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Best Case Scenario

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As the red hue fades away and silence descended upon them, Eleven feels peace filling her heart, shortly followed by dizziness and lightheadedness. She loses the sense of direction and collapses onto the hard metal floor of the elevator. While attempting to gauge her surroundings, Hopper got down and embrace her tightly in his arms. Her pulse is weak and irregular which sends him into a blind panic. I can't lose her again. He glances down at her face and flashbacks of Sarah's last moments flooded his head. This can't be happening. No, I'm not letting you go. 

"Breath kid, take deep breaths" he says with obvious panic in his voice. "Calm down, you're safe now... calm down"

After a couple of minutes of deep breathing and soothing words, her pulse begins to be rhythmic and stable again. She opens her eyes and tries to comprehend what had just happened a couple of minutes ago. However she couldn't get over how exhausted she feels, barely having the energy to lift a finger.

"You did good kid," Hopper says while letting out a gasp of relief, "You did so good."

Hopper turns around and hits the button on the elevator controls. As the elevator slowly ascends to the surface, he took a moment to enjoy the sight of lifeless demodog bodies falling around them, occasionally crashing onto the roof of the elevator, giving them a good scare. Eleven is barely conscious at this point, tiredness slowly consuming her and not able to hold her eyelids open anymore.

"T-Tired..." Eleven whispers.

"Don't worry, I'll carry you. No need for you to walk," he says. She gives him a small grin and falls asleep less than half a minute later.

Walking through the long dark hallways of the Hawkins lab, occasionally having to step over the bodies of the unfortunate. To get back to the car, he has to walk through the section where Eleven spent the first 12 years of her life. Trapped in this tiny part of the building, completely oblivious to the vast expands of the world outside. Tortured and punished for the most miniscule of mistakes. The thought sends chills down his spine as he starts to truly understands the cause behind her constant nightmares and fear of returning to this place. He speeds up his pace, eager to get out of the eerie building as soon as possible.

He gently lays Eleven on the passenger seat of the blazer, tugging her in with a blanket he pulled out from the backseats. He could tell that she is way beyond exhausted. Her body molds into the shape of the seat with no signs of movement other than her soft breathing. Hopper heads to the rear of the blazer, opens the boot and retrieves a first aid kit. He gives Eleven a kiss on the forehead and runs back towards the lab. 

"Hey doc," Hopper says as he bends down and begins to tend to his leg injury.

"Oh hey Jim, I thought you forgot about me." Owens replied.

"Yeah... just tugging the kid to sleep." he sighs, "Don't make me regret saving your life today doc." He looks up and stares at Dr Owens in the eye.

"Her safety is ensured chief. My crew and I wouldn't dare to ever touch her again. You have my word." Owens replied. "However, I recommend you keep her a secret for the time being, it'll take some time for me to get her a proper identity."

"Thanks Doc. After 13 years, she deserves to live a normal and happy life." Hopper says as he helps Dr Owens stand up.

"You still have to train her to be cautious though. I wouldn't touch her doesn't mean someone else wouldn't." he grunts as he's standing up, "We have no idea how much the rest of the government knows about her and what they plan to do with her. I'll try my best to warn you if something arises."

Hopper sits Dr Owens down on a bench outside the Hawkins lab and he dials the station and the hospital. Five minutes later, a couple of police cruisers pulled into the lab. Callahan and Powell steps out and greeted the chief. Soon enough, an ambulance also arrives at the scene.

"Put the entire building on lockdown. Don't allow anyone to get near it without my permission. Tell Flo that I'm taking a break tomorrow." Hopper declares. "The medics will take over from here Doc, see ya later."

As Hopper slowly pulls away from the lab, he contemplates about whether he should head back to the cabin or the Byers residence. He thought about heading straight back to the cabin at first since it is closer. But then he needed to inform others of their safety. He thinks that Eleven and Mike deserves a proper reunion anyway. It would absolutely enrage her if she wakes up back at the cabin. She would probably throw me through a wall. Their reunion earlier today was short and in the midst of chaos. She deserves some time together. They deserve some time together. 


Back at the Byers residence, Lucas, Max and Dustin were busy dragging Billy's still unconscious body out of the house for proper "disposal". By that they meant dragging him outside onto a patch of mud in the yard. Making sure a good amount of the muddy goodness got all over his body as to teach him a lesson to not bother them ever again.

Mike was pacing back and fourth in the living room, still overwhelmed by what had just happened. His heart is mixed with multiple polarizing emotions, clashing with one another trying to establish dominance. He is more than ecstatic and relieved that Eleven is alive. However he also has multiple worries with varying degree of severity. The fact that Hopper has been keeping Eleven a secret from him for a year really bothered him. How could he do that? How heartless he has to be to commit such a... such a... crime!?!  To him, Hopper's actions were more than criminal. Since he kept her from him for 353 days, it wouldn't surprise him if he puts her back into hiding again after their unintended brief reunion. On a much severe note, he worries that he had just lost Eleven again, this time for good. He recalls to the night he lost her to the demogorgon. The lights were flashing and the situation was chaotic, a few seconds later, she was gone. Vanished into a puff of smoke with the demogorgon. Less than 30 minutes ago, the lights were dialed up to 11, illuminating way brighter than intended. Drowning the quite town of Hawkins in a ball of light. To him, this indicated something had gone wrong, terribly wrong. 

It has been 20 minutes since they returned, still no signs of Hopper and Eleven. The situation was becoming dire. He wanted to grab the keys and drive to the lab against Steve's protests. 

Just then, the blazer pulled up into the Byers' house and extinguished the headlights. Mike bursts out of the front door, not caring that it now only hangs on a single hinge. His heart sank as he sees Eleven lying horizontally on Hopper's arms, lifeless. Tears beginning to fill his eyes and he wanted more than ever to punch Hopper until he is disfigured for failing to protect her. 

"She's alright kid," Hopper says, obviously realizing the boy's face, "just extremely exhausted."

He lets out a sob of relief and slammed the door open, making way for them to come in, only to slam it just again after they had cleared the door.

"What has the poor innocent door done to deserve this you shithead?" Steve says.

 Hopper looks over at Joyce and asked, "Is it okay that I put her down on the couch?"

"Of course!" she replies, "It surprises me that you even asked that."

As Hopper lays El down onto the couch, Mike crawls up to her and holds her hand. His eyes widened by how warm he feels. No, not the warmth in his heart, his front is literally sweating and her hands feels like a warm cup of hot chocolate.

"She's burning up! Quick, get a wet towel!" Mike yelled across the room with almost hysteric voice.

Only now that Mike has mentioned it that Hopper took notice of the heat radiating from her. He was so caught up with what was happening that he didn't realize that he was holding the equivalent of a hot water pouch in his hand. It doesn't take a thermometer for Mike to know that she is way beyond the typical survivable body temperature in a fever that Mr Clarke has taught them. The relief faded away and panic takes hold inside Mike's head again. Now it's worse, he has to watch her die with his own eyes. But then again, Mr Clarke has only taught them how much heat can a normal human body tolerate. He didn't tell how much heat a girl with superpowers can tolerate. He begins to calm a little, seeing no clear signs of suffering on her face. This roller coaster of emotions has been active in his head for the past couple of hours and it is beginning to feel tiring.


The group all gathered around the dining table, talking about each individual team's experiences. All except Mike and El, who was still sleeping soundly at the couch. Mike still holding onto her hand and lying his head just above it. Steve was the most talkative, constantly trying to defend himself from the adults about allowing the kids to go into the tunnel. 

"So who was the one to throw in the first punch?" Hopper asked.

"That dickhead Billy of course!" Steve answered, pointing his finger at the door.

Hopper looked around the room to see all the kids nodding their heads.

"Alright then. The evidence is sufficient." Hopper said as he slowly walks towards the door with handcuffs in his hand. "I'll bring the douchebag to the station, will be right back." He then looks over to Mike, "Take care of her."


Eleven slowly opens her eyes. Her body is aching everywhere and it pains to move a muscle.

"Mike?..." she whispers as she glances down to see a bushy head lying next to her hands.

"El?" he immediately shot up and looks at her. "You're awake!"

He lunges himself forward and hugs her. Overcoming her pains, she hugs back. For the first time in a year, she finally feels at home. "I missed you." "I missed you too."

"W-Water..." she whispers. She is still burning up, even after Joyce has wiped her body with a cloth soaked in cold water.

"Oh yeah, water!" Mike hastily dashed into the kitchen and dig through the pile that used to be the contents of the refrigerator and pulled out a full bottle of water. By the time he returned, the entire group had already surrounded her. He hands her the bottle and she gulped down the bottle, almost finishing it under 10 seconds. Leaving only a thin layer at the bottom.

"I'm sorry," she says with clear disappointment and tiredness in her voice, "I'm... really tired." Slowly lying back down onto the couch from her sitting position.

"It's okay sweetie," Joyce replies with a smile on her face, signalling with her hands for the others to disperse. El manages to smile back as she slowly falls asleep.

"Alright kids, it's almost 1 a.m. You should probably call your parents and inform them that you're staying for the night to ease their worries." Joyce announces as she pulls out a couple of thin mattresses and lays them across the floor of the living room. She handed out pillows and blankets as the kids take turns to use the phone. Mike immediately claimed the mattress next to the couch where El lies.


Its now almost 2 in the morning. Hopper returns to a house shrouded in darkness. As his eyes adjusts to the darkness, he sees a living room littered with mattresses and people snoring away. He then notices Mike and El holding hands while sleeping, despite the height differences between the couch and the mattress. He couldn't help but smile at the sight. Maybe finally, finally the girl gets the first good nights sleep of her life. 

Chapter Text

Mike wakes up to find himself almost drenched in sweat. As he slowly peels his eyes open, he is greeted with a blinding ray of light penetrating through the window at an acute angle. The sun is unusually high in the sky for his usual time of waking up. He glances down at his watch and realizes it is now a little over 11 in the morning. He turns his head back and fourth to observe his surroundings, noticing that everyone is sleeping soundly in their awkward positions. El is still in the exact same position that he had last see her, lying on the couch back facing him, snoring away. He stands up and precariously stepping over the sleeping bodies and makes his way to Will's bedroom to check on him.

"Hey Will," Mike says as he knocks on the door. Will is already awake, sitting on his bed, blankly staring at his blanket. 

"Oh," Will jerks his head upwards and seems surprised, "Morning Mike."

Mike walks over and sits on the side of the bed and noticed the guilt on Will's face.

Mike swallows, "Are you okay?"

"I'm sorry," he replies. There is a long pause, Mike looks confused. "for everything."

"What?... No- No Will, you didn't do anything" Mike hastily responds.

"Everyone... everyone in the lab," he is shaking as he speaks, occasionally stuttering, "I'm responsible for all of them, I killed them...." Tears formed in his eyes, threatening to escape.

"No Will, it's not your fault. You had no control. You shouldn't be blamed for it." 

"No-"

"Plus, most of the people there was once part of the program that tortured El." Mike replies with a sudden tone change, anger slowly slipping into his voice "They do not deserve your sympathy. They do not deserve mourning." 

"But-"

"No buts Will!" Mike snapped, then immediately regretted it, "You need some rest..."

Just the thought of the people that was responsible for all the atrocities committed against El disgusts him. He wanted no more than for those men and women to suffer and long and gruesome death. He walks out of the room and finds most of the party members in various stages of waking up.

"Wake up sweethearts, your breakfast is almost ready!" Joyce announces from the kitchen to everyone in the house.

Mike joins the convoy as they make their way to the dining table but then quickly notices that El isn't in the lemming line. He walks over to the living room to find El still snoring away with no signs of awakening. He kneels down and lightly shook her shoulder.

"Good morning, El. It's time for breakfast!" he says in a loving voice.

El flinch a little and rolled over to the other side. She takes in a deep breath of air and "Sleeeeeep...." she replies in a lazy voice.

"It's almost midday, you need to eat something." 

Mike knew it has been quite a while since El last ate, but little did he know the 'a while' refers to 21 hours. He doesn't want to argue with her. Although he has no idea how much energy El has expended while closing the gate, but his caring nature tells him that it will probably require a few days of hibernation to fully recharge. However he is still concerned, she has to eat something.

All of a sudden, a light bulb lights up in his head. He bolted back to the pile of stuff dug out from the fridge and pulled out a box of Eggos. As he garnishes the hot a crispy waffles with maple syrup, a wide smile erupted on his face. This is the first time he touched Eggos in almost a year, and is making it to the person behind the reason of the latter. His mind has long since associated Eggos with El. During the 353 days that she was away, he stormed into his basement and started crying in the fort every time their family decided to have Eggos for breakfast. Now, he is more than happy to make it for the person that he so anticipated.

He brings the freshly toasted waffle pile into the living room and set it down on the table. He then turns around only to be met with a hug from Eleven and warmth spread throughout his body.

"Eat with me?" she offered.

He is more than happy to accept an offer like that. As they are eating the delicious pile on the plate, Mike looks over her shoulder to see the source of the murmur. The rest of the gang is at the dining table whispering to one another and occasionally shooting Mike and Eleven a look with grins on their faces. Mike rolled his eyes and refocuses on Eleven's now gel free brown and curly hair. Holy shit. He never expected El's hair to be curly. In fact, he never thought of how Eleven would look like ever since her disappearance.

"Curly," he says with a wide smile on his face, "Your hair is curly."

"Bad?" Eleven replies with a worried look on her face.

"What?- No, no no no no no..." Mike hastily replies. "It's pretty." he smiles.

It didn't take them long to finish the waffle delight and Eleven returns to dreamland not long afterwards. Mike stumbled across Hopper on his way to the kitchen with the plate in hand. As he is washing the plate, he recalls his not so subtle conversation with Hopper which involved a fair amount of punching and shouting. He was so furious with Hopper than he was acting purely on hatred and anger. He contemplated about his actions earlier last night as he was falling asleep and most of the anger converted to fear and guilt. What Hopper did was right, she needed to be kept a secret. It was for her own safety. Seeing as Hopper is probably going to become Eleven's legal guardian in the near future, it is of paramount importance that he gets on Hopper's good side. He wanted to apologize.

"Morning, kid." Hopper greets as Mike makes his way onto the verandah where Hopper is smoking.

"Morning sir."

There is a moment of silence which lasted for 10 seconds.

"I'm sorry... for what I did last night." Mike said guiltily.

Hopper sighs. "I'm sorry too, for keeping her from you for so long. Paranoia got the better of me."

"I.. I didn't mean what I said... or did last night..."

"It's okay kid... I understood your actions," Hopper replies, "But I gotta say kid, you threw some pretty hard punches." He says as he lightly rubs his belly.

Mike lowers his head and frowns with guilt. 

"So... can we hang out with her in the future?" Mike asks shyly, expecting the worst.

"Yes-"

"Really?!?"

"But-" Hopper hastily cuts him short, "There are going to be rules."

"Owh-" disappointment is clear in his voice.

"You want it or not?"

"Yes... Yes, of course I do."

"First of all, she is still under house arrest for the time being. You cannot bring her outside yet."

Mike frowns and lets out a sigh of disappointment.

"Secondly, tutor her. You have a year. I want her to be school ready on your level by the end it."

Mike's eyes widened with joy.

"What subjects are you guys good at?" Hopper asks.

"Everything." Mike proudly replies, "We're all straight-A nerds after all."

Hopper smiles at this prospect. This saved him a good amount of money by not hiring a private tutor. Although he never really touched books when he was their age, he didn't mind his almost-daughter to be one of the top nerds of the school.

"Thirdly, be aware of your surroundings when you're going to the cabin. Make sure you aren't being monitored or followed."

Mike nods in agreement.

"Lastly, don't you dare try to do anything stupid to her. I will pulverize you from head to toe if I find you too intimate with her." 

Mike's face turned red with embarrassment. Hopper has vast experience dealing with hormonal teenagers in romance. He was one of the trouble makers back then when he dated Joyce and he knows what hormones can do to a person. Although he is allowing romance between Mike and Eleven, quick kissing is where he draws the line. Anything beyond that will trigger his full protective dad mode.

"You got it sir." Mike replies with a joyous grin.

Hopper smiles back. He trusts the kid. He was the first one to care for Eleven anyway. "By the way, it's Hopper."

Chapter Text

A week after the events of the last chapter.

It is now the fifth day of Billy's stay in the Hawkins police cell. He was charged with public assault and was initially sentenced to a fortnight behind bars but seeing as Billy was also severely injured, his sentence was reduced to 5 days and under Chief Hopper's custody for the duration of the sentence. Billy spent most of the time in the cell contemplating his actions lately. The shouting, screaming and fighting over the past couple of weeks, primarily directed at Max was all due to Billy's strong hatred for the quiet and peaceful town of Hawkins, Indiana.

Although him and Max's relationship may seem rough and always on the verge of murdering each other, Max is the only person in his family that he actually loves besides his biological mother. None of which can be said to his current parents. Billy's father, Neil Hargrove, never showed any affection for him. He never cared for Billy and their interactions mainly consists of shouting and and aggressive fighting. As of his stepmother, although she did once showed minor care for his well being, she never stood up for him. Whenever Neil was attacking Billy, Susan always just turns a blind eye towards the situation and completely ignores the fact that anything had happened afterwards. 

He stares at his own reflection in the calm waters of the sink. I am turning into a second Neil, he thought to himself. He wanted none of that. He has first hand experience being in the cross-hair of Neil Hargrove. Recalling to what he did in the past couple of weeks, he is not much different from his father. Then, pity slowly builds up in his heart. Poor Max, Billy only had to deal with a single Neil, but Max has to deal with two. He wanted to make it up for Max. He wanted to redeem himself in the eyes of the only other person he loves. He wanted to be the supportive person in Max's life. So far, the only person that has accomplished that is Steve Harrington. The former holder to the title 'King', his hopefully soon to be former archnemesis.


"Hey Hargrove!" Hopper says in a loud and intimidating voice with keys in hand. "Time to go!"

Just as Billy is about to leave the station after all the paperwork had been signed, he turns around to look at hopper and says, "I'm sorry." 

Hopper's eyes widened. He wasn't expecting this from the greatest bully of Hawkins, he was half expecting Billy to flip him off as he drives out of the station. 

"Uhh... yeah... Say that to the Harrington kid. He got a concussion from you. Good day, Mr Hargrove." he replies and walks back into his room.

As he pulls into the front lawn of his house, he let out a sigh of relief because Neil's car is absent. He only notices that he doesn't have the keys with him when he walked up to the door. Embarrassingly, he decided to knock the door. It took a couple of knocks and a minute of waiting before the door clicks, and inside stands a red headed girl. As his eyes met hers, she immediately turns around and sprints back upstairs without saying a word. He closes the door behind him and slowly walks upstairs as well. He walks towards his room but stops when he reaches Max's doorway. 

"What do you want?" she asks with a harsh tone.

"Look... Umm..." he finds himself struggling to get it out of his mouth. This isn't what he is used to, "I'm... I'm sorry. For what happened that night... and the weeks prior to that night..."

Max's reaction is not much more different from Hopper's. "Are you high on drugs, Billy?"

"Yeah... what? No, no no no. I was just so caught up with moving and stuff... and..." he didn't notice but he is getting quieter and quieter as he speaks.

"Can you take me to Steve's house later?" she interrupts him.

He stops and lets out a sigh, "Fine!"

Max shoots him a small smile and turn back to doing whatever she was doing in less than a second.

It went well, it could have gone better but it came out well enough, he thought to himself as he walks back to his room. It has been quite a while since the last time she smiled at him and the simple act of smiling made his heart warm.


"Let's just go already!" 

"No! No way man! We have to wait for Max!"

"We're almost 15 minutes late! El is not going to like this!"

"We can't just go without her!"

"I don't wanna wait any longer!"

"You were the one who said never leave a party member behi-"

"Hey..."

"-nd! Now you're changing your mind?"

"Shut up Lucas, she isn't coming!"

"Hey!"

"What the hell is wrong with you man?!"

"HEY!!" Steve snapped.

"Shut up Steven!" everyone else shouted at him.

"HEY! First of all, don't you ever call me Steven again! Secondly, I'm the adult here you little shitheads!"

"Mike is being a jerk!"

"Let's just start walking slowly. Maybe she'll join us halfway." Steve suggested.

They all finally nodded in agreement and started walking single file with Steve leading the way, closely followed by Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Will. This is the first time they're visiting Hopper's cabin. It has been a week since Mike last saw El and with every passing day it was slowly corroding his heart. He only knew where El and Hopper had been hiding for the past year a day before from Hopper when he told him El is finally done with hibernating.

The closer they get to the cabin, the less dense the buildings. They've almost arrived at the point where they need leave the relative comfort of the paved path and stepped into the wilderness when a car pulled up next to them.

"Well well well, look who it is. Isn't it the queen mama herself, Steve Harrington. Where are you bringing your baby chickens to today?" Billy says as he steps out of the car. Max also steps out of the car and walked over to the lemming line.

"None of your business Hargrove." Steve replies as reaches for the nailed bat in his bag. He places the bat on his shoulder and stared Billy with a threatening glare. He had almost made a habit of keeping the bat with nails in the bag that he takes everywhere. This is the first time he has to pull it out, fearing it might be the first time he needed to use it on a human being.

"Woah! Chill out there Harrington! Of course it is my business, where will you be taking my sister to today?" Billy said.

"Just visiting someone. Do you mind?" Steve replied, gesturing for Billy to get into his car.

Billy sighs, "How's your head?"

Steve bursts into laughter, "Don't pretend to care about me Hargrove! It will only make you look weak!"

"Yeah... I've heard you got a concussion... Look man, I'm... I'm sorry."

Steve scoffs, "Stop making yourself look soft Hargrove. I've had enough of this." He turns and resumes walking to his destination. 

Billy diverges his focus off of Steve only to find the rest of the party staring at him with frowns on their faces. He decides it's enough for today as he steps into his car and drove away.


They're now finally off the pavement and walking on forest grounds. Only knowing the general direction for the cabin, they were hoping not to get lost and have to eat squirrels for dinner.

"I think she doesn't like me." Max said disappointingly.

"Oh yeah, I forgot." Lucas said. 

"What? How?" Mike asks.

"She ignored and walked pass me when I tried to shake her hands."

"Maybe she wasn't comfortable with strangers. She had never met Max before." Lucas defended her.

"She didn't know who Steve was, but she was happy to greet him." replied Dustin.

"We haven't even met and she hated me already."

"Whatever it is, you better get along with her man."

"Yeah, being on the bad side of a telekinetic girl is a death sentence for you." Dustin added. "She broke Troy's arm and made him peed himself! It was awesome!"

"Real motivating guys! I should probably turn back now." Max said sarcastically.

30 minutes has gone by and they felt like they've been going in circles.

"I think we're lost." Steve said guiltily.

"You think?" 

"Well fantastic! Let's get a fire going. Mike, Lucas, you're in charge of hunting squirrels!"

"We'll retrace our tracks. Get going shitheads." 

They look around the place frantically with the heads down, searching for the tail tail signs of human activity. Just as they are about to spread out, rustling leaves was heard. All of them stumbled backwards and relaxed as they see Eleven walking out of the bush.

"El!" Mike immediately lunched forwards and wrap his hands around her.

"Lost?" Eleven asks when she looks back at the group.

They all nodded in silence guiltily as now it is an hour later than the planned time. 

"I figured, follow me." Eleven says with a smile and the group closely followed behind her.

"Aren't you not allowed to be out here?" Steve asks.

"Hopper's not home."

"And you do this all the time?" 

Eleven shook her head, "I've only done this once before."

"What? When?" Mike asks.

"On... On day 325. I didn't hear you that night. I was busy." Eleven replies.

'Where did you go?" 

"I went to the..." She half looks over to Max, "to the school..." She looks down and continues on walking.

Mike's eyes widened and his mouth was wide open with a smile, "It was you. It really was you!" 

Eleven nodded.

"Owh... owh... yeah I get it now." Max whispers to herself.

What she wasn't expecting though is Eleven walking up to her and offered her a handshake, "I'm sorry." Eleven said.

Max took the handshake.

"I was just... was just..." Eleven is struggling to find the right words to fill that spot.

"Jealous?" Max said and laughed, "I never liked someone like Mike. It's okay. I forgive you!"

They both smiled at each other, now with the cabin in sight.

Chapter Text

From the outside, the cabin seems like it had seen better days. Some of the wood planks are rotten, numerous roof tiles are on the verge of falling off and all the supposed 'windows' are lacking glass and only bears a thin transparent tarp. The tarp does little to block the freezing winds from entering the cabin at night which has lead to the coldest week they've ever experienced. This is the aftermath of the epicenter of a psychic tantrum. The party's faces frowned and some shocked at the sight. Eleven just feels slightly guilty.

"This is where you've been saying this whole time?" Mike asks, slightly concerned.

Eleven nods.

"What happened to the windows?" Lucas quickly followed up.

"I... uh-" Eleven replied then there is a long pause while they stand at the front of the cabin.

"It's okay, you don't have to answer it." Lucas said as he tries to break the silence and undo his question.

"Hopper scolded me, and I went... crazy." she says as she unlocks the five locks using her powers. Five clicks later, the door swings open she gestured for them to all go inside.

"Wow." the party awed in unison. The interior of the cabin is quite a contrast compared to the exterior. The wood planks that made up the walls are smooth and the tightly spaced living room is lit by a warm yellow light. The spaced is adequately furnished and to be honest, it makes for a decent holiday chalet. However, no matter how great it looks, staying there for an extended period of time sucks out the joy of living in such a place.

"Can we look around?" Mike asks.

"Sure!" Eleven's face lights up and she joyfully pulls Mike's hands and guided him into her room.

She showed Mike around her room while the rest of the party settled down at the living room table. Mike is a little overwhelmed. This is the place that Eleven has been hiding for a year, here, right here on the outskirts of Hawkins, right under his nose. 

"Umm... you know... I actually stumbled across the cabin once before, while searching for you." Mike says.

Eleven's eyes widened, she recalls to day 157. That day was just like any other. Hopper went out to work early in the morning, leaving her alone in the cabin. She was watching the TV when she suddenly felt a strong presence in the area. She wanted to freak out, Hopper is nowhere near the cabin, so it couldn't be him. Has the bad men found her? Are they coming to get her? Fallen leaves rustling under the footsteps can be heard. Whatever it is, it's near, and judging from the rhythm of the footsteps, it's human. She gathers her bravery and slowly peek out of the window, using the curtain to shield most of her face. As she peeks out, she only sees the back of a young boy, slowly walking away from the cabin at an angle. Something seems familiar about this boy... Could it be...?  She quickly dismisses the idea, glad that whoever it is poses no threat and is just a passer by.

"I... I saw you... It was you..." her voice is shaking.

A smile slowly forms on Mike's face, "I should've... I should've knocked. We could've found each other a lot sooner." 

Tears formed in their eyes. They're still looking at each other, holding each other, trying to take in the fact that they were mere feet away from each other. So close, yet so far. A simple action, or lack of action in this case delayed their reunion by 196 days.

Luckily, that's in the past now. Now, she's right here, right in front of him. Mike has so many questions to ask her, so many things he wants to share with her. He wants to show her all the wonders of the world. Thankfully, they've got time. They're back together. Their private tearful embrace of each other is once again interrupted by Dustin.

"Hey guys, are you two coming out or not?" Dustin asks in an impatient tone. Mike an Eleven walks out of the room and took notice of the party who has now settled down in a circle around the living room table while Steve just sat on the couch.

"Are you two ready for the initiation?" Dustin asks and glances at Max and Eleven.

"In-ni-tia-tion?" Eleven asks, slightly confused.

"Yeah, it's a ceremony of you two joining the party." Dustin replies.

"Are we not in the party already? After all the shits we've been through?" Max asks, slightly annoyed and angry.

"What? No... no, no no. Yes! I mean, yes you two are in the party already, especially El. We're just making things official today." Dustin hastily replies and Max rolls her eyes.

Eleven wanted to asks what 'Official' means but now wanting to annoy or further delay their plans, she decided to go along with it. Mike and Eleven made their way and join in the ring around the 'altar' that is the living room table.

"First of all, I'll recite the rule of law." Dustin says.

"God, you kids are cute." Steve teased. For some reason that Steve himself cannot answer, he feels oddly pleased getting approved by a group of 13-year-olds. "Do I get to join the party one day? I think I deserve it for almost dying to save you all." He further teased.

This caught Dustin by surprised. "Umm... yes... sure... Someday maybe?" he answers nervously, not wanting to disappoint him. "I was gonna say... age but, never mind."

"Woah! Hold your horses, are you hinting that I'm old?" Steve replies, pretending to be offended. "Never mind then, I don't want to join your party anyway!"

"Oh no, no, no. I'm sorry... I mean..." Dustin finds himself in an increasingly awkward situation. Steve bursts out laughing.

"I'm only messing with you. No seriously, I don't want to join the party." Steve says. Dustin lets out a breath of relief.

"Alright then... the most important rule. Friends don't lie. The party has to stay true to each other no matter what."

Eleven and Max nods. 

"Secondly, the party always helps another member in trouble."

"Thirdly, you draw first blood, you shake hands."

This went on for a while. By the end of it Max is already half asleep, leaving Eleven the only other that is paying attention.

"Now it's time for the next phase. Each of us must tell everyone an interesting fact or a secret that nobody else knows yet."

"Alright." Max says.

"Okay I'll start. A fire alarm at school startled me once and I started to cry in class." Dustin says embarrassingly. The party bursts into laughter.

"Okay, my turn." Lucas says, "I still sleep with a nightlight on."

"Oh you're such a baby!" Max teased.

"Shut up! I hate the dark okay?"

"My turn," Will says, "I ate rotten pumpkins for food while in the upside down." 

Everyone's jaws dropped wide open at this fact and a million questions started coming out of their mouths.

"Why?"

"Did you get sick?"

"How does it tastes like?"

"What do you mean what does it tastes like? Of course it tasted disgusting."

"I'm so telling your mom." Steve says.

"Don't you dare!" Will snapped back, "She'll freak out!"

"Alright everybody, calm down. Mike's next." Dustin says.

"Errmm... A girl once made me cry." Mike says.

"Wait what? Who? How? When?" Max is beyond interested. To her, Mike has always been an emotionless being.

"When did this happened? How did we not know about this?" Lucas asks.

 Upon hearing that, Eleven thought to herself. Could this 'girl' be her? She recalls to the day of the snowball.

It was yet another normal day at the cabin. Eleven did her usual visit to Mike in the void. Upon entering the void, she immediately wondered what was wrong. Mike was curled up in the blanket fort, both arms tightly hugging the supercomm, crying... "Please... please come back... Today's the snowball..." She immediately froze. Mike sobbed harder, "I promised... you promised you'll go with me... I'm sorry..." There was a pause as Mike lets his tears drips out and lets out another cry. "I missed you... I know you're out there... please... please come back... I'm sorry... I won't go with anyone else... I won't go to the snowball... not without you...". She was crying next to him in the void, seeing Mike like this completely broke her heart. "Mike... I'm here... I'm here... I'm sorry..." she whispers, hoping Mike would hear it. Unfortunately no matter how hard she tries, she failed to establish communications with him. They cried together in the blanket fort, one not knowing the presence of the other. You made him cry. You are the girl who made him cry. 

"Who was it? You haven't answered my question..." Max asks impatiently.

"It doesn't matter. We only needed the secret, not the backstory." Dustin defended Mike.

"Okay then... Max's next!"

"Umm... err.... I don't know... Skateboarding is my favourite...?" Max replied.

"That's neither interesting nor a secret..." Dustin protests.

"I don't know! I don't have any secrets! People know more about me than I know about myself!" Max snaps back.

"Okay fine! Alright then, El, you're up."

Eleven is the direct polar opposite to Max. She has too many secrets and interesting stories and facts to tell. She doesn't know what is appropriate to tell at this given moment. Kali? No, not now, that's too much. The lab?  No, she couldn't bring herself to talk about that without entering into a panic attack. Her mother?  No, not that either. Name? 

"My real name is Jane."

Everyone's eyes widened and stared at her. Why is everyone so shocked at this fact?  Did I say something that I shouldn't?  Eleven stares back at them confusingly. There is a long moment of silence.

"Oh umm... okay... That's a beautiful name Jane!" Mike says as he tries to break the awkward moment of silence.

Upon hearing it, something feels odd. Hearing Mike calls her Jane seems to upset her a little and she can't really explain why. Kali called her Jane and she didn't feel like what she felt now. She almost doesn't like it. 

"I prefer to be called El, it's okay." she answers while smiling.

"Oh... err... okay El." he smiles back.

Now, that's better. 

"Alright! Max and El, you two are now official members of the party!" Dustin declares.

"Haha, seriously though. You guys are really cute about the way you do things." Steve teased.

"Shut up Steve!" 

 

Chapter Text

The initiation is never truly over without a game of Dungeons and Dragons which swiftly followed after the supposed 'end' of the ceremony. They didn't have much time on their hands and they were more keen on introducing the game to Eleven and Max than paying attention to the game. They kept the campaign short, which lasted for a mere 5 hours. Throughout the game, Max was constantly bombarded by advises, instructions and criticisms for her actions in the game where Eleven just sat on the sofa, casually observing the game with great interests. 

Although Eleven didn't understand most of what was happening in the game or some of the words the boys used, she remained extremely thrilled because this is the first time in a year that the cabin doesn't feel like a prison to her. Her friends are right here, right in front of her eyes, playing in the cabin. Mike was worried that Eleven would be bored by the game so he kept insisting on letting her into the campaign. She, of course, refused it. Fearing that her lack of experience would be the downfall of the campaign and decided to stick with observe and learn for now. Occasionally hugging Mike when a clever move was made by him.

Steve spent this time wondering why is he enjoying taking care of these 13-year-olds so much. Kids 5 years his junior, barely stepping into teenagehood. After a fair amount of contemplation, he came to the conclusion that his lack of real friends and interactions with others are the culprit behind this. Steve has always been alone through the major part of his life. He rarely ever get the chance to see his mother, something about her only visiting on average once every month and only stay for an hour or so. He didn't even know the name of his father is! Since there is not much interaction between him and his mother and their brief conversations never mention of his father, the question of asking his name never came to his mind. The last time he laid eyes on the other half that gave life to him was 16 years ago, no where near old enough to remember his appearance. The only info that he has about his father is that he is filthy rich, with a net worth in the hundreds of millions which occasionally dumps a fair amount of money on him.

At the tender age of 12, his mother broke news to him that his parents bought a house for him in the small and quite town of Hawkins, Indiana. Initially, his mother stayed with him but a year later, she left to join his father somewhere far away from here. Leaving him to fend for himself and giving him a large amount of cash each month. He doesn't have any close relatives that he knows of either. The only members of his bloodline that he knows of are his parents and deceased grandparents. No aunts, no uncles and no cousins. On the friends side, Tommy was the person that he has to calling a 'friend'. He is well aware of Tommy's motives of befriending him, that is to take advantage of his 'King' status. Throughout high school, Tommy has came to be known as the King's duke, always on the side of the King. However, he's always ready to ditch the current one in favor of the new one. And because of that, Tommy ditched Steve when Billy came around. Leaving him alone once again. There's something special about these kids and their cute little party, besides all the shit that has to do with another dimension filled with monsters and a telekinetic girl. The party is fiercely loyal and caring towards one another, something Steve was seeking desperately. It comes to no surprise that the party took him in with open arms and he is more than glad to serve as the party's lord guardian protector, or more fittingly, their babysitter. Wow, such a downer.

With the campaign now over, most of the party member is exhausted. Dustin and Will resorted to sleeping on the carpeted floor with a makeshift pillow made of their bags and random pieces of cloth lying around the cabin. Lucas and Max isn't far from the slumbering duo. Lucas insisted that the 'random pieces of cloth' are suppose to be floor mats but that didn't bother them as their heavy eyelids were the priority. Max has the D&D manual in her hands, flipping through it and memorizing the rules to get over with the constant reminder that the party gave her during the game about the rules.

As of Mike and Eleven, they finally have some time together. They are sitting on floor of El's room with the backs against her bed. Her head is lying on his shoulder, taking in each other's presence to try to get over with the time they spent apart. Ever since last week when Eleven was reintroduced into Mike's life, a question has been lingering in the back of his mind. The snowball is coming soon.

"So... umm..." Mike says nervously.

"Yes?" Eleven replied, looking up at him.

"Do you remember... about the snowball?" 

"Yes," she replies, looking back down on the floor, "I'm sorry."

"For what?" 

"For missing it... I saw... that night, you cried." 

"No, no, no, It's okay..." Mike hastily replies. His face turned red with embarrassment. He hates seeing El feel guilty. "Do you want to go with me? To the snowball I mean..."

Eleven eyes widened and a cute smile formed on her face, "Yes. I won't miss it this time. Promise."

Mike smiled back, "Promise." However, his smile quickly faded as Hopper came into his mind. "But... Hopper?"

Mike recalled to how protective Hopper is towards Eleven, asking her out into public eyes will certainly be met with a denial or worse, a fair amount of shouting. His proposal now seems less and less likely.

"I'll ask him." she replied. He hears dedication in her voice, which filled his heart with happiness and worries. He is happy because she is clearly willing and wanting to go with him. However, he is also worried because the chance of the request being accepted is significantly lower than it being turned down. And if the latter comes to forwishen, what would happen? He looked at the tarp covered broken windows and thought, now with the windows missing, what will the next psychic tantrum bring? Will the roof fly off? Will the walls bursts open? He hates to be the knife the severs Hopper and Eleven's relationship.

"Don't force him though..." he says with sadness evident in his voice. "Please don't use your powers on him if he says no, please..."

She frowns but hearing the word 'please', she has to comply. "Fine... Promise."

He gave her a gentle smile, "Promise."

In their moment of silence, Eleven suddenly thought of the night at the cafeteria. Mike was explaining what pudding is to her, telling her that Nancy would become her sister but Mike wouldn't be her brother?  He asked her out to the snowball but afterwards he was struggling to find words for what he wanted to say. All of a sudden, Mike pressed his lips against hers and her heart was instantly filled with a strange feeling. It felt funny. It is only later that Eleven finds out about kissing and the meaning behind it on TV. 

Right now she feels that feeling again, seemingly longing for something. Mike turned his head and looked at her. The situation is so similar to that faithful night. Is it going to happen again? A... kiss?  Just as they were closing in, the radio came to life. 

"Hello? Elle are you there?" Hopper's voice came through the radio.

Eleven quickly rushed to the radio and held the speaker. "Yes."

"Is Steve there as well?" Hopper asks.

"Right here chief!" Steve shouts across the room.

"Alright, listen you guys. I'll be coming back late today. There's an emergency and will likely drag out till midnight. Steve, you free right?" Hopper says.

"Always."

"Good, I want you to take the kids back home. Especially you Wheeler! I know you're listening!" Hopper demands.

"Why especially me?!" Mike retaliates.

"I don't like it needs explaining, go home kid." Hopper replies. "Steve, after taking the kids home, can you return to the cabin and have dinner with El?"

"Err... sure..." Steve looks at El and says.

"You two should get to know each other, I'll be needing you a lot in the future Steve. El will show you where the food is."

"You got it chief. When to take the kids home?" Steve asks.

"Right now. I gotta get going, thanks a lot Steven."

"Don't call me Steven!" Steve says, almost shouting. Then the radio cuts out and silence returns to the cabin. He puts down the radio and turned to face the kids.

"Alright, you heard the man. Get packing shitheads!" Steve decrees.

Steve then walks over to the sleeping duo and lightly pat on their backs, "Wake up, wake up, time to go home!"

Dustin and Will grunts as they pull open their eyelids. Steve and Lucas helped them pack their bags and clean up the D&D table by basically dumping everything into Dustin's bag unorganized. Grabbing the manual from Max's hands and stuffing it on top, giving everything a good shove and forcefully zips the bag. 

"Hey! What are you doing?" Dustin almost shouted hysterically.

"Oh I'm sorry, is that not how you usually pack your stuff?" Steve teased.

"You asshole!" Dustin snaps back.

"Oh whatever, c'mon, sweet dreams? Get your asses up, we should get going soon." Steve says. "Oh yeah... umm... El? Do we need to buy any ingredients for the dinner?"

"Ingredients?" the curly haired girl asks.

"Yeah, ingredients is what you cook for the meal." Steve replies and giving the girl a smile.

"Oh... err... dinner is already in the fridge..." Eleven says awkwardly.

"Wait, what?" Steve seemed a bit shocked. Did Hopper freeze cooked food and reheat them? He realizes it is way worse that he thought when Eleven pulled out a set of TV meals from the fridge. Steve's jaw almost dropped and eyeballs on the verge of falling out. "He let you eat that?!"

Eleven nods awkwardly, surprised by Steve's reaction.

"Oh my goooooddd! This is worse than child abuse! How could he let you eat this shit?!"

Eleven silently watches Steve as he freaks out over something that is so normal to her.

"How long have you been eating that?" he asks.

"Always?" she replies.

"Okay that's enough. No, no, no, I'm not gonna let you eat this tonight. I'll bring some ingredients after I take the boys home, alright? Don't eat that!" Steve says.

Eleven nods again, still confused.

Oh their way out, Mike gives Eleven a tight hug. A compromise to what could or should have happened earlier before being rudely interrupted, once again. This is going to happen a lot more in the future... The sight stings Steve a little. Young love. Steve had only just broken up with Nancy a week ago and now bearing the 'King that lost its crown' title, he wondered how long it will be until he finds another. 

"Alright, break it up you two. Let's get going." 

They all headed out and started their trek back to civilized space. Before breaking through the forest line, Steve noticed Billy's car parked on the pavement. Steve is still a little confused about their interaction earlier in the day. Billy seemed off, definitely not his usual self as the word 'sorry' never comes out of that guy's mouth, ever. Him apologizing to Steve?! Steve of all people?! Billy's archnemesis? Did he genuinely felt bad about giving Steve a concussion or was he just mocking him? The latter seems to be the much more likely scenario though. Upon seeing Billy's car, Max quickly broke away from the group and ran towards the car, giving the group a quick wave along the way. Steve is glad that Billy doesn't seem to have another monologue for him as he speeds away as soon as Max is in the car.

After walking all the kids back to the respective houses, Steve headed home to pick up some supplies. During the walk back to the cabin, Steve feels a little anxiety slowly creeping into him. His interaction with Eleven thus far has been very limited and always with the rest of the party present. This will be the first time he is alone with the telekinetic teenage girl that may or may not like him. Maybe she only treated me nicely because the rest of the party is there? What if she doesn't want me to spend time alone with her? Not getting accepted by a 13-year-old is simply unacceptable to him nowadays. Nevertheless, he will try his best to appease and get accepted by the 6th kid of the party.

He walks up the porch and knocks on the door, "Hey Elle, I'm back."

The door swings open on its own which startled him a little. Damn, I really have to get used to this soon. To be fair to him, it was only a week ago that he was introduced to the fact that telekinesis is possible. He puts his bag of supplies on the kitchen table and noticed that the little girl shows great interests in what he's about to do. This gave Steve a decent amount of confidence.

"Does Hopper ever cook?" he asks.

"Sometimes, only breakfast though." she replies.

"Today I'll be making chicken chops. Have you tried chicken chops before?"

There is a couple of seconds of delay before the reply came as if she is figuring out what 'chicken chop' is, "Yes, the packet ones."

"God, Hopper really needs to stop feeding you that." Steve rolls his eyes.

"Why?" she asks curiously.

"Because, those food are not good for your health. C'mere, do you want to learn how to cook?"

Eleven nods excitedly and stands next to Steve, observing his every move.

Steve smirks, "Maybe you can teach Hopper how to cook afterwards." he suggests.

She giggles which made all of his anxiety melt away. He has just received the girl's stamp of approval.

Chapter Text

"-residents who told us they thought they live in a safe town. The kind of town, where they say - nothing ever happens..."

Dr. Sam Owens listens on attentively, seeking the sliver of truth that may or may not have been leaked to the media. With thousands of people involved and numerous costly and complicated cover-ups, it's bound to have information slipped into other people's hands, right?  The more the news lady broadcasts, the faster the beat of his heart. This is the first time any news media has bothered to cover the situation here in the tiny and insignificant town of Hawkins, Indiana. Soon enough, he'll know whether he has done a good job or failed disastrously. 

Owens has insisted on silencing witnesses through negotiations and financial compensations instead of the much more simpler, easier, cheaper and ultimately more superior method - outright killing them. Dead men tell no tales, right?  If he wishes to choose the latter, he wouldn't face any trouble whatsoever. In fact, the government proposed  that idea in the first place, and carrying out genocide is technically part of his legal obligation to cover the government's shady tracks. But no. Owens is different. He is a man with morals, unlike those animals who were in charge a year ago. There is no way he is going to take the extreme route and endure anymore unnecessary suffering, and his relationships with those witnesses further cemented his choice. He will not kill his friends.

Owens lets out a sigh of relieve as the news lady carries on to talk about the state of the cold war. The news is finally over, he did his job well, nothing was leaked... as far as he knows. There will not be any further media attention on this town because literally nobody cares about Hawkins. He hears the pub's door swing open and lifts his head up to see the chief making his way in. In a way, he is happy that the chief decided to show up. I meant c'mon, is the chief going to trust him, an agent of the shady government that intends to do everything in its power to keep the mouth shut? 

Hopper took a quick glance around the pub, eyes locking on Owens and walks towards him. Taking his jacket off halfway and laying it on the inner side of the couch and sits down.

"Chiefo!" Owens greets him with a smile.

"How's the leg?" asks Hopper.

Owens looks down as his leg, although for most of the part, the wound has healed. He still feels slight numbness somewhere in there. It will never recover, he thought to himself. However, he isn't saddened by this in the slightest. Others that were with him had received far worse, most losing their lives. "Better!" he replies.

Raising his eyebrows, "I'm pretty sure my football career's over." The chief lets out a small chuckle and a grin. So far so good. His relation with Hopper has been great since the very beginning but so is the concern. 

"Hey, wanna have some of this? There's no way I'm finishing it." Owens offers, picking up the sandwich he's holding the sliding the plate closer to the chief. 

Hopper slides it back, "No, I'm uh... I'm on a diet." he states. Damn, Hopper thought to himself. That sandwich sure looks scrumptious. If it wasn't for Eleven's slight complain of him being a little bloated, he would have devoured the sandwich in an instant. He leans back and sighs, trying his damn hardest to not look at the sandwich and forget about it.

"Well, you're a better man than me." Owens says, he turns and reaches down for something in his bag. "Hey, I've got a little something for ya." He fishes out a letter, places it on the table and slides it towards Hopper. Do they have to keep sliding? Is handing the letter over in air illegal in that pub?  

Hopper already has an idea about what is it. Surely not right? Couldn't be this soon... He picks up the letter and opens it, reaches inside and pull out the piece of paper. He immediately notices the iconic blue border and the big letters of 'CERTIFICATE OF BIRTH' engraved on the center top of it. He glances down and there it is, written in big blocky capital letters and where the name says 'JANE HOPPER'. Wait, how did he knew?  As far as he's concern, the party and Hopper are the only ones in Hawkins that knows Eleven's real name so far. Then it occurs to him, oh right. Owens is the director of the project, of course he has information on these kinds of things. But, 'HOPPER', ...huh. Looks like he doesn't need to tell him that he intends on keeping her as his daughter.

"Congratulations pops."

"I thought..." he replies. Owens had told him earlier that it would at least take a couple of months to get things done, he wasn't expecting to get it so soon.

"Sometimes I impress even myself." Owens cuts him short. "Still, I'd let things cool off for a while if I were you." Oh shit. Hopper thinks. Nevertheless, he happily places the letter away safely into one of pockets in his jacket.

"How long is a while?" he asks.

Owens tilts his head, he almost seem hesitant to break the news, "Wanna be safe, I'd give it a year."

Hopper's eyes widened in disbelieve, "A year?!" Oh great, the girl is going to throw me through a wall the moment I tell her that the cabin will be her prison for another YEAR. He of course, wants to let out stress and express his disapproval of the idea. The easiest and most common way for Hopper to handle these kinds of situation is to punch someone, but that wouldn't be a good idea, now would it? The Chief of Police, punches an innocent man at a local pub, on the front page of Hawkins post. So, he reaches out for his second best way. He grabs the sandwich from Owen's plate and forcefully tears off a bit. Yes, stress eat. Arguably his favorite method before Eleven's mild 'statement'. 

Owens looks and let out a little chuckle. He knows how the chief and the girl feels about this. But he won't argue, it's better for everyone this way. If rumors emerge surrounding the father and daughter, it will be Owen's problem as well, and he is not up to go through another round of cover up.

"What about one night out?" Hopper asks as Eleven's request earlier surfaced in his head.

"One night?" asks Owens, slightly puzzled.

"Yeah." he says as he continues to chew on the delicious ham, cheese and egg sandwich, "How risky would that be?"

"What's so important about one night?"

Hopper is hesitant to reveal her plans at first. His suspicion around Owens hasn't fully dissipated, he is still a director of the program that once held Eleven as a test subject after all. Revealing her time and location would just be begging for attention. He lets it out anyway, remembering Owen's VETO against killing Will a little over a week earlier. 

"A boy asked her out to a stupid school dance."

"Ah, already discovered boys, I see." Owens teased with a grin on his face.

"Yeah, the same one that kept her from your guys when she first escaped from the lab."

Owens thinks for a moment, "Hmm, one night. I suspect it wouldn't be too much of a risk if you're nearby."

Hopper lets out a sigh of relief. Thank goodness. Now he has something to cover up the bitterness that comes with the news that she will be kept on house arrest for another year. Maybe she won't throw me through a wall after all?  There is a long pause after that as they finish their respective sandwiches. They sat like that for another minute or so, unsure of what to talk about next.

"Uhh... chief." Owens breaks the silence, "I have some... things to tell you, concerning Eleven."

Hopper's soul returns to his body and instantly he is all ears. He stares at Owens, anxious about whats to come next. "What is it?"

"We better keep our voices low." Owens expresses, "What I'm about to tell you is confidential information."

Hopper sighs and glances around the pub. Half of the people is drunk, a quarter asleep and the last quarter too busy chatting or playing pool. "Nobody here will be interested in your story doctor, except me. "

"Very well then." he responds, "When sorting out the details of Eleven, some rather unnerving information about Dr. Brenner and the program in general was uncovered."

Hopper's eyes widened upon hearing the name. There is another pause and clearly Owens is once again hesitant on giving the information. "Where's the girl anyway? Like right now?" Owens asks.

"Somewhere safe." Hopper replies and grunts. 

"Anywhere that's not here is good enough." he says, "There is a 99% chance that Dr. Brenner is still alive."

Hopper's jaw almost drops open, he is shocked. Shocked! How is he still alive?! According to the kids, the psychotic doctor was mauled by the demogorgon at the school last year. Immediately after, all of his worries came flooding back. He thought they are finally in the clear after the government moved out of the lab. Will that animal come back to get her? He wants to rush home immediately and digs a bunker under his cabin to hide his new found daughter. He is snapped out of his mind by Owen's words.

"Don't worry though. So far there have only been sightings of him in Wisconsin. If it really is him, he so far has yet to come back to the program or officially undeclare his apparent death."

Hopper has a billion questions, "...How?...Why though?"

"Well, the project you see, the government only holds half of the share. The other half is handled by a secret private corporation. My team and I are exclusively government and we were tasked to clean up after the program has ended. There is a chance that Brenner, being the founder and director of the corporation, decided to go on a secret private venture to continue the program." Owens pause for a while for Hopper to absorb the information.

"Eleven, being a number, means that there were 10 other subjects. All of them have different... abilities. Although they have different abilities, from number one, all of them are slightly more powerful, or effective you can say than the previous number to be used against the commies. Of course, Eleven being the last, is the most powerful subject so far. There is a possibility that Brenner will continue to develop the program and eventually reveal himself to sell the end product back to the government. Them creating subject Twelve is highly unlikely though since each subject is an enormous time and monetary investment. In addition, Eleven has already achieved everything they were aiming for. She can spy and she can fight. So with that being said, there is a chance that Brenner would try to take Eleven ba-"

"Stop." Hopper stops him. He feels dizzy with the information overload.

Owens sighs, "Just a heads up chief, like I've promised."

"Yeah... okay..." Hopper grunts, "What happened to the others?"

"Others?"

"The ten other numbers?" he says, "What happened to them?"

"I'm afraid I'm not allowed to disclose that information to you chief. In fact, all that I've just told you weren't meant to be told." Owens replies.

"Whether you choose to reveal this information to her is up to you chief. All I can say is... good luck... and be careful." Owens gives him and smile.

Hopper looks back down at the table. "Yeah... uh... I think I gotta go. Thanks for the certificate."

"Anytime. See ya later chief."

Hopper walks out of the pub and shakes his head. He wants to put everything that he had just been told behind for now. It was only a week ago when chaos broke loose and he wanted no more than to break free from paranoia for the time being. In addition, now without the support of the government, surely it'll be harder for Brenner to conduct his shady operations. He has time. Time to calm down for now. Right now, he only has to focus on the letter in his pocket.

He is going to be father.

 

Chapter Text

It has been well over 5 years since he was last called 'dad'. Jim is well aware of his heart's stance, he is more than happy to be a father once again. But does Eleven feel the same? Is she willing to become Jim's daughter? This question has been brewing in Jim's mind ever since he brought her home from the frigid woods. Also, how are his mother and aunt going to respond to this? Legally Eleven is now Jim's daughter, but parenthood isn't really about legality. It's more about mutual recognition that truly creates a happy family. Would she prefer to stay with her mother and aunt instead of him?

There's another more sinister question in mind- Who was Eleven's biological father? Neither Jim nor Eleven has ever brought up this question before. Maybe she doesn't even know that you need a father as well to be conceived. The only other father figure in her life other than Jim was Dr. Brenner. He is commonly refered to as 'Papa' by Eleven but it is most likely that it's just a call sign. Dr. Brenner never ever once showed parental love towards her. But what if 'Papa' is something more than just a call sign... What if Eleven is Brenner's direct bloodline descendant? Surely not right? No human would ever torture his own daughter... But come to think of it, Brenner is the furthest thing from a human in this world. Hopper doesn't want to think about this for any longer than necessary. For the most part Eleven's past is a huge pot of hodge podge that is better left undisturbed.

He refocuses on the road ahead of him, it's almost 9 P.M., 2 hours later than he had promised. But by this point Eleven had already made a habit of taking whatever time he has promised and adding an hour or two to get an accurate time of his return. As his car inches forward, his anxiety increases by the mile. He isn't exactly sure how to confront her and how would she react. Will she get mad? Her birth certificate is certainly a thumbs up for her but her adoption? Well, no one knows. Their relationship for the past week has certainly sky rocketed ever since their heart-to-heart talk while on the way to close the gate but has it reached father and daughter level yet?

He pulled up from the main road onto a muddy one and drove for another minute before killing the engine. Remembering to grab the letter resting on the passenger seat. It's now too dark to see the ground ahead of him but thanks to months of experience, the layout of the trees has been engraved in the back of his head to allow him to traverse the rugged forest terrain without a flashlight. Damn, I really need to get a proper road up to the cabin, he throught to himself. Well, a project for another time then. 

Warm orange glow seen through the tarpped windows with random flashes of other colors slightly contaminating the orange. He walks up to the porch and delivers his secret knock.

Knock-knock... knock... knock-

The door swings open by itself.

"Elle, I haven't finished the secret knock yet!" Hopper scolds.

"Doesn't matter, I know it's you." she replies while giving him a smile.

"Don't ever do that again, okay?"

She shrugs and refocuses on the TV once again. Hopper walks around the cabin and gives every corner a glance as if he's looking for someone. Eleven notices this and stares at him as he does his weird look-around.

"Are you okay?" she asks.

"That Wheeler kid better not be here." he whispers just loud enough for her to hear. Good, I don't have to murder a kid today. He stood behind the couch awkwardly afterwards with the letter in his hand, he still hasn't got the slightest idea of how to deliver the news. Screw it. He decided to just go for it.

"Hey uhh... this is for you." his hand reaches out and using the letter to pad on the kid's beautiful curly hair. She turns around and takes the letter, her face as confused as his earlier.

"What is this?"

"Just open it." Oh shit... this is it. It's either sunshine and rainbows or all hell breaks lose. She opens the letter and pulls out the birth certificate. She stares down on the piece of paper and reads through the lines over and over again. Her vocabulary is still very limited but she seems to understand at least this part.

"Is this?..."

"Yep." he replies with a smile on his face, "You now have a proper identity, you can live like a normal person now."

Normal... the word alone is not normal to her. She has never experienced normal. The concept itself has been out of her reach, beyond comprehension thus far, all of which is going to change with this piece of paper. She can't wait to experience normal.

Tears formed in her eyes and she launches herself into Hopper's embrace while still holding the paper. "Thank you." she manages to say before letting out a sob. He wraps his arms around her tightly as well. "You're welcome kid. Careful not to fold the paper." They stayed in that position for a minute or two before breaking apart and settling on the couch. 

"You know what this means as well right?" he asks.

"Hmm?" she hums, her head still burried in Hopper's arms.

"It also means..." oh shit, this is the moment. "...legally now you're my daughter."

She stares up at him with her large brown and teary eyes, "Your daughter?" She doesn't seem upset or angry in the slightest but...worried. "Do you want me?"

The question startled Hopper a little. He wasn't expecting both of them to be asking the exact same question. Little did he know, for the entire time Eleven was worried that Hopper might not want her because she would be viewed as a 'replacement' to his deceased daughter. Just like how Mike refused to let Max join the party because he views her as a replacement for Eleven.

"Of course I want you. Always." Eleven broke out a teary smile and they both embraced each other once again. She is beyound greatful for this, she finally gets to experience family love. How could Hopper turn down a second chance at caring for a child? In his eyes, Eleven is not inferior to Sara in any way shape or form. He will give her the love that he would've given Sara.


They are both sitting on the couch with a large bowl of chips between them as soap operas balre on the screen. It was now that Hopper remembered the information that has yet to get out of his mouth earlier. After much debate in his head, he decided not to ruin this moment with a bunch of sad news and instead being bias towards the positives. 

"Owens also says you can go to the snowball." he mentions. Eleven look towards him and her face lights up with joy. He couldn't help but grin at the sight of such happiness on her face. 

"I promised him." she says.

"Of course you did," Hopper smirks at her, "What would you do if I say you couldn't?" he teased. Eleven raises and drops both of her shoulders, trying to shrug off his question. It's not that she doesn't know how to answer, it's because she doesn't want to disappoint Hopper by telling him that she would probably smash a couple of coffee mugs. Hopper is amused.

"Also, fun fact. Owens says you're the most powerful...person with powers" he struggled a bit trying to find a suitable substitude for the word 'subject' or 'number'. Upon hearing this, Eleven lifts a couple pieces of chips into her mouth with her mind.

He rolls his eyes, "...doesn't mean you should play with it El."

Eleven giggles. There is another long pause before she asks, "Can I practice though?"

"Practice what?"

"My... powers."

"Why?" he asks. Hopper has never really been the fan of her being overly relaint on her powers. He insisted on her utilising her arms to carry out domestic chores. He even teased that her brain might get more muscles than her arms.

"Just in case." Her answer snaps Hopper back to reality again. Poor girl. Only at the age of 13 and she already has so many things to defend herself from,- the upside down, the bad men. He was hesitant to give the go ahead at first. But then again, guns and bullets really isn't going to do anything when a giant shadow monster or a swarm of armed men charges for her.

"Umm... okay sure. Just make sure you don't break anything." he replies. "I still need to ask Owens where to buy those poly-thingies to replace the windows so you can't break them again."

"I'll try my best not to." she teased which made Hopper roll his eyes.

"God, please. I'm not made of money kid." he says. He then took notice of the oversized clothes covering her body. It has almost been a year and he still haven't got her proper clothes. It was a huge oversight on his part.

"Hey umm, maybe Joyce and Nancy can sneak you out to Chicago to buy some clothes and maybe a dress for the snowball as well. Chicago, big city, you'll love it." he suggests.

"No, too many people. It's scary." she replies, unaware that her mouth had just slipped some vital information.

"Wait, what? How do you know?" Hopper looks at her in confusion. Oops.

"Erm, nothing?" she tries to recover from her accidental spillage.

"C'mon kid, don't lie to me."

She closed her eyes and clenched up her face tightly, "I... I went there, after visiting mama." she replies embarassingly. That is why she tries to talk as little as possible because when she talks, everything pours out without passing through a filter.

"Your aunt Becky drove you there?" his eyes widened with shock.

"By bus."

"You went there by bus?! On your own?!" she nods. His voice couldn't hide his shock any further. "Why?"

"My sister. Eight." Hopper's Jaw dropped. Okay, that's one of the lab's subjects fate known. Yeah... good to know...

"Okay then... is that where they gave you all that punk makeover?" she nods again. Hopper covers his face with his hands, trying to comprehend what is coming out of this girl's mouth. "How is she?" he lets his caring side take over again. In his head, any child who has suffered in the lab is a victim worth caring for, no matter who they are.

"She's alright. She has friends."

"What does she do?" the answer for this question is what he is concerned about. A group of people giving young girls punk makeovers is usually up to no good. He further worries that they had bad influence over Eleven.

"She kills the bad men." Eleven tries to avoid his eyes as much as possible, fearing for what's to come next. Yeah, this is way worse than expected.

"Did you kill anyone?" he asks curiously and worryingly. He prepared himself for the worst. Ending people's lives is as easy as lifting a finger for this girl and it wouldn't really surprise him if she took part in it as well.

"I... I couldn't," her voice is jumpy,"he has children."

Hopper lets out a sigh of relief, "Thank goodness. Someday you're gonna give me a heart attack kid."

Then the room fell into silence once again. Eleven debates about telling him that Brenner is alive, fearing that he might not believe her or freaks out and launch into full panic mode and lock her up. In the end she decided not to. Little did they know, they both know Brenner is alive, holding back the information from the other.

"Alright, that's enough craziness for one night. Time for bed."


Hopper tucks her into bed, giving her a kiss on the forehead. Just before she closes her eyes, Hopper opens one of her hands and places his clenched up fists in hers. He relaxes the fist and let the hair band fall into her hand.

"This was Sara's hair band. I've been holding onto this for quite a while now. I think you should have it."

Eleven's heart filled with emotions and she places the band around her wrist, unaware that her eyes were tearing up. "Thank you."

Hopper returns a smile. The blue hair band symbolises a lot in the Hopper family. It's a token to his family. Him giving her the band means that she is now accepted as his own daughter. Eleven never knew that she was an emotional person before this. In her heart, she made an oath to never take off this band, no matter what.

"Good night Elle." Hopper says as he closes the door.

"Good night. Dad." she replies, eyes still watery.

Dad. Oh my goodness. He smiles and closes the door. That's one hell of a way to end of a day.

Chapter Text

Hopper was the first to suggest that Nancy and Joyce sneak Eleven out of town to buy some proper clothing. She would eventually be introduced to society and it would be great for her to get some practice out of town, out of prying eyes, and out of trouble, or so he thought. Unfortunately he was forced to revoke the offer after learning about Eleven's grand adventure to Chicago. Before breaking the news to her, his anxiety came back once again. I really need to get over this, he thought to himself. No parent should ever be afraid of informing their child of something that might be met with disapproval. Although a part of him tells him that she would probably never do anything to him. In fact, she has never used her powers to hurt him. Still, this fear has yet to diminish. Soon, soon it will. 

He locks down and secures his decision firmly before dozing off. Throughout the thinking process, his body has been sweating uncontrollably and the temperature under his blankets increased to the equivalent of direct sunlight at noon in the middle of summer. Thanks to the absence of glass panes on the windows, all he had to do was pull open his blanket to relief the heat and freeze his balls. It is already 1 A.M. now anyway, and he really needs to get some sleep to catch up on his job after the couple of days of lift that he took during the events of last week. Although the government offered to pay for the cleanup and compensation to the farmers, it was Hopper's job to distribute them. As a result, he has a pile of paperwork the height of Mount Everest on his desk.


"Morning kid." Hopper greets while inserting a couple pieces of Eggos into the toaster. He decided to make her the Triple Decker Eggo Extravaganza for breakfast, hoping to relief some of the heat that might be shot at his face.

"Morning dad." Eleven replies, rubbing her eyes, still half asleep.

"Breakfast will be ready in just a sec. I have something to talk to you about later."

She walked into the bathroom lazily, splashing a handful of water on the verge of freezing to regain her full consciousness. After brushing her teeth, she moisturize her hands and tries to get rid of her bed hair. After her hair has decided to cooperate and settle down, she stares into the mirror at herself and smiles. She is proud of her hair. Brown strands suspended in a beam of sunlight, highlighting the interlocking bundle of halos. When she first got them, she was insecure about it. She didn't know if she liked them or not but more importantly, she didn't know if Mike would like them. But all that has since melted away after their reunion because Mike said it's pretty. Just a simple comment from a special person gave her the confidence that she never thought she could have. This is the first time her hair reached this long in her entire life and her heart is set on keeping it. Even though no one will be coming over today, she is making a habit of keeping up her image whether people, mainly Mike, will see it or not. After a bit of adjusting, she is satisfied with the results and stepped out of the bathroom whilst being pulled towards the dining table by the smell of freshly toasted Eggos.

"Hey uh... El. I know I said that Nancy and Joyce could sneak you out to go shopping last night. After thinking it about it for a while, I uh... decided to go against it." he tries to keep as firm as possible but failed spectacularly as nervousness slipped through his voice.

Eleven replied simply by looking up, nodded and smiled at him. Hopper was not expecting that reaction at all. Secretly, Eleven wasn't very keen on leaving the relative safety of Hawkins this soon as the last time she tried, it scarred her a bit. She has yet to hear from Kali ever since her abrupt departure during the evacuation of the factory building. At first she feared that Kali might locate her and hunt her down for leaving the group, possibly exposing their identities to the police. But then according to Kali, she has created a virtual perimeter around Hawkins that she will never step it under any circumstances. So as long as she is in Hawkins, she is safe from her. However also in a way, she felt bad for Kali. Eleven had showed up to them serving as a beacon of hope, capable of offering her information that heals her wounds, only to take it away a couple of days later.

She chowed down on the Triple Decker Eggo Extravaganza and Hopper let out a sigh of relief. "Alright kid, I gotta go to work. No sneaking out okay?" he says while grinning. Eleven just rolled her eyes. It wasn't in her best interest to leave the cabin now anyway as government activity in the town was peaking as the scumbags pack up the lab and ready to shut it for good.


It has been two weeks since he last saw Eleven. As the cabin lacked a phone or anything for communications other than a radio, two weeks ago was also the last time he heard from her. After their last visit, Hopper had insisted the party not to come over for a while and has yet to lift the restrictions and the reason being unknown to the party. Mike feared that he might be the cause of it all. The ban was put in right after his proposal for Eleven to go to the snowball with him so there is a high possibility that a quarrel had broken about something related to that. Yeah, it's my fault. In reality, Hopper was just trying to give the cabin a low profile as everyone from the lab lingers around town. It is now the day of the Snowball and Mike has yet to know whether Eleven would be allowed to attend.

The camera shutter clicks and the photo proceeds to get printed and falls onto the floor, "Oh wait." Karen says, bowing down to pick it up.

"Alright, that's enough." Mike says grudgingly. Why is her mom always acting like the snowball night is the best night of his life? Last year's snowball, Mike was crying his guts out in the basement. The years before that he was always partnerless and had to sit on the side awkwardly throughout the entire event, occasionally even getting teased by his peers. One year, Troy even made sure that it would be the worst night of his life by humiliating him in front of everyone. Of course, the 'worst night' title was quickly given to the night of Eleven's disappearance. Snowball night has never been the night of happiness for him, in fact, quite the opposite.

"One more okay? Just one more." Karen pleaded and puts the camera up to her eyes again.

"Why?" Mike was getting impatient and irritated. First of all, he was running late. Second and more importantly, a part of him tells him that tonight will not be any different from previous snowball nights and he is probably going to be met with a lot of problems soon after.

"You look so handsome." Yeah, handsome. It's a pity that nobody would care and Eleven wouldn't see it.

"Mom!" Despite it all, he still has to make an appearance. There is still a slight chance that she might show up and that sliver of hope is enough to give him the motivation to deal with any troubles that might be associated with loneliness at the snowball. Lateness is probably going to throw a wrench into whatever the outcome will be.

"Mike." The camera clicks and another photo is taken. This time of an impatient Mike.


"Wow, looking good today Mr. Wheeler."

Mike just beamed a smile at Mr. Clarke's compliment. "You say that every year, sir."

"If it isn't true then I wouldn't say it." he says while grinning. "You have a partner today?"

Mike froze on the spot and his face went red, he isn't sure of the answer. He has hope, but no confirmation nor answer to the question. "Uh yeah... no... I mean... I don't know..." he replies, stuttering.

Mr. Clarke notices him in utter panic attack mode and quickly reassures him, "You'll get one, don't worry." he says, still smiling.

You'll get one. Yeah... that isn't helping. He doesn't want anyone else, he wants her. Mike just smiled and entered the gym hall. The sight of hundreds of people overwhelmed him but he proceeds to search for her anyway. He walked over to the side and scans through the crowd attentively but to no avail. Instead, he spots Lucas, Will and Max together and walks over to them. 

"Hey guys." he greets.

"Hey Mike." the trio greets back.

Mike hesitated at first, but the thought of dancing with her made him gather his bravery and asked, "Uhh... have you seen El?"

Lucas' eyes widened with shock and asked him, "You asked her out?!" 

"No, we've not seen her." Max states. Will just stared blankly at Mike.

"Yeah... well..." he replies.

"Hah! Good luck with that. I'm sure the chief approves." Lucas teased. 

Mike rolled his eyes and came to the realization that she really might not be able to come tonight. However, Dustin has yet to arrive so there's still time... and hope. The group then grabbed some snacks and 'fuel' and settled down around a table. It's probably for the best for the nerds to keep a low profile for now to avoid unwanted attention.

After a couple of minutes, Mike decided to take a glance back at the crowd again hoping to see her. Instead, he spots Dustin walking towards them, sticking his tongue out and giving a twirl with an abomination on his head.

"Holy shit. What happened to you?" Mike asks and the party stands up to greet the arriving member of the party. Dustin looks at them confused while the others let out a chuckle.

"What do you mean 'What happened'?" Dustin asks.

"What?!"

"Dude!"

"Your hair!" The quadro slowly approaches him.

Lucas reached out his hand to touch Dustin's hair, "Is there a bird nesting in there?"

Dustin pulls Lucas' hand away while turning to look at Mike, "What do you mean 'What's wrong'?" and his head turns back to Lucas, "There's no bird nesting in here, asshole." The party all chuckled in unison. Dustin reaches his hand to the his hair, attempting to correct whatever mess Lucas has made, "Okay? I worked hard."

Just then, slow romantic music begins playing. Everyone immediately felt pressure as the others around the room begins to partner up and slow dance. Lucas gathers his courage and exhales, "Max." She turns around to look at him. "Hey, um, it's nice right? Wanna umm... You want to, like you know? Like just you and me?" 

"Are you trying to ask me to dance, stalker?" Max replies.

Lucas immediately felt the tension and begins to pull back on his request, "No, of course not." he says awkwardly. Oh wait, no, shit! "Unless, you want to." he quickly corrects his statement while Max lets out a chuckle.

Max shakes her head while grinning, "So smooth, c'mon." she then turns around, pulling Lucas' hand towards the dance floor.

The rest of the party watches on. Right, that's two members down, Mike keeps count in his head. If Eleven isn't going to show up, he at least hopes that there will still be a party member around to keep him company. For now, Will is the most likely one to sta-

"Hey zombie boy!" a girl approaches Will and asked, "Do you want to dance?"

So much for that... Will has gotten himself a partner. "Umm I don't..." Will was stammering and his panic is clear to all. Mike then turns to look at him, giving an encouraging look and signals for him to accept it. He claps his hand hoping to snap Will back to Earth. "I mean... I mean, yeah, yeah sure."

The girl's face lights up and pulls Will away with her. That's three down... At this time, Mike is on the verge of panicking. He then takes yet another look around the hall, hoping to spot the beautiful and familiar face but... nothing. So, now there's only Dustin left. Maybe... just maybe he will stay with him. However, given the fact that he went through the trouble of making his hair the height of the Empire State Building, it is not likely that he will just sit around and do nothing. He is proven right a second later.

Dustin pulls his suit to tidy it up and exhales, "Wish me luck Mike." he turns to look at him, "I'm going in." he winks at him upon departure which puts a frown on his face. Well... shit. Looks like he's in for a tough night tonight.

Mike sat back down on the chair and stared blankly in a random direction. He then proceeds to go through a couple thoughts. Eleven would never break a promise, if she didn't show up, it is for sure Hopper's decision. His heart wasn't filled with anger, just sadness. He wanted to see her so much, wondering how beautiful she would've looked.The further he thinks about the missed opportunity, the greater the sadness grows. He could feel his eyes threatening to water up. But then, the music starts playing.

 

   Every breath you take,

 

The song had just came out recently and he found himself quite fond of it, but right now, he finds himself hard to enjoy it without her. Just then, he heard the gym hall door swing open. Although he doubts it, he decided to take a look at its general direction anyway, and there she is, stepping into the hall.

 

   And every move you make,

 

His heart went a million miles per hour and he stood up. OMG she's here! She came! 

 

   Every bond you break,

 

Mike takes a closer look at her and he was absolutely stunned. He had never seen a girl more beautiful than the one standing by the door.

 

   Every step you take,

 

Eleven stepped out of the door frame and looked around the dance hall as if she's searching for someone. It was hard to deny that she was a little nervous because this was the first time she had been in a room with so many people at once.

 

   I'll be watching you,

 

And then, their eyes met and Eleven lets out a smile and a sigh of relief. Mike is there, waiting for her.

 

   Every single day,

 

They approach each other. Mike was still absolute dumbfounded by her looks. Mike knew with confidence that one day, when she can finally attend school, she will win over the title of the most attractive girl in school from the bitch Stacey.

 

   And every word you say,

 

Mike was ecstatic. She had come for him and he finds himself struggling to find words. "You look beautiful." letting out a huge smile mid sentence.

 

   Every game you play,

 

Eleven looks down and smiles shyly, she wasn't used to getting compliments and her nervousness isn't exactly helping either. She wanted to tell him that he looks stunning as well but also struggled to get it out of her mouth. He called her beautiful which sends butterflies fluttering throughout her entire body.

 

   Every night you stay, I'll be watching you.

 

Mike looks over to the dance floor. C'mon, pull yourself together, don't mess it up. "Do you wanna dance?"

 

   Oh can't you see,

 

She looks over to the people dancing and their complex posture, "I... don't know how." she replies. "I don't either," Mike reassures her.

 

   You belong to me,

 

"Do you want to figure it out?" Eleven nods.

 

   My poor heart aches with every step you take.

 

Mike takes her hands and gently pulls her towards the dance floor. He takes both of her hands and rests it on his shoulder, mimicking the others, "Like this."

 

   Every move you make,

 

"Yeah, like that." They begin to feel comfortable with hands on each other. Both still trying to get over how happy they are and their bodies began swaying to the rhythm of the music.

 

   And every vow you break,

   Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I'll be watching you.

 

Finally for the first time, Mike is happy on snowball night. More than happy, through the roof would not be an exaggeration whatsoever. There's nowhere else Mike would rather be at the moment. He is dancing with the person of his dreams, and same goes for Eleven. They didn't want the night to end.

 

   Since you've gone I've been lost without a trace,
   I dream at night I can only see your face,
   I look around but it's you I can't replace,
   I feel so cold and I long for your embrace,
   I keep crying,"Baby, baby, please."

 

They stared into each other's eyes and emotions washed over them. Eleven has that feeling again as Mike slowly leans in and she is more than happy to let it happen. As their lips touched, warmth filled their bodies and both were slightly amazed by the feeling. The world stood still. It was still a little overwhelming for her, she gasps and catches her breath but it doesn't matter. The kiss was over too soon. They smiled and she rests her forehead gently against his. Everything was perfect.

Oh the irony of this song. The last stanza practically summarized the entire 353 days they spent apart.

Chapter Text

It was an unusually quite morning at the cabin. Normally at this time the TV would be blaring cartoons, soap operas or some god awful TV shows that Hopper showed no interests in. He had brought back a huge stack of case papers back from the station last night to finish them at the comfort of the cabin. He has now gone over roughly half of it and could no longer stand the silence. He looked up from the papers at the plate of quickly cooling Eggos and an empty seat behind it. He then glances down at his watch. It is now well over 9 in the morning, much later than her usual waking time of 6:30. 

Alright, that's enough. He stood up and walked over to the door of her bedroom with just two steps. Hopper slightly knocks on the door- no reply. He then grabs the handle and slowly turns it and pushed open the door just wide enough to fit his head in. Eleven was lying on her bed in the prone position with her head slightly tilted to the side with a couple of strands of hair in her mouth. She was still in her Snowball dress and slept on top of the blanket. In fact, last night she just tipped over upon entering her room and collapsed onto her bed. He slowly navigated his large body around objects in her small room and sat on her bed and gently shook her shoulder. 

"Morning Elle, rise and shine!" Hopper says in a loving voice. As soon as her brain wakes up, she quickly corrected her very uncomfortable sleeping position but still kept her eyes shut. She lets out a grunt and pulled the blanket over her face. 

A grin appeared on Hopper's face, he has just right tactic to get her to wake up. "Mike's coming over later." Her eyes immediately shot open, she pulled down the blanket and stared at him. "Really?"

"Yep. And you don't want him to see you in this hair, do you?" Her face lights up and bolted straight to the bathroom. Hah! Success!  Hopper followed her out of the room and sat back down at the table. He then pulled the next case paper onto the table and begins to read through it. Oh... haha. 

He waits for her to come out of the bathroom and make her way to the table. "What are those?" she asks curiously while digging into her breakfast.

"Oh, these are just old small case papers from last year that needed final resolving." he replies and grin at her. She noticed his grin and looked up at him and tilt her head a little. "And this one," he says while pointing at the paper in his hand, "is very interesting." She frowns a little, wondering what he meant.

"12th of November, 1983, Saturday. An unknown girl with a shaved head and dirty clothes entered Bradley's Big Buy supermarket. She stared blankly at the store manager, Robert Smith, for around 30 seconds before walking out of the store with 5 boxes of Eggo waffles in hand without paying. Along the way, she moved a couple of trolley carts in front of the manager as he chases down the suspect. When she left the store, she smashed both of the glass doors of the main entrance at the manager's face. Luckily, no injuries were reported." he reads out while occasionally glancing back up at her. Eleven's face was reddening with embarrassment. 

"According to witnesses, the suspect posses psychic abilities such as telekinesis which allows her to move the shopping carts and smash the door without ever laying hands on it. Also according to the investigative journalist Murray Bauman, the girl is believed to be a secret Russian spy."

"Hmm, I wonder who that was..." he asks sarcastically while having the largest smirk on his face. 

Eleven's face was cherry red and she looked down in embarrassment."I'll pay him back..." she manages to get it out of her mouth.

"Alright then, consider this case solved." Hopper says while still maintaining his smirk. She knows that he was just messing with her but that did nothing to quell her guilt. Also...

"Russian?" she asks.

"Yeah, Murray kept on insisting that you're a Russian spy or a secret Russian super weapon or something." he replied. "Alright, eat up! Mike and Steve will be here in half an hour."

She raised her eyebrows and looked at him upon hearing Steve's name, "Steve will come as well?" He was half expecting her to be saddened by this but to his surprise, she was actually smiling while asking the question.


"Yeah, no way am I leaving you and Mike alone." he says with a firm voice. It isn't true that she didn't feel a little bit upset but the benefits overwhelmingly outweighs the cost. After trying out the chicken chop that Steve made a couple of weeks ago, the TV meals tasted dull and bland and she would beg to have another decent meal again. And this time, together with Mike? Hell yeah! Of course, this doesn't mean she won't try to steal some private time with him.

"Your lessons should be starting today I believe, to get you prepared for school."

"School?" the girl asked excitedly.

"Yeah, you should be school ready in a year." Hopper finishes putting on the rest of his uniform.

She suddenly lunged herself forward into a hug, "Thank you!"

"It's okay kid, make sure you listen to them okay? They'll try their best to teach you. At least, that's what I hope!" Hopper rubbed her curly hair.


"What the hell do you have in this bag? Bricks?" Steve asks while struggling to keep the bag on his shoulder.

"Books, lots and lots of them." Mike replies.

"Why the hell are they so heavy?" Steve wasn't used to carrying a bag full of books and was surprised when told that there were only stacks upon stacks of paper that resides in this mobile aquarium.

"Fun fact, the density of paper is 1.2 times greater than that of water." Mike said with a smug face.

Steve rolled his eyes, "Alright I don't need to hear all that nerdy stuff. Why are you bringing so many books anyway?"

"Nothing. Just part of the deal." Mike answers in a monotone voice as they continue to trek through the woods.

"Deal? What deal?"

Mike sighs, "Hop says if I want to see El, I have to teach her as well."

Steve turns to look at him with raised eyebrows, "So you don't want to teach her?"

"What? No! No, no... I mean yes. Yes I'm more than honored to teach her." Mike entered his classic panic stuttering word vomit mode again, exactly what Steve was trying to achieve. Steve returned a smug face while Mike just glared at him, clearly knowing his intentions.

Steve just laughs, "Why are you upset then?"

"Who says I'm upset?" Mike says as he threw both of his arms into the air.

"Well, your face and tone gave it away."

"Well, you have to come along!" Mike says with an almost angry tone.

"Woah ho! Chill out there lover boy. This is exactly the reason the chief hired me to come with you." Steve has done it again, getting others to expose themselves has been Steve's true joy ever since his mother left him. "You want some romantic time with her, don't ya?" Steve teased.

"What? NO!" Mike was getting annoyed then began to speak sarcastically, "Maybe it is just that I don't want an adult to be stalking me every time I'm with her."

"I'm sure if you keep your hands to yourself the chief would leave you alone."

"Yeah, you think."


"El!" Mike greeted as the door opened and was quickly pulled into a hug. Steve looks on and scoffs, he's third wheeling again. They were quickly escorted into the house and the door slams shut by itself behind Steve. Does the party have a secret rule that states that they must slam a door at least once a day or something? Or was it just a Mileven thing?  Definitely more observation is needed, Steve thought to himself.

After the door is locked, Eleven hastily pulls Mike into her bedroom. Mike almost lost his balance to the jolt of the sudden acceleration. The roller table which the TV sits on suddenly comes to life and begins to creepily roll into the bedroom on its own, dragging the cable along the floor. Steve watches the TV cart slowly makes its way into the room with amusement. "See you later Steve." was all he heard before the bedroom door slams shuts and the lock clicks.

Steve's soul suddenly returned to Earth and he quickly walked up to the door and start banging on it, "Hey, open up you shitheads!"

A few seconds later, a muffled voice came through, "We promise we won't do anything!" Steve quickly make out the voice to be Mike's.

"Seriously, open up! Don't make me pick the lock!" Steve scolds through the door.

"It's okay Steve." Eleven speaks.

"No it's not. I promised Hop to look after you two and that's exactly what I'm going to do." He declares firmly.

Another couple of seconds go by then Steve knocks once more, "Guys..."

"Maybe if we whisper quietly enough, he wouldn't hear us."  Mike whispers.

"I can still hear you guys! Open up!" Steve was still standing by the door, now with his ears pushed up against it.

"This isn't going to work."  Eleven responds.

"Of course it's not! Just open the door!" Steve demands. "Last warning or I'm calling Hop!"

They both groaned.

Commence Operation Distract Steve!

Eleven closes her eyes and focuses. All of a sudden, all the burners of the stove behind Steve ignites to full power and starts torching the empty pans on top. The door of the fridge then flew open and the sole piece of raw beef that Steve had brought floats out and rests right above the pan in midair. The beef falls, seeming aiming for the pan but misses at the last second and landed on the adjacent panless burner, scorching away at the intense heat. 

"Oh shit! Elle stop! This is not funny!" Steve was panicking hysterically. However, Eleven's master plan was not finished yet. Next, a tiny glass bottle makes its way into the air. It tilted upside down before the cap drops open and unleashed the quarter ounce of olive oil, pouring down onto the quickly blackening slice of beef which swiftly caught on fire.

Steve almost peed his pants. He quickly grabbed the nearby pan cover to snuffle the fire after turning off the stove. Everything was over, thankfully. No way Steve is going to be held responsible for burning down the cabin.

"El you better have an explanation for this!" Steve yelled before banging on the door once again.

"Sorry, I was just trying to cook a meal for us." Eleven answers. She has the most apologetic voice but the largest grin on her face. This caught Mike by surprise, he had no idea what the hell was happening. All he heard were the sounds of pans clashing and Steve screaming.

"What the hell El?! You almost burned down the cabin! And our lunch is ruined!" Steve was still trying to recover from the post traumatic stress disorder caused a minute ago.

Mike realized what was going on and decided to join in the fun, "So sorry, can you cook us lunch now? We are getting hungry. We promise we won't touch it this time." 

Unbelievable!  "No way! It's microwaved TV meals today! No more fancy lunch for you two!" 

After a couple of seconds, the door clicks and swings open. The duo is met with a grumpy Steve, arms crossed, blocking the exit of the door.

"Pleeeaaasseee?" Eleven begged while staring up at him with her large brown puppy eyes. She had just used her most powerful weapon, no, not telekinesis, but her puppy eyes. The anger in Steve's heart quickly dissipates. Steve couldn't bother any further, he just wants to get out and take in some fresh air. However it still took a bit more convincing for him to move.

He grunts, "Ugh! Fine! I'll be right back." Steve then looks back at the dirty and messed up stove, "You two clean it up! I want it shining by the time I get back or I'll never agree to take you here ever again Wheeler!" He shifts his attention to Eleven, "I'm not with you yet young lady, I'm so telling Hop!" She just shrugs.

He then points at both of them with two of his fingers while glaring at them straight in the eye, "Don't. Do. ANYTHING!" Steve proceeds to walk backwards to the front door while maintaining eye contact of the duo.

As soon as the front door clicks and Steve disappeared from sight. The two bursts out laughing to the point that they struggled to breathe. Then, Mike notices the loophole in Steve's demands.

"Wait, Steve asked us to clean up the stove, AND THEN asked us to not do anything... so..."

"Let's do nothing!" Eleven declares.

Operation Distract Steve, success!

Chapter Text

"Morning Hop!" Flo greeted as Hopper walks through the front door of the police station. As per usual, Hopper has his 'I hate my life' face on. Except this time, his insides didn't share the same feeling. Ever since El's introduction into his life, he has never been happier. He just didn't want his emotions to show to the dozens of officers.

"Hey Flo. Anything interesting for today?" Hopper returned the greeting while heading over to the snacks bar and sticking two of his fingers into the holes of a pair of donuts. Aggressively stuffing them into his mouth before Flo could catch up.

"Actually there is." Flo stood up and handed him a cup of coffee. She had memorized Hopper's daily motion around the station in the morning to the T over the years. Meaning that her movements to assist him in getting his breakfast into his mouth has been engraved in her head.

"There's a government agent waiting for you in your office. He says he needed to talk to you in private."

Hopper lets out a loud groan which Flo picked up.

"You usually like company, what's up today?" Flo asked.

"Ugh, nothing really." For a moment, he hesitated to tell Flo what was going on; but then he remembered that Flo is a mother of four and a grandmother of six. So in theory she should have plenty of experience in this. In addition, Flo is the first person that he introduced Jane to in the police station a week ago. "Jane is hanging out with a boy today. Don't know what the hell is going to happen next."

Flo smirk at him, "Nothing that the Chief of Police couldn't handle. Hurry up and finish your donuts! The agent has been waiting for well over 30 minutes now!"

He reluctantly open the door to his office. A young man, dressed in a neat black suit which Hopper assumes to be in his mid-20s, stood up and smiled at him. 

"Morning!" the man greets and holds out his hand, "You must be Chief Jim Hopper. I'm agent Ross."

Hopper shakes his hand, not bothering that his hand was still covered in sugar, "Ah yes, good morning. Please, have a seat." He gestured for the man to sit while moving to his chair.

"Don't worry, I won't take up much of your time. I'm here to discuss the final closings of the events the month prior." the man says before taking out a folder and setting it down on the desk. "You'll just have to sign the last pieces of documents here and we should be done."

He lets out yet another groan, "Didn't I sign like a hundred documents last week? What is this about?"

"The final Non Disclosure Agreements sir. AND compensation funds retrieval acknowledgement."

The last part caught Hopper's attention, "Compensation funds?"

"Yes. Director Owens says that you played a major role during the events the month prior and the subsequent cover up. The compensation issued to all those involved is included plus a little bonus for you for your, and I quote, "Heroic acts"." While listening, Hopper has hastily glanced through all the NDAs and left his signature wherever needed.

The agent pulled out a smaller folder and sets it down on the desk. Unlike the folder where the documents were pulled out a couple of minutes ago, this one has a small combination lock and metal lined edges. The agent then handed him the final paper with the word ACKNOWLEDGEMENT written in bold letters on the top.

Hopper took the paper and read through it before letting out his final signature to finally be done with all this crap.

"My work here is done. The combination to the folder can be found in the copy of the paper that you just signed. Thank you for your attention and have good day sir." Before Jim came to his senses, the agent has already collected all of the documents and left his office. Leaving a piece of paper and a very secured folder behind. This has been the briefest government agent appointment he has to date.

He collected his thoughts and flipped through the paper, retrieving the code for the combination lock. Just before opening the folder, he walked over to the door and locked it. Upon opening it, a large sum of cash stared back up at him. After 15 minutes of counting, he concluded; inside this folder lies 50,000 dollars, in cash.

I would be a lie to say he wasn't alarmed by the sum of money the government. Huh... Pro tip. If you want to make 50,000 dollars in a week. Just risk your life by getting chased around by a bunch of inter-dimensional monsters. He sat back on his chair and thinks about what to spend the money on. Money has never been a problem for him. He is the Chief Of Police after all and unsurprisingly, the job pays damn well. His expense has always been extremely low, (advantages of living in a cabin in the woods) which has lead to a huge amount of savings piling up. He could have easily afforded a house in the middle of town if he wanted to. But that's the point, he doesn't want a normal house; not yet at least. El still has to hide from the rest of Hawkins for another year and moving to the middle of town would achieve the exact opposite.

Now with the government money stacked on top of his savings, it's time to spend some of it. He runs through the options for a while before finally landing on one. A vacation, with El. Dr Owens said that she needed to hide from the people of Hawkins, not the entire world. The kid damn well deserved it. It would be a great bonding experience for them anyway and a perfect chance for her to see the world. All of a sudden, he is very eager to finally get out of Hawkins for the first time in years.

He grabbed the phone on his desk and quickly dialed in the numbers.

"Hey doc, can you get Jane a passport?"


Hopper was walking towards the cabin with the huge smile on his face which faded slightly has he heard obnoxiously loud laughters ringing from within the cabin. Of course they have to be there. The entire party had gathered at the cabin and judging from the sounds blasting through the dark forest, they're having tons of fun. It's their first sleepover at the cabin after all.

After delivering his secret knock, the door clicks open.

"Welcome home dad!" El greets as she lunges herself into his embrace.

"Hey chief." Steve was standing at the very back, visibly exhausted from looking after a bunch of 13 year-olds for well over 10 hours.

"Hey Hop!" the boy with a black mop as hair greets from his position on the couch with an empty spot next to him which Hopper assumes was El's former position before trying to give him a concussion.

"Hey chief." the rest of the party greets in unison shortly after.

"Geez kids, lower your voice for fuck sake! Talk about not drawing attention to the cabin!" Hopper scolds. He follows his usual route to the kitchen and that was when he noticed the blackened stove. "What the hell happened here?!" he says while staring at Steve.

Steve grunts and points his finger, "Ask little missy over there." Hopper then shifts his attention to where Steve's finger was pointing.

El tried to look as innocent as possible, "Oops." Of course, she failed spectacularly when she couldn't hold back her laughter any longer.

Hopper was initially furious but upon hearing her laughter, his anger quickly died down. This has happened way too many times now. No, not the stove part. There's something in this girl's laughter that is expert at diffusing his anger. He is really starting to think that El might have a secret power of emotion manipulation. He shrugs off the mess as problem for another day. It's not like he relies on the stove anyway, cooking meals were the microwave's job.

"So... what were you guys doing?" Hopper questions as he settles down on the dinner table, front facing the living area where all the kids sat. Lately he has found himself getting quite attached to these kids, probably through all the shared trauma.

"Nothing, just playing around." one boy responds.

"Oh, and planning our activities for the upcoming school holiday." another one added on.

"Speaking of planning, can we take El camping next week? We'll stay close to the cabin, no one will see us." this line caught Hopper's attention which he immediately identifies as the Wheeler's voice.

"No-"

"Oh come on!"

"Why not?"

"C'mon man!"

"You're no fun!"

"Wait-" Hopper tries to shut them up.

"Please, El needs to get out of the cabin for a while. You have kept her locked up here for far too long now!" the voice came from Wheeler's mouth with unmistakable anger in his voice.

"Because-"

"-to keep her safe?" Mike finish the sentence for him.

"No-"

"Then why?" Dustin chimes in.

"Because we're going on a vacation dammit!" Hopper shouts which finally got them to shut up. Surprisingly, El never once opened her mouth during this entire conversation. Hopper had half expected her to be the second loudest, only behind Wheeler. The eyes of everyone in the room widened with shock. This was certainly not something they were expecting for the chief's reason.

"Who's the we?" a voice asks.

"El and I." Hopper responds. The girl's face lit up with joy. Throughout the year of isolation, she had seen people go on vacation plenty of times on TV and was secretly longing that perhaps some day she would have the chance. She certainly was not expecting 'some day' to be this soon.

There was a moment of silence when El was hugging Hopper. The party, including Steve was still trying to recover from the shock.

"Where to exactly?" Dustin finally decides to break the silence.

"Haven't decided yet." Hopper responds.

"I thought El was still in hiding?" Lucas asked.

"Only in the US-"

"You're going out of the country?!" 

"-Yes."

"Can they come too?" El asked.

"Well... I don't know-"

"Pleeeeaaassseeee!" everyone in the room begged. None of them moved him.

"I don't think..."

"Please." This time, it was El who said it. She looked up to him with those brown puppy eyes, trying to melt his heart.

He sighs, "Fine. But I'm not paying for them!" Hopper says.

Upon hearing this, their heads snap towards Steve, staring at him.

"What?" Steve responds.

After much debate and more than plenty of begging. Steve finally agreed to cover their expenses for the trip. He was more than capable of doing so. He hardly spends any of the cash that his mysterious father gives him every month. The party cheered and celebrated for the rest of the night. Seeing as all the kids in the party would probably be going, Hopper decided that he would drag Joyce along on the trip as well to chaperone. 

So much for a 'family vacation'.

Chapter Text

The blazer pulled into a once used to be half gravel half mud road, bumper plowing through the thick layers of snow. The engine rumbles an groans as it struggles to push the car through the heavy snow. Eventually giving out and comes to a stop, refusing to move an inch further. Hopper put the engine into reverse and moved the truck back by a couple of feet to reduce the snow pile up in front.

"It snowed hard yesterday huh?" Joyce said.

"Honestly, I've been in this situation far more times than I could care now." Hopper replied, "We can walk from here, the cabin isn't too far away. I don't want to take this old pal any further."

Joyce chuckled, "You two should probably get a proper house somewhere sometime soon. Although the cabin is nice, can't imagine it to being terribly convenient for the both of you when she's ready for school."

"Yeah... problem for another time." he replied, "Hey Joyce, you don't have to come with us if you don't want, you know?"

Joyce shoots him a skeptical look, "You're not trying to get rid of me, are you?"

"What?! No! no, no, no." Hopper chokes out, "I just don't want to force you into anything... or have you feel like it's your duty... you know?"

She laughs, "No way! I love spending time with the kids. Plus, I mean, free vacation! Who can say no to that?!"

Hopper chuckled with her, "Yeah, fair point."

The blazer came to a stop. Both of the doors open and the two adults hop out. Hopper cursing when his feet hit the ground, coating the his boots and the ends of his pants with a layer of mud.

"Told you. Get a proper house." Joyce said. "I've been wondering though, why a vacation? And why now?"

Hopper sighed, "She has been locked up in the cabin for long enough now. I've barely spent half the time she spends in there and the boredom has already began eating away at me. And since she can't be seen in town, we'll just have to take her out of town. As an extra layer of security, out of the country as well."

"Hmm... have you thought of where to yet? And how long?" she asks while they continue making their way towards the cabin.

"Nope, that's part of what we'll be discussing with the kids today. As for duration, I'm thinking of somewhere a little over a week." he replied.

Joyce looks at Hopper and points towards the rapidly approaching cabin, "They're all still in there?"

"Yep, the little punks insisted on being part of the discussion since "The party is a democracy."" Hopper air quotes while speaking with a mocking tone, "I'm amused by how much the schmuck knows about politics and other science shit in the world."

"Which one?" Joyce asked.

"The Henderson kid. Future mad scientist in the making here." he replied.

"Yep. My fridge still smells by the way."

Hopper chuckles, "Yeah. In addition, in theory, the trip should probably reduce the impact of post-traumatic-stress-disorder on the kids. Cover up terrible memories as quickly as possible with... 'hopefully' good ones. I would really like the cabin to stay as the way it is for the next year or so and not have the roof blown off."


The cabin is more crowded than ever. Six early teens all sprawled across the living room and three adults competing for oxygen. The hype and adrenaline from the previous night has yet to wear off. 

"Alright, first order of business. I've contacted all of your parents... and they agree. You all can come." Hopper announces, still conflicted about  whether he should be happy about this or not.

The room erupted in cheers as they let go of their worries.

"Alright, calm down you little brats. Secondly, location. Lay out your suggestions." Hopper decreed. 

Little did the adults know, the party stayed up way past midnight; busy compiling a list of potential vacation destinations to present.

"London!" a voice shouted.

"This vacation is partly to escape the cold you know? Also, we're not made of money and I'm sure Harrington there would really appreciate if you don't force him to sell his house to pay for your week long trip."

The kids sighs in disappointment. London is their number one choice and they've even put together a list of places to visit and landmarks to hit.

"How about Hawaii?" With Hawaii being the second on their list, they had it planned out quite decently as well. Albeit less specific than the one to London.

Hopper grunts, already knowing how this discussion is going to go. "I said it has to be overseas."

There's a moment of silence. With the two places that the party wanted to visit the most out of the question, they were determined to find out the reason behind Hopper's odd requirements. "Well... technically it is oversea because it's in the middle of the Pacific-" Dustin points out.

"Oh for christ's sake, you know what I mean Henderson!" he growled.

"Okay fine! Why can't stay in the US though?" Henderson asked,

"It's for El's safety." Hopper replies as he tries to calm himself down.

"But I thought she only has to stay out of sight of the locals." Lucas said.

"It is best to leave the country altogether if you she wants to be seen in public and just cut the crap and give your next suggestion already!"

"Jeez okay, fine... Damn, whatever happened to 'Land of the free, home of the brave?'" Dustin whispered under his breath.

Being nerdy teenagers at the height of the cold war and exposure to plenty of propaganda, it was usual for them to be extremely patriotic towards their country. However after exposing the shady doings of the United States government to some of their citizens, the kids are starting to doubt the greatness of the nation. Robbing a child from her childhood, subjected to torture though no fault of their own and inhumane tests were certainly things they weren't expecting from their government. Those were supposed to be the doings behind Soviet borders, not in the middle of America.

"New York?"

"What did I just say?"

"Paris?"

"No."

"The Caribbean?"

"No."

"Canada?"

"I don't wanna have my nose fall off and live in a cocoon all day."

"How about a cruise? I've heard those were getting popular." Will suggests.

"Hmm... Not a bad idea but maybe next time. I don't want to stare at the empty ocean for a whole week straight." Hopper replied.

"For fuck's sake, let's just go to Moscow and be done with it!" Dustin snapped, frustrated after getting so many of their ideas turn down. The room fell silent as everybody was stunned by Dustin's sudden outburst. After a couple seconds of awkward silence, Lucas decided to break it.

"Yeah Dustin, way to deliver America's greatest military asset straight into the hands of the Soviets."

"Lucas!" Mike snapped, already knowing who was he referring to. He hates it when anybody somebody to El as a military asset, even though the statement has some truth to it.

El seems to know as well as she gently placed one of her hands on top of Mike's clenched fist, trying to calm him down. "It's okay, Mike."

"No! Nobody should make fun about your past. I won't let them!" Mike replied. Lucas quickly realized his mistake and began apologizing profusely.

"No Mike, really, it's okay. Jokes and teases help cover up bad memories." she stated.

Having heard a similar line half an hour ago, Joyce turned to face Hopper; head tilted slightly while carrying a soft smile and whispered, "I see that you've already spread your influence." 

He chuckled, proud of the girl's rapid progression.

After quite a bit of convincing from both the El and the boys, Mike finally gave in and let his anger died down. "Fine... as long as you guys don't go overboard with it."

"Soo.... Moscow it is then?" Dustin chimes in.

"Of course not you numnuts!"

"How about Australia?" Mike suggests. The room fell silent for a couple of seconds again, processing the info and crunching the numbers for viability for the vacation.

"Yeah, not bad actually." Will stated.

"I agree." Lucas said.

"Similar to California so hell yeah!" Max cheered.

"Yeah, plenty of things to do there. Not bad, I'm with the kids." Joyce stated.

"It has been a while since I last went to the beach so yeah, I'm in." Steve said from the very back of the room.

Mike turned to Jim and asked, "Hopper... sir?"

"A warm Christmas, yeah, why not." he finally gave the green light.

The room erupted with cheers and celebration for the second time in the past 24 hours.

After the party discussion concluded, most of the kids gave their farewells and returned to their respective residence. Leaving Hopper, Joyce and Steve behind in the living room to discuss and organize the more important aspects of the vacation such as logistics and planning. Meanwhile, Mike and El slipped into her room while the adults were distracted with their farewells to the other kids. After hearing the faint sound of the bedroom door lightly slamming shut behind him, Hopper's head snapped back so quickly that it could have gotten him a whiplash.

"HEY! Keep the door open!" he yelled while storming towards the door. He yanked the door open, satisfied to find that it wasn't locked. "New rule. When you and Mike are in the same room together, keep the door open three inches, MINIMUM!"

Both Mike and El return him a ridiculous look, "Why?" she asked.

"Just follow the damn rule will ya?" Both of them knew the only way to dismiss this situation is to agree with him, regardless of how much they disapprove of the sudden addition to the already lengthy list of rules. However, plans to mitigate the rule in the future were already in the works in their brains as soon as they nodded in unison.

Satisfied with their willingness to follow the rule (for now), he turned and walked back to join the adults at the living room and began their discussion.

"They're good kids Hop. They wouldn't do anything you don't like." Joyce stated.

He sighed, "Yeah Joyce, I know. I just don't want things to go too quickly for them. You know how I was when I was their age."

She chuckled, "Don't worry about that, as far as I know, they aren't even official yet. Plus, it's good for her to have some company. Also, she doesn't have your genes."

"True. Yeah I guess. If El were to date anyone, I would prefer it to be the Wheeler kid." he said under his breath, not wanting to be heard by kids in the room.

"Jealous of a kid getting more attention than you?" Joyce teased.

He chuckled. In truth, it is more of a statement than a tease. He feels like a middle schooler again, jealous of other people getting more attention than him.

Chapter Text

It was 4 A.M. when the entirety of the party gathered at the Byers residence for last minute checks prior to departure. It was decided that two cars would be needed to accommodate all the souls and luggage to the airport in Indianapolis. Steve's BMW was tasked to carry most of the living cargo while Hopper's blazer haul the excessive amounts of domestic appliances for the 10 day long vacation.

While the responsible adults double and triple checked everything, the kids excitedly argue over which car who shall take and the seating arrangements in the car for the hour and a half long ride to the airport. 

After final preparations, it was decided that Hopper and Joyce take the front seat of the blazer with Mike and El at the back. Dustin obviously with Steve in the front of the BMW and the last three behind them.

The car ride mostly consisted of silence in the blazer and small arguments in the car behind them.

"Seriously, if you shitheads were a year younger it would have saved us so much money. Of all ages why do you all have to be thirteen?" Steve complained.

"I don't know, ask our parents why they decided to get hot and frisky in 1970." Max replied.

"Dude!!" Dustin blurts.

"I'm not a dude!" Max snapped back.

"You know what I mean!"

Meanwhile in the blazer, the adults were chatting quietly at the front while El was trying to catch up on some sleep but quickly found the backseat of the car to be horrendously uncomfortable to sleep in a seating position. Of course Mike noticed this.

"Hey, do you want to lie down on my lap? It'll be more comfortable." he offered.

She nodded, then curled up in a fetal position with her head resting on his lap. Finding it extremely comfortable and easy to sleep on, "Thanks." she murmurs while carrying a smile on her face.

He lets out a muffled chuckle and proceeds to close his eyes to catch up on some sleep of his own. Of course the seat is not any more comfortable for him that it was for El but with her head now resting on his lap, everything changes.

Hopper looked through the rear view mirror to find the soon-to-be young couple sleeping soundly and he can't help but wear a smile on his face. Joyce turn her head to witness the adorable scene for herself.

"Sweet, aren't they?"

Damn it, he has to agree with her on this one, "Yeah."


They arrived at the Indianapolis International Airport at 6 o'clock in the morning. The atmosphere in the airport was dead silent due to the nature of humans not wanting to wake up at that time of day. Apart from them, there were only around a couple dozen people that can be seen in the terminal, most of them likely on the same flight as them. With two more hours till the departure of their flight, the group had breakfast at a nearby restaurant. It was also the time to give everyone last minute briefing before checking in. 

"First of all, your name." Hopper says while pointing a finger at El. "Your official name is Jane Hopper. Although it is unlikely, if somebody questions why everyone calls you El, just say you have an unofficial middle name that is Eleanor. So your full name is Jane Eleanor Hopper, got it?"

The girl nodded, "Got it."

The adults proceeded to brief them about the procedures before boarding and what to expect to the kids as most of the kids with the exception of Dustin being first time flyers. After the adults had done their talking, the ball was now back to the kids for another round of debate over seating positions. Of the nine seats split between three rows, the three adults volunteered to take the first row together to avoid having to deal with the kids for a couple of hours.

"Let's keep this short and simple, of course Mileven and Lumax are going to be together." Dustin said.

"Wait, what was that?" Lucas questions.

"What was what?" Dustin questions back, looking confused.

"The Mi- what?" Will replied.

"Oh, that! Mileven and Lumax. It's their ship names." Dustin stated. "You know, Mike and Eleven, Lucas and Max." he shrugs.

"Ooowwwhhh...." their cheeks immediately turned rose red.

Dustin turned and pointed towards the chatting adults a couple of tables across from them, "And that right there ladies and gentlemen, is Jopper." he then turned back to face Will and Eleven, giving them a wink. The duo's eyes widened, immediately understanding what he was implying. Judging by the way they were talking, it was easy to make out that Joyce and Hopper's conversation leans more towards the flirty side of things than the casual chat.

Will sighed, "Rekindling of old flames." he said.

"Wait, what?" Mike asked.

"Yeah, mom told me they dated for a while back in high school." Will replied.

The party was stunned by this sudden revelation. "Get ready to be siblings you two." Dustin said as he gestured towards Will and El while smirking.

Will shrugs, "I don't mind. Mom really needs company." Internally, he was screaming with excitement, sincerely hoping their relationship would work out this time. Not only his mom gets to be happy once again after Bob's passing, he gets to gain a sibling that is also in the party as well. One of his best friends, and more importantly, his lifesaver, gets to be his sister! If that does come true one day, he vowed to be the best brother to her as possible. Plus, he guiltily internally admits that he likes Hopper a little more than Bob.

"Hey! Cut the crap! I thought we were discussing seating arrangements!" Max yelled in frustration.

"Alright, alright. Geez." Dustin replied, "Okay, so, the girls can take the window seats."

"No, you guys can have the seat." Max said.

"Why not?" Lucas questioned.

"I have a fear of flying, and heights. I don't want to see the ground tens of thousands of feet beneath my feet, thank you very much." she replied.

"Umm... okay then, I'll take the window seat if you two don't mind?" Dustin asked Lucas and Max. 

"Wait, you're sitting with us?!" Lucas questioned.

"Uh, yeah?" he replied.

"Yeah, alright. Max you can have the middle seat." Lucas propped in.

"Hell no, I want the aisle seat." she replied.

"What?! There's no way I'm seating with Dustin!" Lucas snapped.

"Why not?" Mike asked.

"Dude! Have you heard Dustin snore before?! I would like to get some rest during the eleven and a half hour flight." he replied.

"Oh yeah... alright. I get it." Mike nodded in understanding.

"Uh-uh, you're sitting with Dusty, or I'll dump your ass!" Max threatened with her arms crossed.

"Wai-What?!" Lucas' mouth was wide open from the shock of her threat. He lets his head slump down, signing defeat. "Fine!"

"Hey! My snoring isn't that bad!" Dustin defended.

"Not bad? It does seem like it's bad enough to break relationships that you aren't even part of." Will mocked.

"Not you too!" he snapped back. The party bursts into laughter. It was extremely uncommon for Will to participate in any conversation that involves teasing or mocking.

"Alright shitheads, get ready for check in!" Steve said.

After collecting their boarding passes and handing over the check-in bags, comes the most scary part of airport procedure - the security screening. As the kids and bags were being screened, the adults watched on nervously. Mentally kicking themselves for not checking what contents their bags carry prior to departure to spare the worries of the present. Thankfully, none of them were dumb enough to bring anything inappropriate and the process went through without a hitch.

Next comes the part of the airport experience that left El and Hopper on edge, immigration. In theory, there really should not be anything to worry about. It's not like her identification and passport were stolen or forged. It is a legit passport issued by the government but that doesn't ease any tension because it was the first time her identification is being handled by someone not associated with the lab.

It was El's turn, she handed over her passport and stared nervously at the immigration officer. The old woman opened the booklet, glancing up and down for a few times between her face and the opened page. She wrote something down that couldn't be seen due to the shape of the desk. Heartbeats increasing with each passing second. Finally, the woman chopped something on the booklet and handed it over back to her. She smiled, "Enjoy your flight!"

Relief washed over El and Hopper as they let out a sigh.

As the group was making their way to the gate, large collections of people started pouring through the main entrances of the airport.

"Ah, so there's the rest of the passengers. Ugh, late risers." Steve said.

"Wait, you expecting that many people on the same flight as us?" Max questioned.

"Of course, it's a 747 we're taking. Do you know any genius that would put fifty passengers on a plane that carries four hundred?" he replied, pointing towards the majestic aircraft behind the windows.

"They didn't have much of a choice to be honest." Dustin said.

"Why not?"

"There's a stupid law that prohibits two engine planes from crossing large bodies of water, in this case, to our layover destination in Honolulu." Dustin stated.

"Oh my GOD! Are you a lawyer now? How do you know these shit?" Steve questioned.

"A lawyer, aviation enthusiast and a mad scientist." Dustin points out with a smug face.

"Nerd of nerds..." he responded.

"Thank you for that title, my lord."

"Wait, I thought 'my lord' is reserved for Mr. Clarke?" Lucas questioned.

"Oh c'mon, of course you can have multiple lords! The empire calls both Vader and Palpatine lords-" Dustin stated.

"Stop with your nerdgasms already!" Max snapped.

On the other side of the walking group, Will has a question. "Hey El, out of curiosity, when is your birthday?" he asked.

Confused by the out of place question, she replied anyway, "February 19th, why?" 

"Oh dammit!" Will said in frustration.

"Why, what's the matter?" Mike asked.

Will sighed, "If mom and Hopper does get together, I'll still be the youngest sibling."

The couple let out a chuckle, adored by Will's reason of frustration. Mike turned to whisper something into El's ear, laughing after he finished. She then turned back to face him, "Don't worry, I'll take good care of you, baby brother."

"Hey! I'm only a month younger than you!" Will defended.

"Still, you're going to be her baby brother." Mike stated.

"Mike, stop tainting El's innocent soul will ya?" Lucas said.

The party settled down on the seats near their gate and started an argument over which Star Wars character was the most badass which Mike and El couldn't care less at the moment as they had their faces pressed against the large windows, observing the smaller planes arrive and depart from the airport. El has plenty of questions regarding the plane sitting right in front of them and as per usual, Mike has all the answers and responded to all of them enthusiastically.

It didn't take long for her to obtain a fair amount of information regarding aviation. Mike had half expected El to not understand most of what he was saying but was thoroughly surprised when she was able to finish a couple of summary sentences for him. With the revelation that El is an extremely fast learner, he was certain that it would only take her a year catch up to them in terms of all the school work then she would be able to join them. Despite the limited education she has received thus far, the girl seemed to have a good grasp on general physics as it didn't take long for her to understand his brief explanation on aerodynamics.

After half an hour or so, the PA system came to life, announcing the opening of their gate. Their boarding group being one of the earliest, they got the privilege to board the plane while it's still mostly empty. After shuffling through the tight aisles of the plane and stowing away their carry-on luggage, everyone sat down at their previously assigned seating.

"Ah, best seats on a plane!" Dustin said as he peaks out of the window.

"Why?" Lucas questioned.

"You get a good view of the intake of the engines which, honestly speaking, is the coolest thing to look at during a take off!" he stated, "Plus, the sounds just adds onto the cool factor."

"The sound is cool?! We're still on the ground and I'm already half deaf by the sounds." Lucas argued.

"Trust me, nothing sounds more amazing than the engines whirling to full power during a take off." he stated.

El, who was seated on the seat ahead of Dustin, studied the engines and the wings with great interest.

"Um, what are they doing?" she asked, finger pointing at a couple of guys spraying a liquid onto the wing through a hose.

"Oh, that's deicing. They're removing the ice build up on the plane. Meaning we're close to taking off now." Dustin responded.

"Ugh, finally!" Max cheered, already getting impatient at the static plane.

The first three hours of the flight went by rather uneventfully. El spend most of the time having her face pressed against the window, taking in the gorgeous view of the landscape thirty-five thousand feet below them. From this altitude, she took the phrase 'see the world' quite literally. Occasionally calling Mike to see another plane passing by a few miles away from them. He pass the time mostly by reading a novel that he had brought with him while occasionally glancing at El. The rest of the party including the adults snored through the first half of the flight.

It was lunchtime when the plane was passing over California. Everyone has woken and were patiently waiting for the in flight meals. After taking note of the time and roughly pinning together the current position of the plane, Max half stood up and pushed her way to the windows, ignoring Lucas and Dustin's legs.

"Hey! What are you doing?" Dustin asked.

"We're over California." she replied while staring out of the window.

"I thought you were afraid of heights?" Lucas questioned.

"Shut up! I'll do anything to get a glimpse of my hometown."

El looked back out of the window as well, "You're from there?" she asked.

"Yeah," Max relied; tone a lot calmer than what she used against the boys a couple of seconds ago, now carrying a smile on her face, "I grew up there, before moving to Hawkins."

El nodded without turning away from the window, "It's beautiful." she said. Even from this altitude, it's easy to make out the outline of the stunning beaches.

"Yeah, it's really nice there. Maybe we can have a road trip there in the future. You know, when we can drive." Max suggested.

Their lunches had arrived and the party began tearing through the meals vigorously to fill their empty stomachs. It didn't take long for them to turn in the nine empty casings before loosening their tongues and letting criticisms spill.

"That. Was. DISGUSTING!" Dustin stated.

"Yep. But you were the first to finish." Lucas said.

"Seriously, why can't airlines get better food?" Mike asked.

"You can have better food, just pay an extra fifty dollars and get your ass to first class." Steve replied.

The only ones who remained silent throughout the entire rambling over how horrendous the food was were Hopper and El because what they had was not much different from the TV dinners that they were used to.

Chapter Text

The rest of the flight to Honolulu is more eventful that they first imagined it to be considering they're cramped together in a metal cylinder suspended thirty-thousand feet above the ground. Which in party terms, involved a bunch of friendly bickering and a heap load of teasing. Although they tried to be as civil and thoughtful as possible to the rest of the passengers, their efforts were proven to be futile as the flight attendants had to give them multiple warnings. Even El has diverged her focus to the boys and Max since the view out of the window consisted of vast open ocean as far as the eye can see once they've passed California. She watches them with great interest.

Jim has taken the 'keep El out of sight when they're still in the States' thing very seriously as they stayed in the airport for the entirety of their two and a half hour layover. Dustin was slightly disgruntled that they couldn't leave of the 'international zone' as he calls it to officially claim that they've stepped foot on Hawaii. The debate over the sovereignty of airport grounds came of an end as they boarded a flight for the second time, this time to their final destination. 

Although the sun yells midday, the kids' internal clocks speaks otherwise as the majority of them fell asleep even before the plane reached cruising altitude. The adults however, find sleep to be an almost impossible task as their batteries are still full from the eleven hour long charging session earlier. Instead, Jim resorted to reading a book that Mike had introduced to him much to his dismay. Upon reading the first chapter, he was relieved that it wasn't a children's book. Quite the opposite actually. He was pleasantly surprised that Mike was invested in novels suited to the more mature of audiences; the good kind of course. Meanwhile Joyce and Steve dug through the mountain of magazines that was lying around the cabin of the plane.

As the hours went by, Jim finds himself more and more invested in the story and increasingly more eager to find out what happens next. Maybe this is a hobby he could pick up on. In just eight hours, Jim finds his perception on lengthy novels taking a 180. Upon finishing the book, he made a mental note to visit Hawkin's library when they get back to pick up some books for the more peaceful days at the station; which is pretty much every day when the Upside Down is not involved. Other than that... he never thought he would do this, but... 

"Hey kid, you don't happen to have the sequel for this, do you?" he asks as he turns around and looks over the seat.

Mike had just woken up about ten minutes ago. Ever since the incident of 83', he found his body to not be able to accept sleep sessions longer than eight hours no matter how hard he tries. The reason which he can only assumes has to do with trauma and the subsequent disappearance of El. Now that it is all over, his body has yet to return of its old hippo habits of sleeping twelve hours a day.

He glances up to find Jim holding onto the book that he gave him mere hours ago and an expression on his face which he can only describe as mixed with hope and embarrassment. 

Mike smirks at him, "Totally," he bends down to reach a smaller bag tucked under the seats and pulled out a pair of books, "here you go, chief." He retrieves the one that he assumed the chief has finished.

Jim takes the books and smiles, "Thanks, kid."

Mike returned the gesture and peered down at his watch. If it took around eight hours for him to finish the first book, the additional two that he just gave him should refrain him from shooting glances at him and El every fifteen minutes for an additional sixteen hours or so. Which, he is incredibly grateful for. A quick peep back down at the mini duffel bag reveals that he has at least another ten books stacked neatly inside, enough to keep Jim off their tails for most of the trip.

Who knew the chief to be a bookworm?


They arrived at Sydney around 8:45 in the afternoon. Due to the lack of foresight and planning on the time department, their circadian rhythm is all over the place and different throughout the group. To the kids, it is now early morning despite the sun setting behind them. As for the adults, it is now midnight and they're desperate for sleep.

Shit.

This is certainly something they had not thought about and planned accordingly. Oh well, the damage has been inflicted and now it's time for damage control. They headed to a car rental not far from the airport and rented a van big enough to accompany everyone and their cargo under the same roof. For the first night, they decided to settle at a hotel relatively close to the airport compared to where are they planning to go. 

After depositing their bags at hotel, they headed back out to have dinner, or 'breakfast' according to the kids. They headed straight back to the hotel afterwards, much to the kid's protests.

"Oh c'mon! It's only 10!"

"Yeah! And it's time for bed!" Steve stated, fighting to keep his eyes open as he handed them the key to the rooms.

They were only sleeping at this hotel for a night so they only rented two rooms to save costs, both with three single beds. The group was split into two categories, the 'Hey, I still remember World War 2!' category which consisted of Hopper, Joyce and Steve-

"Hey! We're not that old!"

"Whatever man."

-and the 'Kids with the weirdest childhood.' category. Each taking a room respectively. They've also brought three airbeds along to substitute the missing beds.

"Seriously through, we literally just woke up!" Max said.

"There's no way we're going back to sleep!" Dustin said.

"Fine! Whatever you do, don't bother us!" Jim replied as the occupants of the 'Hey, I still remember World War 2!' category headed into their room, almost closing the door before-

"Hey, can we explore around the city for a bit?" Mike asked.

"WHAT?!" he stares at them in disbelieve.

"Yeah, you know, walk around the city for a bit, look at stuff?" Will supplies.

"By yourselves?!" 

"Yeah, why not?" Dustin adds on, "Unless you want to join us?"

"No way am I joining you and yeah, why not? A group of pre-teens walking around a city in the middle of night without adult supervision. Great idea!" Jim said sarcastically, "Do you have any idea how dangerous that is?

They all looked at each other, "Of course we do, but El can protect us. Right, El?" Lucas says as he glances over at her, waiting for her answer.

"Right." she said. Of course she can, there's no doubt in that.

Jim laughs hysterically at their outlandish proposals and for a moment, the party thought Hopper has lost his marbles, and brain... "No."

"Yes I can." El stated.

"I know- but I'm not talking about that. You guys are not going anywhere, end of story!" Jim decrees, too tired to deal with their bullshit any longer. Before they could open their mouths for counter arguments, he has closed the door and locked it behind him. Leaving the six kids standing in the corridor.

"Well, they're lost. Let's go." Dustin said as he turns around, guiding the group down the hallway and out of the hotel but stopped a couple of feet from his original standing point as he realizes that nobody else was following him.

"Maybe it's not a good idea." Will said.

The rest of the party nodded silently in agreement.

"Then what the hell are we going to do? You're not going to go back to sleep, are you?!" Dustin challenges.

"Yeah... no, we're not going back to sleep." Mike said, "Maybe we can do something here? In the hotel?"

"Fine! I did bring monopoly so-"

"Wait, you brought monopoly!?"

"Well... yeah-"

"Why would you bring monopoly?"

"Exactly for situations like this you numnuts! You better thank me that you're not gonna be bored for the rest of the night!"

The group reluctantly shuffle into their room and closed the door behind them. They watched as Dustin sets up the game on the floor.

El gently shook Mike's shoulder, "Mike."

He glance over to her, "Yes?"

"What is mo-no-po-ly?" she asked, carefully pronouncing each syllable one by one. A clear sign of her not understanding something.

Mike straightens out a little and turn his body so that he is facing her, clearing his throat as if he was charging the rambling drive. "Oh, Monopoly is this board game where you have to roll a dice and move your avatar around the game board. If you land on an unowned property, you can buy it. If you land on someone else's property, you have to pay the rental fees. You can build houses and hotels on your property if you have a complete set which will increase the rental cost. The goal of the game is to bankrupt everyone else." Mike explained enthusiastically, head bobbing up and down as he speaks while his arms were flailing around. El was all ears and her gaze followed his movements.

"Bank-rupt?" she asked.

"Bankrupt is when the person has no money left and in the game it basically means you lose." he responded.

She nodded in understanding, "Thanks."

"Hey guys! Why don't we make this a little more interesting?" Dustin suggests as he gestures for the party to encircle the board.

"What do you mean?"

"The first three to bankrupt sleeps on the airbeds tonight!"

"What?!"

"So what? You volunteer to sleep on an airbed tonight?" Dustin challenged.

"No!" Lucas denies immediately.

"Deal! It seems fair." Max said.

"Byers? Wheeler? Hopper?" Dustin asked as his gaze move from one to another.

"Okay." the trio replied in unison.

"Wait, I think El should have an exception to this rule." Mike suggested.

"WHAT?! Why?"

Thankfully, Will is always there to back his best friend up, and he agrees with his suggestion as well. "Because it is her first time playing, and courtesy to saving our lives twice. It's only fair that she gets a bed regardless of the outcome." he supplies.

The party doesn't have any counter argument points so they nodded silently in agreement, However-

"No." El said, breaking the silence.

"Wait, what? Why?" Mike turned to face her incredulously.

"I like the challenge." she smiled at him.

"Are you sure?" 

She nodded, maintaining the smile on her face. "Yes."

They each chose an avatar and piled up at the starting point. It was universally agreed upon that they would ignore the 'First round can't purchase' rule to save time and make the game more interesting quicker. It was also agreed upon that El should be the first to toss the twin dice and on her first throw... five... immediately landing on the Kings Cross Station. She wasted no time before swooping it up, claiming it as her own. Mike celebrated El's luck while the rest of the party groans in frustration. Dustin even bent down to have a better viewing angle up her nostrils, checking for blood. He failed to find any signs of her cheating.

"Well, technically it wouldn't be counted as cheating even if she did use it." Mike stated, "There's no rule prohibiting the use of telekinetic powers."

She has the card of rules on her lap so she can refer to it periodically to make sure she was doing everything correctly; and indeed, there's no rule regarding the remote manipulation of the six-faced dice. She smirked and mentally made a rule for herself and only herself... okay, maybe Mike as well. She would only use her powers in the most dire of situations and she trusts her body to not get her busted. She has gotten a lot stronger since the closing of the gate and in theory, shifting the movement of a pair of dice which weight no more than a pebble shouldn't cause a nosebleed.

The party each took turns to toss their dice, all of them got different number but they all have one thing in common- all of them landed on worthless property and it is now El's turn again. A toss, the dice rolls through the air, landing back on the board with a thud. A six and a four... she cheerfully moves her avatar from Kings Cross to Marylebone station, claiming it as hers once again.

"This is ridiculous!" Lucas exclaimed.

"Are you using your powers?" Dustin asked as he points at her with his accusation finger.

She shook her head, "Nope." and it's true, she wasn't even paying attention to the dice when it was tossed.

"I call it beginner's luck." Max said.

"In my experience there's no such thing as luck." Mike quotes.

"Oh my god! You guys are such Star Wars geeks!" Max groans.

Oh their second dice toss, it was almost guaranteed that one of them is going to step on one of El's stations and of course, one of them did. 

"Oh, c'mon!" Dustin huffs in frustration and reluctantly handed El a fifty dollar bill. It was now El's turn once again.

"I swear, if she rolls ten again I'm going to flip!" Lucas said.

Lucas and the rest of the party breathe a sigh of relief as she rolls a seven, landing on a Chance card and load and behold,-

"Advance to the nearest station-" El reads off of the card.

"WHAT?!" the party yelled in unison, genuinely shocked by her luck. Swooping up the third station on her first circle around the board. Even though she barely knows how to play the game, judging from her friend's reactions, she knew she was doing exceptionally well.

When it was Mike's turn to roll, he immediately got himself landed in jail.

"Have you been eyeing the Chief of Police's daughter, Wheeler?" Lucas smirked, finger pointing at Mike's avatar behind bars. "Hopper must have found out."

Redness quickly spread throughout his face, "Shut up!"

"Hey man, it's true! Don't think we didn't see you glancing at El every now and then!" Mike's face turned an even darker shade of red.

"Hey Wheels, you're turning into a tomato!" Max stated. At this point, he just hopes the floor would open up and swallow him whole. Drop him into the Upside Down or whatever. That place feels like heaven compared to here right now.

Half an hour later, a player finally bankrupted. Landing on El's Piccadilly... with 3 houses...

"Son of a bitch!" Dustin exclaimed as he tosses the remainder of his assets to El in an attempt to pay the eight-hundred and fifty dollar rent.

Upon reaching the one hour mark, it was made clear who the winner is going to be. Jane Eleanor Hopper, the proud owner of three of the four stations, full yellow and green sets. All of which has hotels constructed and a plethora of random assets scattered throughout the map. The stakes are now much higher since out of the four that remained in the game, one of them will succumb to the wrath of an airbed. 

Mike, El, Will and Max sat around the board, anxiously waiting for the dice to come to a halt and praying to not land on either one of El's or Max's tiles. It was clear that neither of the girls are taking the airbeds which leaves the only vacant spot to either Mike or Will. El has made it duty to make sure that it is the latter who occupies the airbed. Unfortunately for him, El was momentarily distracted by Dustin and Lucas's conversation when his roll happens. El turns back around to find Mike's avatar standing on Bond Street... Her most valuable tile, of which visitors have to pay one thousand four hundred dollars... instantly bankrupting him.

El's mouth remained agape as Mike hands over the remainder of his assets and money to her with a sad smile. "Congratulations." he said. She was too late... and now, Mike has to face the torture that is a night on an airbed. To make the situation more painful for her, it was her tile that caused him to lose.

The rest of the game went by relatively uneventfully since the stake was no more and their positions on beds firmly secured. The final victor being of course El. Her assets alone easily outmatch everyone else's combined. And she didn't even use her powers that much... Pretty good first game if you ask me.

Despite them complaining to not be tired mere hours ago, the party finds themselves snoring on their respective beds not long after midnight. The room is dark and silence accompanying the gentle hum of the air conditioner. Mild ruffling of bed sheets and blankets can also be heard in the background. El sit up to look for the source of the sound. After her eyes adjusted to the darkness, a quick glance around the room shows everyone sleeping soundly. Everyone except Mike that is...

He was lying on the airbed closest to El's real bed. His eyes were closed but his shifting back and forth clearly indicates discomfort. El pulls open her covers and waits no further to levitate Mike's body off of the airbed and onto her bed beside her. After wiping the blood from her nose with her sleeve, she lays back down onto the bed, pulling the covers over both of them and cuddle him tightly.

"Goodnight, Mike."

Chapter Text

Mike was snapped out of his dreams the next morning by the sound of a throat clearing directed at him. Really not quite wanting to leave his wonderful dream behind just yet, he attempted to turn on his side and fall back into the little universe in his head where only him and El existed and they live a prosperous and loving life... but felt something  that was pushing up against his side that was preventing his change of position. He was yet again met with another clearing of the throat, more forcefully this time.

He reluctantly peeled open his eyes only to be met with a blinding ray of sunlight. As his eyes slowly adjusted to the brightness of the room, he slowly made out the outlines of a big burly man half kneeling next to his feet. He blinked a couple of times to properly moisturize his eyes for clearer vision and saw a pair of eyes glaring at him, shooting daggers into his soul.

He remained silent for the time being, confused as to why the chief was staring at him like he had just murdered an entire family or something. He took a moment to look around the room and found everyone else still asleep. Him and the chief were the only conscious beings in the room. 

Phew, I certainly didn't just accidentally murder all my friends... then why is the chief-  Wait...

He quickly realized that he was able to see his friends in their respective beds, a vantage point that he didn't have when he fell asleep last night. Wait... where did he fell asleep last night? That's right, on an airbed that was wedged between a pair of real beds that obscured his view to the rest of the room. He certainly isn't there now, he's on a real bed. He looked to his other side and- Oh. El is the something that prevented him from turning. Then, the realization quickly sank in, he was sleeping... in a bed... with El!! 

This is so much worse of a crime than that of genocide!

"Wheeler!!!" the chief yelled, instantly waking everyone in the room. Mike was pretty sure he just woke the entire city as well.

"Hold on... Wait- Sir... I can explain-" he stuttered, already envisioning how his funeral is going to be planned out. Will there even be a funeral? Will El even be allowed to attend? Will my friends-

His stuttering and train of thoughts was quickly cut short by the sound of El yawning next to him as she released her tight grip on him, stretching her arms high into the air in the process. She sat up joining Mike's side and took hold of the sight in front of her. Her eyes darted between her dad and Mike, back... and forth... back... and forth... Until realization of the entire situation came to her. The night before, Mike's uncomfortable airbed, her lifting him up, cuddling him tightly as she falls asleep, everything. She instinctively wrapped both of her arms around Mike protectively.

"Please don't kill Mike."

The chief inhaled sharply, "Mind telling me what was going on?" It was more of a demand than a request. Mike gulped, utterly lost lost for words. 

"Uh... um.. I don't- I don't know... Sir." he blurts out. In his perspective, he fell asleep on his airbed and somehow woke up in El's. Did I sleepwalked? Was I drunk? he questioned himself.

"What do you mean you don't know?!" the chief yelled again. Mike could have sworn the ground shook a little.

"I moved him up." El answered. Now coming to think of it, she quickly realized that it probably wasn't a good idea to sleep on the same bed as Mike when literally anyone, especially her dad, could just barge in suspect the worst. Joyce had given El 'The Talk' not long ago and had forced Jim to sit with them during the entirety of the conversation much to his dismay. She was now well aware of why boys aren't suppose to sleep on the same bed as girls but that wasn't a part of her thought process when she decided to make him join her without his consent if it means for him to have a better night's sleep.

"And why was that?" the chief questioned, his eyes not leaving the duo for even a split second.

"He had to sleep on that... thing." she answered, pointing at 'balloon' that barely qualifies as bed that was lying on the floor.

"We- We didn't do anything... sir!" Mike said, he was shaking uncontrollably by this point.

The chief inhaled sharply once again and his face became softer, easing the built up tension in a room a little, "Fine! But never, and I mean NEVER, let me see both of you sleeping together again! You hear me?!" he pointed at Mike. 

Although it was true, he couldn't bother to point out that he was asleep the entire time and was completely innocent and oblivious to the happenings between the time his eyelids closed and this terrifying predicament. In addition, doing so would probably only land El in more trouble. So he resorted to just soak up the blame as courtesy to El's kindness. He just silently and rapidly nodded in acknowledgement.

Maybe I might survive this encounter after all...

"I just wanted to make him feel good." she stated, innocently.

Six feet under here I come!

Both the chief and Mike's eyes widened with shock upon hearing those two words. Mike's with utter terror and Jim's with raging fury. El was still oblivious to what her choice of words had just accidentally implied. 

Not a fraction of a second later, the chief practically flew right into his face and grabbed him by the collar of his shirt.

"WHEELER!!!" he yelled, droplets of spit landed all over his face. Oh yeah, that one definitely resulted in an earthquake.

"NO, NO, NO! That's not what she meant!" he blurted out in an attempt to at least get the honor of a quick and painless death. "I was asleep this whole time!" That didn't make the situation any better you fool!  "She meant to say comfortable! The bed is more comfortable than the air mattress!" he quickly reiterated.

He felt the chief's grip loosened a little as he turns to look at El, "Is that true?" he questioned. El still has no idea to what was happening in front of her eyes and just silently nodded. 

The chief lets out a breath of anger he had been holding and let go of the poor boy's collar. He patted the boy's shoulder with his huge hand twice a little more forcefully that Mike had hoped before turning and leaving the room without saying another word. Right before he went out of view of the kids, the chief turnned and looked over his shoulder back at Mike and gave him a small grin before walking away.

Mike lets out a sigh of relief before collapsing back onto the bed, breathless. Due to him being on the edge of the bed, the recoil momentum from his impact against the bed carried him over the side as he fell down onto the airbed that he was supposed to sleep on. He didn't even made an effort to prevent his fall. After landing on his face, he remained in that exact position as though all the muscles in his body had just melted.

"Mike!" El cried as she watched Mike rolled off the bed and high fives the airbed with his face. 

In response, he only mumbled an "Ouch." against whole three seconds after his face made landfall.

"Damn Wheeler! A whole ten years had just been cut from your short and pathetic life!" Max chipped in from across the room. During the entire predicament, the party watched on silently and didn't even made an effort to ease the tension that was so thick, you could practically swim in it.

"More like fifty." Mike mumbled, face still planted firmly on the airbed.


The group was once piled up in the rented van with all of their belongings stowed in the trunk and tried to the roof. When they were in the exact same van the night before, none of them realized how stuffy it really was. Partially due to the journey from the airport to their one night hotel only taking around ten minutes. But it's too late now as the group has to endure the torment for five hours to reach their planned destination. They had planned to stay three nights camping in one of Australia's many stunning national parks.

They had initially planned to visit the national parks after the beaches but due to overcrowding of the beaches for New Year's countdown, they reshuffled their schedule. The long and miserable drive to the national park mostly consisted of teenage groans, small talk and complaints with the occasional 'Shut up!' calls from one of the adults. 

"I never though I'd be spending New Year's Eve sizzling on a frying pan instead of having my nose frozen off." Dustin said.

"Which one do you prefer?" Max asked.

"Neither!" 

"I gotta admit I prefer freezing to death." Will said.

"What?! Why? Cold is horrible!" Lucas said.

"If it's cold, you can put on as many layers as you want before you're warm. If it's hot, you can only get as naked before you start peeling your skin off in frustration." Will replied.

The trio nodded in agreement, "True. Thanks for the logic Will!" Dustin said.

"Well, you guys don't call me Will the Wise for nothing."

Meanwhile, Mike mostly remained silent throughout of the journey while El was leaning against him with her head resting on his shoulder. Her head tilted at an angle to look at the treetops as they pass by rapidly through the window. Internally Mike was still recovering from his near death experience and the occasional glance from Jim through the rear view mirror wasn't helping either. The glances weren't death glares, thankfully.

They stopped by a store half an hour from the camp site and rented a couple of tents before continuing their journey. Upon arrival, they unanimously agreed to get the tents set up prior to anything else. Their camp site was by a decently sized lake, not much larger than the ones back in Hawkins. Throughout the entire process of setting up all the camping equipment, the lake has been teasing them with promises of cool waters and calm winds. They had the entire campsite to themselves as no one else in the entire universe except for them is weird enough to spend New Year's Eve in the middle of nowhere. Meaning they didn't have to share any of the toilets or kayaking gear with any strangers.

"Finally!" Dustin celebrated as the adults gave them the all green to roam freely, "I don't know about you guys but I'm dying for that body of water right there!" He immediately started stripping while everyone was still in view which prompted everybody to turn around in an attempt to spare their eyes while cursing in disgust.

"I already have my swimwear underneath my clothes you idiots!" Dustin yelled as he made a beeline for the lake, cannonballing into it.

"Henderson! Always check the depth first before you accidentally commit suicide!" Steve yelled from where the rest of the kids were still standing.

"Okay, mom!"

Lucas, Will and Max slowly made their way to the lake as well after changing into their swimwear. Seeing as it was not occupied just yet, Mike made a suggestion to El.

"Hey, do you wanna go kayaking first?" he asked, pointing at the long and thin boats on racks about twenty feet away. She grinned at him and nodded nimbly. Steve helped them get the oddly shaped boat off of the racks and into the water.

"Be careful of where you are heading. Please don't knock any of the other shitheads unconscious." Steve commanded as he handed them the life jackets and paddles.

"I don't need the life jacket." Mike said as he handed them back over to Steve.

"I don't either." El said, surprising both Mike and Steve.

"Wait! Elle! You know how to swim?" Steve asked.

She nodded, "Yes."

Mike's eyes were still wide from the surprise, he himself barely knew how to swim, and he had thirteen years to learn! Secretly he was actually a lot more comfortable with the life jacket on but trusted his skills and instinct in an attempt to impress El. Maybe... if he's lucky, he'll get the honor of teaching El how to swim. However, judging from the face of confidence on her, it looks like he'll be her student instead. "How?" he asked.

"In the lab, they taught me how to swim. Just in case for the bath." she replied while the pair nodded in understanding. Talks of the lab always shut everyone up. Knowing full well diving into it would only dig up heaps of horrible memories. Steve pushed the two man kayak into the water.

"Thankfully it still floats!" he celebrated.

"Do you want the front or the back seat?" he asked El.

"Front, please!" she responded.

Steve held onto the tail of the kayak to keep it balance as the duo hopped into their respective seats, giving them a nice boost of distance from the shore.

"Do you know how to row?" he asked.

"Yes. From the movies."

"Hey guys! Watch out! SS Mileven coming through!" Dustin warned the group that was in the water, giving their boat another shove after they had cleared the minefield of swimmers.

"Hey, let's go to the other side of the lake really quickly!" Mike suggested.

"Sure!" enthralled by the need for speed, the boat was suddenly yanked forward and started accelerating at an abnormal rate. Turning it into a speedboat in less than a couple of seconds while their paddles were still out of the water.

"El! El! Stop! Please!" 

The boat stopped accelerating but its momentum still carried it to the other end of the lake, its tip digging deep into the mud on the other side.

He let out a breath of relief. She turned around to face him and he noticed a drop of blood under her left nostril. He handed her the handkerchief that he kept on himself exclusively for El and her nosebleeds.

"We were supposed to use the paddles you know?" he stated with a smile on his face. Indicating that he's not mad.

She giggled in return, "Sorry."

Chapter Text

The duo's kayaking experience was quite pleasant. After just the two of them rowing around the lake for a while, the others joined in as well. Soon enough, the kids' competitive drive took over and a series of kayaking races with mix-matched pairs were held to determine the sole overall winner. Of course, without a doubt, whichever boat El was on came first which let to her claiming the throne of the game once again.

The intense paddling action left the kids' palms bruised and arms sore. It was collectively decided to skip the campfire for the night, delaying it till the night of the eve. They settled on some packed food and snacks for dinner which tasted horrible but they were beyond exhausted to care. Everyone felt their consciousness slowly drifting away before Mike decided to open his loudmouth and made an outlandish proposal.

"Can El and I share a tent?" His drained brain had just decided to shove whatever thought that popped up right out of his mouth unfiltered. Blissfully unaware of the reaction that his blurted suggestion had received and how it would be interpreted by the others.

It was pure silence for a couple of seconds before Mike finally came to his senses and quickly covered his mouth with his hand, internally cringing.

Not long after, the chief burst into laughter, "I don't know kid. We wouldn't want El to wake up next to a rotting corpse tomorrow morning now, would we?" he teased with a smirk on his face.

Redness immediately filled every inch of his face while the others joined in the laughter. Just as the sun dipped below the horizon and now with the tent distribution now firmly established, everyone retired under their respective canvases.


Jim woke up to the sound of ruffling. He checked his watch and noted that it was nearly three in the morning. Fearing it to be an aggressive animal circling the campsite, his hand subconsciously tried to reach for a weapon which was usually found in his holster but found nothing. His body whipped around to check on El who was curled up in the fetal position.

Her body was fidgeting and drenched in sweat, mouth mumbling something unintelligible. Her face full of distress. Jim had witnessed this exact scenario numerous times now. It was especially more prominent when he first took her in from the woods but slowly died down over the months; and she certainly hadn't had one in the last couple of months. Even Jim was surprised that the events of 84' didn't leave her nightmare filled nights.

However, tonight was an oddity. Maybe the memories had resurfaced once again, he thought.

Then, Jim noticed tears squeezing its way out of her firmly closed eyelids and she finally mumbled something decipherable. "Please- no."

He gently shook her shoulder, "Hey kid, wake up. You're having a nightmare." he whispered softly.

To no avail, she began twisting and twitching more rapidly and her mumbling grew louder. "No- please no, I'm sorry."

"El!" he shook her harder this time, hoping to yank her out of her nightmare as soon as possible. "It's just a nightmare, wake up kid!"

"Dad! No please- please dad no!"

Jim raised an eyebrow in confusion. Dad?  As far as he knows, there's only a single person in the world that she refers to as 'dad', and it's him. Then why was she pleading with 'dad' like her life depended on it. Snapping out of his thoughts, he resumed attempting to shake her up.

"No... please! I'm sorry- NO!" her eyes snapped open and her body immediately flinched up as if she was trying to escape but was quickly intercepted by Jim's arms before she could get on her feet. 

"Hey, hey! Calm down, it was just a nightmare."

"No! Please, I'm sorry! Don't-" she sobbed into his shoulder, arms wrapped tightly around him.

"Hey, there's nothing to be sorry about. It's just a nightmare..." Although she was awake, her mind was still preoccupied with the nightmare; fuzzing the line between dream and reality. He hugged her back, a hand rubbing her back gently to soothe her from her nightmare.

"I'm sorry. Please don't take me back to the lab, dad. Please..." she pleaded between sobs, face still buried in his shoulder. The word got his attention once again. Dad?  Until then, nightmares and pleadings had only been accompanied by the word 'papa'; this was certainly an anomaly.

"The lab? Why would I take you back to the la-"

 

You want to go back to the lab? One phone call I can make that happen.

 

His eyes widened pure horror as the realization hits him like a freight train. All of a sudden, he felt he was no better than the animals who worked at the lab. A lesser being in the eyes of mankind. How could he have possible threatened a young girl (who has became the single most important person in his life) with torture and abuse? That question he simply did not have an answer to. She trusted you with her life and this is how you repay her trust?

He felt his eyes beginning to tear up in disgust. Disgusted at himself. Their fight had been one thing, but that single line alone went above and beyond. He felt his grip on her loosen slightly. You don't deserve her. 

Now is not the time to be disgusted at yourself dingus! Fix the situation dammit! 

He re-tightened his grip and resumed his soothing. "I would never take you back to the lab..." he stated but the crying didn't stop.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I promise, I would never take you back there. Never." he apologized and reassured her profusely. "I didn't mean what I said."

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Her sobbing had died down and breathing returned to a much slower pace.

"Promise?" she asked, looking up at him with her still tear-filled eyes.

"Huh?" he quickly met her gaze. Jim was too deep in self contemplation and the sudden question overwhelmed him with confusion.

She let out another sniffle, "Promise you won't take me back to the lab?" she clarified.

"Yes. I promise. I promise you with my life. I also promise to take care of you for the rest of my life." he replied, "Consider this as an oath."

"Oath?" she questioned.

"An oath is a very serious promise. More important than a promise."

A gentle smile crept onto her face before hiding it by burrowing her face into his chest once again, "Thank you... Thank you for taking care of me."

Jim returned the smile, "Thank you too as well, for being here."

Embracing each other, they eventually fall back asleep over the course of half an hour or so. No nightmares dare threatened the tranquility for the rest of the night.


The next morning, the four preteen boys were the first to wake up. Emerging from their tent, they are presented with eerily still campsite. With a quick glance at the neighboring two camps, they concluded that they were souls awake in at least a fifty mile radius.

"I didn't know El is a heavy sleeper. Hopper? Sure. But El?" Mike commented with an amused grin.

"El is a Hopper now, ya know? So it kinda make sense." Will said.

"But does that make you love her any less?" Dustin smirked.

"Of course not! I bet every little thing he knows about her makes him love her even more! I mean, just look at his face!" Lucas gestured towards Mike's face with a jerk of his head. Pointing out a love-smitten grin on his face as bright as day for everyone to see.

Mike quickly recovered from his stupor, "What? No, I don't lov-" he stopped himself mid sentence because.... because... Friends don't lie and you love her! 

Dustin rolled his eyes, "Stop lying to yourself man, we all can see how much you love your girlfriend."

"No, she not my girlfriend!" he hastily stated the truth. He has yet to work up the courage to ask her. Does El even understand the concept of girlfriends and boyfriends? More importantly, does she share the same feelings as me? \

"What?! Seriously?!" Lucas exclaimed. 

"Dude, you haven't asked her?!" Dustin joined in.

"Seriously Mike? Sorry for the harsh comment buddy, but you're freaking useless." Will commented.

"Why do you all care about this so much? I mean-" Mike fired back but was interrupted.

"Both of you have been acting like an old married couple ever since the snowball! In all seriousness, why haven't you asked her?"

Mike sighed, "I don't... I'm not... I'm not sure if El likes me like that." he stuttered.

"You are so dense an oblivious." Lucas stated while shaking his head. 

"If you need reassurance, yes. El does like you like that. Love you even!" Will supplied.

Mike offered Will a gentle smile, deeply appreciating a supportive friend like him. "Thanks Will."

"So, are you going to ask her?" 

Mike pretended to consider for a second, There's nothing to consider. Of course you have to ask her!  "Alright... yeah.."

"Good! Better do it quickly before someone else snatches her up because; I say this as a friend, don't get me wrong; she's freaking attractive dude! Have you seen the faces of some of the boys at the snowball?!" Dustin said. Mike couldn't agree more, El is the most beautiful girl that he had ever seen.

"Or worse, she may think that you don't like her if you take too long."

He sighed again, "Alright, I get it! I just need to order a package of courage and have it personally delivered to my heart first."

The rest of the boys shared an amused grin with each other, "Don't forget to invite us to the wedding!"