckily, the restaurant was only about a five minute walk from her apartment, and she nearly sprinted all the way there, bless past her for deciding to wear her boots and not heels, so she got there approximately twenty three minutes after six.

“Finally!” She heard from across the room as soon as she walked in, her eyes immediately finding the source of the voice. Max, a vision in a pale blue shirt and black skinny, was walking towards her, a champagne glass in her hand as she came to meet El by the door.

El was secretly grateful that she would be able to explain to Max why she was late away from the eyes of the other guests. Other guests that El didn’t even know considering Max had kept who they were a secret from her, besides Lucas, of course. “I’m sorry.” El said as soon as Max was in hearing range. “Brenner forced me to stay late and wouldn’t let me leave and then I had go and change because I had spilled coffee on myself this morning…”

She was rambling and could feel frustrated tears prickling at the corners of her eyes, so she was relieved when Max put her hand on El’s arm. “Hey, it’s okay. I was actually more worried about you than anything else.” Her best friend then flashed her a wide smile, and El felt her shoulders sag in relief.

“Thanks. Happy birthday by the way.” El said, leaning forward and wrapping her arms around Max’s shoulders, careful not to spill any of her drink.

Max laughed softly, pulled away and planting a loud and wet kiss on El’s cheek. “Thank you, thank you. Just remember that today is my birthday so, you’re not allowed to hate me.”

Crinkling her eyebrows together in confusion, El shook her head slightly as Max took her head and started leading her through the restaurant to her table. “Huh?” El said when they got past the hostess and further into the room.

Before Max could answer however, El got her answer. She now knew why Max had kept who she invited a secret. Because sitting at the table, conveniently next to the only empty chair, was the bane of El’s entire existence.

Mike fucking Wheeler.

“Hey, so El sucks and is late but she’s here now so we can finally actually start.” Max said as she sat back down her seat next to Lucas. Rolling her eyes, El blushed slightly as she made her way around the table and sat down in between ugh, Mike and one of Lucas’s other friends, Will.

Will, who smiled at her and waved. A far cry from the eye roll that she got from Mike as she slipped into her seat. God , tonight was going to suck.

“Aw, Hopper, got better places you needed to be?” Lucas teased from next to Max, a chuckle escaping his lips as he slips his arm around the back of Max’s chair.

El opens her mouth to reply, laughing dancing on her tongue but Mike say something before she can. “Probably.” The word is short and slightly muffled by his hands, which are resting on his chin but El hears him, clear as day.

“I had to stay late at work and then I couldn’t find my keys and it was a whole thing.” She said, swallowing uncomfortably as Mike shifted in his seat away from her. Her blood slowly began to boil as she shifted her eyes to him, the mere sight of him sending angry shivers up her spine.

It’s not like her and Mike hated each other. Truthfully, they barely even knew each other, but El knew enough about the smug, arrogant, know it all best friend of Lucas’s that she was fairly certain that she never ever wanted to be any closer to him then she needed to. Not only was his insistence on always being right now matter what the conversation, but he had been an absolute jackass to Max last year when they had gone on that date.

So, needless to say El was not Mike Wheeler’s biggest fan. And for some reason beyond her the feeling seemed to be reciprocal. Not that she was complaining, if he didn’t like her as much as she didn’t like him, then that meant less time that she had to spend interacting with him.

However, tonight, there happened to be one, tiny problem. A problem that hit El like a ton of bricks when she took a good look at him. A problem that made her palms sweat and made her anger slowly morph into a very different kind of fire.

Mike Wheeler was hot.

El had always been vaguely aware of Mike being attractive. Hell, even when Max had gone on her date with him she had said he was ‘cute in a nerdy, working IT at a big corporation kind of way’ , but she had always refused to acknowledge it. The last thing she wanted was for him to think that she found him attractive and make that inflate his already grossly over exaggerated ego.  

But tonight, it was almost impossible to ignore. Something about the way his jaw was clenched with anger and the veins visible on his hand were flexed made her unable to look away. Top that off with the way his navy blue sweater brought out his eyes and El felt like she was on a sinking ship with absolutely no hope of being rescued.

Fuck Mike Wheeler.

Eventually, her attention was pulled back to the table, Dustin, Lucas’s other friend who always knew what to say to get a laugh and bickered with Mike almost all the time, much to El’s amusement, cracking a joke that made El smile. After that, the dinner went relatively smoothly, at least for a while, and El managed to avoid looking at Mike, who subsequently was avoiding looking at her.

El had to admit, as happy as she was that Mike seemingly hated her as much as she hated him, she had to wonder why. She certainly have never done anything to personally offend him. Unless he was offended by her sticking up for her friend because he had acted like a dick by not calling her back after their blind date. If that was the case, then he had a more fragile ego then El could have imagined.

“So, El.” Will asked from her left side, effectively completely pulling her attention away from Mike, who she had started to feel her gaze lingering towards again. They were just finishing up their meal and most of the conversation had been led by Max and Dustin, occasional comments being made by Lucas and ugh, Mike, of course, with Will and herself mainly listening, so it was a nice change to hear his voice.

She would never admit this to Dustin, but she was pretty sure Will was her favorite of Lucas’s friends.

“Yeah?” She asked, swallowing the last bit of her chicken. From the other side of the table, she caught Max’s eye, and felt her spine straighten as her best friend sent her a wink, flicking her hair over her shoulder.

“How’s work? Do you still work at that ad agency?” Next to her, she heard a soft grumble coming from Mike and she resisted the urge to roll her eyes, choosing instead to ignore him. She nodded at Will’s question, taking a small sip of her wine.

“Yeah, that’s why I was late tonight.” She said with a small laugh. “My boss, who usually is fine, decided tonight that he wasn’t going to let me leave until I helped him make some decision.” Will chuckled softly, almost in understanding and El smiled. “Of course, even though he wanted my help, he refused to listen to me.”

“How absolutely tragic.” El heard a muttering from her other side and she narrowed her eyes as she turned slightly in her chair. She caught sight of an amused smirk on Will’s face and took a deep breath as she regarded Mike. “Maybe he wasn’t listening to you because he didn’t agree with you.”

“What does that mean?” El asked, her eyebrows rising on her face. Under the table, her hands curled into fists and she had to take a deep inhale of air to keep herself calm. As infuriating as Mike Wheeler was, she was not about to give him the satisfaction of an argument.

Mike shrugged, and El could see the lines in his face tighten as he clenched his jaw. “I just mean that maybe your opinion was, I don’t know, not good.”

Before El could think about it too much, there was a strangled gasp coming out of her mouth. God , she hated him so much. “Why do you automatically assume that my opinion wouldn’t be good?” She asks, the words dripping from her mouth like venom. She hated stooping to this level, especially in public, especially on Max’s birthday. But she hated Mike more. “Is it because I’m a woman?”

She knew her last words were unfair. Mike, in year that she had had the displeasure of knowing him, had never given off any indication that he looked down on members of the opposite gender. In fact, him and Max, while they loved to argue, got along just fine and Max had told her they really only argued because it was fun.

Mike scoffed, however, barely looking offended by El’s words. “You being a woman has nothing to do with me thinking you have bad opinion.” Mike practically spat out, his eyes rolling.

On the other side of Mike, Dustin’s mouth fell open slightly, his eyes widening in amusement. El could feel annoyance and frustration rippling through her body. She was about to open her mouth to say something in retort, but before she could Max cleared her throat.

“Lucas and I are engaged!” She exclaimed, instantly grabbing the attention of the rest of the table. El, who was still holding her fork, heard it clatter to her place, flinging a couple of her leftover mashed potatoes onto Mike’s sweater. Not that she cared. She was too busy jumping from her seat, a huge smile on her face.

Sure, she had attracted the attention of nearly everyone in the restaurant, but her best friend was engaged , cut her a little bit of slack.

“Oh my god!” She practically squealed, nearly sprinting around the table to throw her arms around her best friend. Mike makes a dissatisfied, annoyed sound when she brushes by him, but she doesn’t even pay any mind to it, too busy squeezing Max’s shoulders. “I’m so happy for you!”

Max laughs against her shoulder and El feels like she’s walking on cloud nine. “Thanks, Ellie.” El makes eye contact with Lucas through Max’s hair and he gives her a wink, causing El to giggle.

“When did this happen?” Will asks. El still refuses to let go of Max’s shoulder, but she straightens up into a standing position, looking between Will and Lucas.

Lucas shrugs, unable to wipe the grin off his face. “This morning.”  El grins, but looks down at Max’s hand, the presence of an engagement ring absent on her finger. Her eyebrows crinkle together in confusion.

“Where’s your ring?” El asks, grabbing Max’s hand. Max smiles, tucking her hair behind her ear, sending Lucas a smirk. Out of the corner of her eye, El spots a sour look on Mike’s face and vaguely wonders what about two of their friends getting engaged could have lodged such a stick of his ass.

“Was Lucas too broke you actually buy you one?” Dustin jokes, flashing his signature smile. El can’t help but giggle as Lucas flips him off behind Max’s shoulder, although there’s a teasing smirk on his face that can only be a product of years of close friendship.

Max jumps in however before Lucas can retort back, leaning forward, allowing El’s hand to drop from her shoulder. “No, as a matter of fact, I was given a very large, very beautiful diamond.” Max practically sighs, sounding like a character out of those old hollywood movies they used to watch in college. “Very classy. But I’m still me, so I didn’t want to lose it.”

El giggles, giving Max one more squeeze before making her way back to her seat. Mike gives her a weird look as she sits back down, a look in his eye she’s never seen before, but when she looks at him, he rolls his eyes, anger flooding his features.

“Well, that’s awesome guys, I’m really happy for you.” Will says, a smile on his face. Max and Lucas both grin at him and El can’t resist the smile that falls on her lips. She still kind of feels like she’s floating, her happiness for her best friend practically making her giddy.

Max was getting married. She was going to walk down the aisle, in a white dress and marry the man of her dreams. El knew it was overly cheesy of her to already be imagining it, but it wasn’t every day her best friend gets engaged.

She was as happy as could be and nothing could bring her down.

At least, so she thought.

“That’s really awesome, guys.” Mike finally says from next to her, speaking for the first time since Max and Lucas had made their announcement. El watches with curiosity as Mike flashes both Lucas and Max a smile, meeting Max’s gaze. She can’t help but tilt her head slightly when she watches Max grin softly in Mike’s direction.

She would never understand why Max forgave him so quickly. He had ignored her and not called her after their date and Max just shrugged it off like nothing happened. So, now seeing Mike and Max smile like that at each other sent a wave of annoyance up her spine.

“Oh, also why we’re here.” Max said, clapping her hands together. “El? Wanna maybe, be my maid of honor?” El felt herself nodded before she had even processed what Max was saying. “I know that we like just got engaged and the wedding is probably gonna be months from now, but who am I kidding I don’t have any other friends nearly as great as you.”

“Yes, of course I will!” El exclaims, a wide smile spreading across her face. She’s pretty sure in her excitement, she accidentally knocks Mike’s arm with her elbow, but she doesn't even care. She’s going to be her best friend’s maid of honor , if Mike has a problem with her being excited, he can suck an egg.

“What about you Lucas? Best man?” Dustin asks, leaning forward slightly on the table. “I bet it’s a hard decision, we are all your best friends after all.”

El can’t help but grin when Lucas chuckles slightly, folding his hands on the table. “See, I was thinking that, but nah. I made my decision already.” Lucas has a smirk on his face and suddenly El feels a sinking feeling of dread seep it’s way into her stomach.

“Who is it?” Will asks, sounding genuinely curious. He doesn’t look like he’s expecting it to be him and El can’t help but admire that. Again, she rests her case that Will is her favorite, which is why she’s kinda disappointed that it likely won’t be him, especially considering Lucas only flashes him a small smile before directing his attention towards Dustin and Mike.

Dustin leans forward, and El has to swallow down the weird bundle of nerves that have gathered in her throat. “It’s Mike.”

Her heart sinks and El feels like the world has opened up, threatening to swallow her up whole.

“Really?” Mike asks, sounding genuinely surprised. His voice sounds muffled though, even though he’s sitting right next to her. El realizes that it’s because her ears have started ringing.

“What!” Dustin exclaims, loudly, and quite frankly, El agrees. She knew that Mike and Lucas were close but were they really close enough to warrant him being Lucas’s best man. He can’t be. Because if he is, that means El will have to work with him for the next however many months.

Lucas nods, and El feels her stomach twist uncomfortably, especially when she catches sight of Mike’s grin. God , he probably doesn't even care about actually being best man. He probably cares more about being chosen, and beating out his other friends. “Listen, don’t get me wrong. You guys are all my best friends, so it was hard to choose. But Mike’s been my friend the longest so, felt like it kinda gave him an edge.”

Oh , El thinks bitterly, taking a sip of her water. Mike gets to be best man because he happened to grow up on the same street of Lucas. How absolutely wonderful for him .

And how absolutely annoying for her.

“Well, thanks man. That means a lot.” Mike says and El honestly has to resist the urge to roll her eyes. “I’d be honored to be your best man.”

The two share a smile and El makes eye contact with Max, who merely shrugs. ‘Sorry’ she mouths and El takes a deep breath, throwing a smile on her face. She knows Max sees right through her and she’ll likely call her later to talk about everything, but right now she just needs to make the boys believe it.

“Obviously, it’s going to be a little bit before we start planning, but we’re probably gonna want a lot of input and help from you guys.” Max says. El feels Mike’s eyes on her at Max’s words and she dares to slide his gaze over at him. There’s an unreadable expression on his face and the moment passes almost as quickly as it appeared.

It puts an unsettling feeling in El’s heart and she gulps in an attempt to dispel it.

“Well, I’ll be happy to help with anything you need.” El says, flashing the couple a small grin, rubbing her suddenly sweaty palms against the fabric of her jeans.

“Ditto.” Mike says, and with a small snort, El realizes that it’s probably the first time her and Mike had ever agreed on anything.

“You guys are the best.” Max says and Lucas flashes a smile in agreement. El smiles back, but now that the dread has wormed its way into her heart, brain and every other crevice of her body and soul, she knows it’ll be here for a long time.

After that, the conversation shifts and the waitress comes to get their dessert orders, but El can’t shake the feeling of nerves and frustration, no matter how hard she tries. It certainly doesn’t help that Mike keeps accidentally, or hell maybe on purpose just to annoy her, knocking her knee under the table, thus reminding her of his presence, which just about the last thing she wants right now.

Because, while Lucas and Max being engaged might be their dream, it’s about to become El’s living nightmare.

And it’s all because of Mike goddamn fucking Wheeler.

Chapter Text

Mike liked to think that he was a pretty easy going person.

Sure, a lot of stuff bothered him, but he had gotten pretty good at swallowing his pride and just ignoring things he didn’t like. Especially if it was something that was out of his control. As much as it has sucked, he had gone along with it when his parents had gotten divorced, he hadn’t fought too much with his dad when his dad had basically forced him into being an engineer major instead of a creative writing major. So yeah, Mike liked to think that not much bothered him, at least not enough to put up a fight.

That, however, all was about to go out the window.

“This is so annoying.” Mike grumbled as him and Will walked down the street the day after Max’s birthday. He knew that it was pathetic, to complain about the honor of getting to be Lucas’s best man, but he just, hated , El Hopper so much.

He hated the way she never seemed to think of anyone but herself. He hated the way she carried herself like she was better than everyone. He hated the way she would just look at them when they were talking, an expression on her face like it wasn’t even worth her time to converse with them.

(He also definitely hated how she was pretty much the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life, but that was neither here nor there).

“What? Being Lucas’s best man?” Will asked, a hint of amusement in his tone. Mike slide his gaze down to his shorter friend and groaned when he caught sight of Will’s raised eyebrows. “You know, Dustin would probably more then happy to take your place.”

Mike stopped, rolling his eyes. “It has nothing to do with being Lucas’s best man. Well, not technically.” Will snorted and Mike hitched his shoulders up. “Dustin, can kiss my ass, by the way.” He added.

Opening the door to Starbucks, the pair’s destination, Will flashed a look back at Mike, a smirk on his face. “Oh it just has everything to do with who Max picked as her maid of honor, right?” There was a tone of teasing to his voice and it made Mike’s neck burn in embarrassment.

It’s not that Will was wrong, in fact he was pretty much spot on, but it’s not like Mike wanted to admit that.

“Maybe.” Mike finally mumbled as the two joined the back of the line. “She just bothers me so much and I feel like if we work together we’re just going to rip each other’s throats out.” Mike inched forward, grateful that he still had like an hour before he had to be at work.

Will laughed, shaking his head slightly. “So, like I suggested before, why don’t you ask Dustin to do it? He was pretty bummed that he didn’t get picked and him and El get along and might actually get stuff done.”

Despite the very valid point that Will was making, Mike couldn’t help but be slightly annoyed by his comment. Why did he have to give up his job as Lucas’s best man? El was the problem, not him. Why should he get punished all before El was the most insufferable human on the planet?

“Hey, El is the problem, not me.” Mike argued, pulling his wallet from his pocket. Will didn’t make the move, knowing that it was Mike’s turn to pay for their drinks. It was the system the two of them had had for years and it hadn’t failed them yet. “Besides, I don’t want to give El that satisfaction of her thinking she won because I dropped out.”

Mike knew that he was being slightly immature, but he also meant what he said. He didn’t want El to feel like she had that kind of influence on him, so he was just going to swallow it down and suck it up. But not before getting some complaining in first.

“Why do you even hate her so much?” Will asked after they had ordered their drinks and made their way do the other counter. “Haven’t you guys only talked like twice?”

Shoving his hands in his pockets, Mike nodded curtly. “Yeah, and that’s exactly the point.” He said, a soft groan rolling past his lips. “I’ve known her for an entire year and it took her like 2 months to even look at me, I didn’t even do anything to her and she already hated me.”

Will nodded, not looking totally convinced, but he also didn’t bother arguing. Perk of having friends who have known you since you were five is that they know when and when not to press you for more.

Since Mike had more time then he had expected before he needed to be at work and Will had the day off, the two decided to stay at Starbucks instead of leaving like they usually did. Finding a small table near the back of the room, they shifted away from dinner the night before and instead started talking about Will’s newest painting, and the campaign that Mike was trying to write.

By the time they were getting ready to go, El was a far from Mike’s mind as she could be.

Which is why it was all the more jarring when he exited the bathrooms, the iced coffee he’d had running right through him, she was exactly the person his eyes saw.

“Fuck.” He whispered. He blinked quickly, wondering if it was actually her talking to Will, or if his mind was just playing tricks on him. But alas, she wasn’t disappearing, and now Mike looked like an idiot, just blinking profusely while standing in the entrance of the men’s restroom.

He halfway considered just turning back around and reentering the bathroom. Hiding in there until El was gone, but with his luck, Will had already told her that he was there and then she would be weirded out by how long he was in the bathroom. Sure, Mike didn’t really care what El thought of him, but he didn’t need her thinking he was the kind of person who did that in public restrooms.

So, swallowing his pride and his sheer annoyance just by seeing her face, he stuck his hands in his pockets and made his way over to Will and El. The pair were standing near the table that him and Will had been sitting at and El was holding some kind of iced drink in her hand, sunglasses perched on her head.

His heart jumped in his heart, and swallowed roughly to cover it. “Oh, Mike there are you!” Will exclaimed, clearly catching sight of him. The wide smile that had been on El’s face dropped, a small scowl replacing it. Mike swore that he saw her stand up straighter and he could barely resist rolling his eyes.

“Hello, Michael.” El said, clearing her throat. Mike didn’t know what was more surprising, her using his full name, something she knew that he hated, or that she was addressing him in the first place. He felt the hair on the back of his neck stand and he gulped.

Not trusting his voice, he merely gave her a tense smile, avoiding eye contact and picking at the paint on the table that Will was leaning against. He could feel Will’s glare on him, but he ignored it, hunching up his shoulders to try and make the embarrassed blush on the back on his neck disappear.

“Well, I should get going. I was only supposed to be gone for like ten minutes, so I need to get back before my boss literally kills me.” She let out an awkward laugh and Mike felt his eyes drift up to her face. There was something in her eyes that sent curiosity running up and down Mike’s spine, but it was gone before Mike could think about it too much.

“Bye, El.” Will said kindly, giving her a smile. Mike forced another small grin, still not trusting himself to say anything and not particularly interested in giving her any kind of attention. She responded only by giving Will a curt wave and grinning tightly before spinning on her heels and rushing out of the coffee shop.

She had only been gone about five seconds before Will’s elbow pierced his side, hard. “Ow!” Mike exclaimed, holding his hand to his ribs. “What the hell was that for?”

Biting his lip, Mike looked down at the floor, his sneaking scuffing against the tile. “I don’t know what you’re talking about?” He said, shrugging his shoulders up around his ears, inwardly cringing at his own words.

“I know you hate her or whatever, but you don’t need to be such a jerk.” Will grumbled, and Mike risked glancing up, watching as Will threw his jacket on over his shoulders. “Would it have killed you to say hello?”

Before Mike could stop himself the words, “It might have,” slipped sarcastically from his lips, causing Will to roll his eyes. “Look, honestly. Me not saying anything was probably for the best, if I had opened my mouth I probably would have said something a lot worse.”

Will mumbled something under his breath, something that Mike couldn’t hear but there was a small half shrug of Will’s shoulders, almost in agreement. “Fine, maybe that’s true, but you might want to work on actually talking to her without saying something that makes you sound like the world’s biggest jackass.”

“Why?” Mike asked, following Will as he began to walk away from the table and near the front door. Mike was fairly sure at this point he was going to be late for work, but he honestly didn’t care all that much, what was the worst that could happen? He’d get fired? That’d be a blessing in disguise if you asked him.

Will scoffed, throwing a look at Mike over his shoulder. “Oh I don’t know, because you two are are helping two of your best friends plan a wedding. Did you forget about that?”

They were outside by now, the early March wind like a slap in the face. Chicago was brutal sometimes. “No, but it’s Lucas and Max’s wedding. They’re gonna be the ones planning it.”

“Still, you two are gonna be spending a lot more time together then you usually do. I’m just saying it probably wouldn’t hurt to work on your toleration skills.” Will said with a small shrug, stopping when they reached a street corner.

Mike groaned, throwing his head back. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right. But I’m not going it for her, I’m doing it for Lucas.” Will rolled his eyes, quite frankly not looking like he cared all that much, but he had a weird smirk on his face that made Mike feel uneasy.

“Whatever you say.” He said. As he began to back away, towards the direction of his apartment, which happened to be in the opposite direction of Mike’s office, Mike waited for his parting words, spine straightening and face turning red when he eventually got them. “Besides, who knows, maybe one day you two will be the ones getting married.”

Mike swore that he saw Will wink as he finally turned on his heels. All Mike could do was stand there, his mouth open slightly, Will’s words running over and over and over again in his head. Mike knew he was just teasing but now the image was stuck in his head.

El wearing a white dress. El walking down the aisle. Him and El, ew , kissing.

It made him want to vomit. Him and El, married? Fate fucking chance.

He could only barely ignore the small voice in the back of head that kind of wanted it.

 


 

Later that night, Mike was in the middle of trying to decide where he wanted to order takeout from for dinner when his phone rang. While he wasn’t necessarily surprised when he saw Lucas’s name flash across the screen, there was a still a crinkle of confusion in his brow when he answered.

“Hey.” He said simply, holding the phone to his ear with his shoulder so he could continue to sift through take out menus. There was a shuffling on the other end and Mike was fairly sure he could hear Max’s voice and he smirked slightly.

“Hey, is this a bad time?” Lucas asked, and Mike shook his head before remembering that Lucas couldn’t see him.

“No, you’re good. What’s up?” Mike knew there was a reason that Lucas was calling. Ever since Lucas and Max had gotten serious, or even before that, Lucas never really called just to chat. In fact, of all the guys, Dustin was really the only one who did that.

Mike heard Lucas sigh on the other end and suddenly dread began to build up in the deep crevice of his soul. He had a feeling he wasn’t going to like whatever Lucas was about to say. “So, I know that Max and I literally just got engaged.”

He snorted, shaking his head ever so slightly. “Yeah, it was quite literally yesterday. We were all there when you announced it.” Lucas chuckled and Mike smiled. “Why do I have a feeling this has something to do with wedding planning?” Mike asked, not wanting to beat around the bush too much.

“Because it does. I know that Max had kinda said it would be a while before we started planning, but we talked about it last night and decided that we maybe, don’t wanna do that.” Mike could practically see the nervous grin that was on Lucas’s face. He couldn’t help the small groan that escaped his lips, his hand dropping the menus and running through his hair. “So we kinda wanna get the ball rolling sooner rather than later, if you know what I mean.”

“Yeah.” Mike muttered, his hand running down his face. “I know what you mean.” He felt a twinge of guilt shoot up his spine as he thought about his reaction. He knew how excited Lucas was to get to marry Max, of course he wanted to marry her as soon as he could. He was happy for Lucas, really he was, even if that meant he was going to have to deal with El. “And I’m happy for you, man. You deserve it.”

“Thanks, Mike. I appreciate that.” There was a pause and Mike couldn’t help but let out a small grin. “And listen, I swear that it wasn’t like planned or anything for you and El to be best man and maid of honor, I didn’t even think of that until we got to the restaurant.”

Mike nodded, knowing that Lucas was likely telling the truth. He didn’t know if he would have put it past Max to do something that cruel, especially if she thought she was being funny, but he knew Lucas would never do something like that intentionally. Especially considering of all the guys, Lucas was the one most well versed in Mike’s dislike of El.

“It’s fine.” Mike said shortly, not wanting to linger on it too much. At this point, he only wanted to have to think about, or talk to, or talk about, El when absolutely necessary. “I can put all my feelings about her aside, don’t worry.”

“Oh, I know you will.” Lucas said and Mike swore that he could hear Lucas’s smirk coming through his tone and confusion rippled through Mike’s body, causing his eyebrows to quirk. “But anyways, since Max and I wanna start planning right away, we wanna get together with you and El to kinda start going over stuff and what not.”

Leaning back in his chair, take out menus forgotten about, Mike nodded. “That makes sense. What exactly are El and I going to be doing?” Mike really hoped that him and El would have completely different duties and that they would hopefully only have to interact when Lucas and Max were around.

“Well, you know, we’ll probably mainly just need you guys to help give us opinions on stuff. Max has a pretty specific vision of what she wants, so I don’t think there’s gonna be a lot of decision making on your part. Thank god.” Lucas says, giving out a small laughter. No doubt thinking of how he had said numerous times he had told Mike that he had zero taste.

“Haha, very funny.” Mike said sarcastically, getting up from his seat at his kitchen counter and beginning to pace around his apartment. “So that’s it, just giving our opinions on stuff, making sure you guys don’t have like the ugliest wedding ever.” Mike smirks, chuckling when he hears Lucas scoff.

“Why would it be the ugliest wedding ever, you’re not the one planning it.” Lucas says, and Mike gasps, feigning offense. Before too long the two are both laughing, Mike falling onto his couch with a sigh. “But yeah, you guys aren’t gonna do any planning, but you uh, might have to do stuff together for Max and I.”

Swallowing down the groan that immediately began crawling it’s way up his throat, Mike pushing his hair back from his forehead and let out a small sigh. “Like what?”

“I don’t know. Send out invitations, pick up the flowers, check out the venue a couple days before and make sure it looks okay. Stuff like that.”

While that kind of stuff didn’t exactly sound enjoyable, not that any length of time spent with El Hopper did, Mike had to admit that it wasn’t nearly as bad as he had originally hoped. So what, he had to spend a couple extra hours of his life with El that he never, ever wanted to, but he guessed he could live with it.

He wasn’t happy about it, but he could live with it. He was going to have to.

“That doesn’t sound too bad.” Mike said, mainly to appease Lucas. “I mean, I can live with that.”

“Really?” Lucas said, not sounding like he believed Mike, but also sounding like he was pleased with the response. “Aww, Mike are you warming up to her?” He teased, and Mike imagined if this conversation was happening in real life, Lucas would be poking him in the ribs.

Which is exactly why Mike practically jumped in the air, nearly shouting his response. “No!” Looking around, he had to remind himself that he was in his apartment, therefore alone, but he was still embarrassed for his reaction. “Definitely not warming up to her.”

“Aw, that’s a shame.” Lucas said, humming slightly. “Because I think you’d really like her if you gave her a chance.” Unlike the previous words Lucas had said, there was no hint of teasing in his voice, which just put Mike even more on the edge.

Him, liking El? Yeah, fat fucking chance.

“Yeah, that’s never gonna happen.” Mike said simply, wanting to move on and stop talking about El. “So, when did you want to get together?”

There was a rustling and Mike heard Lucas whisper something to Max, but he couldn’t decipher it. “We’re thinking Friday, but Max needs to check to see if that works for El.” Mike rolled his eyes, of course when they were meeting would have everything to do with when El was free. Because El was the only one who was of any importance, didn’t matter what anyone else was doing, only El.

Mike didn’t let that bitterness come through in his next words though, swallowing it down like bile. “Well, just let me know what day and time to be there and I will.” He had a tight smile on his face, but he couldn’t help but feel satisfied by his response.

He knew it wasn’t a competition, but between him and El for who was a better right hand man, he felt like was winning.

Something that kept a smile on his face long after him and Lucas hung up the phone a couple minutes later.

And something that kept him from lingering on Lucas’s words. Because if there was one thing Mike was absolutely certain of without a shadow of a doubt was that he would never ever like El Hopper.

Never.

 


 

Mike had to admit, he was slightly disappointed when Friday rolled around and he hadn’t received any kind of message about that night’s dinner being cancelled, only one that told him where to go and what time to be there. It’s not like he had been hoping for it or anything, but he had had a long and pretty shitty week and spending two or so hours in El Hopper’s presence was not how he wanted his week to end.

But, he had promised Lucas he would put all his feelings aside, so at about five thirty that night, a half an hour before they were meeting at the restaurant, he slipped on one of his clean button downs and his nicest pair of jeans, pocketed his phone, keys and wallet and was on his way.

The restaurant wasn’t too far from his apartment, but it still took him ten or so minutes to get there, putting his arrival time at just after six o’clock. Luckily , he thought with a smirk as he opened the door, El will probably be late just like last time, so he’ll be fine .

He was not fine.

Sure, he wasn’t late, but unlike Monday, when El had been a whopping twenty five minutes late to dinner, this time she was right on time. Now it was Mike’s turn to look like an asshole. Sure, it was only a little after six, but Mike hated being late and he hated feeling like people were waiting for him. So with a duck of his head, he hunched his shoulders and quickly made his way over to the table where everyone was waiting for him.

When he got the table, his heart dropped slightly, his stomach twisting uncomfortably. Mike had been preparing to sit next to El, prepared to uncomfortably shift in his chair all night so he could avoid touching her. But no, it looks like life was currently in the business of throwing him curveballs.

Because at the four person the only empty seat was across from El. It looks like Max and Lucas had wanted to sit across from each other, so Mike’s spot was going to be next to Lucas. Part of Mike preferred that, he could sit comfortably in his seat, not worry about his arm accidentally hitting Lucas’s or knocking his leg under the table.

But this meant that he would have to stare at El. All. Night Long.

Kill him now.

Now, Mike reasoned with himself as he got closer to the table, his hands digging deeper into the depths of his pockets, it’s not like El was bad to look at. Not by any means. In fact, that was the whole fucking problem. El was beautiful , insanely so in fact. It was something that Mike hated most about her. He hated that someone with that beautiful of a face, with a brilliant and heart pounding smile, with soft brown eyes that Mike often avoided looking for fear he would get lost in that, had an ugly personality.

Groaning slightly, Mike tilted his head back, swallowing roughly as he finally approached the table. All three heads turned to look at him, Lucas grinning, Max smirking and El with a blank expression on her face. Well , Mike thought, could be worse . He merely gave Lucas and Max a smile before sliding into his chair, taking a sip of the already filled water glass in front of him. He could feel El’s eyes on him as he did so, the tips of his ears warming, but he didn’t want to bother looking up.

God . This is gonna be a long fucking night.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, none of them had time to say anything as the waitress immediately sidled up to their table, a wide smile on her face. Mike had a feeling that she had been waiting impatiently for him to arrive, feeling a slight twinge of guilt.

“Oh, a double date.” She said, voice sickly sweet. “How cute.”

Mike’s heart froze in his chest, his mouth falling open in slightly shock. Across the table, El scoffed loudly, and when Mike looked over at her, she had her arms crossed over his chest. Mike, while equally as confused and definitely not pleased with the waitresses assumption, adjusted slightly in his chair, sneaking looks at Max, who was trying not to laugh, and Lucas, who was smirking slightly.

“This is definitely not a double date.” El said, disgust dripping from her tone. Mike’s spine bristled, which caused him to sit up straighter in his seat, his attention going back to her. “There is absolutely no universe in which I would ever go on a date with him.”

He tried to ignore the way his heart sunk slightly at her words, instead nodding in agreement. She did have a point, there is probably absolutely no universe in which the two of them would ever be caught on a date, but she didn’t have to be so mean about it. But, Mike supposed he shouldn’t expect anything less from her.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to make assumptions.” The waitress said, clearly uncomfortable with the situation, and Mike didn't blame her. He was just as uncomfortable. There was a tense moment of silence, Max and Lucas both looking apologetic, El looking down at her lap. If Mike didn’t know any better, he would say that she was embarrassed for how she reacted, but he knew that wasn't the case at all. El was the last person to be ashamed of being that much of a bitch.

That Mike knew for sure.

“Has everyone had a chance to look at the menu?” The waitress asked after a moment or so had passed, her hand smoothing her skirt. Mike managed to shake his head, not trusting his mouth, and the waitress merely gave him a tense nod before disappearing as quickly as she could.

As soon as she was out of sight, Max reached over, smacking El hard across the upper arm. Mike felt his eyes widen, the gesture unexpected. “Ow!” El exclaimed, her hand immediately going to her arm, rubbing it. “What the hell was that for?”

Max rolled her eyes and Mike couldn’t help but smirk. He was glad he wasn’t the only one that was fed up with El’s bullshit sometimes. “Listen, I get it.” Max said, folding her arms across her chest, her eyes sliding across the table to look at Mike too. “You two hate each other, but can you guys at least try and tolerate each other, for our sake.”

Mike, suddenly feeling like he also was being lectured to, even though he hadn’t done anything wrong, nodded. As much as Mike liked her, and was happy that Lucas was marrying her, Max kind of scared him and he knew if he fucked up she would probably beat him up without any hesitation.

“I’m sorry.” El said, and Mike had to resist rolling his eyes. “I didn’t mean to snap like that, I’m just tired.” And here come the excuses. Mike snuck a glance at Lucas, wondering if he saw through El’s bullshit, but there was nothing on his face to indicate his feelings. “I promise, from here on out I will be one hundred percent tolerating.”

With her words, her eyes snapped to him and Mike nodded, still not totally trusting himself to say something. Especially now with El’s eyes boring into his. It really was unfair how fucking pretty she was. Like him, she hadn’t dressed up a lot tonight, but she a little bit of makeup on her face and Mike couldn’t help but notice how it brought out all of her best features.

Snap out of it , Mike practically yelled at himself, shaking his head slightly, she’s not worth your attention .

“Good, I’m glad to hear it.” Max said, giving El a small smile. “And you?” She asked, directing her attention to Mike. Suddenly all eyes were on him, and Mike swallowed nervously, his hands rubbing against his jeans under the table.

“Yeah, me too.” He said, irritating slipping through his words. He wasn’t a huge fan of being accused of not being able to be nice when he hadn’t even done anything, but he supposed him and El didn’t have the greatest track record, so he supposed he couldn’t blame her that much.

Smirking, Max nodded, leaning back in her chair. “Now that we’ve got that settled, we can start talking about the wedding.”

At the word wedding, Lucas smiled and sat up a little straighter in his seat, and Mike couldn’t help but smile. Even if he did kind of hate them for being so happy and cute together. Don’t get Mike wrong, he was super happy for Lucas, him and Max were pretty much perfect together, something Mike had released after knowing Max for maybe ten minutes, but he couldn’t help but be slightly jealous.

Granted, his only attempt at ever being in love had ended in absolute disaster and since then he had pretty much sworn of trying to be in a relationship, still didn’t mean he wasn’t a little jealous. It was pretty hard not to when Max and Lucas looked at each other like that , especially when there were two other people sitting at the table.

“Perfect.” El said, clapping her hands together, her voice so sweet it practically made Mike gag. Lucas and Max snapped out of their love induced haze to direct their attention to her, smiles on both of their faces. Gag me . Mike thought bitterly. “Have you given any thought to what you’re going to need us to do?”

Max and Lucas exchanged a glance, a glance that made Mike very, very , nervous. They were both smiling, although there was something on both of their faces that did not look good. Unfortunately, before either one of them could answer El’s question, the waitress reappeared.

Not wanting to have a similar interaction as earlier, the four of them simply ordered their food, Mike’s eyes nearly rolling out of his head when El asked for a sandwich without nearly all the extra things it came with, making the waitress scribble everything down as she spoke. It was like she wanted the waitress to hate her.

Maybe that was her whole thing, Mike thought. Maybe she wanted people to hate her. That was certainly a new development. Maybe she wanted to be all alone in life, so she was determined to make everyone around her hate her. It was kinda fucked up, but with El, anything was possible.

He was so wrapped up in thoughts that he barely noticed when the waitress walked and Lucas, Max and El were talking about the wedding again. In fact, it wasn’t until Lucas kicked him under the table that he snapped back to the conversation, eyes seeking Max, who was looking at him expectantly with her eyebrows raised.

“So, does that work for you?” She was asked, clearly waiting for him to answer. Lucas was also looking at him expectantly, hands folded in front of him.

“Ummm..” Nervously, he found himself seeking out of El across the table, who had her arms crossed across her chest and was glaring at him ever so slightly. He sighed, not wanting to be shown up by El, so he nodded his head. “Yeah of course.” He had no idea what he was agreeing to, but it couldn’t be that bad right?

He saw El roll her eyes out of the corner of his eyes, a small, silent laugh escaping her lips and he couldn’t help the shiver of annoyance that ran up his spine. But he ignored it, instead focusing on the smile on Max’s face as she nodded, almost like she was making a mental note of his agreeability.

Like he has said before, he was gonna go with the flow. Not be a problem at all.

After that dinner went as smoothly as it could. He resisted the urge to argue with El on multiple occasions, instead focusing on stabbing his dinner with his fork and clenching his fist under the table. It was gonna be a long however many months . Mike thought when dinner finally ended and he felt himself unclench his jaw. It was right around desert, when El and Max had started talking about wedding colors that Mike had just about it, forcing himself to keep quiet.

“Thank you guys so much for being so awesome about this.” Max said after they had paid the check, slipping her coat on and giving him and El genuine smiles.

“Yeah, seriously. You guys are really saving us and helping us out.” Lucas agreed, going to stand next to Max, his hand slipping into hers, almost like it was second nature. Mike’s heart squeezed in his chest, and he averted his eyes, focusing instead on folding his napkin on the table.

“We’re happy to help.” El said, her use of the word “we” forcing Mike to snap his gaze up. He eyed her skeptically as she flashed him an over-sweet smile, her eyes wide. “Right, Mike?” She practically forced out between her teeth, talk about a metaphorical gun to the head.

Feeling uncomfortable under El’s gaze, Mike nodded. “Yeah, totally.” God, he was so not nailing this best man like he hoped he would.

Goodbyes were exchanged after that, Lucas and Max wanting to get home as soon as they could. They were going to Lucas’s house tomorrow for the weekend so they needed to get an early start. As they left, Lucas clapped a hand on Mike’s shoulder, giving him a smile as he passed.

It made Mike smile, a feeling of lightness swelling up in him. A swelling that popped as soon as he realized that Max and Lucas leaving together meant that it was now just him and El. She was looking at him with a weird look on her face and Mike felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand under her gaze.

“What?” He finally said, shoving his arms into the sleeves of his jacket, adjusting it on his shoulders. He wanted to leave but clearly she had something she wanted to say to him, so he might as well let her have it.

El smiled, shouldering her bag. “You have no idea what you agreed to earlier do you?” She asked, raising her eyebrows. Mike thought back, cringing when he realized that yes, he had agreed to something without really know what it was. He had a feeling he was really about to regret that. El must have sensed that, because she laughed lightly, shaking her head. “You and I are on venue duty, Lucas and Max are both busy the only day the venue is available to look at, so they’re sending us.”

Mike’s stomach twisted and turned violently and he felt like he was going to vomit. Him and El were going to have to look at Lucas and Max’s wedding venue, alone? Fan fucking tastic.

“Oh.” He said simply. He knew that they were alone now, so Mike didn’t have to hold back his usual annoyance, but they were still in public and he was pretty sure their waitress was waiting for one of them to murder the other one, so he was going to stay as collected as possible. “Sounds like, a blast.” He spat out through gritted teeth.

El seemed to thrive on Mike’s annoyance, a smirk dancing across her lips. Shrugging her shoulders, she pushed her chair in, walking around the table so she was standing in front of him. Mike couldn’t help but notice how much taller he was, and also how easy he would be to lean down and kiss her.

Wait, what the fuck?! Mike practically screamed at himself. He did not want to kiss El. Gross.

“See you Tuesday. Five thirty.” She said, a small hitch of her eyebrow. With that, she patted his shoulder, sending a shiver down Mike’s spine. Spinning on her heels, she began walking away from him, but Mike couldn’t let her have the last word.

“Will you be on time this time?” He called after her, ignoring the looks he received from the couple at the table next to him. El didn’t reply, merely throwing him the middle finger as she continued to stride out of restaurant.

Mike smirked, enjoying the little victory as he shoved his hands in his pockets and also began to make his way towards the exit. He was going to have to relish this victory as long as he could, that he knew, so he was going to enjoy it while he had it.

Because he was about to suffer a great defeat in the form of spending an entire evening with El fucking Hopper.

Kill. Him. Now.

Chapter Text

Despite her slightly arrogant, she had to admit, confidence as she had left the restaurant on Friday, the truth was the El was nervous about spending her Tuesday evening with Mike.

Sure, they had known each other for a year, one very long year, but El had done her best to avoid letting them ever be alone together. She had a hard enough time pretending he didn’t exist when they were all together as a group, it would be damn near impossible to do it when he was the only other person around.

So, needless to say El was kind of dreading it.

But, she was doing this because Max had asked her too and the last thing El wanted to do was be a bad friend to Max all because of her dislike for Mike. She may hate Mike Wheeler with every fiber in her being, but she loved Max more and she was not about to throw a fit about having to spend an evening alone with Mike Wheeler.

Besides, it was only one night, how bad could it really be?

However, even with that mindset, El still found herself becoming increasingly nervous as Tuesday ticked closer and closer. She spent most of Saturday and Sunday throwing herself into her latest project for work. The proposal wasn’t due until the following Friday but Brenner had ripped apart her last one, so she was determined to make this one her best yet. She was not about to have Brenner give her that silent disappointment he did so well again.

And for the most part, she spent a good majority of her weekend focused on her proposal and her proposal alone, and she got a good portion of it done and was proud of the work that she had accomplished. Unfortunately, she found that every time she allowed her mind to wander, whether it be when she took a break to eat, or shower, or even just let her thoughts drift away from her work, they always landed on one thing.

Mike Wheeler.

Now, rationally, El knew that this was because she was subconsciously worried about their upcoming evening together, and El was exactly the kind of the person that over thought well, pretty much everything. Hell, in high school she had had multiple dreams about dancing test papers when she was worried about her AP History exam. So, the subject of her daydreams wasn’t all that surprising to her, and as annoying as it was to constantly close her eyes and see Mike Wheeler’s face staring back at her, she was willing to try and ignore that.

However, what she was not a huge fan of and what made her want to rip her eyes out, was what she was picturing Mike doing.

Or more particularly, what she was picturing her and Mike doing.

Yes, for some reason that El blames on the fact that they’re helping plan a wedding and it’s been far too long since she went out on a date, El can’t stop imagining her and Mike, kissing . No matter how hard she tries not to, whenever she closes her eyes all she can think about is Mike pressing his ( cute, soft, nice ) lips against hers.

She hates it.

El’s not inherently against daydreaming about a person of the opposite gender, she had done it plenty of times before, even a couple of times about someone of the same gender. There had been plenty of crushes she’d had in high school, and even as she got into college, that she would daydream about. In fact, she remembered a particularly long daydream about Jack Peterson from her junior chemistry class in which he asked literally swept her off her feet in order to take her to prom.

So yeah, El has nothing against a good daydream. But there was nothing good about daydreaming about kissing Mike Wheeler. Ew.

It wasn’t like Mike wasn’t good looking or anything, quite the opposite as El begrudgingly had to admit, but he was just about the worst person in the entire world and El did not, under any circumstance, want to kiss him. Even if it had been a really long time since she had kissed anyone. Honestly, she would rather kiss a dog.  

Damn Max and her wedding for making El wish she was in love.

God , El thought once Sunday night hit and she was met with the realization that all she had done the last two days was work herself to death and daydream about being in love, was she really that lonely that she was resorting to daydreaming about Mike Wheeler of all people. She needed to get out more.

She especially hates that what started out as simple daydreams about innocent kisses, as uncomfortable as they made her feel, she had also imagined her and the spawn of Satan himself holding hands and going on a date. The date one had been particularly vivid and involved from what El could tell a lot of laughing and smiling.

Well, her dad had always told her as a kid that she had an overactive imagination.

Shaking her head that night as she crawled into bed, she willed herself to get rid of all the thoughts of Mike Wheeler that were bouncing around in her head. She had thought far too long about him in the last forty eight hours and was hoping the next time he crossed her mind was when he was standing in front of her.

Of course, Max was bound and determined to make sure that that didn’t happen as almost as soon as El opened up the book she was reading, desperate for relief from her thoughts that were making her want to take out her own brain and dip it in bleach, her phone dinged. Groaning slightly, El picked up the offended device from her bedside table, smiling only slightly when she saw that the text was from her best friend.

max: don’t forget about tuesday, we’re really counting on you, not mike. here’s the address. can you send it to mike too? thanks. ur the best.

The message, which was accompanied by a couple of smile and heart emojis did put a small, slightly smug, smile on El’s face. It was nice to know that Max and Lucas were counting on her judgement of the venue, not Mike’s. She should have figured that they only invited him along because his ego wouldn’t have been able to handle being left out.

However, her stomach did twist uncomfortably at the thought of messaging Mike. She almost wanted to argue with Max, ask her why Lucas couldn’t just do it, but she refrained. She did not want to become the bitchy, difficult maid of honor. And unfortunately, she couldn’t really say she can’t do it, because despite the fact that she’s never, ever used it before, she does have Mike’s phone number.

Sighing through her nose, El figures she might as well get this over with sooner rather than later, the sooner she texts him and gets it over with, the sooner she can banish him from her mind until the absolute last possible second on Tuesday. Finding his name easily in her contacts, wow she needs more friends , she cringes as she presses the new message button next to his name.

It takes her an embarrassingly long time to figure out what to say to him, she’s almost nervous as she clicks the words out on her keyboard. Her heart is thumping weirdly against her ribs and she swallows down the bundle of nerves that come riding into her throat. More than once she has to delete everything and then start over, not wanting to come off too nice. Just because they were working together, did not mean that she suddenly had to be nice to him.

She was tolerating him. That was it.

el: hey, here’s the address for tuesday. don’t be late. again.

She slightly regrets the bitterness that seeps through the end of her message, but not enough to delete it as she presses send. Putting her phone down, she tries to ignore thinking about it, cursing herself for feeling any sort of anticipation. Why the hell does she care so much about what Mike is going to say in response. It’ll probably be something dumb anyway.

When her phone dings a couple minutes later, she waits, not wanting to give him any kind of satisfaction. The last thing he needs is the idea that she was sitting around with nothing better to do then wait for his response. (Granted, that is kind of exactly what she was doing, even if she was trying to read, but he didn’t need to know that).

Eventually she checks her phone and immediately feels her eyes rolling as she reads his message. God , he really is the most annoying human being on the face of the planet.

mike: um, okay. don’t forgot to apply that advice to yourself too.

Huffing ever so slightly, she sets her phone back down, not even bothering to respond to him. If a mere text message from him sends this much annoyance through her then she really has no idea how she’s going to handle spending an entire evening alone with him. But she supposes she’s going to have to do it, even if it kills her.

Taking a deep breath, she closes her book, flipping the light off, hoping that sleep will push Mike Wheeler out of her mind and into the deep crevices of hell where he belongs. She doesn’t want to think about his windswept hair or his freckled cheeks or his deep brown eyes anymore. No matter how nice they were to look at.

Closing her eyes, El felt herself drift off to sleep, blissfully unaware of what, or who rather, would be awaiting her in her dreams.

 


 

Luckily, El made it through Monday without her thoughts wandering off to Mike too much. There were a couple of times where his stupid freckled face crossed her mind, but for the most part she managed to avoid thinking about him.

For once, she was grateful for how demanding her job was. Even if Brenner did send her more than one backhanded compliment during their morning staff meeting. She swore if she had to hear him say, “well, for such a young, female employee, she does do an acceptable job” one more time she just might lose her mind.

Monday night, El drowned her day in red wine and bad Lifetime movies. They both made her feel better for being ridiculously cheesy, and worse for being another reminder of how alone she truly was.

El had always prided herself on being an independent woman who didn’t need a man. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t want one. Too bad the only men she had in her life that weren’t her coworkers that were all over 40 and married were either engaged (Lucas), in a long term relationship (Dustin), gay (Will) or completely and totally insufferable (Mike).

About halfway through the second movie that she watches, she allows herself to get lost in a daydream. The romantic lead in this movie is blonde, tan and has bright blue eyes and not a freckle in sight. The perfect subject for her daydreams.

However, as she loses herself in the idea of being swept off her feet the same way as the pretty redhead lead was, imagining herself being taken on extravagant rooftop dates and being surprised with impromptu boat rides, the image of her romantic partner slowly begins to shift. His blond hair becomes darker, his skin pales, freckles slowly begin to dance across his face and the blue eyes that El had tried so desperately to get lost in morphed into soft brown.

El groaned, nearly dropping her wine glass.

Fucking Mike Wheeler, ruining her daydreams.

She needed Tuesday to come, and be over with, and fast. She knew the only reason he was invading her thoughts is because she was on edge with nervous anticipation about the time they were being forced to spend together. El just wanted to get it over with.

Shaking her head, she changed the channel, settling on some reality show that involved people screaming at each other and a lot of bleeped out curse words. Much better.

However, before she can lose herself in the scripted over dramatization of it all, her phone buzzed on the coffee table. El felt herself sigh softly, assuming it would Max calling to again remind her about tomorrow. For being notoriously carefree about pretty much everything, Max was certainly taking this planning business very seriously.

So, needless to say she was surprised, although pleasantly so, when it was her dad’s name flashing across her screen, not her best friend’s.

“Hi dad.” She said, a smile on her face as she picked up the phone, muting the television and pulling her fleece blanket tighter over her body.

She hears a light rustling of papers on the other end of the line, and she shakes her head slightly. Her dad always likes to call her when he’s doing paperwork so he can avoid doing it. “Hey, Ellie.”

El makes a face at the nickname, scrunching her nose. “Dad, I’m an adult.” She teases, running her hand through her hair. Her dad snorts and she rolls her eyes slightly.

“What and suddenly that means you can’t have a nickname? What do you want me to do? Start calling you Eleanor every time I talk to you?” Her dad’s oh so familiar sarcasm is dripping through his tone and she cringes at his usage of her real name. She doesn’t even remember the last time someone had called her Eleanor. In fact, she doesn’t think anyone had called her that since her mom.

“Any particular reason that you’re calling?” El asks, leaning back on the couch cushions. It’s not that her dad only ever called when he needed to talk to her about something, but it was rare for him to call on a Monday night. Especially when she knew that Callahan’s mom had just died and they were down an officer at the station.

El heard a rustling and could practically see her dad’s shoulders raising. “No particular reason other then the fact that I haven’t heard a peep from you in almost two weeks.” She could tell by his tone that he wasn’t mad, her dad hardly ever got mad at her, but that he had been slightly concerned by not hearing from her.

She hadn’t even realized that it had been that long. With everything that had been going on with Max getting engaged and work, calling her dad had totally slipped her mind. “Sorry.” She said, running her hand down her face. “Things have been kind of busy and some things just slipped from my mind.”

“Ah, it’s alright.” Her dad said and she heard the scraping of a chair as he no doubt stood from the dining room table. “Everything alright?”

“Yeah no, everything is fine.” El said, ignoring how exhausting work at been the last two weeks. She instead smiled, “Max is engaged.” Her dad and Max had met a handful of times, including once when Max spent the weekend at El’s childhood home when they were in college, so she knew her dad would like be filled in.

“Really?” He asked, the smile practically visible in his tone. “Well, good for her. That’s wonderful.” El grinned, leaning forward and resting her elbow on her knees.

“She wants me to be the maid of honor.” El said, her grin stretching into an even wider smile. Her dad chuckled lightly on the other end and El felt a slight blush creep up onto her cheeks.

There’s another shuffling on the other end and El hears the unmistakable groan of their well worn living room couch. “And I assume you’re pretty excited about that?” Her dad teases, the noise of the television turning on evident in the background.

She smiles though, laying her back and gazing up at the ceiling. “Of course I am, Max is my best friend.” El says. “In fact, I have my first official maid of honor duties tomorrow.”

Her dad hums curiously, and El swears she can hear him scratching his beard. “That soon, huh? What the hell are they having you do?” El rolls her eyes, she really wouldn’t expect her dad to understand anything about wedding planning, him and her mom had eloped because their parents didn’t like each other, so they avoided a wedding all together.

“They’re having me and Lucas’s best man check out their venue, see if it’s good enough.” El says with a shrug, sounding her best to sound nonchalant. The last thing she needed was her dad to give her the third degree about Mike.

“And who exactly is Lucas’s best man?” Her dad questioned, the arched eyebrow practically evident in his tone and El felt herself huff. “Ah.” Her dad hummed. “It wouldn’t happen to be that Mike Wheeler boy I hear about all the time would it?”

El groaned, knocking her head harshly against the arm of the couch. “That would be the one.” She admitted, as she placed a pillow over her face, muffling the sound of her voice. “Although I wouldn’t so much call him a boy as I would an ‘it’.” El grumbled.

Her dad laughed lightly on the other end and El felt her eyes roll. “Aw sweetheart, I don’t think that’s a nice way to talk about a boy you so clearly have feelings for.”

El practically snapped her neck sitting up, the pillow knocking her empty wine glass off the table, the sound of it hitting her rug barely noticeable. “Excuse me?” She whispered, her face suddenly turning bright red. “I do not have feelings for Mike.” El practically spat out, Mike’s name curling off her tongue like it was toxic.

“Whatever you say.” Her dad said. She heard him rustling on the other end. “I probably have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.” She could hear the smirk in his voice and she curled her fist lightly.

“You’re right, you do have no idea what you’re talking about.” El said. She knew she was probably being slightly overdramatic, but her dad could not have been more wrong about the situation if he tried.

Her dad laughed and El felt her spine straighten. “Hey, my apologies. I’m just saying, you seem to have very strong opinions about him and usually people don’t think that much about someone they don’t have feelings for.”

“No offense dad, but you hardly have the best track record when it comes to relationships.” El replied. She knew it was somewhat a low blow, but she was desperate to get him to stop talking about his very wrong assumption of her having feelings for Mike. “You’re not wrong, I do have very strong opinions about him and all of them are negative ones.”

There’s a beat of silence over the phone and El can practically see the look on her dad’s face. “Well, I guess I shouldn’t make assumptions until I’ve had the chance to meet this boy.”

El groans, resting her head in her hand. Now all she wants is for this conversation to be over. Peeking her head over the side of the couch, she catches glimpse at the time on her microwave in the kitchen, it’s only nine thirty, so her dad wouldn’t believe her if she said she was going to bed, but she could think of something.

“I’m sincerely hoping that that never happens, both for your sake and for his.” El says. It’s not that she really cares about protecting Mike, but the last thing she needs is for her dad to meet him and start lying to him about El having feelings for him or something equally as ridiculous. “Well, it’s getting kind of late, so I think I’m gonna go. I still have to take a shower.” El lied, slightly ashamed of herself, but not enough to regret doing it.

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever you say.” Her dad said, clearly able to see right through her. Luckily, he didn’t call her out though, merely sighing and turning the volume up slightly on the tv. “I’ll talk to you later, Ellie.”

El rolled her eyes again, this time a small smile on her lips. “Bye dad, love you.” She added, knowing it would make her dad happy. As much as she loved living in Chicago and being on her own, a part of her would always miss her dad, especially now that he was living all by himself.

“Love you too, kid.”

They exchanged one last goodbye before hanging up, El tossing her phone on the couch beside her as soon as she heard the dial tone. Her dad really had absolutely no idea what the heck he was talking about.

Her having feelings for Mike? Yeah right.

 


 

By the time five thirty on Tuesday rolled around, El felt like a zombie.

She had barely gotten any sleep the night before, tossing and turning as her dad’s voice echoed around in her head. On top of that, work had been hell that day. Brenner had been cold all day, using short and harsh words with El whenever he spoke to her. By the time she left that day, all she really wanted to do was go home and cry.

But, unfortunately, she had a wedding venue she had to go and look at.

Luckily, Chicago foot traffic was on her side that day and she managed to get home in merely ten minutes. Checking the address on her phone, she was pleased to see that it was only a seven minute walk from her address, meaning she had a little bit of time to get changed before she had to, ugh, meet Mike.

Nerves had settled deep into the bottom of her stomach by the time she had changed into jeans and a light sweater. Dread was also crawling it’s way up her spine and El felt like she might vomit, but even through all that, there was a hint of excitement in her that El couldn’t deny.

She did love weddings after all. Even if her first experience with Max’s had to be spent with Mike Wheeler of all fucking people. But still, it was looking at a venue for a wedding so El did her best to look at it brightly.

Thus, she had somewhat of a smile on her face as she left her apartment a little before five thirty. A smile that fell from her face, replaced with a slight grimace when she caught sight of who was waiting for her outside the venue. He had a small smirk on his face when his eyes found her and El felt a weird shiver run up her spine.

As a woman, she had to admit that Mike looked very, very attractive at the moment. He was leaning against the side of the building, his foot pressed up against the brick. His legs were encased in dark blue jeans, and he was wearing a dark purple button down shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. His hair was, typical for him, messy and windswept and El couldn’t deny how well he pulled off that look.

No matter how much hatred ran through her body as she looked at him, she would definitely be lying to herself if she said he wasn’t one of the most attractive men she had ever seen in her life.

God! She practically yelled at herself as she approached him on the sidewalk, shaking her head. She did not need to be thinking this right now, not after all the daydreaming her mind had been doing the last couple of days.

“You’re-” Mike started, the smirk on his face stretching. El help up her hand to stop him, glancing at her wrist.

“Not late. It’s only five twenty seven.” El said, crossing her arms over her chest. “Sorry I have no life and wasn’t able to get here like an hour early.” She said sarcastically, unable to resist the smirk that fell upon her lips.

“Aww.” Mike said, the same amount of sarcasm dripping from his tone. “Did your call with Satan run a little longer than expected?” He asked, his eyebrow quirking. Despite herself, El felt a smile across her face, shaking her head to make it disappear before Mike could notice it.

Making a move to the front door, because while yes they are both on time, if they spend any more time out here, they will end up being late, she sends an elbow Mike’s way, groaning when he dodges it. “Yeah, he was complaining about this guy in Indianapolis whose giving him a run for his money. Hey! Maybe you know him, I heard he’s like super tall and likes to be late to things and not listen when his friends are talking to him.”

She knows it’s kind of a low blow, but her and Mike’s dynamic kind of lives off low blows, so she doesn’t find much fault in it. In fact, she feels herself smile when Mike chuckles lightly.

“You act like that isn’t a compliment, Hopper.” He says, turning around to face her. She crosses her arms across her chest and rolls her eyes lightly. “Satan is pretty well known, so if I’m apparently just as bad as he is, hello international fame.”

El rolls her eyes again, the satisfied smirk on his face sending a weird bubble of something , inside of her. A bubble so strong that before El could hold it in, she let out a laugh.

“Wow!” Mike exclaimed, looking of his shoulder, almost like he was seeing if anyone else had seen what he just did. El’s bubble popped, being replaced with the familiar annoyance that she often, very, very often, felt around Mike. “The ice queen finally let out an emotion other than anger. I, for one, am shocked.”

Reaching out, El smacks Mike’s bicep, knocking his hand down, which had been held over his heart in mock shock. Over Mike’s shoulder she sees someone coming towards them, and hits him lightly again. “Shut up.” She hisses. Luckily, Mike catches the hint and spins around on his heels, facing the woman approaching them.

“Hello, there.” The woman said, a kind smile on her face. El snuck a glance over at Mike, giggling slightly when she saw his Adam’s apple bob nervously. “You two must be Lucas and Max. Congratulations and might I say, you two are quite cute together.”

An uncomfortable twitch run up El’s spine and she felt herself shifting from foot to foot. She should have expected this, but she really had hoped that Lucas and Max would have informed the venue that they were sending other people.

“Oh!” Mike exclaimed, and El’s eyes drifting over to him. “We’re not…” His voice trailed off and El nodded, feeling increasingly more uncomfortable as the seconds ticked on. “Lucas and Max are….different people.”

El scratched the back of her neck, desperate for the moment to pass. Luckily, it seems as though the woman, Jessi per her nametag, and Mike also wanted to move on as Mike cleared his throat and Jessi held her clipboard tighter to her chest.

“We’re the maid and honor and best man.” El said tightly, looking down at the floor before giving Jessi a forced smile. “They couldn’t make it.” El caught Mike nod out of the corner of her eye and needless to say, she was grateful that she wasn’t the only one severely uncomfortable with the assumption.

“Alright, of course.” Jessi said, coughing. “Well, feel free to look around as much as you’d like. I’ll be over there,” she pointed behind her in the general direction of a closed door, “if you have any questions.”

And two seconds later, they were alone.

Well, as alone as they could be with various employees wandering around. But still, they were for all intents and purposes alone.

“So, this might be the place.” Mike said after a couple of moments of elongated silence, taking a couple steps into the space. “Eh, it’s alright.”

El took a deep breath, rolling her eyes as her arms crossed tightly across her chest. Of course Mike wouldn’t know anything about interior design, or architecture. Or just have any taste in general. He probably thinks anything without stripes and Star Wars decor isn’t good enough.

Ugh .

“I pity your future wife.” El said as she stepped next to him. “You should not be allowed anywhere this nice.”

Mike groaned slightly and El smirked, pleased to get under his skin. If she was going to have to spend the next half an hour or so with him, then she might as well have some fun with it. 

“Well, I pity your future husband.” Mike said, turning to look at her. “Because well, he’ll be married to you.”

With a roll of her eyes, El smacked Mike on the arm, using her other hand to push her hair back from her face. “You are such an imbecile.” She groaned, walking away from him and towards the front windows. “For your information, this place is more than just ‘alright.’ You clearly have never been to any wedding that hasn’t taken place inside of a Holiday Inn.”

“Ah, see you’re wrong about that.” Mike said and El looked over her shoulder to see him waving his finger at her. “I haven’t been to any weddings.” There was a pause as he came to stand next to her and El felt her spine straighten. “Maybe it has to do with the fact that my parents got divorced, which ruined the sanctity of marriage for me, so I refuse to attend weddings.”

“Oh, for the love of god.” El felt herself muttered, rolling her head back. When she looked over at Mike, he was staring wistfully out the window. “You are so full of shit.” She said, slapping his chest.

He chuckled and El rolled her eyes, walking away from the windows and towards the middle of the space, trying to imagine Lucas and Max getting married here. She smiled as she pictured Max walking down the aisle, and Lucas waiting for her at the end.

Walking towards the back of the room, she felt herself imagining where the altar would be smiling. “Mike, get over here.” She hissed, gesturing over to him. He was standing kind of near the door, no doubt wishing he was anywhere but here.

“What?” He groaned, stuffing his hands in his pockets and stalking towards her. El sighed. God, all the power to Mrs. Wheeler , she thought as she watched him sulk slowly in her direction, how did she ever put up with this?

“I think this is where the altar is going to be.” She said, gesturing in front of her. Mike shrugged, not seeming to understand what she was getting it. She rolled her eyes. “So, imagine Max and Lucas right here, holding hands, saying their vows.” El said, smiling slightly.

She watched as Mike looked around, his lips pursed. “It’s kind of hard to imagine. The room’s not really decorated for a wedding.” He says, a weird look crossing his face. El sighed, putting her hands in her back pockets and letting her body relax, her hip popping.

“Use your imagination.” El said, putting her hands on her hips. “I know you have brain cells up in there, so why don’t you use them.” Mike gave her a look and she smirked, trying to ignore the way her heart leaped, even if just slightly, at the laugh that escaped his lips just a moment later.

It’s not that she had been trying to make him laugh, but hey, it was a nice touch.

“Here.” She said, when she noticed that Mike was still looking around. “Come over here.” Waving her hand, she gestured Mike up towards her.

“What?” Mike said, coming up and standing across from her. He continued to look around and El sighed. “What am I supposed to be seeing here?”

“Oh my god.” El groaned, grabbing Mike’s hands and pulling his attention to her. “Now, imagine we’re Max and Lucas.”

Closing her eyes, El drifted back into her imagining Lucas and Max’s wedding, sighing softly. She tried to ignore the weight of Mike’s hands in her own, even though they were quite soft and El couldn’t deny that they felt nice.

God , El said, shaking her head, keeping her eyes screwed closed, you are not supposed to be thinking about Mike . She practically yelled at herself. In fact, don’t think about Mike ever .

However, unfortunately, the more she told herself not to think about Mike, the clear the image seemed to become in her mind. An image in which she had been fighting for days now but was now clearer than ever.

Her and Mike. Hand in hand at the altar. Her and white dress. Mike in a tuxedo.

“Ugh.” She said, the image popping like a balloon in her mind as she ripped her hands from Mike’s and snapping her eyes open. Mike had a similar look of disgust on his face, although he also looked kind of confused, tentatively putting his hands back into his pockets.

They were both silent for a moment, avoiding eye contact. El tightly wound her arms around herself, stepping away from Mike and clearing her throat.

“Well, I think this place would work out quite well.” She said after a couple of seconds, pushing her hair behind her ears and beginning to walk towards the door. She was suddenly having a hard time breathing, and she felt like she needed to get out, now.

She saw Mike nod and begin to walk towards the door as well. “Yeah, you know with some decorations and like, chairs, I think it’ll be nice.”

El stopped, looking at Mike, licking her lips and nodding. “So, we’ll give Lucas and Max our approval.” Mike nodded, avoiding her gaze. “I’ll do it, because if you do it, they won’t believe you.”

Mike snorted, shaking his head. El couldn’t help but smile. She had to admit, it was quite satisfying getting him to laugh. He usually either ignored her, or made snappy comments, so it was a nice change of pace.

“Well, I’ll make sure to be the one to tell them that we didn’t kill each other, because they might not believe you.” Mike said, a smirk on his face. El smiled, letting out a small laugh. “Because let’s be honest, of the two of us, you’re the one with the more homicidal tendencies.”

“Haha.” El said, opening the front door, sending a wave to Jessi, who weakly waved back, no doubt still slightly embarrassed at her mistaking the two of them for Lucas and Max. “I’m glad you can admit that I would be strong enough to overpower you and kill you.”

“Hey, I’m man enough to admit that you might be small, but you’re terrifying.” Mike said when they were out on the sidewalk. El shook her head slightly, snorting lightly.

“Well, thank you.” El said. She had to admit that hearing that Mike was scared of her was almost more satisfying then making him laugh. “I can’t say the feeling is mutual, but I still appreciate it.”

Mike nodded, “Honestly, I think I’m totally okay with not scaring a woman. I think that’s something I can be proud of.” He gave a small smile and El laughed, nodding in agreement.

The wind blew and El shivered, the early evening chill settling into her bones. Weirdly enough, she wasn’t eager to leave Mike on the sidewalk, but she was certainly eager to get out of the cold air and back into the warmth of her apartment.

“I’m gonna go.” El said, voice muffled by her jacket as she stuffed her face into the collar of it to keep her lips warm. “Weirdly enough, I didn’t have the worst time in the world.” She gave a small smirk and Mike chuckled, nodding his head.

“Weird, neither did I.” He said, biting his bottom lip. “You’re still kind of the worst, though.” He said with a small shrug and El nodded, laughing lightly. “No offense.”

El grinned, feeling a weird sense of pride. “None taken.” Raising one eyebrow she spun around on her heel and began to walk down the sidewalk. “I’ll see you, around.” She shouted over her shoulder, smirking slightly.

“Yeah, yeah.” Mike called and she could basically see him waving his hand at her dismissively as she continued to venture down the sidewalk. There was still a small smirk on her face as she turned the corner, Mike fading away from her in the distance.

Ok, so maybe Mike Wheeler wasn’t so bad. She didn’t like him suddenly or anything like that, he was still annoying and self centered and talked way too much, but she supposed he wasn’t as bad as she thought he was.

She just hoped that Mike never found out.

Chapter Text

The next month or so chugs on without much to write home about. 

Lucas asks Mike a few wedding related questions, like if he thinks grey or black is a better tuxedo color or if he thinks they should offer both chicken and steak for the reception or just pick one and hope everyone deals with it, but nothing too major. In fact, almost three weeks go by and Mike doesn’t hear a peep from Lucas about anything wedding related. 

And weirdly enough, it kinda makes Mike sad. 

He knows it makes him sound crazy, but he had actually been looking forward to doing a lot of the wedding stuff that Lucas had told him about. He liked that Lucas trusted him and wanted his opinion on things, even if he teased Mike endlessly about his lack of taste. 

Crazily enough, however, Mike had weirdly enjoyed looking at a wedding venue with El.

Sure, she was still the devil in human form and Mike was fairly sure that tortured puppies in her spare time, but it hadn’t been the worst way he had spent a Tuesday evening. All he had to do was ignore the weird swooping he had felt in his stomach when they pretending to be the bride and groom and pretend like his heartbeat hadn’t increased in speed when him and El were mistaken for Lucas and Max and he would call the evening a success. 

This didn’t mean that he liked her or anything, definitely still hated her, definitely still thought she was the worst person alive. But it had been fun. 

So, when Lucas called him one Wednesday night about a month and a half after Max’s birthday, Mike is almost, excited, to answer, having a feeling it’ll be a wedding related phone call. 

“Hey,” Mike answers, lower the volume on the X Files rerun he had been watching, smiling when he heard Max whispering to Lucas on the other end. “ Make sure you tell him to write it down so he doesn’t forget” Mike rolls his eyes at Max’s words, even if there is a bit of truth to them. 

“Hey.” Lucas says after Mike hears a muffled kiss against his ear, and the shuffling of leather as Lucas sat down on his couch. “Got a favor I need to ask.” 

Mike grins, holding his phone to his ear as he flicks his tv off. “I assume it’s a wedding related favor, considering how Max wants to make sure I don’t forget about it.” 

Lucas chuckles into the phone, sighing softly. “Yeah, it is.” Mike can practically see the smile on Lucas’s face and he smirks. Lucas had never been this soft in high school, but he supposes that being in love can do that to you, not that Mike had ever experienced it, or would ever. “Nothing too major though.” 

“Well, what’s up?” 

Mike hears Lucas sigh and there’s another sound of leather shuffling. “We’re trying to finalize all the details of exactly when we want to get married and also the guest list and other details like that. We should be able to figure it all out ourselves, but Max is like, terrified, of doing anything wrong so she wants second opinions on pretty much everything.” 

“So, you just need me there to assure you that everything you’re doing is the right decision?” Mike can read between the lines of Lucas’s words pretty easily, and while Max was generally a pretty easy going person, which was part of the reason her and Lucas worked so well, he could tell she wanted everything to be perfect. 

“Yeah, that’s about right. I’m thinking if she has me, you and El all telling her that it’s a good idea she’ll actually believe us.” 

At the mention of El’s name, Mike felt his spine straighten. It’s not like he was surprised to find out that she would be there too, in fact it was expected, she was the maid of honor after all. But it had been weeks since Mike had heard anything of her, so hearing her name was like a weird punch to the gut that knocked the wind out of him in a way he wouldn’t have expected. 

“So when is this little get together going to happen?” Mike asked, instead of dwelling on the El of it all. 

“Saturday night, around eight or so.” Lucas said, and Mike nodded, making a mental note of it. To please Max he would also write it down, even though he knew Lucas would text him in a couple days to remind him. “We’re just gonna do it at our place, maybe order a pizza or something.” 

Mike smiled, Lucas always knew exactly what to say to get Mike on board. Sure, he might be hell spending a whole evening with El, especially an evening where they weren’t in public and El could be as vitriol towards him as she wanted without worrying about anyone’s opinion of her being affected. 

Regardless of that though, Mike was excited. 

“Alright, well you can tell Max that I will be there and I will write it down so that I remember. And that I won’t be late, like some people might be.” Mike noted, unable to let the conversation go by without getting in one dig, and c’mon it was pretty harmless. 

Lucas chuckles softly on the other end and Mike smiles victoriously, it isn’t often that Lucas laughs at his El digs. “I’m sure both of you will remember and both of you will be on time.”

“Yeah, yeah.” 

“Later, dude.” 

“Bye.” Mike hangs up the phone, the ghost of a smile still on his lips. He feels a weird sense of excitement and anticipation growing in his stomach. He knows before Saturday it’ll pop and this weird high will crash and burn and he’ll remember that he actually hates spending time with El and she’s actually the worst human ever. 

But for now, he’s going to enjoy this feeling while it lasts. 

 


 

Thursday night, Mike has a dream about El. 

It’s not uncommon, not in the slightest actually, for him to dream about people he sees in his day to day life. He often dreams about his friends, or his coworkers or his family, hell sometimes he even has dreams where his downstairs neighbor’s dog is attacking him, but in the almost entire year that he’s known El, he’s never once dreamed about. Well, until now at least. 

The dream starts off as normal as any other dream. Mike’s sitting at a diner he likes to go to, and he’s alone. Usually dreams like this end with one of his friends joining him or sometimes if he’s sick (or drunk), a celebrity or fictional character will sit down across from him. However, this time, it’s someone new. 

It’s El. 

If Dream Mike was surprised to see her, he doesn’t show it. In fact, Dream Mike almost seemed happy to see her. Even though he was actually fast asleep, Mike felt himself, cheer up, at the sight of her (something which he would deny to himself ferociously the next morning while getting ready for work). 

The next thing Dream Mike knows, Dream El has him pinned up against the wall and is kissing him. And he’s...not upset about. Even though he’s dreaming, Mike is fully aware of how nice the kiss is, it’s warm and soft and sends a pleasurable shiver up his spine that Reality Mike could literally only dream of feeling. He doesn’t know how long the kiss lasts, time doesn’t exist in the dreamscape, so it could have been minutes or hours, but he does know that at some point El’s hand slowly starts moving down his chest, his fingers tapping his chest, almost as if she’s teasing him… 

He doesn’t think he’s ever sat up faster from a dream. 

Mike’s blood is pumping so loudly that he can barely hear the sound of the traffic outside his window (which this time of year is hell and Mike hates it) and he feels like he can barely breathe. There’s sweat dripping down his back and Mike has the sudden urge to go outside and run a marathon despite the time being around three o’clock in the morning. 

It’s not the first time Mike has dreamed about a girl, he was a twenty something year old guy, give him a break, and it wasn’t even the most scandalous of his dreams. In fact, compared to most of Mike’s dreams of this nature, this one was pretty tame, definitely had nothing on the dreams he had when he was fourteen about his mom’s PTA friend Ms. Waterson. 

But, these dreams were about El , and that was the part that shook him to his core. 

Look, Mike is not one to deny that El is like, really fucking gorgeous. Like, probably one of the most gorgeous women Mike had ever seen in his life, but that was always an easy thing to look past in real life because of how cold and hard edged her personality was. But in Mike’s dream world, none of that stuff mattered. 

All that mattered was El’s (well, Dream El) lips on his and her hands touching his hair, his neck, his chest, anything she could get her hands on apparently. 

Mike groans as he stuffs his face into his pillow, he could almost feel the way her hands had felt as they ran their way through his hair and it made him want to scream. Mainly because he can’t believe he had had a dream like that about El and was still thinking about it and now wanting to rip his own head off and bleach his brain. But also because, he kind of wish it hadn’t been a dream. 

God, he fucking hates himself. 

But really, can you blame him? Ever since the disaster that was his first and only relationship back in college, Mike had pretty much sworn off of women and dating and everything else of that nature all together. It had been literal years since he even kissed a woman, let alone done anything else. 

So yeah, he wishes that he could say that he made out with a beautiful woman the night before, even if she is insufferable in more ways than one, sue him. 

With a sigh, Mike rolls over onto his back staring up at the ceiling of his bedroom. Needless to say, he doesn’t get much sleeping done the rest of the night. As he’s brushing his teeth, he groans when he realizes that it’s Friday, which usually would excite him, considering he gets out of work early on Friday, but it being Friday means it’s one day closer to Saturday. 

Which means it’s one day closer to having to spend time with El. 

Fuck , Mike has no idea how he’s gonna be in the same room with her after the dream he just had. Yeah, he knows it wasn’t anything overly sensual, but he can only imagine how hard it’s going to be to be around her and be thinking about that while also wanting to shove cotton in his ears so he doesn’t have to listen to her. 

Honestly, it’s so unfair that his sworn enemy and the person who makes his skin crawl and his blood boil is also the hottest person he’s ever met in his life. If Mike didn’t know any better (and hell, maybe he didn’t), he’d say someone up there had it out for him. 

 


 

“So, dude, how’s all the wedding shit going?” 

Mike shrugs as he takes a sip of his beer, resisting the urge to snort at the, very obvious, jealousy laced in Dustin’s question. Will must be able to hear it too because he chuckles from his spot next to Mike, causing Dustin to roll his eyes. 

“It’s alright.” Mike says as he sets his drink down, leaning forward on the sticky table. The three of them are at a bar that the boys hang out at sometimes. It’s a little seedy and the beer isn’t that good, even if it’s cheap, but they’ve been coming here for years, so it’s more of a staple of the party at this point then anything else. 

Besides, Mike is pretty sure Will has had a crush on the bartender for like three years, so that might have something to do with it too. 

“You and El haven’t killed each other yet?” Will teases, elbowing Mike’s side. Mike rolls his eyes, leaning back slightly in his seat. One of the reasons he had said yes to Dustin’s invitation to coming out tonight was so he wouldn’t have to think about El. He hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her all day because of that stupid dream. 

But, he really should have known better. 

“Nope.” Mike says, popping his ‘p’ loudly. “Although, I should consider myself lucky because she definitely has wanted to murder me more than once, I’m pretty sure.” 

Across the table, Dustin smirks, shaking his head. “You do have a very murderable face.” Will snorts into his drink, grinning through the rim of his glass and Mike shakes his head. “I would probably want to murder you if we weren’t friends, in fact even though we are friends sometimes I want to murder you.” 

Will is full on laughing at this point, head thrown back against the back of the booth that they’re sitting in and Mike rolls his eyes. “Screw you, Dustin.” He bites out, taking a long sip of his beer. “Jealousy really isn’t a good look on you, Dusty Bun.” Mike teases with a smirk, using the nickname that he knows Dustin hates when anyone besides his girlfriend, Suzie, uses.

“I’m not jealous!” Dustin exclaims, face turning red. “It just doesn’t make any sense.” Dustin sighed loudly, slapping his hands down on the table, causing his still full beer to slosh over the sides of the glass. “Right, Will?” 

Will, who definitely looked like he hadn’t been expecting being involved in the conversation, eyed Dustin, eyes wide and his cheeks slightly red. “What?” 

“You agree with me that it makes no sense that Lucas chose Mister ‘I hate wedding and marriage and love and anything happy’ over here to be his best man and not me, right?” Mike couldn’t help but groan, running his hand down his face. Yeah, okay, maybe Dustin had a bit of a point, but he was wrong

Mike might not believe in love, but that was when he was thinking about himself, not Lucas. He had seen the way Lucas was around Max and he knew that they were gonna last, Mike just never thought that was going to happen for him

“Actually it makes perfect sense.” Will said with a shrug and Mike smiled smugly, Dustin gawking at the two of them. His friends often enjoyed ganging up on him, so it was rare to have one of them on his side, even if Will was more often than not the logical one who tended not to take sides. “Mike and Lucas have been friends since like pre school, it makes sense that he would choose Mike.” 

“Mike doesn’t believe in love!” Dustin loudly exclaims, luckily the music in the bar is fairly loud and since it’s Friday night most of the other patrons are either drunk or feeling each other up on the makeshift dance floor to hear him. “He’s cynical and he’s a pessimist and he hates joy! He’s like Ebenezer Scrooge of love.” 

There’s something that bites at Mike’s insides at Dustin’s words. He knows that Dustin is just jealous, upset that he wasn’t chosen for the position of best man but fuck. Dustin is one of the few people that Mike thought actually understood his feelings. Sure, it pissed him off when El made snide remarks about his beliefs on love and marriage, but what the fuck would she know considering that was the first real conversation that they had ever had. 

Dustin was there when Mike’s parents got divorced. Dustin was there when Mike’s heart was fucking destroyed in college. 

“You know what Dustin, fuck you.” 

And with that, Mike pushed his way out of the booth, throwing five bucks on the table to cover his drink. He gives Will an apologetic look as he shucks his jacket on and Will merely gives him a tight smile, clearly uncomfortable with the situation. However, he spares no look to Dustin, knowing that if he does he might say something he really regrets. 

Sure, he’s pissed, but he doesn’t need to have a full on argument with his friend in the middle of a seedy bar. That’s just something that really wasn’t Mike’s style, no matter how mad he was. 

So, he gulps, pushes his way through the crowd of people and finds himself alone on the streets of Chicago. The chill is biting at his neck and there’s a teasing of snow in the air and Mike can see his breath when he lets out a deep sigh that had been bubbling in his chest. 

The walk back to his apartment is cold and lonely and there’s a weird feeling that’s gnawing at his chest the entire time. He knows that he’s gonna have to work out this thing with Dustin sooner rather than later, the Party didn’t do well when two of them were arguing, and Mike was the one who likely would have to man up and apologize considering he was the one that lost his temper. 

But for now, he’s going to stew in his anger, let it fester. He knew it was unhealthy and that he shouldn’t do it, but it’s too late now. Besides, stewing in his anger over Dustin’s comments makes it much easier to forget the fact that in 24 short hours he’s going to be forced to spend the following evening with El. 

He may hate fighting with Dustin, but he hates thinking about El (the goddamn dream he had about her) even more. 

 


 

Mike spends most of Saturday dreading Saturday evening. 

Sure, he’s excited to help Lucas and Max and talk about their wedding, still happy and grateful that he gets to be involved in the process and Lucas at least trusts him enough to care about Mike’s input, even if he doesn’t actually apply any of it. But god he is not looking forward to seeing El. 

After his dream on Thursday night, he seems unable to stop thinking about her. Even though his anger with Dustin the night before, which waking up on Saturday morning made him feel selfish and dumb for what happened, he still found himself thinking about El. 

He tried to busy himself through Saturday, in an effort to think about anything else (because if he was gonna spend quality time with her tonight, he would rather not have to think about her), but nothing seems to work. When he goes to the laundromat, he sees a girl that looks like her a couple machines over. At the grocery store, he swears he hears the sound of her laugh a couple aisles over. 

So, needless to say by the time Mike is getting ready to leave for Lucas and Max’s, he’s a jumbled mess of nerves and anxiety and is running on very little sleep. But, he’s determined to not let any of that ruin the evening for Max and Lucas. They are planning the happiest day of their life and Mike is willing to push all of his weird feelings aside to help them. 

Leaving his apartment, Mike sighs, shivering when he noticed the snow swirling under a nearby streetlamp. He walked quickly, desperate to get out of the cold, even if it meant that he was shortening his time until he would be forced to spend time with El. 

However, he was gonna freeze if he spent too much time out here, so he walked quickly, making the journey in nearly record time, smiling when Lucas opened the door for him before he could even knock. 

“Saw you coming up the sidewalk.” Lucas said with a smile, stepping aside to let Mike into the apartment. “Glad you remembered.” He jokes, elbowing Mike’s arm lightly as Mike removes his jacket and hangs it up on the hook near the door. 

“Of course I remember, you texted me like six times today reminding me, and besides my memory isn’t that bad.” Jeez, you accidentally show up three hours late to a dnd session in high school once and suddenly you have a bad memory. 

“Hey! Is that Mike?” 

“Who else would it be.” Lucas responds to Max’s question with a chuckle and Mike inwardly groans. If they aren’t expecting anyone else then that must mean that El’s here already. 

Let the fun begin. 

“Sup, Wheeler.” Max says when she appears in the doorway to the kitchen behind Lucas. “Glad you could finally join us.” Mike sighs, rolling his eyes. Looks like he’s starting off the evening already annoyed with El for being so early that Mike gets shit for being the last one here, despite being almost fifteen minutes early.

He nods in Max’s direction before turning his attention to El, who suddenly appeared next to Max in the doorway. Mike expected there to be a smirk on her face, a sheer sign of her taking this as a victory over him in the one sided competition she has going, but when his eyes meet her face, that’s not what he finds at all. 

“Mike.” She greets shortly, giving him a small nod before looking away, down at the floor. She’s dressed as he would expect her to be, jeans and a turtleneck sweater, but that’s about all about her appearance that Mike is used to. 

Her face is pale, not full of color and life like it usually is, and her eyes are unfocused and wide, and she almost looks like she’s been crying. It makes Mike’s stomach twist uncomfortably and he feels something akin to guilt creeping up his spine. 

“El.” He greets back, shoving his hands in his pockets, giving her a terse nod before directing his attention to Lucas. Lucas, thankfully, understands Mike’s look and clears his throat, effectively cutting through whatever awkward tension had been building in the small entryway of the Sinclair-Mayfield apartment. 

“Well, since we’re all here, let’s move this party into the living room, yeah?” 

There are no objections, and the four friends scatter themselves throughout the small living room area. Mike takes the armchair that’s closest to the kitchen, leaning forward so his elbows are on his knees. Max and El take up the small couch and Lucas situates himself on the floor by the table, where everything is laid out. 

“Thanks guys, for you know, being here.” Max says once they’re all seated, her hand on El’s knee and a small smile on her face. Mike feels like the sentiment is directed more towards El then him, so he merely nods, left feeling confused by what the hell he missed. 

It’s not like him and El are friends or anything, so why would he know what’s going on, but she’s still acting weird as hell and Mike’s nothing but if curious. The moment passes quickly, however, and Max quickly moves into the first order of business. 

And just like that, they get to work. 

The next hour or so goes by fairly quickly and without much fanfare. Turns out that Max and Lucas have pretty much everything figured out already, but Max worries about things being perfect and Lucas worries about everything being good enough for Max. They just need Mike and El to sit there and reassure them that they’re making the right decisions. 

However, Mike kind of hates that they don’t actually need anything from him because it leaves him spending the next hour staring at El. 

Unlike the last time the four of them were together, El is practically silent the entire time. She spends most of the evening looking down at her hands, her fingers picking as a loose string on her sweater. She only offers up small responses to Max’s questions, and really only talks when spoken directly too. 

It’s weird.

So weird in fact that Mike can’t even really enjoy that she’s not snarking at him every five seconds. 

The weirdness only gets weirder however when El’s phone rings in the middle of Max and Lucas going over the guest list. Mike watches as El’s eyes widen and her bottom lip immediately goes between her teeth, her face going pale. 

“Max.” She says softly, so soft that Mike wouldn’t have heard it if he hadn’t been looking directly at her, and Max nods, gesturing in the direction of her and Lucas’s bedroom. 

The following half an hour or so are some of the most awkward minutes of his entire life. Max and Lucas continue on with the conversation, Lucas acting as though nothing had happened and Max slightly distracted, her gaze drifting off in the direction that El disappeared to. 

It only gets more awkward when Mike has to go to the bathroom. 

Because the bathroom is right next to the bedroom. 

See the dilemma?

Whatever is going on with El, and honestly, as fucking confused as Mike is, he really doesn’t want to know. He’s sure whatever it is, it’s dramatic and unnecessary and Mike won’t care if he hears about it, so yeah, he doesn’t want to know. But, fuck, he has to pee. 

Eventually he can’t hold it anymore and he gets up, ignoring the way Max glares at him, and scurries into the bathroom, not paying any mind to what’s going on in the bedroom. It’s easier said than done though when he exits a couple minutes later. El had left the door ajar slightly and Mike could see her pacing the short distance from one side of the room to the other, her phone held close to her ear. 

She wasn’t saying anything, at least not that Mike could hear, but by the look on her face it didn’t sound like it was a pleasant conversation. Mike swore he could see tear tracks down her cheeks and her eyes were shiny and wet. His stomach dropped. 

He heard her hiccup, a light sob escaping her lips and that’s when he turned away. Something was stirring inside, his heart twisting and pulling. God , El may be really far from his list of favorite people, but no one deserved to feel the way she looked. Quickly he made his way back into the living area, sitting down and giving Lucas and tight smile when his friend looked at him questioningly. 

The planning only continued for a couple more minutes and it was when Max was putting everything back in the folder they were keeping everything in that El finally exited the bedroom. She had clearly tried to make herself look like she hadn’t been crying, and honestly, if Mike didn’t know any better, he wouldn’t have thought that she ever was. 

“I’m gonna go, Max.” She said, grabbing Max by the arm and Max nodded, pulling El into her arms. “I’m really tired.” 

Max shrugging, giving El a smile. “Don’t worry about it, Ellie.” Mike watches from where he’s not standing near the kitchen counter with Lucas and in that moment makes a decision that even he is surprised by. 

“I’m gonna go, too.” He tells Lucas, “got stuff I gotta do for work.” He shrugs and Lucas has a weird look on his face, like he knows Mike is lying, but luckily he doesn’t call him out on it. 

“Alright, man, see you later.” 

Mike exits the kitchen and grabs his jacket from the hook, eyeing El as she does the same. She doesn’t seem to notice him looking at her, so when Mike clears his throat she looks up, surprised. 

“Let me walk you home.” El’s eyebrows stitch together in confusion and she opens her mouth to protest, but Mike cuts her off. “C’mon, it’s late, dark and fucking cold out, let me at walk you home.” 

Mike doesn’t know if it’s because she’s too tired to argue with him, or she actually sees his point of view, but El sighs, nodding. “Fine, alright.” 

The two of them bid Lucas and Max, who both look more then a little confused that Mike and El are leaving together, a goodbye before moving slowly through the apartment building, wanting to soak up all the heat they could before braving the cold, Chicago night. 

When they’re finally out on the street El’s phone dings and she groans, pulling it out and looking at it before shoving it back in her pocket. Mike sees this as his in. He may not particularly care too much  (or at all) about El’s life, he had still seen her crying less than an hour ago. 

“Everything alright?” He tries to sound as casual as he can, his gaze sliding over to her. There’s a weird look on her face, something clouding over in her eyes before she nods, the haze breaking. 

“Yep.” It’s short and definitive and Mike gets the message loud and clear. 

She doesn’t want to talk about it. Especially not with him. Which is, fair, it’s not like him and El are anything close to friends, let alone close enough to be sharing clearly hard things to talk about and Mike almost beats himself for being dumb enough to think that she would open to him. 

The rest of the walk to El’s apartment, which luckily is only a couple blocks from Lucas and Max’s, but unlikely in the opposite direction as Mike’s, is spent in silence, but it’s not the worst and most uncomfortable silence Mike’s ever been in. Doesn’t mean he’s not wholly relieved when El stops outside of a modest brick apartment building that looks like something out of a postcard, if Mike’s being honest. 

“Well, this is me.” She says, clapping her hands together. “Thanks, uh, for walking me home.” Mike nods, pursing his lips together. 

“No problem.” He says simply, not exactly sure what else to say. El is hovering awkwardly near the front door and Mike is waiting for her to enter the building so he can feel comfortable turning around and walking away. Their gazes hold for a second before Mike breaks the contact, something bubbling up in stomach and threatening to burst out of him. 

“Mike.” El says after a second, taking a couple steps towards him as he looks at her again. “I’m sorry.” 

Now Mike is really confused. Sure, El has done stuff that Mike would want her to apologize for (and he probably could stand to apologize for some stuff too, but that’s neither here nor there), but he didn’t think it would happen, especially now of all times. El must be able to sense his confusion, so she presses on without waiting for him to respond. 

“I’m insufferable and hard to handle and hormonal. I talk too much and my ideas suck,” El’s voice is increasing with every word that she says and Mike’s heart is racing in his chest, “I think that I’m right all the time and can’t take criticism and am just a ‘typical female’ who doesn’t know what I’m talking about.” 

Mike swallows roughly, guilt and empathy swimming through him. El’s face is red, from the cold and no doubt from her own outburst, and she looks like she’s only a couple seconds away from crying. Mike knows, knows that this actually has nothing to do with him, and that this is all about the person she had been on the phone with earlier. 

“El.” He says after a second, unsure of what else to say. El shakes her head though, clearly not interested in anything that he has to say and considering that she wasn’t actually talking to him, that was fair. And he was relieved because he didn’t know how the fuck to respond to that. 

“Goodnight Mike.” She finally says after silence hangs between them. “I’ll see you later.” El smiles tightly at him and Mike’s heart sinks ever so slightly and he wishes he had something to say that at least make her feel a little better. 

Mike nods, watching as El steps away from him and towards her building, wiping at her face. “Goodnight, El.” 

She throws a small, albeit forced looking, smile over her shoulder before pushing the front door of her building open and disappearing from sight. At that, Mike lets out a breath that he didn’t know he had been holding and runs his hand through his hair. 

He stands there for a second, breathing deeply, almost feeling like the conversation had punched him in the gut. It’s not until a large, and very cold, gust of wind blows his jacket up around his waist and blasts cold air on his neck and stomach that he finally snaps out of it and begins walking back towards his apartment, his mind jumbled and his heart still beating irregularly. 

Mike crawls into bed that night a little while later still reeling from his conversation, or maybe interaction was a better word for it considering Mike really didn’t say much. The whole thing has left him confused about well, pretty much everything. 

In fact, Mike would say that there’s only one thing he’s really sure of. 

He definitely doesn’t hate El anymore. 

But, perhaps the most confusing thing is that he doesn’t really know how he feels about that. 

Chapter Text

“El, if you don’t want to do it, it’s okay.” 

Max’s words are a weird, cold comfort in El’s ears as she tightens her jacket around her body and hastens her walk down the street towards her apartment. The sun had set hours ago, product of it being January in Chicago and Brenner had insisted on keeping her late at work, so it was dark and cold and El just wanted to go home and cry. 

“Max, you asked me to do it and I said yes, I’m not going to bail now.” El said, sighing softly. She appreciated that Max was looking out for her, but she wasn’t going to allow parts of her life to be ruined by the shitty month she was having a work. 

And boy was it a shitty month. 

Between being kept late and being berated over the phone when her ideas didn’t work and feeling like she couldn’t do anything right, El had spent a greater part of the last month wanting to curl up in bed and cry her eyes out, but she refused to shy away from her maid of honor duties just because she was sad. 

“Are you sure? I’m sure Mike would understand.” Max said, and El almost had to snort at her words. “Don’t laugh, I’m sure he would. Besides, I thought you two didn’t hate each other anymore.” 

El sighed. Max was right, her and Mike didn’t hate each other anymore, at least El was pretty sure Mike didn’t hate her. Or maybe he had just felt bad for her last time she had seen him, so she kept the insults to a minimum. Either way, it had actually been pleasant to be around him, and El had to admit that it had felt nice when he walked her home, even if she had ended the evening practically having a breakdown on the sidewalk in front of him.

She was really hoping he wouldn’t bring that up next time they saw each other. 

“We don’t, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give him ammo to hold over my head.” El said, smiling when she finally reached her apartment, quickly letting herself into the building. “But  I also don’t want to let you down and not do something you asked me to do just because I’m having a rough couple of weeks.” 

El could practically see Max shaking her head on the other end and she could hear muffled whispers between Max and Lucas. “And I love you for that El, but there’s such a thing as overdoing yourself and I don’t want to see you push yourself when you don’t have to. It’s ok to say no to me sometimes.” 

With a laugh, El shook unlocked the door to her apartment, removing her coat and throwing her bag to the floor. “I don’t believe that considering you always, always get mad at me when I say no.” 

Max gasps on the other end and El plops herself down on her couch, throwing her head back as she giggles. “I do not! Would you just let me be a kind and caring friend for five minutes.” El smiles, rolling her eyes and crossing her legs underneath her. 

“Yeah, yeah, okay fine. I will consider what you said and I will appreciate the offer and consider saying no.” 

“Good.” Max says, a smirk evident in her voice, but El shakes her head. 

“But I am not going to say no.” Max groans and El smiles. “Look, it’s one night and all it is, is putting wedding invitations in envelopes. I think Mike and I can handle it without killing each other and I can make it through the evening without having an emotional breakdown. Besides, Mike would be coming over here because you don’t trust him with the invitations, so I can kick him out if anything goes wrong.” 

The sound of Max’s laugh echoes softly in El’s ear and El’s smile grows. “I’m sure if you end up kicking him out, he deserves it.” Max teases and El giggles softly. “I have to go Lucas is gesturing at me to get off the phone but let me know if it ends up being a problem, okay?” 

El can’t help the way she groans lightly, shaking her head. “Max it’ll be fine, besides it’s Thursday, Mike and I are meeting here on Saturday, so I only have one day of work, I’ll be fine.” 

Deep down, El is nervous about spending Saturday evening alone with Mike. Sure, they had spent time together in the last couple of weeks, but it had always been with Max and Lucas, and even last month when they were looking at venues together, they were in public. This was the first time they would be together, completely alone. 

“Alright, but don’t be afraid to reschedule if you need to, it can wait until next weekend.” 

“Max, honestly, I don’t think next week is going to be any better than this week, so might as well just do it, right?” El didn’t mean to sound so bitter, but she knew what she said was true. Brenner wasn’t giving any indication that the way he had been acting towards her the last couple weeks was going to change anytime soon. 

“I’m just worried about you, that’s all.” El could hear the very genuine worry and concern in her friend’s voice and her heart squeezed in her chest. She could also hear rustling in the background and a whispered conversation and knew Lucas was waiting for Max to hang up. 

“And I love you for that, but it’s fine, really. I’ll let you go now, I can hear Lucas getting restless.” Max laughed and El smiled, ignoring the sinking sensation that had filled her stomach. “Bye, Maxie, I’ll talk to later and be by tomorrow to get the invitations.” 

Max sighed softly, like she wanted to keep arguing with her, but she didn’t. “I love you too, see you tomorrow, Ellie.” 

The two exchanged one more set of goodbyes before El hung up the phone, tossing it onto the couch next to her. Her body ached and shook slightly with exhaustion and El honestly just wanted to curl up and cry and sleep for ten hours, or maybe eleven. Brenner had been particularly harsh today, which wasn’t really anything new, but he had sent her on a wild goose chase all throughout the office building for really no reason at all, and now that she was home, sitting on the couch, the exhaustion was hitting her like a freight train. 

God , she hated him. 

She hadn’t always hated Brenner, not when she first started working there. In fact, at first she had kind of liked him. Sure, he was a little cold, he hardly smiled and seemed to live in his office, but he gave her good advice and let her sit in on meetings sometimes. He wasn’t the best boss, but he wasn’t the worst one either. 

But slowly and surely over time, Brenner’s slightly cold demeanor had changed into something a whole lot worse. What used to be just slight comments about El’s inferiority that she was able to swallow and not think about too much, were now blatant insults handed to her on a silver platter. And all because she had made one mistake. 

One fucking mistake. 

Eventually, El removed herself from the couch and put together a rather depressing meal of peanut butter out of the jar and an apple before retiring to bed early. She knew that it was the last way to get Brenner on her good side again, but she was seriously considering calling out of work sick tomorrow. 

Besides, she was going to need a whole day to prepare herself for Saturday. Mike not be as bad as Brenner, especially now that they weren’t bickering like they used to, but she still had no fucking idea how she was going to handle being alone with him. 

 


 

El spends the majority of her day on Friday sitting around the house doing nothing. 

After successfully calling in sick, the women from HR being extremely understanding as in the three years El had worked there she had only used one of her sick days, El had gone back to bed, hoping to relish in any of the extra sleep she could get. 

Unfortunately, she spent most of her time in bed thinking about Mike, likely just a product of her nerves for tomorrow, so she gave up on trying to go back to sleep. Every time she closes her eyes, his face appears in her head, practically making her dizzy. 

Luckily, once she gets up out of bed and starts wandering around her apartment, she’s able to push Mike from her mind. Which, subsequently leads to her thinking about Brenner and her job, which leads her to almost have, multiple, anxiety attacks throughout the day. But at least she manages to avoid thinking about Mike. 

It’s the little victories, she supposed. 

Max texts her around lunchtime asking her how her day is going, and El is too much of a coward to admit that she skipped work so she doesn’t answer. She knows it’s stupid, but she also knows that Max would march over to El’s apartment no matter the time, or temperature, if she thought that El was having a hard time and truthfully, El was the last thing that Max needed to worry about. 

However, guilt eventually takes over and El finally texts back a couple hours later, but doesn’t reveal that she stayed home. She merely tells her friend that she’ll be by Max’s apartment in a couple of hours to pick up the invitations. El is almost ashamed to admit that she’s relieved when Max informs her that she’s working late tonight so Lucas will be the one handing the invitations off to her. 

Unfortunately, with the stress of facing Max and the refusal to give into the thoughts of Mike that ping off the back of her mind, El is unable to avoid thinking about Brenner. 

“You’ll never be at the level you need to be at to be successful in this job.” 

“The janitor can, and has, come up with better ideas than you.” 

“It’s quite adorable, actually, that you think I, or anyone else, cares about what it is you have to say.” 

His words echo around in her brain and no matter how hard El tries to push them away, she can’t. They’re there when she takes a shower after lunch, and when she vacuums up the rug in her living room, and when she’s making her grocery list for when she goes to the store the following day. 

Eventually, El can’t take it anymore, she feels like the walls of her apartment are closing in on her and the voices in her head are getting louder and louder and she feels like she’s going to scream. So, she grabs her coat and throws herself into the cold, late afternoon Chicago air and hopes for the best. 

She quickly decides that she does not want to be wandering around for too long, as the chill settles into her bones quickly and makes her shiver, violently. She considers walking to Max and Lucas’s, Lucas is probably home by now and can hand her off the invitations, but their apartment is a little too far and El isn’t quite sure she’s ready for human interaction. 

Luckily, however, before she can wander for much further, the scent of pizza floods her nostrils and hunger burns at her stomach. She had barely eaten anything that day, just some fruit for breakfast and half a sandwich for lunch and she’s dying for something warm and filling and there’s nothing quite like Chicago pizza. 

Unlikely, though, as soon as El flings the door open to the pizza parlor, she nearly runs straight into the person she had been avoiding thinking about all day long. 

“Oh, hi El.” 

“Mike. Hi.” El says, avoiding eye contact with him and swallowing roughly. God , this is so not what she had wanted to happen today. 

Mike must feel as awkward as she does, as she sees him shift his weight from one foot to the other, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Well, I was just on my way out.” He says after a second, clearing his throat. 

“Yeah, sorry, I’ll get out of the way.” Feeling her face turn hot with embarrassment, El takes a step to the side at the same time that Mike steps forward and she feels herself stumble. Luckily, Mike reaches out at the same time, holding her forearms in his. 

They stay there for a moment and El’s heart races in her chest. Her pulse is pounding loudly in her ear and she’s breathing so hard you would think she had just run a marathon. She can see the apples of Mike’s cheeks turn pink and the back of her neck prickles with blush. 

“Thank you.” She says softly, clearing her throat and stepping out of his grip. “I’ll um, actually get out of the way now.” Mike chuckles lightly and El hates the way her stomach flips. “We’re still on for tomorrow right?” 

Mike, who had already stepped past her towards the door, pauses and turns to look at her. “Yeah, uh, seven, right?” El nods, running her hand through her hair. 

“You remember where my apartment is?” It wasn’t that long ago that Mike walked her home, maybe two weeks at most, but it had been dark and the silence between them had been long and uncomfortable, so El wasn’t sure if he remembered exactly where she lived. 

Even though, she wouldn’t particularly mind if he didn’t. She wouldn’t hate if he just didn’t show up tomorrow and she could continue her pity party into the weekend. 

“Uh, yeah. I think so. I’ll just text Max if I need the address.” 

“You can text me if you need the address you don’t need to text Max.” El isn’t quite sure where the words that come tumbling out of her mouth come from, as she doesn’t really want Mike texting her, but she doesn’t want him to bother Max and it’s not like he doesn’t have her phone number. “Just let me know if you have trouble.” 

Mike nods, mouth puckering open slightly. “Yeah, um. Okay.” He gives her a small smile, their gaze holding a moment longer than El expects it too. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” 

He leaves the pizza parlor without another word. Leaving El with her heart still moving quicker than normal and her breath still uneven and shallow. 

God, she was so not looking forward to tomorrow. 

 


 

Try as she might, El is unable to stop tomorrow from coming. 

She wakes up on Saturday feeling disoriented and almost like she had been punched in the gut. Honestly, she doesn’t even remember going to bed the night before. It had all been a blur after running into Mike, she vaguely remembers shoving pizza into her mouth and having a short, but pleasant conversation with Lucas when stopping by his and Max’s apartment, but other then that. It’s like the night before never even happened. 

Her day passes by very similarly. El practically feels like she blinks and suddenly it’s six pm and she only has an hour until Mike will be there. And she is not ready, at all. 

Luckily she had managed to actually get everything done that she needed to be done that day, granted it was only grocery shopping and tidying up her apartment so it was presentable for when Mike came over, but still, she considered it a victory. Especially since her bed had been tempting her almost all day. 

In the final hour before Mike arrives, El finishes up the sweeping of her kitchen before showering and changing out of her cleaning clothes. It’s not that she necessarily is trying to look nice for Mike, but she doesn’t want him to think she’s a slob. So she pulls her hair into a ponytail at the back of her neck and changes into a navy sweater and skinny jeans, and is just finishing touching up her makeup with there’s a knock on her door. 

6:45 . She confirms with a glance at her phone. He’s early. 

With a smirk on her face, El makes her way to the front door, shaking her head slightly as she opens it. Her breath catches, ever so slightly, a shiver running up and down her spine as she makes eye contact with Mike. 

It’s much harder to deny how handsome he is when she’s given up on hating him. 

He’s wearing a flannel shirt, rolled up to his forearms, and dark navy jeans and El has to admit, he wears them well. His hair is tousled, likely from the cold, evening wind and his cheeks are pinked from the chill that’s in the air. 

“Hey.” She says after a long, drawn out beat of silence, stepping aside so Mike can enter her apartment. “Found me alright?” 

Mike nods as he hangs his jacket up on the hook next to the door, his hands immediately finding their way into his pockets. “Uh yeah, your neighbor let me in and told me which one was you.” He clears his throat awkwardly and a weird tingle runs across El’s neck. 

“Yeah, this building only has like 5 units, so we all know each other pretty well.” El says with a small nod of her head. “So, um, you wanna just get started?” 

Mike doesn’t even try and hide his sigh of relief and El would be more offended if she didn’t completely agree with him. Things might not be volatile and angry between them anymore, but that didn’t mean they knew exactly how to make small talk. If any of the interactions from the past couple of weeks were any indication. 

“Sure, sounds good.” He gives her a small smile, and El can tell by the way his cheeks lift and his eyes brighten ever so slightly that it’s a genuine smile, and for some reason that causes her stomach to flip. She swallows roughly, pushing the feeling away. 

Luckily, the two are able to get to work without any more major awkwardness. There’s a brief moment when Mike isn’t quite sure where to sit in her living room after she takes a seat on the couch, but he quickly resolves to sitting next to her on the floor, his legs folded underneath himself. 

The next hour or so passes rather quickly, and silently. They barely exchange words, easily developing a system, Mike puts the invitations in the envelopes and El sticks the stamp and address on them and puts them in the done pile. They’re almost like a well oiled machine, El thinks, rather impressed with how easily they’ve managed to get their system down. 

It’s a couple minutes before eight, however, when the night takes a turn that El never saw coming. They’re on the last pile of invitations and El is feeling confident that they might finish in the next hour, excited that she might get to go to bed early tonight. However, the comfortable silence that had settled between them is shattered when the last words El could have expected come out of Mike’s mouth. 

“I’m sorry.” He says softly, eyes trained on the envelope in front of him. There’s a tenderness to his voice that has El’s heart racing and somehow she knows that he’s not apologizing for anything relating to the task at hand. 

Confusion rushes through her body and she swears she subconsciously moves closer to him. “What are you apologizing for?” She asks, her body tensing and her palms sweating. Mike clears his throat and adjusts slightly on the floor so he can look at her. 

“I just have been thinking, and I don’t know what I did, but if when we first met, I did something to hurt you or upset you, then I’m sorry.” His voice catches and El watches as his adam’s apple bobs. “I don’t know if it was something I did or something I said or what, but I was probably a major asshole and I’m sorry.” 

Silence settles over them again and El doesn’t know what to say. Mike goes back to what he’s working on, face slightly pink. El swallows roughly, she still doesn’t know what she wants to say but she needs to say something. 

“It was because of Max.” She whispers, invitations going limp in her hands. Mike’s eyebrows scrunch together as he looks over at her and El feels blush creep up her neck. She’s embarrassed to even be admitting this, but guilt gnaws at her heart at Mike’s apology, that she feels like she owes him this. 

“What?” 

“Remember, how before we met you went on that date with Max?” El asks, even though she knows it’s kind of a stupid question. Lucas makes jokes constantly about how it could just as easily be Mike marrying Max as it is him, so she’s pretty sure he remembers. Mike nods. “You never called Max.” 

A flicker of realization crosses Mike’s face before it vanishes and El sighs softly. “I thought you were a jerk, because Max came back from that date so happy and you never called her.” As the words leave El’s mouth, she realizes how ridiculous this sounds. How she’s held all of this against him all this time. She rolls her eyes slightly and she hears Mike shuffle and move closer to her. 

“There’s a reason for that, you know.” He says and El looks at him. She’s both amazed and relieved that he doesn’t look angry, or annoyed. “That I didn’t call Max.” 

El nods, letting out a loud breath. “I know. And I guess I’m sorry too.” She shrugs, throwing the invitation that’s still in her hand down on the table. No offense to Max and Lucas, but this feels a little more important. “For being a bitch.” 

It’s a weird feeling, El has to admit. She never thought there would be a moment where her and Mike talked about this stuff. Truthfully, she never even thought there would be a moment where she wanted to talk about this stuff with Mike, but here she is. Maybe it’s the calm atmosphere, maybe it’s the reality of Lucas and Max’s wedding fast approaching, El’s not sure. But she does know that she wants to be honest. 

No matter what happens. 

“No, I get it.” Mike says with a small shrug. “If I thought someone had been an asshole to my friend I would have hated them immediately too.” El smiles, despite herself, shaking her head slightly. “I probably could have been less of a jackass back to you, that probably didn’t help.” 

There’s another long beat of silence and El watches, breath in her throat as Mike pushes himself up from the ground and takes a seat next to her on the couch. “I think we should call a truce.” El says as he turns to look at her. 

“Can I explain the whole thing with Max first?” 

“Mike, you don’t-” El isn’t able to finish her protest, however, because Mike’s hand comes down on her forearm, silencing her. She takes a glance at his face and any other words of protest die in her throat and she nods. 

“I only went out with Max because Lucas told me to.” He pauses and El feels her eyebrows raise. “Max and I matched on some app that Dustin forced me to join and Lucas saw her picture and told me if I didn’t go on a date with her then he would pretty much kill me.” He lets out a short laugh and El feels herself smile, she’s seen the boys interact enough times that she can almost perfectly picture this exact conversation. 

Mike looks off weirdly in the distance and El’s heart hammers in her chest. “It’s not that Max and I had a bad time on our date, but pretty much the entire time we were out, all I could think about was how she would probably be having a much better time with Lucas.” 

There’s a certain...tone to Mike’s voice, an almost sadness that tugs at El’s heart and makes her stomach twist. She had never thought about how weird that must have been. To have your best friend fall in love with a girl that you went on a date with. She had always assumed that Mike had just left Max hanging and then she had met Lucas, but she was starting to think things went a little differently then she had assumed. 

“I didn’t tell Max that, mainly because I thought it would just bring the mood down, but I gave her number to Lucas as soon as I got back, and told him that I thought they would be good together.” He shrugs, hands moving to the bottom of his shirt, tugging at a loose string. “And it looks like I was right.” There’s a ghost of a smile on his face and El grins. “I know I was an asshole for not calling her again, but I knew that her and I would never work and that her and Lucas would you know so…” He trails off, and unintelligible look on his face and El looks down at her hands. 

Guilt shoots down her spine and through her veins and settles in her stomach. “I’m sorry.” She says after a couple of moments. “For, you know, assuming the worst of you.”

It’s the first time she’s ever admitted it, out loud and to herself. It had been unfair, to assume things of him when they first met, despite never having spoken to him. 

“Eh, it’s okay.” Mike says with a small shrug, giving her a smile. “I certainly didn’t help by assuming the worst of you, too. I thought you were a huge bitch when we first met.” There’s a smirk on his face and El gasps, hitting him lightly on the shoulder. 

“So I was a bitch and you were a jackass, it’s poetic, really.” El says with a laugh and Mike snorts, shaking his head slightly. 

“A match made in hell.” 

“You know, thinking about it, I think we might owe our friends an apology.” El comments, and she sees Mike nod in her peripheral. “Seriously though, about that truce. We were both assholes to each other, so let’s just, forget that it all happened.” 

Looking over at Mike, El feels her stomach swoop with nerves as his eyes meet hers. There’s a certain...softness almost, to them and his has a small grin on his face that sends a weird shiver up El’s spine. 

“Yeah, I would like that.” Mike practically whispers, and El’s heart thumps in her chest and she almost feels like she can’t breathe. She’s not used to moments like this with Mike, they make her body warm and make her feel like she’s going to explode at any moment. Weirdly enough, she doesn’t hate it. 

“I never thought I would be saying this to you of all people, but friends?” Mike smirks, shaking his head slightly before holding his hand out. El rolls her eyes but joins their hands together, laughing when Mike pretends to pull away at the last second. 

His palm is warm, and soft, and sends a glowing sensation up her arm and makes her smile. It reminds of when they pretended to be Max and Lucas when looking at wedding venues, which almost feels like a lifetime ago. But unlike then, the feeling doesn’t make El cringe in disgust, it makes her happy. 

“Well, now that we’re friends.” She says once their hands have naturally separated. “I think this calls for a celebratory drink.” Pushing herself up off the couch, El holds her hand out for Mike to grab. He looks at her incredulously, almost like he can’t believe what he’s gotten himself into, but he chuckles, grabbing her hand and letting El pull him off the couch. 

Too late now, Wheeler , she thinks as she guides him into her kitchen. You’re stuck with me. She drops Mike’s hand as she reaches the fridge, taking out her favorite wine. Mike watches her, an amused grin on his face, and his eyebrows raised ever so slightly. 

“Do you want me to grab the glasses?” He asks, clearly holding back laughter, as El struggles to open the bottle. She frowns, but nods, jerking her chin in the direction of the cabinet where she keeps her wine glasses. 

Eventually, after a couple more minutes of struggling, and Mike opening about three wrong cabinets before finding the right one, they’re both holding a glass and for the first time in weeks, El finally feels like she can relax. She’s been so worried and stressed about everything lately, with her job and letting Max down and being forced to spend time with Mike, that it feels good not to stress about one of those things now. 

“Thank you.” El says after a couple beats of silence. Mike looks at her and she can tell by the look in his eyes that he doesn’t know what she’s thanking him for, but he doesn’t question it. He merely shrugs, bringing his glass to his lips and taking a small sip. 

“Anytime.” There’s a smile on his face and El feels her heart burst in her chest and she can’t help the grin that spreads across her lips. “To friendship.” 

His glass tilts towards her and El giggles, clinking their glasses together. “To friendship.” She echoes. “The beginning of a beautiful one, I think.” El adds with a grin. Mike smiles, bringing his glass back to his lips and taking another small sip. His eyes gaze out into her living room, where there’s still invitations to be put in envelopes, and El sighs. 

Eh, the night is still young, they have plenty of time. El thinks as she herself takes a sip of her wine. Her gaze is still on Mike, and she smiles as she looks at him. 

The beginning of a beautiful friendship, indeed. 

Chapter Text

To say that Mike is surprised at how well his evening with El was going was an understatement. 

It’s not that he thought it would be horrible, or that something huge and dramatic would happen to ruin it, but he never really expected it to be well, good . In fact, it’s going better than he could have ever predicted. Sure, he hoped it would go well, but he certainly never thought they would end up as friends. 

Not that he’s necessarily complaining. 

“Can I ask you something?” El asks when they’re working through the last stack of invitations. They had taken a quick break after their “truce”, as El had called it, to toast to their new friendship, during which Mike had realized just how wrong he had pegged El all those months ago. 

Mike’s surprised by her question, but merely shrugs, looking at her over his shoulder. “Sure, I guess.” She rolls her eyes and Mike wonders if she can read his slight case of nerves. It’s not that he thinks she’s going to ask him something bad, but just because they were friends now didn’t make her actions anymore predictable. 

It just meant that he found her unpredictability more enjoyable and less annoying. 

“Chill, I’m not going to ask you for your life story and ask you to relive adolescent trauma.” Mike snorts, shaking his head, feeling slightly embarrassed, El doesn’t seem to notice, or mind, as she pushes on. “I was just gonna ask what it was that you actually did, for like a living. I realized that we may have known each other for a year, but since I hated you I never bothered to learn anything about you.” 

Mike feigns a gasp, holding his hand to his chest. “You never bothered to learn anything about me? Do you even know what my last name is?” He jokes, laughing when El reaches over and taps him on the shoulder. “That’s kind of a power move though. I’m impressed.” 

They make eye contact and Mike feels his chest warm when he sees the smile on El’s face. “Well thank you.” Their gazes hold for a moment and Mike isn’t sure which one of them breaks it, but his neck burns at the base as he looks down. “And to answer your question, I do know your last name, Hot Wheels.” 

Raising his eyebrows, Mike actually spins around from his spot on the floor to look at her, he hopes that he’s looking offended, but the minute he sees the smirk on her face, a laugh explodes from his chest and he shakes his head. 

“No but seriously,” El says through her own fit of laughter, nudging him with her toe. “What do you do for a living? I wanna know.” 

When Mike looks at her, he can tell she’s being serious. She has a curious expression on her face and her head is tilted ever so slightly. Mike sighs, shrugging his shoulders. “I work for this engineering firm as a lab assistant.” He states, watching as El nods her head. 

“You don’t really sound that excited about it.” She notes, raising one of her eyebrows. She’s playing with invitation in her hand and Mike watches as she spins the paper between her fingers. 

“I guess…” Mike trails off, hand instinctively going to the back of his neck, rubbing the skin above his shoulder blades. It’s a nervous tick that he’s had since high school. If El realizes this, she doesn’t say anything. 

She does however, clear her throat and she shakes her head. “You don’t need to tell me anything, sorry, I shouldn’t have pushed.” There’s a small blush on the corners of her cheeks and Mike feels a weird pang of guilt hit his heart. 

“No, it’s fine.” He reassures, giving her a small smile. “I’ve just never..admitted it out loud.” He says sheepishly. “That I don’t like my job.” 


And truthfully, Mike isn’t quite sure what wills him to admit it in the first place. Him and El have only been friends for what, an hour, not even, and that was something he had never opened up to anyone about. Sure, he was sure his friends knew that he didn’t love his job, but he had never said the words out loud. 

There was just something about the way him and El were sitting there, and the comfortable environment that had developed that made him want to be completely honest and feel like he could say anything and El wouldn’t judge him. 

So, that’s what he did. 

“Why not?” El asked after a couple moments. Her voice is soft, and Mike can tell she’s asking out of genuine curiosity and wanting to understand him better. The gesture makes him smile. 

“You see, I don’t really know.” Mike admits, looking over at El on the couch before looking down at the floor. “I majored in engineering in college, so it makes perfect sense that I got a job at an engineering firm, but now that I’m there…”

“You realize that it’s not for you.” El says, cutting off Mike’s train of thought. His eyes snap up to look at her and she smiles at him apologetically. There’s something about the look on her face and the way the words left her mouth that made Mike’s stomach dip. Like she was speaking from experience. 

However, she had hit the nail right on the head. 

“Yeah, that’s kind of exactly what it is.” His eyes meet El’s and for a moment, it seems like nothing else in the world exists. Mike ceases to feel the beat of his heart in his chest and all the air rushes from his lungs, but he barely notices, or cares. He doesn’t know how long their gazes hold, but when El finally drops her eyes and Mike shuffles in his place, his heart is pounding quickly in his chest. 

“Do you have any idea of what you actually want to do?” El finally asks after what feels like an eternity of prolonged silence. Whether or not El realizes it, but she had just asked a very, very complicated question. Because the truth was, Mike honestly had no idea what he wanted to do, he had gone back and forth with so many ideas for what felt like months and had yet to have anything really click. 

“No.” He finally said after a couple of seconds. “Hence why I still work there.” He laughs, humorless, and he sees El smile out of the corner of his eye. She’s looking down at her hands and she has a strange look on her face. “What about you?” 

Her question must surprise her, because her eyes snap up and she turns to look at him, her lips pursed. “What do you mean? What about me?” 

Letting out a small sigh, Mike shrugged his shoulders, leaning back and perching his elbow on the couch cushion. “What do you, you know, do for a living? I think Max mentioned something once about advertising.” 

El raised her eyebrow, a small smirk on her face, and Mike’s stomach flipped. “Wow, you were paying attention when Max was talking about me.” She teased, reaching over and poking his forearm. “If I didn’t know any better I’d say you had a crush on me or something.” 

At first Mike thought he had misheard her, or imagined that those were the words that came out of her mouth. His own mouth dropped open slightly, and he shook his head, almost as though he was trying to clear his ears out. But nope, he had heard her correctly. 

However, before he could respond, or even work up the brain power to start formulating any kind of response, El merely laughed. “I’m kidding.” She said, looking at him with a grin on her face. “Obviously.” 

“Oh yeah.” Mike breathes out, coughing to cover up the weird lump that had settled in his throat. He just hoped El didn’t question him about it. “Obviously.” El rolls her eyes at him, pushing her hair from her face. “So, are you gonna answer my question or not.” 

He feels a smirk fall onto his face as she turns her head to look at him, her head tilted. “I’m thinking about it.” She’s teasing him, he can tell by the look on her face, and it’s only a couple moments later before she sighs, her shoulders tensing up. “I’m an assistant to the CEO of this advertising firm.” 

Now, Mike will be the first to admit that he doesn’t really know anything about business, or well anything outside of the science world, so he’s not really sure exactly what that means, and he’s debating whether or not he should ask El to elaborate, when he swears she reads his mind and starts speaking again. 

“Which basically means that I get paid to be an intern. Sometimes my boss asks me for ideas or opinions, but he doesn’t usually listen to me. Although let’s be real, a lot of my ideas and opinions kind of suck.” She has a smile on her face, a small one, but a smile nonetheless. Mike can tell, however, that there’s something hidden behind it. There’s something in her eyes that tugs at his heart and a pit begins to form in his stomach. Something about her words is familiar almost. 

Then it hits him. 

My ideas suck .” 

Those are the words, or some of the words, she had said to him a couple of weeks ago when he had walked her home. When she had gotten that phone call. He had vaguely wondered since then, who had been on the other end, and it seemed like now he had his answer. 

“Lemme guess,” He says, raising his eyebrows, looking at her. “Your boss kinda sucks.” The last thing he wants to do is bring up her phone call from a couple weeks ago, not interesting in bringing up shitty memories and completely bringing the mood down. But, he hopes that she reads his words as support and not judgement or mockery. 

El snorted, looking at him with an amused look on her face. She rolls her eyes, but nods nevertheless. “You could say that.” She said with a small shrug. “But doesn’t everyone’s boss kind of suck?” She asks, a tiny smirk on her lips. 

“Maybe, but some more than others.” Mike notes, giving her a look that he hopes conveys what he’s trying to say to her. There’s a flash of something in her eyes and Mike swallows roughly. “Doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck to have a shitty boss, especially when you’re good at your job.” 

“Why, Mike Wheeler is that a compliment I’m hearing?” El asks, holding her hand to her chest and gasping in mock shock. “Are you telling me that you think I’m good at my job even though ten minutes ago you had no idea what my job was?”

Mike chuckled, shaking his head lightly. “If you want to think it’s a compliment, then you take it as a compliment, Hopper.” He said with a small smirk. “I’m just saying your ideas probably don’t suck considering you were the one who decided that we should drink wine, and trust me, that was a good idea.” 

At that, El lets out a loud laugh, shaking her head and Mike feels his heart swell in his chest. A chunk of her hair falls from her ponytail and into her face and Mike resists the urge to reach over and push it behind her ear. “I am a genius, thank you.” She says, looking at him with a smile. 

“Hey, hey, whoa.” Mike says, holding his hands up. “I never used the word genius, but you know what, if that’s what you want to tell yourself then go for it.” El gives him a toothy grin, sticking her tongue out between her teeth and Mike feels the back of his neck flush and he has to look down at the invitation in his hand to make sure El doesn’t see the blush spread to his cheeks. 

They spend about another hour or so finishing up the invitations, there’s a little bump in the road where they think they’ve managed to lose an entire pile, but after about twenty minutes of looking they find it under El’s couch. Mike swears that El might cry when they find them, almost like she wouldn’t have been able to live with herself if they had truly lost them. 

The sight pulls at his heart in a way that he doesn’t quite understand. 

By the time they’ve put everything away and cleaned up El’s living room, Mike is exhausted. It’s weird, it’s not like the work they were doing was hard or anything, but he feels like he’s run a marathon. Stretching his hands over his head, he yawns, his yawn turning into a laugh when he makes eye contact with El. 

“It’s late.” She notes, pulling her phone out to look at the time. “Almost midnight.” 

Mike sighs, rubbing his eyes. “Wow, didn’t realize it had gotten that late.” He couldn’t believe that he had been at El’s house for almost five hours. Turns out that becoming friends with someone really makes the time fly by. In fact, he had become so comfortable that he almost didn’t want to leave. 

Weirdly enough, it’s almost like El read his mind. 

“I think you should stay here tonight.” El’s voice is soft and when Mike looks at her, she has a small smile on her face. She must be able to see the shock on his face, the slightly open mouth is a dead giveaway he’s sure, because she rolls her eyes, smiling. “Look, it’s late and it’s probably like negative ten degrees outside, why don’t you just stay here.” 

She shrugs her shoulders and Mike’s heart quickens in his chest. Part of him really wants to say no, put his jacket on and brave the freezing temperatures. It’s not that he wants to go outside, because yeah El’s right he’s probably really fucking cold, and Mike kind of hates walking the street alone this late at night, but he doesn’t want to impose and do something that could make El uncomfortable. 

However, his mouth seems to be on a different planet then his brain and before he can question it, he’s nodding. “Yeah, sure, thanks, El.” El smiles at his words, and Mike swallows roughly. “So, uh...I’ll just clear this stuff up and be good.” 

His words are meant to be a kind of comfort to El, so she can retire to her bedroom. She looks exhausted, her hair has fallen from her ponytail and her eyes look heavy, and the sight tugs on Mike’s heart and he’s only a few minutes away from forcing her into bed himself. But, instead of smiling and wishing him goodnight like he expected, El, not for the first time that evening, says something he doesn’t expect. 

“Mike, c’mon.” She raises an eyebrow and Mike furrows his forehead. “You don’t need to sleep out here, this couch is a killer.” She lets out a small laugh, and Mike’s heart beats erratically in his chest. El can’t mean…. “My bed is plenty big enough.” 

“What?” The question leaves Mike’s lips before he can think about it and his stomach twists and he feels his spine straighten. El shakes her head, shrugging her shoulders. Mike’s head is spinning and racing at a million miles a minute and he swears that none of this is actually happening. 

“Mike.” She says, his name from her lips ringing around in his head. “It’s not that big of a deal.” She said with a small grin. “I don’t take up that much room and I would feel bad if I knew you were out here, where it’s not as warm and not as comfortable.”

“I….” Mike finds himself struggling to form words and he buries his hands into his pockets, gulping. “I don’t want to impose.” He finally gets out, his voice quiet and his words muffled. 

El rolls her eyes and somehow Mike knows that this argument, not that was even really an argument to begin with, is won and he’s not going to be sleeping on the couch. “Mike, you’re not imposing if I’m literally offering it up to you.” 

Their gazes hold, and something in El’s eyes makes Mike smile and he holds his hands up finally, in defeat. “Fine, alright. You win.” She smirks and Mike can’t help the chuckle that he lets out. “Why do I feel like I’m going to be saying a lot over the course of this friendship?” 

“Yeah, probably.” She shrugs her shoulders innocently and they both laugh. Despite the tension that’s settling in his shoulders at the idea of sleeping in the same bed as El, Mike feels himself relax, even if just a little bit. “Now, c’mon, I’ll show you where everything is.” 

With a nod, Mike follows her down the hallway in the direction of her bedroom. She points him to the bathroom before bringing her into her room. It’s not huge, the bed taking up most of the room, but it has a nice view out of the window and there’s a door that leads straight into the bathroom, so Mike understands the appeal. It’s definitely nicer then his place, that’s for sure. 

“So, uh, I don’t like have anything for you to change into, because we’re not exactly the same size.” She laughs, shaking her head. “But, do whatever you need to do to be comfortable.” Mike feels his face go red and he coughs, trying to cover up the strangled gasp rising in his throat. 

“Oh, I’m good.” He says, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “I’ll just sleep like and change in the morning when I go back to my place.” He gives her a small smile and El nods. She grabs a pile of clothes that were on the edge of her bed and points in the direction of the bathroom. 

“I’ll be right back.” 

She disappears into the bathroom and Mike lets out a long, deep breathe, putting his head in his hands. He could hear El shuffling around and he pulled out his phone from his pocket, noticing one lone text from Lucas from a couple hours ago asking him how it was going. Mike didn’t bother answering though, Lucas would be more weirded out if he heard from Mike at this hour then if Mike waited until morning. 

“So, everything good?” El asked, snapping Mike’s attention away from his phone. She was standing in the doorway of the bathroom, a small, somewhat nervous, smile on her face. She had changed from her sweater and jeans into a light pink pajama set and Mike felt himself smile. 

Damn her for being so damn pretty.  

“Yeah, everything’s fine. Just tired.” He said, putting his phone down on the bedside table. He wasn’t sure if he was on the right side of the bed, but El didn’t say anything as she walked around to the other side, pulling the blankets down and giving him a grin. 

“Well, then, we’ll go to bed.” She flicks the light off and Mike mimics her actions of pulling the blankets back and laying back on the pillows. He knew he would regret sleeping in jeans but it was better than literally any other option, so he rolled onto his side and closed his eyes. “Goodnight, Mike.” El says softly when the room has gone dark and quiet and still. 

Mike smiles, feeling his shoulders relax. He could have never guessed when the night started that this is where it would end, but he’s not going to complain. “Goodnight, El.” 

 


 

The first thing that Mike was aware of when he woke up in the morning was that the sun was in his eyes. 

This was the first sign that Mike was in fact not in his own bed. His bedroom didn’t face the morning sun, and he never got sun in the mornings. The only time he could remember since moving into his apartment that he had woken up with the sun in his face was the day after Dustin’s birthday last year. 

The second thing that Mike was aware of was that he wasn’t wearing his usual sleep attire of pajama pants and t-shirt. He could feel the soft cotton of a t shirt across the skin of his chest, but his legs were encased in the heavy denim of the jeans that he was wearing last night. 

And the third, and final, thing that Mike was aware of before he snapped awake was the fact that there was the unmistaken weight of another human being on Mike’s arm. 

And as Mike’s eyes opened fully and he looked over, he realized that that very human being was El. Heart beating erratically, Mike looked around the unfamiliar bedroom as the night before came back to him. El telling him to spend the night, refusing to let him sleep on the couch, falling asleep in her bed with El next to him. 

There were some details that were fuzzy, result of the wine and early morning drowsiness, but Mike definitely remembered that they did not fall asleep like this. El’s head was burrowed against his upper arm, her hair tickling his skin and her nose brushing up against the fabric of his shirt. She had a small smile on her face as she slept and Mike’s stomach flipped as he looked at her. However, the moment passed quickly and then he started to panic. 

He needed to get out of here. 

Sure, him and El had made amends and become friends the previous night, and she had invited him to spend the night, but they were not close enough to be waking up together like this. So, it was probably for the best that he try and get out of here before she woke up and things got weird. Well, more weird. 

In a move that Mike would be impressed with when he looked back on, he slid his arm out from under El’s head, careful not to wake her. Somehow, he felt that this situation would become ten times more awkward if she woke up in the middle of him trying to leave. El sighed, but didn’t open her eyes, merely adjusting herself without his arm pillowing her head. 

Once his arm was free, Mike pushed himself from El’s bed, making sure to not move the blankets too much. Grabbing his phone, he saw that it was almost eight, and his stomach growled with hunger. Pulling his plaid button down on, which Mike didn’t even remember removing, Mike pocketed his phone and gave El one last look. 

She had the same serene smile on her face and her face was buried in her pillow, her hair covering her face. She was snoring lightly and Mike couldn’t help but smile. He had to admit, he felt a little weird, leaving her without saying goodbye, but she was fast asleep and Mike didn’t want to wake her for no reason. 

It also felt really weird watching her sleep, so Mike needed to get out of here. 

However, before he could stop himself, and before he could just turn around and leave, Mike felt himself leaning over. His hand seemed to have a mind of its own as it brushed the hair from her face, tucking it behind her ear. It felt strangely intimate, and Mike’s heart flipped as his fingertips brushed against her skin. 

But, it made him smile. 

“Bye, El.” He whispered. The moment held, Mike’s fingers holding against the skin of her cheek, his heart flipping and tumbling in his chest. Mike isn’t quite sure how long he stood there, definitely long enough for it to be weird, but not long enough for her to notice, but he does know the only reason the moment breaks is the sound of his phone loudly vibrating against his leg. 

“Shit.” He muttered, pulling away from El quickly and holding his phone in his pocket. Luckily, El didn’t wake at the noise, merely whining slightly in her sleep and rolling over so she was facing away from him. 

Mike took this as his cue to leave. 

Giving El one last look, Mike opened the door to her bedroom and quickly made his way through her apartment towards the door. The invitations were still where they left them, and Mike spent a minute stacking them up a little neater so El wouldn’t have to clean them up all by herself later. Mike’s phone vibrated again as he stood up and his groaned, ignoring it. 

Whoever it was, was just going to have to wait until he got home. 

Putting his jacket and shoes on, Mike debating writing El a note thanking her for letting him stay, but decided that might be a little too weird and that he could just text her later. So, once he had everything, he started his journey home. 

It felt weird, walking through the streets, the cold morning air hitting him from all sides, wearing the same clothes that he had been wearing the night before. Mike had never done a walk of shame before, or anything close to, and it’s not like him and El had done anything, but it still felt weird leaving her apartment in the same clothes. 

He hoped that her neighbors hadn’t noticed him. Not that they were doing anything embarrassing but Mike really didn’t want anyone getting the wrong idea. Him and El had just decided to be friends, so he didn’t need it being ruined by people thinking incorrectly about what had happened between them. 

That was all Mike was able to think about on his way home and when he finally made it into his apartment, his mind was racing at a million miles a minute thinking about it. He needed a distraction, and fast, before he thought himself into a panic attack. 

Luckily, his phone vibrated, once again reminding him of the unread messages that he had. Sighing, Mike pulled his phone from his pocket, rolling his eyes when he saw that he had not one, not two, not three, but seven unread messages from Dustin. 

dustin: hey 
dustin: if you’re still mad at me, totally valid 
dustin: BUT i think we should talk 
dustin: this is me metaphorically shaking first 
dustin: y’know...party rules? 
dustin: are you ignoring me?????? MIKE?????
dustin: anyway when you finally stop ignoring me, meet me at that diner on 3rd at noon, lunch on me. 

Mike smiled, even though guilt was souring his stomach. He felt bad for what he had said to Dustin, even though he still thought that Dustin was being a little rude, Mike had been unnecessarily cruel back to him. Dustin might be metaphorically shaking first, but Mike was just as guilty. 

Checking the time, he saw that it was around eight thirty, which meant he still had a few hours before he was going to meet Dustin. He was grateful for that though, because he needed to shower and change and try and get over what happened last night so Dustin didn’t notice and immediately call him out on it. 

But, Mike supposed that he should know better than to think that would ever happen. 

 


 

“Dude, what the hell happened to you last night?” 

Mike rolled his eyes, throwing himself into the booth across from Dustin, who was looking at Mike with an amused expression on his face. Mike knew that Dustin would immediately be able to tell something just by looking at him, but he was hoping he would at least be able to sit down first. 

“What do you mean?” Mike asked, opening his menu and pretending to look at it, even though the party came here all the time and Mike always ordered the same thing. He was just trying to avoid eye contact with Dustin. 

Dustin snorted, pulling Mike’s menu down to look at him. “You literally look like you barely got any sleep last night.” Dustin’s eyebrows are raised as he looks at Mike skeptically. “You also look like you didn’t sleep in your own bed last night.” 

“What?” Mike exclaims, clearing his throat and mentally cursing himself for the way his voice betrays him. “Nothing happened, I was just busy last night and am tired, that's all.” 

“Oh yeah.” Dustin smirks, folding his hands on the table in front of him. “Tired from doing what?” His eyebrows waggle and Mike frowns, putting his head in his hands. 

“I thought you invited me here to apologize, not interrogate me.” Mike says, hoping the sarcasm in his voice is evident. He doesn’t want to get into another argument with Dustin, especially when he also intended to apologize. 

Dustin sighed loudly, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, yeah. I’m sorry, I was an asshole and I shouldn’t have said what I said. I was being jealous and had no reason to be such a dick. There, you happy?” 

Despite himself, Mike laughed, shaking his head. It wasn’t exactly the most heartfelt, but at this point in their friendship, Mike didn’t need it to be. “Yeah, whatever. I’m sorry too, just because you were an asshole didn’t mean I had to be one back.” 

Dustin stuck his tongue out, tossing a paper napkin across the table at him. “You suck.” Mike smirked, folding his arms across his chest. “Now, tell me, what happened last night.” 

Mike rolled his eyes, leaning his head back. “Honestly Dustin, nothing exciting. I went over to El’s house and we stuffed invitations into envelopes. That’s really it.” Well, that wasn’t true. They had definitely done more than that, including having a heart to heart and spending the night together, but Dustin really didn’t need to know that, especially the latter. 

“Wow, you guys managed to get through a whole night together just the two of you without killing each other? I’m impressed.” Dustin nodded and Mike raised an eyebrow, his heart twisting weirdly when Dustin smirked. “Unless, you’re all weird and nervous and jumpy because you killed her.” 

“What!?” Mike practically yells, attracting the attention of the elderly couple sitting a couple booths down from them. Dustin waves, a smile on his face the two give them a look before going back to their meals. “No, that’s not what happened!” Mike exclaims, voice barely above a whisper.

“Please speak up, Michael, I can’t hear you.” Dustin teases, grinning widely. “But seriously, you guys didn’t kill each other? That’s impressive.” 

Mike shrugs, playing with the plastic corner of his menu. “Yeah, I mean it wasn’t that bad.” He says, swallowing tightly. “In fact, we kinda became friends.” 

Now it was Dustin’s turn to exclaim. “You what?!” Luckily, he wasn’t as loud and didn’t attract as much attention to them as Mike had, but his hands were thrown in the air wildly and his eyes were wide. “You and El are friends?” 

“Don’t act so surprised.” Mike says, even though he totally understands why Dustin is surprised. Mike had complained many a time about El and about how they would never get along and how annoying she was, so he couldn’t blame Dustin for acting surprised that they were friends now. “But yeah, we talked and we’re cool now. Decided that being friends was better than hating each other.” 

“Wow.” Dustin says, nodding his head. “Huh, that’s actually more impressive than you two not killing each other.” Mike shakes his head, rubbing his hand down his face. “We now live in a world where Mike Wheeler and El Hopper don’t hate each other. No wonder I woke up this morning feeling so different.” 

“Oh fuck off.” Mike mutters, leaning forward to rest his chin on his hands. “You are so dramatic.” 

“Oh wow, pot calling the kettle black much.” Dustin teases, smirking. “But that’s all that happened? You two became friends?” 

“Yeah.” Well, technically the answer is no, but considering the amount of teasing Dustin has already accomplished today, Mike really does not want to give him anymore ammunition. “We made amends, worked things out and now we’re friends. Why is this all so weird to you?” 

Dustin shrugs, leaning forward slightly. “I don’t know, I guess I always just figured that the reason you and El hated each other was because you had some unresolved romantic tension and that you were only gonna stop hating each other if you fell in love.” 

At first Mike is almost positive he didn’t hear Dustin correctly, because there is no way that he said that. Him, falling in love with El? Yeah, that was never, ever going to happen. Him and El might be friends now, but there was no way. Besides, Mike was pretty much against falling in love, but even so, it definitely was not going to happen with El. 

Dustin was crazy. 

Unfortunately, before Mike can argue, the waitress comes over to take their order and the subject is effectively dropped. In fact, Dustin doesn’t mention El again the entire meal, instead talking about his date with Suzie the night before and his upcoming trip back home to Hawkins to visit his mom. 

Mike tried to stay engaged, really, he did. But his mind kept harping back to what Dustin had said. About him loving El and having unresolved romantic tension . Was that even a real thing? No, it couldn’t be, Dustin probably made it up to make himself sound like he knew what he was talking about. 

Even though he definitely didn’t. Because Mike had absolutely no romantic feelings for El. None, what so ever. And he was never going to have them and he definitely wasn’t falling in love with her. The mere idea was so absurd that it almost made Mike laugh. 

Yeah, no. Dustin could not be more wrong in his assumption. 

Right? 

Chapter Text

“So, wait, you guys are friends now?” 

El rolled her eyes, letting her head hit the pillow. This was just about the third time Max had asked this question in the last twenty minutes, each time sounding more and more amazed. El didn’t really know what was so hard to believe, ok yeah sure, she had been singing a different tune just last week, but Max was friends with him, so she didn’t see what the big deal was. 

“Yeah.” El said, for the third time. She sighed, pushing her hair back allowing it to fan across her pillow. “I mean, we’re not best friends suddenly, but yeah, we’re friends.” 

Max hummed on the other side of the phone, before whispering something to someone who was off the call. El shouldn’t be surprised that Max was gossiping about her to Lucas. “Lucas can’t believe it either.” 

“Well, that’s fascinating for Lucas.” El deadpanned, sighing. She supposed she understood that her friends thought it was weird, but it felt odd that they all were so fascinated by it and kept saying that it was so hard to believe. Especially considering all she’d heard for the last year was how all their friends wanted her and Mike to be friends too. 

“So, since y’all are friends now,” El giggled at her friend’s use of y’all, something she only used when she was teasing, “Does this mean I can stop worrying about a fight breaking out at my wedding?”

El groaned, shaking her head. She knew Max was teasing but still , her and Mike were never that bad. And c’mon, El did have some class. “Well, are you inviting Billy? Because he’s the only person who would be on the guest list who you would have to worry about starting a fight.” 

“Ugh fine, I knew you guys weren’t going to fight, but you have to admit that would be really funny.” Max said with a small laugh. “You would totally kick Mike’s ass even though he’s like a foot taller than you.” 

Okay, El did have to admit that that would be pretty funny. Especially because Max was totally right, she would kick Mike’s ass. He might be tall, but his arms were about the size of a pencil. And El may look small, but her father was the chief of police, she had learned how to throw a punch at a pretty young age. 

“Yeah, I’m pretty badass.” El said with a giggle. Closing her eyes, she pictured Max’s wedding, something she had thought about periodically in the last couple of months. Usually, she thought about dancing with Dustin and Will, and cheering when Lucas and Max kissed for the first time as husband and wife, eating wedding cake and taking pictures. 

However, this time when she closed her eyes, she still imagined dancing. But instead of it being jumping up and dancing and letting Dustin twirl her around and around, this time it was slow swaying to soft string music, and Dustin or Will wasn’t her partner. It was Mike. She felt herself smile. 

“So, how does that sound?” She heard Max asking on the other end. Shaking her head, El opened her eyes, the image of Mike smiling at her as they slowly swayed on the dance floor. She felt her cheeks turn pink when she realized that she hadn’t heard a single thing that Max had said to her. 

“Huh?” She asked. She knew Max would call her out, make fun of her for getting lost in her own head, but she really did not want to agree to something without knowing what she was agreeing to. She wasn’t Mike for crying out loud. 

Max laughed on the other end. “So you weren’t even listening to me.” She groaned playfully and El could practically picture Max throwing her head back. “Too busy daydreaming about a certain, tall handsome friend of ours?” 

El’s face warmed and she suddenly was very, very grateful that her and Max were speaking over the phone and she couldn’t see her. “No.” She said, likely giving herself away by how quickly the word left her mouth, and she cleared her throat awkwardly. “What were you saying?” 

“Try not to get lost in your Wheeler daydreams for a couple minutes, will ya?” Max teased, giggling to herself. El huffed, pursing her lips, but didn’t argue. “I made an appointment to go dress shopping like two weeks from now and I kind of need my maid of honor there.” 

“Ahh!” El practically screamed, sitting up on her bed, a smile on her face. “That’s so exciting!” She exclaimed, clapping her hand over her mouth, her smile growing. 

“There’s the reaction I was waiting for.” Max said, causing El to drop her hand and frown. “I don’t know why you’re so excited though, it’s not like you didn’t know this was going to happen.” El sighed, running her hand through her hair. 

“I don’t know, I just feel like seeing you in a wedding dress will make all of this real.” El said with a small shrug of her shoulders. “Not that it hasn’t felt real yet or anything, but I just feel like that’s when it will finally hit me that my best friend is getting married.” 

Max laughed softly on the other side of the line and El smiled. “I think that will be the moment it hits me too.” She practically whispered, and El’s heart warmed in her chest. There was a beat of silence between them, before Max broke it, sighing loudly into the phone. “So, next Saturday, I was thinking we could like drink mimosas at brunch and shit before going to the fancy bridal salon. Make ourselves feel like real ladies.” 

El gasped in fake offense, holding her hand to her chest. “Fuck off, Mayfield, I am a real lady.” She scoffed, resisting the urge to cross her arms across her chest, and she likely would have if she wasn’t holding her phone. “But, I think that sounds like a fantastic idea, we can make a girl’s day of it too, maybe go somewhere fancy for dinner, unless you and Lucas have a hot date that night.” 

“I have no hot date that night that we speak of, but you sure you don’t have one with Mike that night.” Max teased, causing El’s face to burn with embarrassment. “Before you say anything, I’m obviously kidding, even if you and Mike did have feelings for each other you’d both be way too stubborn to admit it to each other.” Max snorted and El could hear Lucas laughing softly in the background as well. 

“I’m just going to ignore the fact that you said that and instead say that I’ll happily be there and I can’t wait to help you pick out your dress.” El said, desperately hoping that her voice doesn’t betray her and show the panicked embarrassment written all over her face. 

“We both know that I’m going to hate every single dress that I put on, which is why you’re coming so you can tell me which one brings out my eyes or makes my freckles pop or whatever other adjectives you want to throw in there.” El rolled her eyes, but smiled nonetheless. “Anyways, Lucas is looking at me like he wants me to pay attention to him, so I’m gonna go. Catch you later, Ellie.” 

El smiled, “Bye, Maxie.” 

Hanging up the phone, El tossed it onto the bed beside her and sighed. She thought about Max, and how giggly and light she always sounded on the phone when she talked about Lucas, and how happy they always were together when El saw them together. She thought about how warm and safe their apartment felt, and how she had seen them slowly build their lives together over the last year. 

Her heart squeezed in her chest, hot, warm jealousy washing over her. She was happy for Max, really and truly she was, she had never been happier for anyone this much in her life. Lucas and Max were perfect together and El couldn’t imagine a better future for the two of them. But, seeing them together and thinking about the future they were getting ready to share together, just made El crave that with someone. 

She had been essentially alone her entire life, sure she’d had boyfriends before, but they never lasted very long and never made her feel the way that she knew love was supposed to feel. El knew that she was still young, and that there would be plenty of time for love in her future, but seeing her best friend find it, made it hard not to want it. 

El could only hope that there was someone out there for her the way that there had been someone out there for Max.

Little did she know that person was a lot closer than she thought.  

 


 

The wind whistled around here and El wrapped her scarf tighter around her neck, ducking her head down. It was nearing the middle of April and it was still absolutely freezing outside. Oh how she longed for it to be warm. 

Luckily, just as a rather large gust of wind threatened to whisk her scarf away and take her with it, she arrived at her destination. Smiling, El hurried up the steps, huddling in the coverage of the overhang. She didn’t even have time to ring the doorbell, before the door was opening. 

“Hey.” Mike said as he stepped aside to let her in. “Come on in, it’s freezing outside.” He shivered as the breeze hit his arms, and El giggled. 

“Were you waiting for me?” El teases, knocking him with her hip as they walk to the stairs, Mike easily taking the lead. El had been over to his apartment a couple of times in the last couple weeks, but Mike always met her in the lobby. 

Mike scoffed, looking at her over his shoulder. “You wish, Hopper.” He commented, opening the door to his apartment. “No, I happened to look out the window and watched you almost get blown away by the wind, thought I would come down so I could get a better view.” He said with a smirk. 

“I hate you.” El said, hitting him lightly on the arm. Mike chuckled, shaking his head as he sat down on his couch. El removed her jacket and kicked her shoes off before following suit, throwing her stuff onto the arm chair. 

“You do not.” Mike said with a smile. “You might have at one point but you don’t anymore.” He had a smug look on his face, and even though El knew he was merely teasing, she still rolled her eyes, crossing her arms across her chest.

“Yeah, and you know what I’m beginning to think ceasing my hatred of you was a mistake.” El joked. 

Mike scoffed, shaking his head. “Nah.” He dismissed. “You love me too much to go back to hating me.” 

The words were said as a joke, as a continuation of their light hearted bickering, but El couldn’t help the way her heart stilled in her chest, and the way her ears started ringing and hands began to tremble. 

Love

El wasn’t stupid, she knew there were many different kinds of love. There was the warm, familial, comfortable love that she felt for her father. There was a fun, energetic and familiar love that she felt for Max and the rest of her friends. And then there was the all consuming, heart pounding, head spinning kind of love that El had never felt before. 

At least she was pretty sure she hadn’t. 

But there was something, there was definitely something, in the way that her heart fluttered when she caught Mike’s eye, and the way that her stomach swooped when their arms brushed. Was it love though? No, it couldn’t be. Her and Mike were just becoming good friends, this was all part of that process. 

That had to be it. 

“In your dreams, Wheeler.” El remarked, trying her best to keep up the light and friendly conversation. The last thing she needed was Mike knowing that that’s what she was thinking about. Be the perfect way to freak him out and scare him off before they even had a proper chance to enjoy their friendship. 

Mike laughed softly, a strange look crossing his features, before disappearing as quickly as it had appeared. “More like in my nightmares.” He joked, knocking her with his shoulder. “So, have you started planning Max’s bachelorette party yet?” 

El was grateful for the change in subject, the conversation on love making her chest tight and her head spin, so she smiled at Mike’s question. She shook her head, however, feeling a little ashamed. While the wedding was still a good six months away, time seemed to be speeding by and El knew if she didn’t start soon, she would be up the creek without a paddle before she knew it. 

“Do you have something planned for Lucas?” She had a feeling she knew the answer. Mike likely only asked her because he himself already had a plan. He was such a show off. 

Mike smirked, nodding his head, confirming her suspicions. “Yeah, Lucas isn’t much of a club kind of guy, or much of a drinker, so we’re gonna have like an all day, all night Mario Kart tournament.” 

El laughed. That sounded exactly like what she would expect from them. But she couldn’t help the urge to tease him a little bit. 

“Are you gonna hire a stripper?” She asked, making sure to keep the laughter from her voice. Mike gaped, his mouth falling open and his eyes going wide. Quickly, he shook his head, licking his lips nervously. 

“No! No!” He exclaimed, rubbing his hands on his jeans. El laughed, holding her stomach as she threw her head back. 

“Mike, I’m kidding.” She said, watching as his expression changed from nervous to annoyed. He rolled his eyes at her, causing her to giggle. “I know you’re not cool enough to do something like that.”  

Mike groaned, pushing his head onto the couch and knocking El’s foot with his own. “You’re the worst.” He sighs and El smirks at him, giggling softly. “Seriously, you’re the actual worst.” He repeats, but El knows he doesn’t mean it. He has a small smile on his face and there’s a twinkle in his eye that makes El’s stomach flutter. 

Damn him. 

El and Mike might be friends now, but El still hated how cute he was. 

“I’m actually the best but I guess there’s nothing wrong with a differing opinion, even if that opinion is wrong.” El said with a small grin, winking at him. She doesn’t know what possessed her to do it, flirt like this. But it makes her heart thump satisfyingly against her ribcage. 

“Ugh.” Mike said, giving her a look. “You are such an only child.” He joked with a roll of his eyes. 

“At least I don’t have the worst middle child syndrome ever.” El teases, reaching over and pushing his shoulder softly. 

She can’t help but notice the difference in their conversation. How a couple weeks ago, a conversation like this would have ended in short comments and crossed arms and a frustrated rise in her heartbeat. It feels nice to bicker like this, in a friendly, joking, kind of way. It makes El feel that guilt again. That guilt for judging Mike before she had a chance to really know him, thus missing out on this opportunity to be friends with him. 

Because it turns out, El really likes being Mike’s friend. 

He texts her at least once every day, or sometimes she texts him, they exchange funny stories at their places of work or try and decode weird texts from Dustin. They’ve had lunch together a couple times, Mike meeting El at her office, El thinks it’s an excuse for Mike to go to the burger place near her office he really likes, but she’s not complaining. They had even hung out of his apartment a few times after work, El in desperate need of distractions from Brenner’s increasingly cruel behavior, but not wanting to bother Max. She felt bad sometimes, showing up at Mike’s without much warning, but Mike never seemed to mind. 

Something El was all the more grateful for. 

All in all, El really liked being friends with Mike. 

Even if she might have a small, tiny,  minuscule, crush on him. 

It’s not anything more than that, definitely , not. She just thinks he’s really cute, which she’s pretty much always thought, it was just easier to reconcile with now that they were friends. And okay sure, she also thinks he’s probably the funniest person she knows and talking to him is as easy as breathing, and sometimes when she leaves his apartment or they part ways in front of her office building, she feels sad not to be around him anymore. But seriously, that’s it. 

It’s just a silly crush, something she knows she’ll get over in no time. 

 


 

I have never seen this much white in my entire life.” El said, almost mystically, as her and Max stepped into the bridal salon. El had never seen a place so clean in her entire life. Dresses lined each of the walls, some with big skirts, some with long sleeves, some with poofy sleeves, but all of them definitively white. 

“Aren’t you from one of the whitest towns in America?” 

Rolling her eyes, El snapped out of her almost dreamlike state to look at Max, who had a smirk on her face. “You know what I mean.” El said, crossing her arms across her chest. 

“Hello, ladies.” The woman standing at the front counter said, causing both Max and El took look over at her. She was smiling at them, looking like a woman out of a magazine, with her curly blonde hair and smooth skin and spell bounding smile. El was pretty sure she could be convinced to buy anything this woman was selling, which was probably why she was selling wedding dresses. “One of you must be Max.” 

Max smiled, but El could tell it wasn’t totally genuine. Max was far from thrilled to be here, El knew if it was up to her, she would show up in jeans a t shirt to get married. In fact, she had said just that to El a couple months ago, but El argued that in ten years, she might regret it if she didn’t. 

“You don’t have to wear white, necessarily, colored wedding dresses are all the rage these days.” El had said, watching as Max’s frown slipped into a look of contemplation before turning back into a frown. “You could wear red, or even black, that would certainly knock Lucas dead.” 

Max hadn’t offered a response at the time, but as they were standing in the salon, El could see her eyes flitting around the room, her gaze holding longer on the non white dresses that were scattered amongst the white ones. El smirked, pushing her hair behind her ear and giving the woman in front of them a smile. 

“Well, my name is Caroline and I’m going to be helping you out this afternoon.” She shook both of their hands, giving El a knowing smile that made her heart squeeze weirdly in her chest. “Why don’t you girls spend some time looking around and I’ll check back in with you in a couple minutes to see where your head's at.” 

She gave them both another smile before she stepped back behind the counter, leaving Max and El to their own devices. Max elbowed El, raising her eyebrows at her, but El ignored her, instead focusing on the lines and lines of dresses. 

“You look over there, I’m gonna look over here.” Max said, flicking her chin over to the lacy, poofy dresses. She had a look on her face and El rolled her eyes, she doubted she would find anything over there that Max had any interest in, but she nodded. “Remember, no tulle and no lace.” 

“Yeah, yeah, I got it.” El said, watching as Max gave her a smile and turned towards the darker and sleeker style of dresses. El knew that Max was going to walk out of here with one of those dresses and probably wouldn’t even look twice at any of the ones El was going to suggest, but El was happy to look anyway. 

She didn’t have to look just for Max. 

Going first to the lacy variety of dresses, El’s breath caught in her throat as her fingers grazed the first dress. While she knew lace was the last thing Max wanted, it’s what El had always imagined for her own wedding dress. El had never really been the kind of girl to plan out her whole wedding on a pinterest board, she had always pictured getting married in lace, outside. 

She pushes all those thoughts from her mind, however, instead focusing on trying to find a dress that screamed ‘Max’. That was easier said than done however, because even though El thought Max would look absolutely beautiful in almost every single one of these dresses, she also knew Max would rather show up naked then be caught dead in any of these. 

Then El saw it. The most beautiful dress she had ever seen in her entire life. 

It was head to toe flower lace, encrusted with a thousand tiny gemstones that made the entire dress sparkle in the light. It had a scoop neck top and thin straps, with the entire back being exposed. The skirt was straight, falling to the ground, and every inch of it was pure white. It took El’s breath away. 

“You should try it on.” Max’s voice said as she appeared behind her suddenly. El nearly jumped out of her skin, spinning around so fast she nearly collided with Max, who was looking at her with raised eyebrows and a smile on her face. 

“What?” She exclaimed, her heart jumping into her throat. In her hand, Max had three dresses, each one just as slinky and not white as El could have predicted, which made El feel a little less guilty for not finding any. But it didn’t do much to help her embarrassment. 

Max rolled her eyes again and El knew if she didn’t have dresses in her hand she would have crossed her arms. “You clearly like it, why not try it on. You’re practically drooling looking at it.” El felt her face warm and she gulped, which caused Max to laugh softly. 

“I’m not the one getting married, you are. This isn’t about me.” El said, stepping away from the rack and taking a closer look at the dresses in Max’s hand. “Besides, who knows when I am going to get married, so I’m not gonna try a dress on, fall in love with it and then be disappointed when I never get the chance to wear it.” 

El heard Max scoff. “You are so dramatic.” She said and El frowned. “‘Never get the chance to wear it,’ please there are a million guys who would marry you in a heartbeat. Mike Wheeler included.” 

El was pretty sure her entire face was bright red. 

“Please stop talking.” She muttered, putting her head in her hands. Max laughed loudly, shaking her head. “Mike does not want to marry me.”  El said, doing her best to look annoyed at the implication. 

“Says you.” Max says with a snort. “Can you please just try the dress on?” Max asked, tilting her head. “Considering it a wedding present.” 

Damn her. 

“Fine.” El said, grabbing the dress off the rack. The dress was even more beautiful in her hand, the lace was soft and intricate up close and the flowers were impeccably sewn. She was in awe. She was not worthy of a dress this beautiful. 

Her and Max made their way to the dressing room, where Caroline was waiting for her, all perfect smile and all. “Find a couple options?” She said, eyeing the dresses in Max’s hand, her smile widening slightly when she noticed one in El’s hand as well. 

“Yeah, and my friend is going to try one on too. She’s not getting married, but it's perfect for her and I know she won’t stop thinking about it if she doesn’t try it on.” Max said, and Caroline nodded, giving El a smile. “And I want her to go first.” 

El gave Max a look. Unlike Max, El had not prepared for trying on a wedding dress. She was fairly sure she hadn’t shaved her armpits in the last week and she definitely hadn’t shaved her legs recently. She hoped Caroline didn’t get the wrong kind of impression from her. 

But before El could argue, she was being shuffled into the dressing room, Caroline hot on her heels. “I think I’m wearing the wrong bra.” El muttered once they were in the dressing room. On top of not taking care of her body hair, she happened to be wearing a teal bra with hearts all over it that she’s had since middle school. 

It was laundry day, sue her. 

“It’s alright dear, trust me, we’ve seen it all.” Caroline said as she unzipped the dress. “This is an absolutely gorgeous dress and I think it’s going to fit you like a glove.” She said with a smile. 

“I’m not even in a relationship.” El muttered as she pulled her shirt over her head and unzipped herself out of her jeans. 

Caroline tsked as she pulled the dress out for El to step into. “You may not be in a relationship, but you’re in love. I can see it in your face.” Caroline smiled and El felt her heart stop and her stomach sink. 

“What?” El said, swallowing, her throat suddenly feeling dry. “I’m not in love.” She said softly, and quickly, shaking her head. Although, as she said it, an image flashed across her mind. An image of brown hair and brown eyes and freckled cheeks and she had to swallow again. 

Caroline grinned, zipping El into the dress. There wasn’t a mirror in the dressing room so El had no idea what she looked like, but Caroline’s smile was wide and it made El’s heart hammered against her ribs. 

“I’ve seen many, many soon to be brides come through that door and try on dresses. Some of them are in love, some of them think that they are. I can always tell. And you, my dear, are in love. Even if you might not even know it yet.” 

With that, Caroline opened up the curtain of the dressing room, ushering El out to where Max was waiting. There was a giant mirror next to Max and when El caught a glimpse of herself, her breath caught and her heart leapt into her throat. 

El didn’t think she had ever seen herself look this beautiful before. 

“Oh my god.” Max said, a grin on her face. “Now I wish you were the one getting married and not me, because you look amazing.” El blushed, her hand running down the front of the dress. “God, I hope I look that good in my dress.” 

“You will.” El said, still slightly mystified by her own appearance. “It’s not like anyone else but you is gonna see me in this.” She whispered, swallowing down the weird lump in her throat. Suddenly she feels like she’s going to cry, tears blurring her vision, she squeezes them shut, taking a deep breath. 

Suddenly she’s in a field, a large open field with wildflowers growing at her feet and a cool breeze blowing against her bare shoulders. There’s a weight on her elbow and when she looks over her dad is smiling down at her, his teeth peeking through his beard and she feels herself smile. 

In front of her, just a couple feet away, is Mike. He’s dressed in a light blue button down and dark khakis, his hair pushed back from his face, a wide grin dancing across his lips. He’s waiting for her. He’s waiting for her and looking at her like she’s the most beautiful think that he’s ever seen in his entire life. And El feels herself smile back and her heart is beating and her stomach is fluttering with butterflies and suddenly all she wants is to be existing in this world instead of the world where she’s not about to marry Mike… 

“El!” El’s eyes fly open and gone goes the field and the wildflowers and Mike’s smile. Max is looking at her with a weird look on her face, her eyes crinkled in confusion. “Are you okay?” 

Quickly, El nods blinking away any residual tears that might be forming in her eyes. “Yeah, I’m fine.” She says, clearing her throat. Giving herself another look in the mirror, she shakes her head. “This is stupid, I’m not getting married anytime soon.” 

Stepping off the platform, El shuffles herself quickly, well as quickly as she can in a floor length dress, into the dressing room, shaking her head. The realization hit her like she was being thrown off a cliff. 

She was falling in love with Mike. 

And she had no idea if he would be there to catch her. 

 


 

Later that night, El is lying in bed, trying her best to avoid thinking about what had happened earlier at the salon. Well, part of what had happened earlier. 

The entire afternoon had been far from a wash, Max had found the perfect dress, a champagne tinted silky dress that hugged her body nicely and was going to make Lucas pass out when he saw it. But as far as she was concerned, she never put one of those dresses on. 

She’s getting ready to fall asleep when her phone rang on her bedside table. Her heart jumped when she saw the name, and she almost didn’t answer it, but she knew she would feel bad if she didn’t so she sighed, answering. 

“Hey.” She said, trying to sound as casual as possible, even though her heart was racing in her chest and her palms were sweating. 

“Hey.” Mike’s voice was tired and soft through the phone and there was a warmth that pooled in El’s stomach. “How was dress shopping?” El sighed, licking her lips. 

“It was good.” El said. “Max found a dress, it’s beautiful. Lucas is going to lose his mind.” Mike chuckled and El couldn’t help the small smile that stretched across her face. 

There’s a brief moment of silence before Mike clears his throat. “Is it weird that watching Max and Lucas plan their wedding and do all this wedding stuff makes me think of my own.” El’s heart jumped in her chest and she felt like she had been punched in the stomach. “I’m not anywhere close to getting married, but it’s weird... never mind.” 

“No, I totally get what you mean.” El said, trying to sound as casual and breezy as possible. The last thing she needed was Mike knowing that not only had she been imagining her own wedding, but said wedding had been to him and she actually really really liked it and wished it was real life. 

Yeah, no, she was all set in the embarrassment area. 

“I actually had a moment today at the dress shop, thinking about what kind of wedding dress I want to wear when I get married.” 

“Lemme guess, it’s something totally different then anything Max tried on?” He’s teasing her, and El rolls her eyes softly. He always knows how to make her laugh, even when she feels like she’s going to throw up. 

El laughed, shaking her head, even though he couldn’t see her. “Oh yeah, it’s something that Max would never be caught dead in.” They both laughed, the sound of Mike’s laugh sending a shiver up El’s spine. “I really liked it though and even though I’m not getting married anytime soon, that’s all that matters.” 

“I’m sure you’ll get married soon enough.” Mike said softly, his tone suddenly soft and serious. “Anyone would be lucky to end up married to you.” 

“Even you?” Was what El wanted to say. What was on the tip of her tongue. But no, she couldn’t say that to him. Not when she was still trying to reconcile with her own feelings and understand what the hell was going on. 

“Yeah, sure.” She said softly, snorting. “Tell all the eligible bachelors of the city that I’m available, I’m starting to get desperate.” She was joking, obviously, but it still felt weird to say. Truthfully, she wasn’t desperate to get married, she just wanted to be in love, honestly. 

With Mike. 

She wasn’t about to tell him that though. 

“As long as you do the same with all the bachelorettes.” He teased and El knew if they were talking face to face he would have sent a wink her way. The image of him winking sending a shiver down her entire body, making her toes twitch. 

She giggled, shaking her head. “Nah, I would never do that to anyone.” She joked, laughing when she heard Mike gasp on the other end. “I may be the only woman in the world who can put up with you.” 

El’s not really sure where that comes from, it’s not the first time she’s made jokes like that, but it’s definitely the first time she’s meant it. “Haha, you’re so funny.” Mike says, a yawn breaking up his words. “God, I’m so tired.” He mutters and El smiles. 

“Sorry for boring you so much.” El teases, giggling when Mike groans in her ear. “I guess I can hang up and let you go to sleep.” 

“Thanks, much appreciated.” Mike says, sighing. “Goodnight, El. Talk to you tomorrow.” El smiles. 

“Goodnight, Mike.” The phone clicks and El sighs as she holds her phone to her chest. God , he really doesn’t know what he’s doing to her. He has no idea how much his mere existence makes her heart flutter in her chest. 

God, she is so fucking screwed. 

Chapter Text

The next couple of months leading up to Lucas and Max’s wedding went by in what felt like a flash. Between helping Lucas with whatever he needed, work, and doing his own planning of Lucas’s bachelor party, Mike felt like he barely had time to eat and breathe let alone keep track of how quickly the wedding was approaching. 

But before Mike knew it, there were only three days until the wedding. 

Mike had been spending a lot of with El in preparation and if he was being honest, he wasn’t quite sure if he was ready for that to stop. Because as it turns out, Mike really liked spending time with El (who would have seen that one coming). 

So much so that he was starting to think, as the wedding got closer and closer, that what he felt for El was something more than just friendship. 

But he was getting ahead of himself. 

 


 

Twelve Days Before the Wedding 

“I still can’t believe one of us is actually getting married.” 

Lucas chuckled, shaking his head at Dustin’s words as he took a sip of his beer. The four boys were gathered in Mike’s living room, two half eaten pizzas on the coffee table and assorted bottles of beer and other alcohol littered on the floor. They were about an hour and a half into Lucas’s bachelor party and needless to say that some of the boys (aka Dustin), had had a wee bit too much to drink. 

“It’s not really that hard to believe.” Lucas said with a shake of his head. “Besides, you could have easily gotten married years ago if you had the balls to propose to Suzie.” 

Mike and Will laughed, watching as Dustin’s cheeks redden. “Yeah man, we could have been doing this years ago.” Mike said, taking a sip of his own drink, smirking slightly. Dustin rolled his eyes, swiveling in his spot on the couch and glaring at Mike. 

“Can it, Michael.” 

Will, who had also had a couple of drinks, was still laughing, his whole face turning bright red. Mike grinned, shaking his head as he turned to look at Dustin. Lucas looked amused from his spot next to Dustin and leaned forward, eyeing Mike. 

“Dustin has a point, Mike. You’re kind of the last person to talk.” Lucas smirked and Mike cocked his head in confusion. He truly had no idea what Lucas was talking about. Mike didn’t even have a girlfriend, let alone someone who he could marry. 

“What the hell are you talking about?” 

Next to him, Will’s laughter ceased and when Mike glanced at him, he was smirking. In fact, all three of his friends were smirking at him. He hated when they did that. Dustin and Will looked at each other, almost as if they were saying “do you want to or should I?” and Mike rolled his eyes. 

“Mike and El sitting in a tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g.” Dustin sang, wiggling his eyebrows. 

“First comes love….” 

“Then comes marriage.” Lucas and Will joined in, all of them leaning in closer to Mike as their voices got louder. God, he hoped his neighbors weren’t home. Luckily, they didn’t finish the song, instead Dustin clapped his hand on Mike’s shoulder, eyebrows raised. 

“You hear that Mike, first comes love and we all know you’re there already.” Mike felt his back straighten, and he gulped. “So marriage is the obvious next step.” 

Lucas, who was easily the most sober of the group, smirked over Dustin’s shoulder, giving Mike a look that easily said “ sorry, dude, but he has a point .” Mike does his best to look annoyed with what Dustin is saying but, does he really have a point? Mike gulps at this sudden barrage of thoughts flooding his mind. 

Sure, he’s had a couple of beers and one shot that Dustin forced him to take, but he likes to think he’s still thinking pretty clearly. 

Which means he's about to spend the next however many hours totally, totally , over thinking Dustin, and subsequently Will and Lucas's comments. Great, he’s definitely not going to be getting any sleep tonight. However, he really doesn’t want his friends to know that this is something that has him so bothered, so he rolls his eyes and throws Dustin’s arm off of him. 

“I am not already there, El and I are friends, fuck off.” Friends , that certainly was what they were, wasn’t it? Mike didn’t really know if that was the right word or not, but right now it seems to be the best one to use. Because Mike has friends, best friends, they’re all sitting right in front of him, but him and El’s relationship is nothing like his relationships with any of his other friends. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s love , does it? 

Yeah, okay, sure, El is like the most gorgeous person Mike has ever seen in his entire life. Even when she comes over to his apartment in just jeans a simple t shirt, Mike is pretty sure she looks prettier than anyone else, ever, in the world. And his heart jumps in his chest whenever their hands touch or whenever El’s knee grazes against his when they sit side by side at his dining room table. 

And yeah, okay, he always looks forward to Tuesdays, which is the day that El always comes over to his apartment after work so they can bitch about their jobs and plan the brunch for the wedding party the day of the rehearsal dinner, the only thing that they’ve been tasked to do of the sort. Not to mention, he kind of can’t stop thinking about her when he’s not around her. 

But, that doesn’t mean he loves her. Right?

“Yeah, okay, you might be friends now, but we all see the way you get when you talk about her.” Dustin said, pulling Mike’s attention back to his friends, who were all looking at him. “Like, right now, for example.” 

“I do not look a certain way.” Mike grumbled, folding his legs up to his chest and crossing his arms across his knees. “Besides, even if I did love El that wouldn’t be any of your business.” He adds, desperately hoping his friends get the hint. 

The last thing he needs is one of them teasing him about El in front of her. Especially considering how close the wedding is. 

“Now, can we please go back to teasing Lucas about how in just two weeks he’s officially going to be Mister Max Mayfield.” 

Over Dustin’s shoulder, Lucas scowled, and Dustin’s attention immediately turned back to Lucas, a wide smirk on his face. The two of them began to bicker and Mike grinned. Yep, worked like a charm. 

“You know, it wouldn’t be so bad, you know.” Will said softly from Mike’s left, his chin resting on the coffee table. He had a far off, dreamy look on his face, and Mike could tell it probably wouldn’t be long before he was passed out on Mike’s living room floor. 

Mike raised his eyebrow, licking his lips curiously. “What do you mean?” Dustin and Lucas were still bickering loudly on the couch, Dustin making kissy noises and Lucas trying to push Dustin off of him. Needless to say they weren’t paying any attention to Mike and Will. 

“You being in love with El.” Will said simply, his eyes finding Mike’s. They were wide and slightly red from Will’s tipsiness, but Mike could see the genuinity in them, and in the rest of his features. “I think you should do it.” 

Mike gulped, rubbing his now moist hands on the fabric of his jeans. He suddenly felt overheated in his sweater, sweat gathering at the top of his forehead. “Do what?” He practically whispered, unsure if he wanted to actually hear Will’s answer. 

“Admit that you love her. Date her, marry her, whatever you want to do.” Mike opened his mouth, an argument already on the tip of his tongue. But Will beat him to it, shaking head. “But, what do I know, right?” 

Will didn’t seem like he wanted an answer, his attention immediately being drawn away from Mike and to a small stain on Mike’s rug that he had really hoped no one would notice. Mike was still hung up on Will’s words though, and he shook his head softly. 

“Yeah, right.” He said after a couple moments of silence. But Will didn’t hear him, and Lucas and Dustin had moved on from bickering to watching a video on Dustin’s phone. Mike could barely focus on that though, his mind now running a million miles a minute, Will’s words echoing over and over and over again, practically making his head spin. 

But there was no way Will had a point, right. 

Right?

 


 

Ten Days Before the Wedding 

“Hi, Jen.” Mike said with a smile as he greeted the receptionist on the ground floor of El’s building. Jen, who El thought had a crush on Mike, looked up from her computer and smiled, pushing her blonde hair from her face, pushing her glasses up her nose. Sure, she was pretty, but Mike didn’t really think she was his type. 

“Here to see El?” Jen asked, a weird hint of disappointment in her tone. Mike was pretty sure she thought him and El were dating, even though he’d only come to see her a couple of times. And Mike really didn’t want to correct her, it wasn’t really her business anyway. 

He nodded at her question however, because that was who he was here to see, trying not to notice when her face faltered. El was never going to let him down if she finds out about this. Luckily, there was no further conversation and Jen let Mike through, gesturing him towards the elevators. 

Mike knew that El didn’t like her job, but boy did she work in a fancy building. Mike’s work didn’t even have elevators, let alone people to direct you to them. 

The journey up to the seventh floor where El worked went by quickly and by the time Mike stepped off the elevator, the familiar butterflies that he always seemed to get when he was about to be around El began fluttering in his stomach. He didn’t understand why he was so nervous, him and El had lunch together almost once a week now, it seemed like. Between brunch planning and dealing with various mini issues for the wedding, it seemed like they were always doing something together. 

Moving easily through the office, Mike waved at a couple of people El had introduced him too, but didn’t stop to talk to anyone. He was already a couple minutes late and didn’t want to leave El waiting. 

However, when he reached her desk near the back of the office, he was surprised to see it empty. Usually she already had her coat on and was ready to leave when he got there, but today she was nowhere to be found. Furrowing his eyebrows together, he wondered where she could be, logically, she could easily be in the bathroom or grabbing something from the copier, but Mike had a weird pit in his stomach. 

He didn’t have time to think about it too much, as before he could overthink about where she could be, the office door in front of him opened and out came El. Mike’s heart stopped as he got a good look at her. Her face was red, her eyes wide and wet. There were tear tracks on her face and she looked out of breath. 

Anger, white hot and strong, flooded Mike’s veins then, and he had to resist the urge to find the person who made her feel like this (even though he had a pretty good idea of who it was) and punch them right in the jaw. But, he knew that wasn’t the right move, the right move was to ask El if she was alright, which he could see that she wasn’t, but she deserved the courtesy of being asked. 

“El, hey.” He said, trying to swallow down his anger. The door had clicked shut behind her and it took everything in Mike’s power not to march through that door and beat Brenner’s brains in. “Everything alright?” 

El hadn’t even noticed yet that he was standing there and it took her a second to focus on him. Her eyes were red red and it barely even looked like she was looking at him. “Uh yeah, Mike, everything’s fine.” She said, forcing out the smallest smile Mike had ever seen on her. “Sorry to keep you waiting.” 

Mike swallowed uncomfortably. He hated that she was apologizing to him when she hadn’t even done anything wrong. “You don’t need to apologize. I haven’t been here long.” El nodded, but she didn’t look like she was hearing what he was saying. Mike’s heart squeezed. 

“Ok.” She said after a couple seconds. “Let me just go the bathroom and grab my stuff.” Mike nodded, stepping aside so she could make her way to the bathroom. God , it fucking sucked to see her like that. Mike had only seen it once before, back that night at Lucas and Max’s, when he had walked her home. It had been awful then, and they hadn’t even been friends yet. Now she was one of his best friends, maybe even something more than that, and he had to see her like this. 

He hated it. And fuck it, he was going to do something about it. 

Watching, he waited until El’s form disappeared around the corner to move towards the office she had just exited from. He knew she would probably be in there for a couple of minutes to make herself “look presentable” (even though, if you asked Mike, she looked beautiful no matter what), so he had time to say his piece before El came back. 

He only had to knock on the door once before a rather cold voice called out. “Come in.” Mike wondered if he was expecting El. 

Pushing the door open, Mike swallowed when he got his first look at the man who up until now he had only ever heard stories about. Usually when him and El went out to lunch and he came up to pick her up, she would be ready to go and Brenner would be in his office with the door closed, so Mike had never seen him before. And he was starting to understand why the hell El hated him so much. 

“Well, speak.” Brenner said after a moment, not looking up from what he was doing. Clearly he hadn’t realized that it wasn’t El who was standing there. Mike gulped, his heart pounding against his ribcage. “I don’t have all day, Eleven.” 

Eleven? Mike felt his eyebrows crinkle together in confusion. Was Eleven supposed to be El? Why the hell was her boss calling her Eleven ? Mike felt his hands curl into fists by his side and he took a deep breath. 

“I was hoping, sir, that I could get a moment of your time.” Mike made no effort to hide his disdain and well to be frank, hatred, for the man in front of him as the words left his mouth. Brenner, who was looking at his computer, lifted his eyes, regarding Mike in a way that made Mike’s stomach turn uncomfortably. 

“And who are you?” Brenner asked, tilting his head down. The way he spoke left a sour taste in Mike’s mouth, and it made Mike angry to know that this is how he spoke to El all day long. “Do you have an appointment?” 

Mike shook his head, gritting his teeth. “No, I do not.” He said, taking a deep breath. It was now or never, Wheeler. “I’m a friend of El’s.” 

“Oh.” Brenner says, leaning back in his chair and regarding Mike. Mike suddenly feared that something he said could end up getting El fired, and risk his relationship with her, but he pushed those fears away. Brenner needed to hear this and El deserved to have someone stand up for her. 

“Yeah, I’m a friend of El’s and I gotta say, you kind of suck.” Ok, so that wasn’t quite as hard hitting as Mike had hoped it would be, but shock still crossed Brenner’s face. “Actually, I would go so far to say that you’re a fucking asshole.” 

That was more like it. Mike straightened his spine and squared his shoulders, mustering the courage to continue before Brenner could interrupt him. “I don’t know much about the ship that you’re running around here, but I do know that you have a fuckng stick up your ass and think that because you’re some higher up around here that you can treat your employees like garbage just because you experience no other joy in your life so you have to bring other people down. 

“And then you rip off their ideas and act like you’re the one who did it because you actually have no fucking idea what it is that you’re doing.” Mike continued, swallowing. He just needed to get through this last part and then he could turn around and hopefully never see this jackass’s face ever again. “El is smart, she knows what the hell she’s doing and if she deserves a whole hell of a lot better than the way that you treat her. You’re lucky to have someone like her on your team, and if you weren’t so up your own ass, you might be able to see that.” 

Taking a pause, Mike took a look at Brenner, who looked like he hadn’t moved an inch since Mike started talking. His face was white though and his lips were firm in a thin line. “Thank you so much for your time.” 

Turning on his heels, Mike exited the office, not bothering to wait to see if Brenner would respond. Clicking the door shut behind him, Mike took a deep breath, smiling when El appeared from around the corner. She looked brighter than she had a couple minutes ago, like she had splashed cold water on her face. 

“Hey.” She said when she saw him, smiling. “Sorry about that.” Mike shrugged, grabbing her jacket from her chair, handing it to her. 

“It’s alright.” Mike said, eyes flicking to the office door. He hoped that El wouldn’t face repercussions for what he had said, but El had also told him more than once that she was trying to work up the courage to quit because she was sick of working there. Maybe being fired would be good for her. 

All he really wanted was for El not to hate him for what he did. 

In fact, he realized as they walked side by side out of the office, their conversation quickly moving to the wedding, he was quite the opposite of how he wanted her to feel about him. 

 


 

Four Days Before the Wedding 

It was seven thirty a.m. on Mike’s day off and someone was knocking on his door. 

More specifically, it was seven thirty a.m. and Max Mayfield soon to be Sinclair was knocking on his door. 

“Hi?” Mike said, when he realized who was standing on the other side of his door. He had quite literally just gotten out of bed, his hair was likely sticking up in ten different directions and he hadn’t even had the chance to brush his teeth yet. “Can I help you?” 

Max, who looked much more presentable then Mike did at this hour, dressed in black jeans and green tunic, her hair in a slick ponytail, rolled her eyes. “No Mike, I just wanted to see your beautiful shining face this early in the morning.” 

“Haha.” He deadpanned, stepping aside so Max could enter his apartment. “I’m assuming this is about the brunch on Saturday.” It was currently Thursday and Mike couldn’t believe it was already almost the wedding.

Max nodded as she leaned against the counter in Mike’s kitchen, but it seemed like she had something else on her mind. “Uhh sure, I guess you could say that.” She said, folding her hands in front of her. “But I can just get the details from El later, I assume you have everything figured out.” 

Furrowing his eyebrows together, Mike nodded slowly. “Uh yeah, we do.” If she wasn’t here to get details about the brunch then what the fuck was she doing here. And at seven thirty in the morning no less. “So, why are you here?” 

Sighing, Max rolled her eyes, like it should be obvious why she’s there. “Well no use beating around the bush, I’m here to talk about El.” Mike’s heart stilled, El , Max wanted to come and talk to him about El. “And the reason I’m here so early is because I thought it would be funny to see you with your hair sticking up like that.” She laughed, and while Mike would usually be offended, he was too focused on why Max wanted to talk about El. 

“Why do you want to talk about El?” He asked, crossing his arms across his chest. Something instinctively in his body told him to be defensive. Max licked her lips, raising one of her eyebrows. 

“Look, I know that you’re a guy and from experience I know that guys are totally unable to read any kind of sign, but this is getting a little pathetic.” Okay, now Mike was really confused. He must have shown it all over his face too, because Max continued before he could question her. “How is it that you and El can spend all this time together and not realize that you’re completely and totally in love with each other.” 

“What?” Mike asked, his mouth running dry. “We are not in love with each other.” He said, not quite believing the words as they came out his mouth. He hated how unsure he sounded, and no doubt Max could hear it too, as she smirked, twitching her eyebrow. 

Mike couldn’t believe this was the second time in two weeks he was being interrogated about supposedly being in love with El. Was he really that bad at hiding his feelings for her? If Max had been able to figure out he had feelings for El, had El figured it out?

Whoa wait . He had feelings for El? 

This was certainly a new development. He supposed it made sense though. Mike had been avoiding admitting it to himself, but he realized that it had kind of been there all along. He wasn’t going to admit that to Max though, because she was quite literally the last person who needed to know. 

Max scoffed, and Mike felt his spine straighten. “Listen, I don’t care what lies you tell yourself at night or what you tell yourself you’re coming down with every time your stomach swoops or your hands start to sweat, but literally anyone with eyes can figure out that you guys at least have feelings for each other.” 

Clearing his throat, Mike did his best to keep his face straight. Max wasn’t done, however, and she barely seemed to be paying attention to Mike’s face. “But, I know that El gets all star eyed and moony faced whenever she talks about you, and always seems to have a smile on her face when you text her. Hell, she even turned me down the other day because it was a Tuesday and Tuesdays are “your thing.” So, I’m pretty sure that she’s head over heels in love with you and from what I hear from Lucas, you act the same exact way.” 

“Why did you come all the way over here to tell me that?” Mike asked softly. He didn’t know quite how to unpack what Max had just told him, and truthfully, he kind of wanted to wait until he was alone to do so. Max shrugged, taking a small breath. 

“Because I was talking to El last night, and I can just tell that she doesn’t want to be alone anymore. I know that she would never say that and that she doesn’t mind being alone and independent but I think she wishes she wasn’t. I think everyone wants someone to love them and care for them in that kind of way.” Max said, her voice softer than normal. “And, I just know that she likes you and I think you feel the same way about her.” 

There was a beat of silence then, where Mike digested Max’s words. Deep down, he knew that was exactly what he wanted. He did want to be that person for El, but he was scared, nervous. Nervous that he would screw things up or not be good enough. 

“And listen, if I’m totally off the mark here and you don’t like her and you’re just being nice for the wedding or whatever then fine. But if you do feel something for her, then tell her. Tell her before it’s too late and the whole thing passes you both by.” 

In her pocket, Max’s phone dinged and she sighed, pulling it and checking it before clicking it off and repocketing it. “I have to go. But, think about what I said, yeah?” 

Mike nodded, Max’s words swirling around in his head. She gave him one last look, a small grin, before disappearing out the front door of his apartment. If you do feel something for her, then tell her

Did he want to tell El how he felt?

Truthfully, Mike was still sorting through his own feelings for El. He knew they were there, and they were more than friendship, that part Max had nailed on the head. But once again he was hit with the age old question that had been haunting him since the guys had brought it up last week at Lucas’s bachelor party. 

Was he in love with El?

He supposed he didn’t really know if he could answer that question. It seemed silly to be so unsure of his feelings for someone, and it certainly wasn’t something he had ever gone through before. Maybe that was his answer right there, this feeling he had for El was unlike anything he had ever felt before. Mike had never thought he was going to fall in love, or that someone would fall in love with him back. 

But maybe that had all changed with El. 

Taking a seat on his couch, Max’s words ringing in his ears, Mike took a deep breath, thinking back to the last couple times him and El had seen each other. 

He thought about when he had last visited her at work, and how much it had tugged at his heart to see her so upset. And how much it had made him smile when she told him that seeing him was the best part of her day. And the butterflies that had fluttered in his stomach when El squeezed his hand and kissed his cheek before she departed, thanking him for a nice lunch. 

His mind then wandered to just the other day, when she came over for her weekly after work hang out session, and he smiled. El had brought over pizza, pepperoni because she knew it was his favorite and she had asked him about work because he had mentioned having a big project due. He didn’t realize until now how much it had warmed his heart that she remembered something he had mentioned to her weeks before. And then, when she had left a couple hours later, she had texted him when she got home, just to tell him she had made it. 

Not to mention there were so many other little things. 

There was the way his heart fluttered when she texted or called him. There was the fact that she knew his favorite foods and his favorite movies. El always remembered things that he told her, and knew when he wanted to talk about something and when he didn’t. She was the only one had confiding it about not really liking his job. She just knew him so well, almost better than anyone he had ever known. 

Then on top of all of that, there was the fact that Mike really, really, really wanted to kiss her, so much so that he thought about it every single day. 

Oh god

He was in love with El. 

Mike Wheeler was totally, completely, one hundred percent in love. The realization hit him like a ton of bricks, but in the best possible way. He suddenly had a head rush and felt like he couldn’t breathe, but he couldn’t wipe the smile that had formed off of his face if he tried. 

He had always expected the realization of being in love would terrify him. That it would make him want to scream and hide away and push whoever was the unfortunate object of his affection away. But instead, the realization felt warm, comfortable and made his entire body feel electrified. 

It felt like coming home, and he never wanted it to go away. 

 


 

Three Days Before the Wedding 

The night, Mike couldn’t sleep. Now that he knew he was in love with El, it was all he was able to think about. He hadn’t done anything all day because she was all he was able to think about. Sure, she was already on his mind all the time, but now it was different. Mike was honestly surprised he remembered to eat that day he was so wrapped up in his thoughts about El. 

It was that night however, as he lie awake watching the clock tick, that he realized perhaps the most important part. Not only was he completely, totally in love with El, so much so that he was counting down the minutes until he could see her again, but he really, really wanted to tell her. 

So, at about two twenty three am, Mike made a decision. A decision that was going to set his entire life on an entirely different course, for better or for worse. 

He was going to tell El that he was in love with her. 

Chapter Text

El was nervous. 

She knew that she really had no reason to be nervous, she wasn’t the one walking down the aisle and proclaiming her love for someone in front of a crowd of people, but she was still nervous. Because today was the day of the brunch and rehearsal dinner and she wanted everything to be perfect. Her and Mike had been planning this brunch for weeks and it was the one thing that Max and Lucas had completely entrusted in them. 

And she was terrified of screwing it up. 

Hence why she was at the restaurant fifty minutes before the brunch was supposed to start. They had given the party a private room and plenty of time before hand to get everything set up, and while her and Mike had agreed to meet a half an hour before, she couldn’t sleep and needed something to distract herself with. 

What she didn’t expect was for Mike to already be there. 

“Oh, hey.” He said when she walked in, her mouth puckering in surprise. Mike was standing by the window, adjusting the curtains. He gave her a small smile, not looking at all surprised to see her. 

“What are you doing here so early?” She asked after a couple of seconds, stepping forward and removing her coat. She couldn’t help but notice that like her, Mike had dressed up for the event, replacing his usual jeans and button down for dark brown corduroys and a navy blue sweater. 

She doesn’t think he’s ever looked more handsome. 

He shrugs, moving away from the window and towards the table, which had been made up nicely by the restaurant staff. “I don’t know, I figured you would be here early and I wanted to get some stuff done before you got here, make things a little easier on you.” 

El smiled, feeling her cheeks warm. God , he could not be making any of this any harder could he? She did not need to be dealing with all these feelings right now. Even if all she wanted to do was give into them. 

“Well, that’s very sweet of you.” She said, her heart fluttering when Mike grinned. “I don’t know why I showed up so early, but I couldn’t sleep and was worried about everything going okay today. The last thing Max and Lucas need right now is something going wrong, they shouldn’t need to be worrying about anything…” She felt herself trail off, her hands beginning to shake. 

“Hey, hey, hey.” Mike said softly, standing in front of El before she could blink. His eyes were soft and his hands were gentle on the top of her arms. She wanted to melt. “Everything is going to be perfect.” 

El licked her lips nervously, Mike’s words doing little to calm her quickly beating heart. She still appreciated his words though. “Are you sure?” She asked softly, her voice tense and putting her nerves on full display. Usually she wouldn’t show this side of her to people besides Max and her dad, but she felt comfortable being like this around him. 

Mike nodded, giving her a small smile. “Yeah, I’m sure. We’ve planned this for weeks, well you did most of the planning, but everything is going to go perfectly, I know it.” El nodded, giving him a small smile. “Also, you look really pretty.” 

She felt her cheeks warm, looking down at her green sweater dress and brown boots sheepishly, his unexpected compliment stopping her heart and sending butterflies through her stomach. 

Good lord, she was absolutely done for. 

Mike stepped away and continued with what he was doing before she could even begin to form a response. It’s like he had absolutely no idea the kind of effect that he had on her, did he? He had no idea that all she wanted to do right now was burrow herself into his arms and kiss him until her lips were sore. 

But, she pushed those thoughts away. She had a lot of things she needed to get done today, and thinking about kissing Mike Wheeler and confessing her love to him was not going to help any of it get done. 

Luckily, the next forty minutes or so passed without much more distraction. El decorated while Mike moved the tables and chairs around. El couldn’t help but notice how in sync they were, how easy it was for them to move around each other and exist in the same space. 

“Looks good.” Mike said when they were done, taking a step back and looking at their handy work. “We did good, Hopper.” He said with a small smirk, causing El to giggle, shaking her head softly. “We should have them bring the champagne in now so we can toast before everyone comes and messes up our hard work.” 

El rolled her eyes, knocking his hip lightly with her own. “Please, they’re not that bad.” She joked, watching with a smirk when Mike shook his head. “Well, maybe Dustin is.”

They both laughed, a comfortable silence settling over them as their laughter died down. It was weird, the sense of pride that came over her when she looked around the room. Sure, all they had done was plan a brunch together, but they had done it without incident and it had came out a lot better than she could have dreamed.  Damn, they were a good team. 

“You know what I was just thinking.” Mike said after a second, tapping her with his elbow. El looked at him, eyebrow raised. “We never could have done this months ago.” 

So, not only were they a good team, but apparently Mike could read her mind. 

She laughed, nodding in agreement. “Well, we could have but one of us likely would have ended up dead.” Mike snorted, raising his eyebrows. “It probably would have been you.” 

“Are you admitting that you would have committed murder on me?” Mike asked, fake shock laced in his tone. “I am an absolute delight, I can’t believe you would even insinuate that you could murder me.” 

El shrugged, trying her best to look serious, but she knew that she was failing miserably, laughter bubbling up inside of her and exploding out of her mouth. “You are an absolute delight.” 

The two of them absolved into laughter, holding their stomachs and struggling to breathe, which is exactly how Max, Lucas and the rest of the wedding party found them a couple minutes later. 

 


 

“That brunch was so much fun.” Max said with a sigh as she snuggled her head against El’s shoulder. El smiled, pressing a kiss into Max’s red hair, giggling softly. 

The two of them were making their way down the street to Max’s apartment, where Max and El would get ready for the rehearsal dinner. Erica, Lucas’ sister, and Robin, Max’s cousin, were Max’s other two bridesmaids and would be joining them later this afternoon. The wedding party brunch had gone way better than El had expected, and all the anxiety and nerves she had been plagued with this morning had dissipated completely. 

“Yeah, it was.” El said softly, squeezing Max’s hand. “I can’t believe you’re getting married tomorrow.” 

Max giggled, lifting her head from El’s shoulder to look at her. El could feel tears welling in the corners of her eyes and he shook her head. “Stop that.” Max chastised gently, knocking El’s hip. But El couldn’t help it, her best friend was getting married tomorrow. She should be allowed to be emotional about it. 

“I’m sorry I can’t help it.” El said, her voice trembling slightly and her smile watery. “Remember when we were in college and you told me that you hated men and that you were never going to get married and now look at you.” 

Max rolled her eyes, groaning every so slightly. “Ugh, eighteen year old me was so pessimistic about life.” El giggled, shaking her head. “In my defense, the only men I had come across before college were gross high school boys and Billy.” 

The two girls gagged, a shiver running up El’s spine. They then fell silent, their steps in sync as they turned the corner, almost to El’s apartment. They were moving slowly, almost like they both were subconsciously trying to savor their moments together, El knew that when Max got married they would still be best friends, and still spend time together, but things would be different. Even if neither one of them meant for it to be. 

“Huh, it’s kind of funny.” Max said after a couple minutes, their steps coming to a stop as they approached El’s apartment building. 

“What’s funny?” El said, the smirk on Max’s face making her nervous. “Because that look on your face is not a face that I particularly like. That’s the same face that convinced me to do a lot of things I’m not proud of in college.” 

Max laughed, following El as El led them both into her building. “It’s funny because I didn’t think I would ever fall in love until I met Lucas, and you thought the same thing until you met Mike.” 

The words fell from Max’s lips so easily and quickly that at first El didn’t even comprehend what she said. Then the realization of Max’s words hit her and her mouth dropped open ever so slightly and she stopped in her place on the stairs. She didn’t know what was more shocking, the fact that Max was right on the money, or the fact that Max’s words made her want to smile. 

She didn’t want Max to know that, though. 

“That is so not true, and it’s also not funny.” 

“Oh come on.” Max said, taking her coat off and throwing it onto the dining room table as her and El entered El’s apartment. “It’s kind of funny. We ended up falling in love with guys that are best friends after never thinking we would ever fall in love.” 

El rolled her eyes softly, taking a seat on her couch, Max following suit. The clock hanging on El’s wall told her that it was nearly one in the afternoon, meaning they had just a couple of hours before the rehearsal dinner, so hopefully El could cut the conversation short. She really did not want to talk about her own love life on a day that was supposed to be about Max and hers. 

“I am not in love with Mike.” El said, the words feeling strange and forced coming from her mouth. She almost felt like she was betraying Mike, who had no idea of her affection, by lying about it. 

“El, you do know it’s just the two of us, right?” Max said, raising her eyebrows. “You don’t have to lie and say you aren’t in love with him. I know that you are.” El knew that she wouldn’t be able to hide the truth from Max much longer considering Max knew her better than most. “I think it’s cute, actually.” 

“Cute?” El said, her voice coming out higher and softer than she had meant for it to. Max shrugged, nodding her head. “I thought you thought Mike was a nerd.” El remembered so clearly what Max had said about Mike after their date, that he was cute but kind of a total nerd, so El had always thought Max would think El should be with someone of the less nerdy variety. 

Even though cute nerds were kind of her type these days. 

“I do think he’s a nerd, all those boys are nerds.” Max said, rolling her eyes, like she was resisting the urge to add a “duh”  on the end of her statement. “But he’s cute, and sweet and even though he’s a little prickly and walks around like a baby giraffe, he totally in love with you.” Max said, laughing softly at her description of Mike. El smiled softly, the comparison of Mike to a baby giraffe making her giggle. 

But, was Max right about the other thing she said about Mike… 

Did Mike feel the same way about her that she felt about him? 

“You know I’m right.” Max added when El didn’t immediately respond. “And to be quite honest, I don’t know how much longer I can take you two dancing around each other refusing to admit that the other one might feel the same way.” 

El looked down at her hands, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. Was it true? Was El just scared to admit that Mike could feel the way that she did? Was she refusing to admit it because she didn’t want to get her heart broken? 

“Shouldn’t we be talking about you?” El said softly after a couple moments, raising her eyebrows. “You’re the one getting married tomorrow.” Max rolled her eyes, waving her hand at El’s words. 

“Me getting married tomorrow just means that I have all this shit figured out.” Max shrugged her shoulders and El sat up straighter, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Look, we don’t have to talk about this if you really don’t want to, but I just,” She paused, sighing softly, and El licked her lips nervously, “I want you to be happy, and I think Mike would make you really, really happy.” 

“You do?” 

Max smiled, reaching over and squeezing El’s hand. “Yeah, I do. I can tell how much happier and more confident you’ve been ever since you and Mike became friends. It’s like everything about you changed, he’s made you more sure of yourself and helped you loosen up and be more adventurous. He’s pretty much your other half at this point, you guys have become basically like a package deal and I think being with him would be really good for you.” 

Squeezing Max’s hand back, El’s heart thudded against her ribcage at her best friend’s words. “Thanks.” She said simply, swallowing down the threat of tears that bubbled in the back of her throat. She so did not need to cry right now. She would be plenty of time for that later. 

Luckily, Max didn’t continue on the topic, merely leaning over putting her head on El’s shoulder, sighing happily. 

“Love you, Ellie.” 

“Love you too, Maxie.” 

 


 

“Having fun?” 

El jumped, nearly dropping her glass on the table, frowning when Mike chuckled next to her, sitting down in the vacant chair. She glared at him, unable to keep the smile off her face, which caused him to smirk at her. 

“Sorry, didn’t realize you were on another planet.” El rolled her eyes, shaking her head lightly. Mike smiled, clearly getting joy out of teasing her. “You just looked lonely over here all by yourself.” 

She hadn’t meant to be sitting alone while everyone else was off socializing and dancing on the makeshift dance floor, but she had gotten wrapped up watching Max dance with Erica and Dustin teach Lucas’s mom how to do the robot. She hadn’t even noticed that Mike wasn’t with Will and Lucas at the buffet table anymore until he had appeared next to her. 

“I’m not much of a partier.” 

Mike nodded, taking a sip of his drink. “Yeah, I didn’t realize that rehearsal dinners were supposed to be dance parties. I kind of just thought we were going to be eating dinner, but then again I’ve never been to a rehearsal dinner before.” 

El giggled. “I didn’t either, but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, I don’t think Max could sit still this long.” As if on cue, Max decided in that moment to run over to the buffet table and grab Lucas to bring him into the middle to dance. “They’re good for each other.” 

“Yeah they are.” Mike agreed, his gaze meeting hers. “Who would have thought, huh.” His voice was soft and sent a shiver down her spine and she swallowed roughly. Something about his words made her think that he wasn’t just talking about Lucas and Max.

He couldn’t be….

Could he?

Shaking her head, she adjusted in her chair leaning towards him. It would be so easy, she thought as she looked at him, to just lean over and kiss him. And god , did she want to. There was nothing she wanted to do more in the world, actually, but she resisted. Instead, she cleared her throat, catching Mike’s attention. 

“Hey, did I ever tell you my news?” She asked, watching his eyebrows crease together in confusion. El knew the answer was no, she hadn’t even told Max this yet, but she felt like she needed Mike to be the first to know. He was part of the reason she had done it to begin with. 

“I don’t think so?” Mike said, raising an eyebrow. “Unless your news is that you think I’m awesome in which case, message received.” El tilted her head, resisting the urge to roll her eyes at him again but instead she smiled. 

“I don’t know if awesome is the word I would use.” She teased, giggling when his mouth fell open in shock surprised. “But you are significantly less awful than I originally thought that you were, so you have that going for you.” 

Mike snorted, taking a sip of his drink. “Well thank you, I guess that’s better than nothing.” They both laughed softly, and El’s stomach dipped. “But seriously, what’s your news? I wanna know.” He elbowed her lightly, his knee knocking hers under the table. 

She was nervous suddenly, feeling unsure of herself. She didn’t quite know why, this was good news, the best news, and she knew Mike would be happy for her, but her heart was hammering against her ribs and she twisted her fingers together in her lap. “I, uh, quit my job the other day.” 

El watched with as Mike’s eyes widened and his licked his lips. “You did?” El nodded, a small smile falling on her face. “And I’m assuming that’s a good thing…” 

“Yeah.” El says, a teasing tone to her voice as she rolls her eyes. “You know how much I hated working there, and I finally got the guts to quit.” She shrugs and Mike grins, a glint in his eyes that El believed might have been pride. 

“That’s awesome, El.” He said softly, reaching over and squeezing her arm lightly. “You deserve way better than that.” She nods, giving him a smile. “What made you decide to quit, finally? I know that you hated working there but I never thought you would quit.” 

El shrugged, wondering what made Mike think so, but she didn’t question it. Instead, she smiled, thinking about the conversation she had with Brenner the day she quit. “I guess I finally realized that I deserve to work somewhere where I’m appreciated and that nothing I was going to do or say was going to force Brenner to appreciate me.” 

“Some man came in here earlier, demanding to know why I treat you in such a way, you don’t think you’re being treated poorly here, do you Eleven?” 

The way Brenner had questioned her and looked down at her over the crook of his nose, his condescending voice sending a shiver up and down her spine had been the final nail in the coffin. 

“I guess someone came and talked to him, hinted that he was treated his employees like garbage and he basically told me that he didn’t care, so,” El shrugged, taking a sip of her water, “I quit.” 

Mike’s face reddened and El smirked. She knew that Mike had said something to Brenner, she had known before Brenner had even said something to her about it. And while part of her wanted to be mad, mad that Mike had interfered at her job, and potentially put her job at risk, in the end she couldn’t be mad. 

Because no one had ever stood up for her like that before. 

El knew she was a big girl and she could take care of herself, and she knew Mike knew that too, but it still felt really, really nice. To have someone step up and defend her like that. El knew that Brenner was scary, terrifying even, but that hadn’t mattered to Mike, he had still done that for her, and she could never be mad at him for that. 

Especially because in the end, it just gave her an excuse to quit. 

“Yeah, sorry about that.” Mike said softly, looking embarrassed. “I never meant to like, but your job at risk. I just,” He sighed and El tilted her head curiously. “I felt so mad, you know, seeing you upset like that and knowing that he was the reason that when I had the chance, I knew I had to say something to him.” 

Smiling, El felt a rush of warmth flooded her entire body. Suddenly all she wanted to do was reach over and wrap her arms around Mike’s body and hug him until she couldn’t breathe. She didn’t think it was possible for her to feel any more for him then she already did, but here she was. 

Instead, she reached over their laps, placing her hand over Mike’s and squeezing gently. “Thank you.” She said, giving him a watery smile, suddenly overcome with emotion. The party was still bustling around them, music blasting from Dustin’s bluetooth speaker and everyone besides Mike and El dancing, but El didn’t care. 

She was too busy falling even more in love with Mike. 

 


 

The air was cold and brisk as it whistled loudly piercing through the dark night. El shivered, but she hardly felt cold, even as she tugged her jacket closer to her body. There was a smile on her face, warmth continuing to flood through her as she continued to think about the evening. 

“Have fun?” Mike asked next to her, a smile plastered on his face when El looked over at him. The two of them were making their way back to the hotel where Lucas and Max would be married tomorrow, the first of the wedding party to leave the rehearsal dinner. 

El had felt bad for leaving, but Max had noticed her exhaustion and practically forced her out the door, not wanting El to “pass out” at the altar tomorrow. El had rolled her eyes at that, but didn’t fight her, desperately wanting to sleep. Mike had offered to walk her back, but El knew he was just as tired as she was, they both had about the same tolerance and energy for social situations. 

They were kindred spirits in a way, El realized with a small smile. 

“Yeah, I did.” She said, grinning at him. “It’s fun when we all get to get together like that, and just relax and have fun.” Mike nodded in agreeance and they shared a smile. It had been a fun night, even Lucas’s parents had looked like they enjoyed themselves. The only downer was that Max’s dad had been a no show, but unfortunately, El didn’t know exactly how much Max had been expecting him to show. 

Her mom had been there though, and there had been no sign of her stepdad or step brother. Little victories. Little victories. 

“I think the funniest part was when Erica was trying to teach Will and Dustin how to do the floss dance.” El snorted, the image popping up in her brain. Will had gotten the dance pretty quickly, but Dustin hadn’t and they had all been treated to him flailing all over the dance floor. 

“Yeah, it was pretty funny watching her boss everyone around.” El said with a small grin. “It was even funnier to watch everyone listen to her.” 

The two of them laughed softly, sharing a small smile as they glanced at each other. El felt butterflies in her stomach and she had to take a breath, relieved when she noticed that they were coming up on the hotel. It’s not like she wanted her time with Mike to end, but she needed some time to catch her breath and stop her head from spinning. 

She both loved and hated that he had that effect on her. 

“It’s kind of crazy that Max and Lucas are getting married tomorrow.” El said as her and Mike entered the lobby of the hotel. It was strange to be staying in a hotel in the city that she had lived in for most of her adult life, but it was also kind of cool. Almost like taking a mini vacation without going anywhere. 

Certainly helped that she didn’t have to pay for any of it. 

“Yeah, I know.” Mike said, shaking his head slightly as him and El stepped into the elevator. The entire wedding party was staying on the same floor, so El hit the 12 button and leaning against the wall. “I’m happy for them though, Lucas is the best and Max is like, perfect for him.” 

El grinned, nodding in agreement. “Yeah, Lucas is a good guy. Max deserves someone really good like that. She’s been through a lot, and I couldn’t have picked a better person for her than Lucas.” 

The elevator dinged as they reached the twelfth floor and Mike stepped aside, allowing El to exit first, causing her to blush. “It’s pretty cool. That they found each other.” Mike said as they walked side by side down, their shoulders brushing together. 

The butterflies in El’s stomach erupted, and El swore they were going to fast she was going to lift off the ground. She really hoped it wasn’t written all over her face. Luckily, Mike was looking in front of him, not at her, so she took a deep breath, desperately trying to slow her heart down. 

“Well, they have you to thank for that.” El said, giving him a smile when he looked at her, eyebrows furrowed together. “If you had never gone on that date with Max, she probably never would have met Max.” 

El smiled when she noticed Mike’s cheeks tinting with a light blush, and he shrugged his shoulders. “Yeah, I guess so.” He sounded so sheepish and unsure of himself it made El’s heart squeeze in her chest. “I think they would have found each other eventually, though.” He smiled and El’s stomach flipped. 

“You think?” El asked softly, stopping when they reached her room. Mike’s was down the hallway and he stopped too, stuffing his hands into his pockets, nodding. 

“Yeah.” He said with a small smile. “I think we all would have.” 

Raising an eyebrow, El swallowed, suddenly feeling nervous. “All of us?” She felt like there was something deeper hidden within his words, something that was important and meaningful, but she just couldn’t figure out what it was. 

Mike merely grinned, pursing his lips. He then looked down at the grown, shuffling his feet and clearing his throat. El wondering if he had something more he wanted to say, but a beat passed and he stayed silent so she took that as a no. 

“Well, goodnight Mike.” Mike looked up, his eyes slightly wide and he nodded, giving her a forced smile. El’s heart thudded strangely in her chest and she suddenly felt awkward, but she pushed it away, not wanting to ruin anything by questioning it. 

Her and Mike were in a good place, he was her best friend, besides Max of course. The last thing she wanted to do was ruin it by interpreting something incorrectly. 

Giving him a smile, she turned to unlock the door to her room when Mike cleared his throat once more and she stopped, hand hovering over the doorknob. “El, wait.” 

“Yeah?” She turned, worrying her bottom lip. She could barely hear anything over the thudding of her own heart and she swore her hands might fall off they were shaking so much. “Everything alright?” 

Mike nodded, and El could see his adam’s apple bob as he took a step closer to her. If she was nervous before, it was nothing compared to know. She could practically feel the warmth from his body through her jacket and it was making her dizzy. 

“Yeah, everything’s fine.” He smiled, laughing, a nervous, heart pounding laugh and made her practically fall over the edge of anticipation. “I just uh, really wanted to tell you something.” 

Looking back on it, El should have realized what was happening. She should have been able to read his body language and his nerves. But in her defense, no one had ever told her what Mike was about to, so sue her for not being able to read the signs. 

“You can tell me anything.” El said softly, giving Mike an encouraging smile. As nervous as El was, and boy was she, she didn’t want Mike to realize that. Their friendship was only going to work if they were able to tell each other things. “Always.” 

Mike smiled, eyes looking down at the ground before meeting hers. El gulped. “I’m really glad, despite the fact that it didn’t work out, that I went on that date with Max.” El furrowed her eyebrows, wondering where he was going with this. “And I feel that way because of you, El.” 

“Wh-” El began to question, her heart speeding so fast El swore it could win a marathon. However, Mike cut her off before she could even begin to comprehend what she wanted to ask him. 

“If I had never gone on that date with Max, I never would have met you. And yeah, we didn’t get along at first,” El rolled her eyes despite her nerves because yeah , that was a way to put it. “But you’ve quickly became one of the most important people in my life and I don’t know what I would do without you.” 

El smiled, feeling a blush creep up onto her cheeks. Mike looked nervous, and he bounced his weight from one foot to the other. “And wow, this is harder than I thought it would be, but I’ve never you know, felt like this towards anyone before. Which I know, is weird because I have other friends, obviously, but it doesn’t feel the same with them as it does with you, El.” 

It felt like the air had been sucked from the room and suddenly El couldn’t breath, her entire body going still. She felt like she easily could be imagining this, because there was absolutely no way Mike was saying what she believed he was trying to say to her. That was entirely impossible. 

He couldn’t feel the same way about her that she did about him.

“And it took me a while to realize that it’s because I don’t,” He paused and El heart leaped into her throat and she swallowed sightly, “love them.” 

He paused and El’s ears rang, this had to be a dream. It had to be. She was going to wake up and be in her hotel room bed and it was going to be morning and she was going to realize that this didn’t happen. That her and Mike said goodnight and went their separate ways after he saw her safely back to her room. 

But a quick pinch to her arm made her realize that this wasn’t a dream, this was real. 

“I love you, El.” 

Love. Mike loved her. 

Oh

Chapter Text

“I love you, El.” 

Mike groaned as the sun streamed through his open window, pulling him from his, admittedly restless, sleep. The events of last night had been running through his head on a loop and he couldn’t even remember falling asleep the night before. At some point he had just closed his eyes while lying in bed and hadn’t opened them again. Well, until the sun had so generously cast it’s light right onto his face and forcing him to wake up. 

Sighing, Mike rolled over to check his phone, noting that it was only seven am and he still had about an hour and a half until he had to meet the guys for breakfast. He didn’t even know what time he had fallen asleep but there were a couple missed texts from Dustin and Will, the one from Dustin sounding very much like a drunken ramble, and one missed call from El. 

El.  God, Mike did not want to think about her right now, or about what she could have possibly called him about at three thirty in the morning. Chances are she was probably calling to clarify that her silence and lack of response the night previous meant exactly what Mike thought it meant. 

Which was not something he was quite ready to face just yet. 

Or ever, actually. 

In fact, at this moment in time, Mike would be totally okay with not seeing El ever again. Not because she had necessarily done anything wrong, she was under no obligation to have feelings for him back, but god was it embarrassing to have put it all out there and be met with literal silence. 

Not that he could really blame her, Mike certainly wouldn’t feel the same way about himself. Maybe he was just completely and totally unlovable that any admission of romantic feelings would be met with stunned silence and complete and total disinterest. 

Really, he should take this as a learning experience. Don’t experience romantic feelings, and certainly don’t admit said feelings to anyone. Because it would only lead to feeling like this. And Mike really, really, really hated feeling like this. 

It felt like there was a weight resting on his chest, like there were tears threatening to spill over the edges of his eyelids. Every time he swallowed his throat was dry and raw and Mike briefly wondered if he had cried in his sleep but couldn’t remember. His body felt worn out and tired, his limbs heavy, like he had run a marathon the night before. 

He felt awful

But, he couldn’t sulk around all day like he so desperately wanted to. He had to get up and get ready because his best friend was getting married today. 

Despite his sulkiness, Mike managed to crack a smile when it dawned on him what was happening today. Sure, he was going to have to look at El all day long and be close to her as they walked down the aisle together, but he got to witness his best friend marry the love of his life and despite Mike’s renewed skepticism in love, he was excited. 

Glancing again at his phone, Mike saw that it was almost seven thirty, and decided that it was as good a time as to get out of bed. So, dragging himself to a standing position, Mike stretched, stumbling to the bathroom to take a shower. 

“I love you, El.”

Groaning, Mike closed his eyes, his head falling against the wall of the shower as his own words from last night reared their head from his memory, where he was trying so desperately to keep them. He couldn’t believe he had actually said that to her. Now that he was looking back on it, it seemed so dumb that he did that. Like, on what planet had he thought that was a good idea. 

God, he has one fucking drink at the rehearsal dinner and suddenly he thinks he can just go around telling beautiful girls that he’s in love with that he’s in love with them. Who the fuck does he think he is, some kind of casanova? Yeah, not a chance. 

Rolling his eyes, Mike pushes the thought as far away from his mind as he can so he can focus on showering and getting ready. His phone vibrates on the bathroom counter and he knows it’s likely Will or Dustin checking in with him. Will had texted him the night before to see if he had made it back to his room all night, and Mike felt bad for not answering, but he assumed Will figured everything was alright considering he hadn’t come knocking. 

Mike successfully managed to finish showering and getting ready without thinking about El, and he savored the moments, because he knew it wasn’t long before he would have to see her again. But for now, he was just going to do his best to forget that last night ever happened. Sure, the shower did little to clear the lump in his throat and the weight on his chest had far from lessened, but it seemed like all he could do was just push it all from his head and not think about it. 

Even if he knew the minute he saw her it would all come rushing back. 

Taking a deep breath, Mike pocketed his cell phone and wallet, attempting to flatten down his hair as he looked at himself in the mirror. He looked awful, his eyes were sunken in and there dark circles under them, that were stark against his pale skin. He sighed. 

He was so not ready for this. He just wanted to crawl back into bed and never leave. But he didn’t have a choice, his best friend was getting married today. 

And somehow, that was going to have to be enough to get him through the day. 

 


 

“So, where the hell did you disappear to last night?” Dustin asked once the boys were settled in the hotel restaurant for breakfast. He had a raised eyebrow and Mike’s stomach twisted uncomfortably, and he shrugged, sipping his water. 

Will smirked, elbowing Mike lightly. “Yeah, you and El left without saying a word to anyone.” Mike swallowed at the mention of El and he gave a forced smile, trying really, really hard to look as casual as possible. “What happened?” 

“Nothing.” Mike said, his voice tense and harsher than he intended it to be. He bit his lip, shrugging again. Dustin and Will were looking at him strangely, but Lucas seemed to be off in his own little world, but Mike certainly couldn’t blame him for. In fact, he had an urge to join him. “El was tired and I thought it would be the polite thing to do to walk her back to her room.” 

Dustin nodded, not looking quite like he believed Mike. “So what? You walk her back to her room and that’s it? That’s all that happened?” Mike’s spine straightened and his fists clenched under the table. 

“Yeah.” Mike said, hoping that his tone would get his point across. “That’s all that happened.” Mike took another sip of his water, his eyes trained on the table, avoiding the glances from his friends. “Now, can we talk about something else.” 

Luckily, Dustin and Will, seeming to sense the weird edge that Mike was teetering on, got the hint and quickly changed the subject. Mike was glad for it, because he knew that if they kept talking about it that Mike would only get more upset on the subject. He was already embarrassed and regretful enough as it was about it, the last thing he needed was his friends trying to tease him about something that was never going to happen. 

Unfortunately, however, his luck only seemed to last a couple more minutes as the conversation turned to the day’s events. 

“Dude, I can’t believe you’re getting married today.” Dustin said, turning to Lucas and clapping him on the shoulder and capturing his attention. “I’ve been saying it for months, but I truly didn’t think this day would ever happen.” 

“Dustin, I know you’re trying to get under my skin, but nothing you say to me could change my mood today. I’m on cloud nine and nothing is bringing me down.” And he looked like he meant it, the smile on Lucas’s face almost dreamlike and Mike envied him.

He couldn’t believe just 12 hours ago, he thought that this could be him someday. Now, he was certain that he would never understand the bliss that comes with knowing you’re about to spend the rest of his life with someone he loves. 

Will groaned. “C’mon, you know saying that is just going to challenge Dustin to try and say something today that bothers you, and I’m gonna have to listen to all of it.” Mike chuckled despite himself, as Dustin gasped, holding his hand to his chest. 

Lucas shrugged, giving Will a grin. “Sorry man, but I’m serious, I’ve been looking forward to this day for months,” his smile widened and Mike felt his heart twist weirdly, “In fact, I’ve decided that I’m just going to completely ignore everything that Dustin says, for my own sanity.” 

“Lucky.” Will muttered, crossing his arms across his chest. “I wish I could get away with ignoring Dustin, but with you off in Max land and Mike being sulky,” Mike frowned, scoffing slightly, he was not being sulky, “I’m the only one who will respond to him.” 

Dustin nearly squawked from his place between Lucas and Will, practically leaping from his seat. “I will have you all know that I am an absolute joy and everything that I say is a worthwhile thing to hear. You are all just of inferior intellect to understand what it is that I’m saying.” 

“Inferior intellect?” Mike questioned, earning a smirk from Will and a laugh from Lucas. “I don’t know who you’re accusing of being of inferior intellect when I’m the one who was salutatorian of our graduating class and you barely made the top ten.” 

Mike knew it was a little bit of a low blow, but it had been years since high school and this was just part of the teasing that the party regularly participated in. Dustin rolled his eyes, clearly not bothered too much by the remark, and he waved his hand, almost as if he was dismissing Mike’s words. 

“That may be true, but I think we can all agree that there is more than just academic intellect right?” When none of the boys answered, Dustin raised his eyebrows. Mike, Lucas and Will glanced at each other before all nodding. “And I think it’s suffice to say that in areas like social skills and relationships, that I am of superior intellect.” 

Mike and Will shared a look, and Lucas quirked an eyebrow. “You?” Lucas asked looking over at Will and Mike. “You?” 

Dustin nodded, clearly not understanding what the problem was. Mike shook his head, taking a sip of his water. “Yes, I easily have the most friends outside of this group and have a long term significant other, something that only Lucas has also managed to succeed in. I also was in the most amount of clubs in high school and… ” 

“You were in AV Club, just like the rest of us and in drama club.” Will said, interrupting what was likely to be a very long winded speech, causing Dustin to pause, narrowing his eyes as he looked at Will. 

Mike however, was stuck on what Dustin had said about having a long term relationship. Dustin and his girlfriend, Suzie, had been together since college, and obviously Lucas and Max had been together for the last two years. Will had dated various guys over the years, some for longer than others, but he certainly had no problem finding people to date. 

Then there was Mike. Twenty six years of his life and absolutely no one. Sure, he had had feelings for various girls over the years, and a few guys. He had even gone on a couple of dates, had a few short term relationships, but he had never found someone the way the rest of his friends have. 

Until now, or at least, he thought until now. But after the events of last night, looked like he wasn’t nearly as lucky as he had originally thought. 

And to think, he had gone a whole fifteen minutes without thinking about El. 

“Hey, you okay?” Lucas’s hand clamped his shoulder and his voice pulled Mike from his thoughts. Mike hadn’t even realized he had zoned out and he had to shake his head and rub his eyes with the heel of his hand. His vision was out of focus and it took a second for him to realize where he was and what he was doing. “You look a little out of it, you good?” 

Suddenly feeling embarrassed, Mike nodded. “Yeah, sorry.” He said, giving his friends a small smile, sighing when the warmth slowly disappeared from his cheeks. “I’m just tired, sorry.” 

Dustin and Will shared a look, and Lucas gave him a small smile. Mike knew that they knew he was lying, but luckily, none of them decided to comment on it. Fortunately, none of them knew exactly why he was so out of it, and from the looks on their faces, Mike guessed that they would rather not know and weren’t going to ask about it. 

He would probably lie about it, anyway, so probably all for the best. 

Mike was already going to have a hard time getting through the day, so the minimal amount of commentary and questions from his friends, the easier it would be. 

 


 

The rest of the morning after breakfast passed in the blur. Once the boys were finished eating, they went to Lucas’s room to start getting ready, his parents joining them a couple hours before the ceremony. While it didn’t take much time for the boys to all get in their tuxes and for both Will and Dustin attempting to do something with Mike’s hair, there was still plenty going on that Mike barely had time to breathe, let alone think. 

“Alright, alright, alright.” Dustin said, getting the attention of the room ten minutes before they were supposed to make their way down to the ballroom. “I think we need to just have a little moment before we go downstairs and Lucas officially becomes Mister Max Mayfield.” Dustin clapped his hands together, causing Mike to roll his eyes. 

“Is that really necessary?” Will asked, shoving his hands in his pockets. Mike crinkled his eyebrows together in confusion, nudging Will lightly with his elbow. Will had been acting off the last couple of hours, and Mike didn’t know if it was because something was wrong or because he had been listening to Dustin ramble. 

Lucas shook his head, stepping in front of Dustin. There was a light smile on his face and Mike could tell the comment wasn’t actually bothering him, but there was also a slight shake to his hands and Mike could see sweat collecting on the back of his neck and he knew Lucas was nervous, even if he didn’t show it. 

“That’s great, can we go now?” Dustin rolled his eyes, slumping his shoulders in defeat. 

“Fine, fine, but just know I have a speech prepared and I will be giving it at the reception and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.” 

Mike snorted, crossing his arms across his chest. “Well, there might be nothing Lucas can do about it, but I think Max will force the microphone out of your hand and tackle you to the ground before you can even start your speech, so…” 

Turning on his heels, Dustin frowned at Mike, narrowing his eyes. Will laughed, shaking his head at his friends. “Alright, guys, I think we’ve heard enough of Dustin’s speech.” Dustin’s frown deepened and Mike smirked, making eye contact over Dustin’s shoulder with Lucas. “But, I also think that if we don’t leave now Lucas is going to be late to his own wedding.” 

The boys all nodded, exiting the room and entering the hallway, where Lucas’s parents were waiting for them. The girls were staying the floor below them and were getting ready in Max’s room. 

“Well, well, don’t you boys all look nice.” Lucas’s dad said, eyeing the boys and giving them a warm smile. Mike had always liked Lucas’s parents, they had been almost been like second parents to him for how much time Mike spent at their house. He had always preferred the Sinclair house to his own. 

Lucas’s mom wiped a tear from her eye and she smiled at them. “You boys haven’t looked like this since senior prom.” 

The boys all rolled their eyes, and Mike wondered if his friends too, were flashing back to that night. It was the first, and only, dance that Mike had attended in high school, and he only went because his friends practically dragged him along with them. Lucas was the only one that night with a date, and Dustin and Will promised a night of dancing and cheap snack food. 

Instead, Mike got the cheap snack food, but spent his entire night alone on the bleachers while Will got roped into dancing with the other art kids and Dustin’s drama club friends made a circle around him and practically forced Mike out of the company of his friend. He couldn’t blame his friends, and he never did, but god had the evening absolutely sucked. 

And he had a feeling this evening would go similarly. Dustin’s girlfriend was going to be there and Will made friends and found company wherever he went, so Mike had a feeling he was destined to spend the entire wedding reception, alone. Again. 

Which seemed to be the story of his life at this point. The words ‘Mike’ and ‘alone’ going hand and hand, a vice grip that no one, not even El Hopper, could break apart. Mike had accepted it. Really, he had. 

But little did he know what the evening had in store. 

 


 

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to celebrate the union of Maxine Marie Mayfield and Lucas Charles Sinclair…” 

Mike stepped nervously back and forth on his feet as the words of the priest quickly become static in his ears. He wants to focus, really he does, this is his best friend’s wedding and he’s the best man. He should be hanging onto every word. He should be smiling ear to ear, unable to feel anything but absolute joy and happiness. He should be focusing on Lucas and Max, taking mental pictures in his mind of their day. 

But he’s not doing any of that. He’s not doing any of that at all. 

Because El is standing eight feet in front of him and she’s the only thing he’s able to focus on. 

It’s the first time Mike has really gotten to look at her since last night. When the boys had arrived downstairs, they were immediately ushered to the front of the ballroom, no opportunity for Mike, or any of the other groomsmen to go and check on the girls. Not that Mike would want to do that, but still. 

Now, here she was, standing in front of him. He had avoided looking at her when she walked up the aisle, instead pretending like he was fixing a button on his jacket, refocusing his attention just in time to watch Max, which he knew was most important. But now, it was impossible to ignore her. 

She looked beautiful , more beautiful than Mike had ever seen her look before. (Even though, if you asked, he would say that she looked beautiful no matter what she was wearing, and he had seen her in her sweats and ratty t-shirts). The dark purple bridesmaid dress fell perfectly on her body, hitting her knees in a way that made Mike’s heart clench. Her brown hair was tied up in a complex updo, with two curls perfectly framing her face. 

And then there were her eyes. Her beautiful, beautiful , brown eyes, which constantly had Mike absolutely mesmerized, were even more hypnotizing today than they usually were. He didn’t know if it was the make up she was wearing, or what, but they were shining and Mike couldn’t look away. 

He heard a loud awe from the crowd and was momentarily snapped back to reality, the sights and sounds of the room becoming crisper and clearer. Lucas and Max were saying their vows and Mike’s mouth quirked into a smile as he heard Lucas’s voice. He had heard Lucas’s vows last week, and it didn’t surprise him that the guests were loving it, and based on the smile and light blush that Mike could see on Max’s face, she was loving it too. 

However, Mike’s focus didn’t last long and his eyes quickly sought out El again, desperate to drink her in again and get lost in her beauty ( god , he was such a masochist). This time, however, El wasn’t looking up at the happy couple. She was looking at him. 

Mike’s heart froze in his chest, whatever breath he was trying to take getting caught in his throat. Her lips are quirked up in a small, almost secretive, smile and Mike gulps. He wants to look away, he doesn’t want to get lost in her eyes, but it’s too late. 

Because before Mike can do anything, suddenly he’s the one getting married, and El is standing in front of him. It’s a cruel image, but Mike can’t seem to shake it. And he finds that he doesn’t want to. Closing his eyes, Mike feels himself smile, and he never wants to open them. He could live in this image forever. 

Especially because he knows it will never be a reality. 

He’s interrupted a couple moments later, with the loud pronunciation of Lucas and Max being husband and wife, and he manages to collect himself long enough to clap and cheer along with his friends. Dustin gives him a strange look when he turns to look at them, and Mike wonders if his daydream had been visible to the others. 

Lucas claps his shoulder, a wide grin on his face and Mike mirrors it, catching El’s glance across the altar. 

A part of him, a very very small part of him wanted to reach over Lucas and pull El into an embrace. He wanted to hold her against his body in a tight hug, because he didn’t know if he would ever get to do it again. There was a very good chance El would feel awkward around him now, side step him at group get togethers, avoid sitting next to him at restaurants, it would be like taking 10 steps back after they had taken just a couple steps forward in their friendship. 

God, he had really screwed this one up. 

Shaking his head, Mike snapped back to the moment, smiling as Max gave him a small grin, her hand tightly wrapped around Lucas’ bicep. Mike knew the drill from here, they would walk down the aisle and the wedding party would follow. 

“Hey.” El whispered softly when she fell into line next to him. She made no effort to grab his arm, however, holding her bouquet with both hands. Mike gave her a tight smile, eyes falling to the ground, refusing to meet hers. 

“Hey.” He replied after a couple moments. They were at the end of the aisle now and El was quickly swallowed up by the rest of the bridesmaids. They were set to travel over to the reception together, as Mike was with Dustin and Will, Lucas and Max traveling separately so they could arrive together. 

She disappeared from his sight, swept up in a flurry of purple and Mike was left to wonder if that was the closest he was ever going to be to her ever again. 

 


 

It was safe to say that Mike was not having a fun time. 

Ok, ok, maybe that was an unfair thing to say. It wasn’t like he was having the worst time ever, or even that he was necessarily having a bad time. He was just having a far less fun than he had dreamed about having just a couple days ago. 

He was trying really hard not to be a downer, and he was pretty sure he had done his part to please his friends. He danced with Will and Dustin, who had managed to pull Lucas away from Max for a couple minutes. He talked to Lucas’s dad all throughout dinner, talking about his job and other surface level topics. Hell, he even danced with Max, badly, but still. 

However, it had been a couple hours and Mike was running out of steam. Because on top of doing all of that, he was also trying very hard to ignore El. 

Sure, it wasn’t that hard, because she was also seemingly trying to do the same exact thing, but it still felt weird, unnatural, considering how much time they had spent together in the last couple months. More than once, he had wanted to turn to her and say something, make fun of Dustin’s dancing, or comment on how nice everything turned out thanks to them, but every single time he had to remind himself that all thanks to him, he couldn’t do that. 

God, he just wanted this night to be over. 

“Mike, hey.”  The opening bars of Every Breath You Take (an odd choice for a wedding if you asked him, but whatever, the playlist had not been one of his jobs) had just begun playing over the loudspeaker and Mike almost didn’t hear his name. 

“El.” His heart pounded in his chest as he looked up at her standing in front of him. She had let her hair down, the soft brown curls hitting her shoulders, and she had wiped the makeup from her face, her cheeks rosy from dancing and her eyes bright and wide. 

She smiled at him, pushing her hair behind her ear. “So, do you want to maybe, dance?” She gestured towards the dance floor, where a variety of couples were slow dancing, Lucas and Max in the middle of them. 

Mike’s first response was to say no. Things were still too weird and he didn’t really want to make things even weirder by dancing with her, but then he saw the smile on her face and the hope shining in her eyes and he nodded. Despite the hurt he felt, he knew that if El wanted something from him, he was going to do it. 

That was something that he knew was never going to change. 

El led them out to the dance floor, her hand gripping his tightly, like she was afraid he was going to let go and Mike followed, easily letting her take the lead. His hands found her waist and she wrapped her arms around his shoulders, her lips curling up into a smile. 

“So…” She said after a couple seconds, clearing her throat. Mike’s heart pounded against his ribs and his hands suddenly felt heavy and hot against El’s dress. He should have realized that she would want to talk and he didn’t know if he was quite ready for it. “I wanted to talk to you.” 

“And what, you thought if you asked me to dance first, I couldn’t avoid you anymore?” Mike asked, his tone coming out a little more sharp than he had intended, but El didn’t seem to notice. 

“Well, that would be true if I hadn’t also been avoiding you. But, I realized that if we just keep avoiding each other, so many things are going to go unsaid and I’ll regret it, if I never get the chance to say it.” El was avoiding his gaze and Mike realized how equally nervous she seemed to be. 

“El…” Mike started his anxiety and fear and nerves taking over every inch of his body. He didn’t want to hear the words come out of her mouth. The words that he had been fearing to hear. He didn’t want the conformation that the first girl he had ever felt this way about, didn’t feel the same way. 

“Mike, listen.” El’s voice was soft and the tension released every so slightly from Mike’s body. “I know that last night is when I should have said this, but I didn’t know how, so just let me get all of his out and then we can go from there.” 

Mike listened to El’s words, the edge of what sounded like desperation tugging at his heartstrings. He knew that she was right though, he owed her a chance to say her piece. It would be unfair of him to push on and make decisions about their relationship without any kind of say from her. 

Even if he had a really bad feeling he already knew what was next. 

“The reason that I didn’t say anything last night is because I was scared.” El was practically whispering and Mike had to crane his head down to hear her over the music. ( God he hated 80s music...). “I know that I should have said something and I’m really sorry that I didn’t.” 

Mike watched as El took a deep breath, and he saw her swallow. He took felt a dryness in his throat and he cleared it, licking his lips in anticipation. He could feel the anxiety creeping up his back and itching at his skin and he had to resist the urge to let go of El and scratch at his neck. 

“I’ve spent pretty much my entire life having absolutely no idea what it feels like to be in love.” El continued softly. “I’ve watched people around me fall in love, my friends from high school, Max, romance movies. But, I’ve never had any idea what it actually felt like. And I certainly had no idea what it felt like to have someone love me.

“So, when you told me that you did. That you, you know,” She takes a breath and Mike realizes that he’s practically shaking with nerves, “loved me, I thought that I was dreaming. Or that it wasn’t real, because no one has ever said that to me before.” She smiled slightly and Mike sighed, biting his bottom lip. Despite the softness of her voice and the grin on her face, Mike still didn’t know which direction this was going in. 

“Especially because I never imagined I would hear it from someone who I feel the same way about.” 

There were a lot of words that Mike had expected to come out of El’s mouth, but that, that was definitely not any combination of words that Mike had been anticipating. At first he thought he had misheard her, the last chorus of Every Breath You Take was blaring over the sound system and people were laughing loudly over in the corner were Dustin and Will were holding court. 

“What?” He finally said after a few moments when he realized that El was waiting for him to respond. She had a grin on her face and her eyes were shiny with, were those tears? “What do you mean?” 

El giggled, biting her bottom lip slightly. “It means I love you, stupid.” Mike’s heart slammed in his chest, blood rushing in his ears and he felt like the entire world had fallen away and they were the only two people on earth. 

“I think I have for a really long time, even longer than I want to admit.” She laughed softly, shaking her head. Mike felt his face morph into one of joy, his lips splitting into a wide smile, lifting his cheeks. “I remember when we first went to go look at wedding venues, remember how I made you pretend we were Lucas and Max. You wanted to kill me for making you do that.” Mike grinned at the memory, laughing softly. “I think that’s when it first started.” 

“You really mean it?” Mike asked. He felt silly for asking, but a part of him, a very small part of him, was still on edge and needed to be reassured. Maybe it was the leftover embarrassment from last night, but he just needed to hear her say it again. 

“Yeah, I do.” El whispered, smiling. “And I’m sorry I didn’t say so last night, I just couldn't believe you were saying it to me. I thought that my feelings were one-sided and that it took so long for you to see me as a friend that it might be impossible for you to see me as anything else. So, I was just frozen, in shock, and I’m sorry that I didn’t say anything and you thought that I didn’t feel the same way.” 

Mike shrugs, unable to hold any kind of anger over the situation. He’s too high on cloud nine to be knocked down now. “All’s well that ends well, right?” He smiles and El returns it, bright and wide and Mike is pretty sure he wants to live in this moment right here for the rest of his life. 

And then El lifts her head and presses her lips against his, softly, delicately and perfectly, and Mike swears that something clicks inside him. A piece that he never knew was missing. A feeling that suddenly takes over his entire body and makes him feel happier than he’s ever felt in his entire life. 

El loves him back and suddenly this is the best wedding he’s ever been too. 

(Well, that is until his own just a couple years later, but for now this one, the one where El spends the rest of the night hand intertwined with his, her head on his shoulder when they dance and kissing him one, two, three, too many times to touch, is definitely the best one.) 

Chapter Text

El was late. 

This wasn’t a totally uncommon occurrence for her, especially since she started living in the city. But, usually it was just a couple of minutes here or there. She has to spend extra time looking for her keys, she gets caught up talking to one of her coworkers, the trains are slow coming into the station, small things. And, usually, she tried not to be late to things that were for her. 

This was not one of those times. 

Because she was supposed to be at the restaurant twenty five minutes ago for her very own one year anniversary dinner. 

Mike was never going to let her hear the end of it. 

In her defense, it wasn’t all her fault, sure she was the one that couldn’t shut up to Katy about how excited she was for the new campaign that they were starting on Monday. And okay, maybe if she hadn’t stopped at home to change out of her work clothes, she wouldn’t have had to wait as long for the train. But still, if the train hadn’t been late, she probably would have been there sooner. 

However, she knew as soon as she walked into the restaurant that Mike had picked out for the night (this super nice new sushi place that they had both been dying to try, but reservations had been backed up for weeks, and both Mike and El weren’t exactly fancy restaurant people and much preferred eating pizza on the couch), and caught sight of Mike sitting in the corner, a slightly bored expression on his face, she knew that he would still tease her endlessly. 

He always did , she thought as she smiled, giving the hostess a small wave and pointing over to the two person table. The hostess grinned back, an amused look on her face and El winced. Clearly they had started to think that Mike was being stood up. 

“Hi, oh my god, I am so sorry.” She says as soon as Mike is in hearing distance, the words falling out of her mouth as her face turns bright red. Mike, for what it’s worth, looks far more amused by her frazzled, late appearance then he does angry, and not for the first time, does El realize how lucky she is. 

He smirked, glancing down at the menu in front of him, raising his eyebrows. “Here I was thinking that I was being stood up.” He teased, shaking his head. “Thought maybe you’d finally decided to run away with Jason.” 

El rolled her eyes at the mention of Jason, who had been a target of Mike’s teasing for weeks now. He was the new intern in El’s office and Mike swore he had a crush on her. Of course, Mike only thought that because every single time Mike came to visit El at work, whether it be to meet her for lunch or bring her dinner when she was working late, or even just to stop by and say hi on his way by, Jason was always hovering around El’s desk. 

El just thought he was being nice, which is what she told Mike every time he brought it up, but that didn’t stop him from teasing her every chance that he could. “No, not today. Next week, I need to transfer some money and murder you first.” 

“Oh that’s a shame, I was planning a game night with the guys next week, but you gotta do what you gotta do.” Mike sighed, going along with El’s act. “Just make sure you get over the state line before they find my body so you can evade the police, if you’re gonna kill me you should at least get away with it.” 

Laughing, El shook her head, a relaxed, happy feeling spreading through her body as her and Mike teased and poked fun at her lateness. “Really, I am sorry that I’m late. I spilled my lunch on myself, so I went home to change and the train was late…” El trailed off, letting out a large breath, her shoulders slumping. 

Mike shrugged, taking a sip of his water. “It’s alright, I figured that there had to be a reason.” He leaned forward slightly on the table, folding his hands under his chin. “It’s a good thing you showed up when you did though,” he sighs softly, pushing his hair back from his face, “because I was only a couple minutes away from thinking you were dead.” 

While his words are said with the same airy, light humor as his previous ones, El can feel and see the genuine fear in his voice. The guilt that she had been feeling earlier returns, this time far stronger than before. She isn’t sure if she has the right words that Mike wants to hear, so instead she smiles and reaches across the table, stroking her thumb against the skin of his cheek. 

He grins at her and it sends the all too familiar feeling of butterflies to her stomach. 

“Yeah, so, needless to say, I'm glad that you’re alive, because it would have been really hard to propose to you if you were dead.” 

The words come out of his mouth so casually that at first El doesn’t even register them. He says the words the same way you say that you’re having a sandwich for lunch, or that you’re going to the laundromat. 

“It would have been hard to what?” She says after a moment. The words are still registering in her brain, and she needs to ask him to clarify before she starts thinking she imagined it. Did he really just say he was going to propose ?

Mike looks embarrassed suddenly, his face flush and he clears his throat. Clearly he had been banking on her not hearing him, or maybe he hadn’t even meant to say it at all. The look on his face changes quickly though, and he shakes his head. 

“Yeah,” He reaches back and scratches the back of his neck and El’s heart is pounding so loudly she can barely hear him over the sound of the blood in her ears. “And I can’t believe I accidentally revealed that to you in an attempt to make a joke. And not even a good one at that.” 

El is still speechless, Mike’s words still processing in her brain. She resisted the urge to reach down and pinch herself, because it doesn’t feel like it can be real. Sure, she had imagined this moment, or something akin to it, multiple times in the last year, but she didn’t think it would become reality. At least not now. 

It shouldn’t really surprise her, though. She had known for months now that Mike was the one she wanted to spend the rest of her life with, and she knew he felt the same. But, the fact that the day she had long dreamed about was actually here wasn’t something she had prepared for. 

“Should I be worried that you haven’t said anything yet?” Mike asked finally after a couple of moments, or maybe minutes El couldn’t tell, of silence. Her eyes managed to focus on his face and he had worry and concern written all over it. “God, I ruined everything didn’t I? I shouldn’t have even said anything.” 

Sensing that now, when Mike is teetering on the edge of a spiral that El was all too familiar with, would be a good time to interject, El lightly clears her throat, capturing Mike’s attention. “What were you going to do?” She asks softly, curious. 

“Huh?” He asks, clearly confused by the nature of her question. “What do you mean?” 

El shrugs, feeling herself smile. “You sounded like you had this whole plan, what was your plan. I want to hear, since it’s not like it’ll be a surprise now anyway.” 

Mike sighs, nodding his head ever so slightly. He looks defeated and El wants to launch herself across the table and pull him into the hug, but she resists. She’s still processing that this entire thing is even happening to begin with, so she hopes that him talking her through everything will give it all time to settle in. 

“Well, firstly, I definitely wasn’t going to do it here. I thought about it, doing something cheesy like hiding it in a cupcake or something, which is how Nancy’s boyfriend proposed to her, but I realized very quickly how stupid that is.” El giggled softly, shaking her head. “Also, I definitely remember you saying that public proposals make you uncomfortable.” 

El’s heart flutters in her chest, she had secretly hoped that he was filing that information away for later when she had mentioned it a couple months ago. They had been out to dinner with El’s dad when he had come to visit and there had been a proposal a couple tables over. While it had been romantic, hearing the man say he wanted nothing more then to spend the rest of his life with the woman, it was a little awkward hearing him bare his soul like that when she was trying to eat her pasta. 

She was just as much of a sucker for romance as any girl her age was, and she always had been, but she wasn’t sure she wanted anyone else getting a front row seat to what would arguably be one of the most romantic moments of her life. 

A moment that was speeding at her faster than she had initially realized. 

“So, after dinner I would have suggested we go for a walk.” He continues, licking his lips. “It’s a nice night and I know you like to make sure you get a little bit of fresh air every day.” She smiles, a small blush creeping up onto her cheeks. “And then, as we were walking I would have casually started talking about us and when we first met and how we hated each other at first.” 

El laughs despite herself. “Sorry, I’m just laughing at the idea of you doing anything casually.” Mike frowns, his lower lip sticking out in a pout. 

“Stop making fun of me.” 

“Sorry, sorry. Continue.” El’s heart ramps up in her chest, and she takes a deep breath. “I’m listening, I promise.” 

Mike smiles, pushing his hair back from his face, his hands curling around his curls. “We would have ended up in front of the first place that we looked at for Lucas and Max’s wedding, you know that one reception hall.” El nods, swallowing. “And I would have tried to act like it was a coincidence, and probably would have totally failed.

“And then I told you that nothing in my life makes sense without you in it. I would have said that it was right there at that very reception hall that I started to feel something and that being there with you was when I realized the impact you had on my life, even if I was trying to hide from those feelings. 

“And then, I would have grabbed your hands.” El reaches across the table, grasping his hands tightly in her own, tears welling up in her eyes. “And I would have told you that you’re my best friend, and that you’re the only person in the entire world I could picture spending the rest of my life with.”

El watches through tear filled eyes as Mike takes a deep breath and she feels her own breath syncing up with his. “And then, I would have just told you that I love you. That I love you more than I ever imagined loving anyone and that no matter what happens in my life, as long as I get to keep loving you, I think I can get through anything. 

“And then finally, I would have gotten down on one knee, but not before making sure that no one was around, because I would want it to only be between us. I would pull out the ring and I would say, ‘El, will you marry me?’” 

“Yes.” El says, before she can stop herself. The word falls so naturally from her mouth, she almost barely even notices that she says it. But she sees the way Mike’s eyes widen, his lips stretching into the smallest of smiles and she can’t help but mirror his expression. 

“What did you just say?” He asks softly, his hands squeezing hers nervously. Under the table, she feels his leg bouncing against hers. 

El grins, her heart bursting, golden and proud, in her chest. “I said ‘yes’, you asked me to marry you, didn’t you?” Her grin widens into a full blown smile and she almost laughs she’s so happy. 

“Wait, are you serious?” Mike asks, his eyes wide, mouth open. “Like, you’re absolutely serious? Because I didn’t actually do any of that, you know that, right?” 

Rolling her eyes, El groans teasingly, swatting him with their still intertwined hands. “Yes, Michael, I’m aware that we are not in fact in front of the reception hall and you are not down on one knee but I don’t care, I’m still saying yes.” 

“You’re saying yes?” 

“Yes!” El practically shouts, luckily they’re near the back of the restaurant and there aren’t many people around, so no one looks their way. El can’t help but smile, they might not be in private like she had always imagined, but it’s still just them, no one else. “I’m saying yes, I will marry you, unless you’re suddenly not asking me.” 

There’s a small fear that’s wormed her way into her heart. That tiny piece of anxiety that will always be with her, that someday Mike will realize that he can do better than her. But Mike quickly dispels that fear by pulling a small ring box from his pocket. 

“I’m a little disappointed that I don’t get to do my super romantic thing but can I at least get down on one knee and do that part properly, and then I will let you say yes and put the ring on your finger, I promise.” 

El playfully sighs, rolling her head back and shaking her head. “Fine, fine, but hurry up, I want to get the free dessert that people in movies always get when they get engaged.” Mike laughs, getting up from his chair and eyeing her skeptically. 

“I don’t actually think that’s a real thing, but just be sure to wave the ring around and maybe you’ll get lucky.” El laughs, biting her lip and taking a deep breath as Mike settles down on one knee next to her chair. 

She’s in tears before he opens his mouth again. 

“I kind of hate myself for doing this at a restaurant when there are plenty of people around, but I guess doing things that neither one of us ever imagined is kind of this relationship started, so maybe it’s perfect for us.” El gives a watery smile, her hands seeking Mike’s shoulders, so she has something to hold onto. “El, I love you so so much, and I can’t imagine doing any of this life stuff, so, even though you could do so much better,” she shakes her head, causing Mike to smile, “will you marry me?” 

His words are so soft, they’re almost a whisper and El is so caught up in his eyes and his smile that she doesn’t even notice the ring at first. But when she sees it, she gasps, tears spilling down her cheeks. It’s the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen, and it’s even more beautiful that Mike loves her enough to want her to be the one to wear it. 

She doesn’t think she’s ever loved him as much as she does at that moment. 

“Yes, yes Mike I will absolutely marry you.” 

And then, before the ring can even make it to her finger, Mike’s lips are on hers and her heart flutters in her chest and she knows deep down that this is only the beginning of all the amazing, life changing moments that her and Mike will share together. 

(In just a year, she’ll be the one walking down that aisle at the very same reception hall, and no longer be imagining what it feels like to marry him because it will be her reality. And then will come kids and moving into their first house together, and walking their daughter to her first day of kindergarten and crying when their son breaks his arm trying to play baseball - he’ll inherit Mike’s athletic inability and even worse, El’s awful eyesight. They’ll own a couple animals and watch their kids grow in their own people and it will be everything that El has ever dreamed of.) 

But right now, as Mike slips the ring onto her finger and presses a million kisses against every inch of skin he can reach, it doesn’t feel like life can get any better. 

And she has Mike Wheeler to thank for that, who would have thought.