Walking through the blue stripped corridors, they both saw a flash in the corner of their eyes and froze. She halted, while he had to place the hand not tightly gripping the walkie-talkie on the wall he was about to pass.
Glacially, he turned to face the seemingly impossible flicker of a face he last saw in a window. (At least, the one he thought he saw.) Of one, that he imagined nightly as he talked to what felt like a void.
"Mike," said Eleven as she turned to face him.
His mouth fell open as they took tentative steps that brought them to the middle of the tiny, not really corridor. Like magnets, their arms flew to embrace each other.
She repeated the name, while he could only nod against her shoulder.
Through muffles, she could hear what sounded like "El" against her ear. They began to part, but not wanting to separate any more than they had to, she placed her hands on the sides of his face, as he put his on top of those.
Staring into each other's eyes, increasingly tear stained, Mike was about to properly speak but opted to move in kiss her once more. About to pull out of the quick peck, Eleven leaned in.
They stood there, joined and breathless. Eventually, they moved to rest themselves on each other's foreheads. Smiles lit up their faces.
Minutes they remained in this closeness until the radio buzzed with Lucas checking in. Separating and taking a few steps, Mike took a second to remember the task at hand. He was to finish checking the gymnasium and find a monster that could have been dealt with half-an-hour earlier.
Annoyance flashing, Mike instinctively moved to retract the antenna, but stopped when he turned around to see El staring at a point in the wall.
Eleven's cascading joys from the embrace halted as she seemed to realize where they were. With her laser-focussed task met, the gravity of where she stood came back. It was here she disappeared and came back.
Mike realizing this grabbed her hand as she turned to face him again.
Knowing they needed to leave, Mike said "It's getting late. We should try again tomorrow morning."
Will chimed in to agree, noting the time, while Dustin was about to say otherwise, when Lucas followed saying to meet back at the AV room.
Mike copied and tugged Eleven forwards. Before turning the hall to the room, he told El to stay there for a second.
"I'll be right back" as he grasped the side of her shoulders and moved into the room to pick up his bag.
A few seconds later he was back and again rushing Eleven out the door.
Lucas and Will were the first to arrive at the room, followed by Dustin.
"Did Mike leave already?" as Dustin only saw Max's backpack left in the room.
"And where's Max?" said Lucas as the two moved to grab her backpack, both wanting to be one who gave it back. Tussling ensued before Will finally grabbed it to stop any further roughhousing.
"We should probably find her," he said as all three walked out of the room.
Meanwhile, Eleven and Mike arrived at the bike and she smiled as he got on and looked at her from behind.
"Home?" he asked as El was broken out of her reverie.
"No," she said. Instead she nodded towards the woods.
"Oh, okay. We could still bike some of the way the way there."
She agreed as she moved to scoot in behind.
Thirty minutes later, the pair were walking by foot through woods and quickly wilting trees that marked the autumn beginning in earnest now that it was November. They did not say much during the bike ride beyond El clarifying which way to go. As the purpose of her walkout was right next to her, Hooper's rules kicked in once more.
Mike noticed her apprehension, followed by her glares around the environment. The pair reached a branch that was halting their immediate path, when Eleven made a shushing action.
They were near the house where she heard the woman and child playing that morning.
As the woman had neared, Eleven moved to use her powers to drop a branch. The child had cried at the loud crack and the moment swept the bundle into her arms and looked at the direction of the loud sound.
Nearing this house once more, El led Mike to a wider route away from that place.
The sun was setting as Eleven reached her home for the past year. She told Mike to leave the bike before crossing the trip wire. Invoking a smile from Mike, she used her powers to push the cycle out of view into a pile of fall leaves.
As they entered, Mike noticed the beige uniforms and moved to read the name on the breast pocket. Pausing, the realization of what had happened flashed to him and rage took over him until Eleven embraced him from behinds.
Quiet as a mouse, she said "I know" and was about to explain further when Mike said, "It doesn't matter anymore."
"You're here, we're here now," he finished as the two sat down on the couch.
"I heard you, every single night," said Eleven as she rested in the crook of Mike's neck.
Meanwhile, Mike's face was well into El's hair as they simply lay there. "And I looked forward to that, always," he said
"No matter how hard it could be sometimes."
"I saw that. I'm sorry.."
"No, don't El. I, a year ago, I should have looked for you. I should have known it was you in the window. I, I," but Mike broke into tears again.
Eleven responded by facing him and slowly moving her hand to wipe away the tears and then hold his cheeks.
To this, he started again, "Were you always here, with the Chief?"
She shook her head, and told of hiding and living in the forests as snow fell and the weeks chilled.
Mike was about to say something, having shuddered as she described winter in the forests, but then she resumed, "One day, I saw Hooper and wanted a home."
"But. No, no. I promised that I'd take care of you. We could have had all this time," Mike responded resolutely.
"I know. But it's worked out now," as she moved back into his arms.
He responded by nuzzling his face back into her hair, an action that she found exhilarating to her very roots.
They lay there, simply and finally content, until beeping disturbed them.
"Morse code," Mike recognized.
Having leapt ahead to decipher the message, El said, "He'll be late. Stay for a little bit longer?"
Sitting back down.
"When can I return? I have school tomorrow. I can come back right after again. Maybe longer on Saturday," ending the last date with a smile.
"Yes. To both," El looking forward to both, and the future for that matter. "We can talk before then," holding up the radio set.
"If Hooper is using 11, we should change it up. New odd number every day?"
"Start at 1 today," El said nodding. She then flashed to her room.
Curious, Mike followed, but stopped at the threshold, though not for long as he was startled backwards by a...
"Ghost," said Eleven with a smile evident in her voice even if her face was covered by a sheet. "For Halloween, I wanted to match."
"Ghostbusters, you saw?" Mike chuckled.
They moved to hug again, with the white sheet eventually dropping to the ground by the time they parted.
"I should le..." Mike started.
El nodded and led him out, locks sliding before they even got to the door.
"It's going to be different now," she said as they reached the bike. "Soon is soon."
"Soon is tomorrow," Mike smiled.
Eventually picking up his bike, El grabbed his arm and pecked him on the cheek. Signs of their blushing having only been partially obscured by setting sun.
"Come on, let's go. I'll..."
"You should stay El. I remember the way and what to avoid."
Scrunching her nose, she eventually relented, "I'll keep a watch."Pointing to her head.
To this Mike held a chuckle and said, "Fair."
When Hooper knocked, she found El on the couch, clearly having just visited him.
"Kid, I'm sorry. I don't know when soon ends."
Still partially ruffled by this morning's lie, El was about to head to her room, when she halted and remembered how things were going to be better now.
"I know. It's fine," and closed the door.