A/N: Uh...hi. It's been *checks watch* way too long. Y'all, quarantined college is hard.

CoolDeeDee requested Mike comforting a scared El and I hope this does it well! This is short but sweet - it made me smile and I hope it makes you smile too.

Mike's heart is pounding as he walks up the steps to the Byers residence, his hand clutching a small piece of paper the size of a playing card. He blows out a breath before he knocks a familiar rhythm against the family's front door.

Knock knock.

Knock.

Knock knock knock.

"I'll get it!" a muffled voice yells inside and he smiles as he hears padded feet rushing to the door. He hides the paper behind his back as the door swings open. His girl stands on the other side, breathless and beaming.

"Guess what?"

Her brow raises expectantly as she takes a step out of the house to stand in front of him. "What?"

"I passed."

She gasps as he proudly shows her his temporary driver's license. With a squeal of excitement, she throws her arms around him and he grins as he catches her, pulling her close.

"I'm so proud of you," she murmurs in his ear and he squeezes her tightly.

"Thanks," he says, pulling back to see her. "So, where would you like to go first?"

Her eyebrows raise and she blinks a few times before her eyes dart behind him where she spots the station wagon he'd parked in their driveway.

"That's yours?" she asks, looking up at him in surprise and he nods.

"My dad surprised me with it this morning and the first thing I want to do is take you somewhere special."

Her face lights up as he pulls the keys out of his back pocket.

"So, where to first?"

Her eyes are shining as she stands on her tiptoes to press her lips to the corner of his mouth and he dips his head to rest his forehead against hers.

"Somewhere quiet," she murmurs. "Where we can be alone with no one to bother us."

"Deal."

She grins as he nudges his nose with hers before she presses a hand to his chest.

"Let me go ask my parents," she says and grabs a hold of his hand, tugging him back into the house with her.

Hopper's at the dining room table bent over a book, his glasses at the edge of his nose.

(He'd gotten those glasses about a month ago and one night, El had swiped them off of his dresser while him and El were in the house alone. She'd begged him to try them on, which he did with a sigh. They blurred his vision, but it was worth it when she slipped them off of him with a smile.

"I knew it," she'd said. "You would look cute with glasses.")

"Dad?"

"Hmm?"

"Can I go for a drive with Mike in his new car?"

Hopper peers at them over his glasses.

"When did you get your license?"

Mike clears his throat. "Um...today."

"So that means it's illegal for you to drive anyone for six months."

Mike's stomach twists and he opens his mouth to retort, but El beats him to it.

"He'll be careful, Dad, we won't get caught. And besides, we're just going out of town, there won't be a lot of people around."

"It's still illegal," Hopper says, his gaze pointed. "You're talking about breaking the law to the chief of police."

"But you're retired, sir," Mike cuts in. "Technically, you can't arrest us."

"Daddy, please," El begs and he can feel the puppy eyes she's giving the man. "We won't get caught, promise."

He sighs, taking his glasses off and setting them off to the side.

"You will not get in a crash," he starts, his eyes closed as he pinches the bridge of his nose. "You will stay away from people as much as you can. And for the love of God, you will not get caught by Callahan, you hear me?"

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," El cries, rushing around the table to wrap him in a hug.

"Uh-huh," he grumbles. "And Wheeler, have her home by midnight."

"Yes sir," Mike replies with a grin, reaching out a hand to his girlfriend when she returns to him and she laces their fingers together.

"See you tonight, Dad!" El calls as they make their way out of the house and he closes the door behind him.

"So, you want to go out of town?" he asks as they walk towards his car and she nods.

"We could go sit by the river? The one at the edge of the woods?" she suggests.

"Perfect," he declares as he unlocks the driver's side, reaching over to unlock her door as soon as he gets in. "You want to get dinner?"

"Yes, please," she says as she slides in and her eyes light up as she takes in the interior of the car. "This is nice."

He smiles, his heart leaping at the sight of her in the seat next to him.

"I'm, um-I'm really excited to finally be able to take you places," he murmurs as he sticks the keys in the ignition.

"I'm excited to go places with you," she replies, leaning over to kiss his cheek before she puts on her seatbelt and he pulls on his before he turns the keys and backs out of her driveway.

After a pit stop at their favorite fast food place, they find themselves walking through the densest part of the woods, following the sound of rushing water. El carries a blanket under her arm, which she spreads out on the forest floor once they reach the slope of the river bank and Mike hands her burger and fries over once she's settled.

Their evening is wonderful. The conversation is lazy and easy as they eat their burgers, watching the water ripple over the rocks. They cover everything from his driver's test to El's struggles with her biology lab to determining which movies make them cry the hardest.

She's cooing over his admittance that he sobbed at Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as a kid because he identified too much with Rudolph when something wet lands on her forehead. She frowns and glances up at the sky to see that the clouds have grown dark and thick. Next to her, Mike flinches, and a second raindrop splats on her arm.

"Do you think we should-"

He's cut off as the pitter-patter grows heavier and she nods quickly, scurrying to gather their things as the rain begins to soak through their clothes. He pulls her to her feet once they have everything and he grins down at her.

"Race you to the car?"

She takes off running in reply, laughing at his cry of indignation.

"Oh, it's on!" she hears and she giggles as she weaves between the trees, his pounding footsteps close behind.

He catches up to her when they reach the road and he presses a messy, out-of-breath kiss to her cheek before he dashes over the driver's side, unlocking it hastily. They both tumble into the car, their clothes soaking the seats and they quickly pull their doors closed.

They're both shivering as Mike jams his keys in the ignition and fumbles at the dials on the dashboard, turning the heat on at full blast. For a moment, they're still, panting as the adrenaline of their sudden escape wears off and when they finally glance at each other, she finds herself giggling at the way his hair is hanging in his eyes.

He grins, his eyebrows quirked up. "Are you laughing at me?"

"Yes," she replies and leans over to brush his dampened hair away from his face. He lets her meddle with it, although when she moves away, he shakes his head like a dog, his hair flopping this way and that and she squeals as the droplets hit her skin.

"Mike!" she chides and he laughs.

"Here," he says, reaching behind the driver's seat and pulling out a bag. "My mom insisted that I have stuff for an emergency with me at all times." He rummages through until he finds a blanket, tossing it to her. "And I'm pretty sure this is an emergency," he teases her and she hums appreciatively as she wraps the thick material around herself.

She burrows further into it as Mike puts the car in drive and pulls onto the road, carefully turning around so they were headed back to Hawkins.

The rain is steady for a few minutes, the windshield wipers doing their part to keep the glass clear. They're quiet, the coziness of the car and the thrill of their date, of being able to go anywhere now together, wrapping them in contentment.

They're ten minutes from the Hawkins city limit when a vein of light whips through the sky. Her eyes grow wide and her heart goes still in the impossible seconds before the drum roll of thunder booms and she squeaks, the sound shaking her breath.

"Shoot," Mike mumbles and reaches out a hand to her. She grabs it and holds on tight as she makes herself smaller in the blanket.

There isn't one concrete reason why El is still terrified of thunder. It could be any number of things-perhaps it's the association of loud noises with gunshots, explosions, lab machinery, horrific dangers coming for her. Maybe it's the reminder of the night she escaped, the fear that they would find her and never let her out again. Maybe it's the lack of control over the big, scary, monstrous force. Or maybe it's everything at once.

"There's another one," Mike says, squeezing her hand as lightning strikes off to their left and she inhales sharply, tensing every muscle in her body before the inevitable crack of thunder.

This one is louder, heavier and she bites her lip to keep from screaming. Her heartbeat is erratic and Mike's thumb is tracing circles on the back of her hand. She pulls her comfort from it and the shock is just starting to die down when the rain picks up.

The intensity of it makes Mike gasp and he has to pull his hand back to keep both hands on the wheel as the drops begin to slap thick and unyielding against the windshield.

"Holy hell," he mutters, flipping the windshield wipers to their top speed and she whimpers, the chaos sucking the breath from her lungs as she shrinks into herself.

The next clap of thunder makes it worse and she squirms from the intensity of the fear that pricks her skin.

"Mike," she whines.

"I know, I know," he responds through gritted teeth, his hands clenching the steering wheel.

The water is beginning to run in little rivers along the sides of the road where it dips, the tires sending out waves when they drive through a puddle and it's all very sudden when a bolt of lightning strikes close enough that the pounding thunder rolls in only a few moments after the flash and she screams as it rattles in her chest. In the same instant, the car begins to skid, the tires tilting too far to the left on the bend of the road, and Mike inhales sharply, his hand shooting out to grab her wrist on instinct.

"I'm pulling over," he mutters, slowing the car enough to right it again before he carefully guides them off the road. He tucks the car between a gap in the trees and throws the gear into park, yanking the keys out of the ignition.

She scrambles for him, unclicking her seatbelt and he meets her in the middle of the bench seat, gathering her up in his arms as she presses her face to his chest, grabbing fistfuls of his shirt.

"Hey hey hey, you're safe. I know it's loud and scary, but I've got you, okay?" he murmurs in her ear as he holds her tight. She trembles, maybe from the cold or his voice or the lightning strike, but Mike feels it regardless and reaches with one hand to the backseat where an extra blanket lies untouched. He hastily drapes it around her shoulders and the fabric is thick and warm against her skin. His arms wrap around her once more, situating her so she's curled against him.

She grits her teeth through every thunderclap, squeezes her eyes shut with each howling gust of wind, and his hands are tracing up and down her back, but it's so loud, the rain pounding on all sides of the car as if it's desperate to break through and hurt them.

"M-Mike," she stutters out.

"I know, I know, I'm here, El."

It works for the three seconds she can hear his voice, before her muscles tense again and if it wasn't for the pressure of his arms around her, she would've drowned by now.

"Mike," she whines. "Words?"

It's nonsensical and he's quiet for a moment and it's enough to convince her that she'd dreamt that he existed.

"Mike?" she whimpers as she lifts her head to see he's flushed a bright red.

(He's still there.)

"Sorry, um...what if I sang to you?"

Her lips quirk up into a hint of a smile.

"Okay," she whispers and snuggles back into his chest. She feels him take a breath.

"Ooo, you make me live.

Whatever this world can give to me,

It's you, you're all I see.

Ooo, you make me live now, honey.

Ooo, you make me live."

He rocks her gently to the beat as if they're dancing and she sighs, her hands unclenching at the same time her heart does. His voice is low, warm, and perfect and it's saving her. If his voice was a place, she would never leave.

She parts her lips to join him in the chorus.

"You're the best friend that I've ever had.

I've been with you such a long time.

You're my sunshine

And I want you to know that my feelings are true.

I really love you."

He presses his lips to the crown of her head.

"You're my best friend," he whispers.

She smiles, her breath hitching as her eyes water.

"-m in love with you," she murmurs.

"I'm in love with you too, El."

He holds her for a while longer as the last threads of fear unravel themselves from her bones until she's sinking in clouds of contentment. Around them, the storm gives up its fight, dropping its weapons until there's nothing but the whisper of rain left.

"What if we just stayed here?" Mike mumbles against her hair.

"Mmm."

Eventually, the clock on the dashboard will click to midnight and she'll whisper something about a curfew. He'll groan in protest, but let her crawl out of his arms anyway and she rests her head on his shoulder as he drives them back into town.

A year later, she receives a record player from her parents for her eighteenth birthday and the last record in the stack is Queen's "You're My Best Friend". A message is scrawled on the upper right-hand corner of the cover.

"For the storms," it says.

"Love, Mike."