I'm sorry for the long wait, but I kept changing things up with this chapter (you really don't know how many times I edited this). At least I gave you a oneshot to keep yourselves content while waiting (for those that haven't read it, it's called Shakespeare and it's obviously a Mileven fanfic).
In this chapter I finally gave a voice to two characters: Karen, for who I really wanted to write a motherly scene, and Kali, who has a big potential even on the show. I really hope they will give her more space in the series, as there are many ways her characater could develop.
As always, thank you to everyone who left a review in the previous chapter and to everyone that follows this story. For updates on my works, surveys, requests, follow me on Instagram: percyandnico.
The ride back home was deadly silent, and not even Kali who had regained a little bit of her energy had dared to say anything; Eleven had once tried to change the radio station and Hopper had blocked her hand, so she just glared at him and changed it without raising a hand.
Kali had tried not to snort at that, but Mike hardly contained his chuckle.
As they got back to the Wheelers', Mike's mom hugged him tightly and for a moment the boy felt like he had his true mom back, not the always dull, sad wife she was now.
Then the long discussion started: the kids wanted to spend the night together, but the parents were obviously not going to let them; Mrs. Wheelers had had a rough day, and sure she wanted to ask his son where he had gone.
"Everyone shut up" the Chief's voice made them jump a little. He looked exhausted: he was pinching the bridge of his nose, trying to calm down the loud booming he felt into his head; not only Eleven had disappeared without saying anything, she had also brought home this "sister" and dragged along the Wheeler boy.
Now he had to explain the whole thing to the Wheelers, and he sure as hell wasn't going to explain it to all those other families, so he said "Kids, go home. You'll have your sleepover tomorrow, and we all know you're gonna talk about this whole thing on those goddamn walkies anyways. So just go".
Nobody dared to protest, not really because they were afraid of Hopper, but because of how exasperated he looked.
And it was true, he felt that way: he had lost Sarah, and he couldn't lose Eleven too. She had slowly become a very important part of him, his family, but the girl was far too instinctive for his liking, and sooner or later she had to understand that there were boundaries, rules to respect.
But in that moment – oh, in that moment he was far from thinking that calmly.
"Before you burst into one of your teenage crisis, just know that no showcase of your powers will scare me enough to lift your punishment, so try and go along with whatever I say and be thankful I haven't punched your knight in shiny armor just because he is a kid" Hopper was whispering to Eleven so that no one could hear their conversation, trying to calm himself before having to explain just why the two had escaped and returned with a girl no one had ever seen before.
"Don't talk about him like that" she hissed back, narrowing her eyes "it's not his fault".
"Oh, yes it is, maybe he's even more responsible for this; he knows what kids should and shouldn't do better than you do, yet he went along with your little plan – and guess what? Now we have to expose your story to even more people. Do you even try and understand how much I worry about you being taken away from those men again?"
Eleven couldn't find the right words to answer, feeling guilt rising from her gut, trying her best not to cry.
"Right" Hopper said, rubbing at his eyes "so just know that you're grounded: no Mike, no friends, just you, me, the cabin and your homework".
"You can't be serious!" she exclaimed, and everyone's eyes flickered to them "Please. I know what I did was wrong, but...but I needed to save her. She's my sister".
Mrs. Wheelers frowned in confusion.
"What the –" Hopper almost chocked on his own words "Eleven, you were in the laboratory together but that doesn't make you two sisters!"
Eleven's eyes shot up to his, full of pain and tears, as she spat "You don't understand! She does! And if she's not my sister, how are you my father?"
With that, she stormed out of the room and down to the basement, crashing a lamp with a flick of her wrist on her way out.
"I told you not to do that!" Hopper yelled at her back but she didn't even flinch.
Mike and Kali sat there, one shocked and the other one partially amused and partially worried; Mrs Wheelers looked like she was going to faint "She...she..."
"Yeah" Hopper exhaled "Guess I'm gonna have to explain this, now. You might as well run to your princess, Wheeler, you two are not gonna see each other for a little while".
"I don't want him near that...girl" Karen said, horrified, "she's–"
"Not gonna hurt me, mom" Mike interrupted her, voice firm "she's not gonna hurt me, just let the Chief explain".
The basement was completely dark and silent, yet Mike knew where to find her.
As he raised the blanket that covered the entrance of the little fort, Eleven glared at him "Go away".
"What? I thought I was your favorite person" he smiled softly at her and crawled in, sitting beside her and sighing as she showed no sign of life.
"I'm sorry I put you in this situation" she whispered, "I should've left alone".
"No, you shouldn't have, it would've been even more dangerous. But Hopper's right...we should've talked to him. I don't think he would've said no".
"Now you're on his side?" she was incredulous, eyes wide.
"No! I understand that you wanted to save Kali, but I also understand that he cares about you a lot".
"You care about me, too"
Silence fell in the room.
"Me and Hopper, we both love you. But while my love is romantic, his is a dad-like love. It's just different, El, and I think you should make up with him".
"You love me?"
Mike smiled widely and pressed their foreheads together "I think I had already made that clear".
She leaned in and pressed their lips in a sweet kiss, sighing; when they kissed, it was as if the world stopped and every danger, every problem momentarily disappeared.
"Eleven?" Kali's voice broke the magic of that moment, "we have to go".
They both stood up and as they walked to the door, Eleven bit her lip and tightened her hand around Mike's for a moment.
Before going away, Eleven waved at Mrs Wheelers and the woman smiled faintly at her: she felt bad for the kid, but she still was shaken from what she had seen.
After that, Eleven flung her arms around Mike's neck and kissed him on the cheek "I'm gonna miss you".
He sighed, running his fingers through her hair for a while "I'm gonna miss you too".
"Oh come on, it's just a week, don't make me look like a monster" Hopper grumbled, urging her to get into the car; they still had lots to talk about.
As Kali entered the small cabin, she looked around and smiled a little: it wasn't big, but it was better than anything she had ever had. It smelt of family and of pancakes.
There wasn't anything she felt like she could do to keep herself occupied: she had no clothes to fold, no bags to unload...she had nothing except El's reassuring smile always waiting for her when she turned to look at her.
She wondered what she had done to deserve all that love and support from that little girl.
"Okay" Hopper sighed, rubbing at his temples "We're all tired as hell and I haven't eaten in something like two days, so: you borrow Kali some clothes and show her to the bathroom so she can take a bath, I cook something, then we talk. Are we clear?"
Both girls nodded and Kali gave Hopper a grateful smile: Eleven had been very lucky to have him find her, he really was like a father to her, she could tell.
Maybe he wasn't going to get a father too, and maybe it was better that way. She needed to set her life straight and find the peacefulness she had never had.
"Here" Eleven smiled and led her to the small room on the right; it was nothing big, but the girl looked so proud of it "this is my room. Now we're gonna share it, and we can get you a bed..."
"Hurry" they heard Hopper calling from the other room "there's gonna be time for talking later".
Kali took a pair of baggy sweatpants that weren't too baggy on her as El was noticeably smaller, and a hoodie that fit her just right.
"I'll be waiting for you" Eleven smiled at her and turned on the bathtub "and don't worry, dad isn't gonna leave you behind".
Mike couldn't bring himself to sleep.
The thought of not seeing Eleven was driving him insane; he wanted to know she was safe and happy and okay. Not that she wasn't with Hopper, but when he left for work? And Kali? Were her friends going to escape and track them down?
A knock on the door pulled him out of his thoughts.
"Mike?" Karen's head appeared from behind the door, "Are you awake?"
"Yeah" he mumbled, not even bothering of sitting up straight.
"Can we talk?"
"If this is about Eleven being dangerous or something jus-"
"It's not" his mother sighed, now entering the room and closing the door behind her "it's about a few things, really. Not just Jane – I mean Eleven".
"Okay" he frowned and looked at her funny.
"Don't look at me like I'm your worst enemy" she chuckled nervously, and even in that chuckle Mike noticed a hint of sadness "It's just me".
"Yeah, and you know how long it hasn't been you?" he shot back a little too harshly, wincing at how he sounded too.
Karen set her lips into a thin line, not even scolding him for talking back like that: he was right, she knew, she had failed them both as a mother when they needed her the most.
"Listen, I won't ask you to forgive me or to understand, but I really want you to at least try" she sighed, shaking her head a little "okay?"
The boy nodded, biting on his lip as she sat in front of him on the bed.
"I know you're mad at me for not being there in the past year and a half. I should've been a better mom, but no one teaches you how to handle parenthood, you know?" a dry chuckle escaped her lips "And after Will came back from his disappearance – not that I completely understood what happened anyways –, and the fear of losing my children faded away, I went through a very hard time. Your father and I...I don't even know why we are still together to be honest. If there's still hope, still just that tiny spark of love that can make things right".
"Then just divorce" Mike said, hostile once again.
"It's not that simple, Micheal" Karen looked truly saddened as she spoke "But this is not what I wanted to talk about. This is about us, me you and Nancy. You're my children no matter what, I should've been there for you – you survived a real war and the thought of losing you without even acknowledging you were in danger makes me sick with myself. So what I wanted to say is I'm sorry. I promise I'll do better, if you'll let me".
Mike was silent for a while, until he lifted his teary eyes on her and whispered with a crooked voice "You're my mom, how could I not forgive you?"
Karen smiled and leaned in for a hug, on the verge of crying too.
She had learned something new, too: her children were always going to be the thing she cared about the most.
"Well" she laughed a little after they separated "at least your long hours of playing D&D were not completely a waste, now were they?"
Mike smiled too and then he asked "What did the sheriff tell you, anyways?"
"Well, I was hoping you could explain it to me, as he went over the general details. And if I hadn't seen Jane make things fly with her mind I wouldn't have believed a single thing"
"It's Eleven, mom..." he corrected, then proceeded to explain "okay, let's start from the beginning..."
"Before we start this conversation" Kali said, helping Hopper with the plates "I just wanna say thank you for helping me".
Hopper sighed "Listen kid – well, you're not really a kid so listen Kali, it's not about you, nothing personal, it's just that..." he glanced at the bathroom door where Eleven was washing her teeth "I love her more than life itself, and she needs to understand that there are rules, boundaries to respect".
"You're right" Kali nodded "but I need to add something. Eleven isn't a normal teenage girl – don't get me wrong, not in a negative way. Her life will always be crazy, she will always be this wild; protect her, give her rules, but don't ever, ever try and suffocate her true nature. She was born to do great things, and Papa ruined her in the worst way possible: she lost faith in the world and he broke her inside. You made her see light, hope, happiness, and her friends and boyfriend too".
Hopper grunted at that, but Kali smirked and both turned towards the girl as she left the bathroom.
"What's up?" she said, tilting her head to the side.
"Nothing" her dad said, pulling a chair out for her to sit "come here".
Eleven bit her lip and sat down, preparing herself for the long lecture she was going to get from Hopper, but he instead sighed and tried to calm down.
"So" he said, looking at her straight in the eye "care to explain to me what this story is, too?"
The girl slowly nodded and started from the very first beginning, flinching a little when Hopper's face went blank as she told him about her little trip to Chicago a while back.
As she finished telling the whole story, before Hopper could say anything, she looked at him with her kicked puppy expression "I'm sorry. I know what I did was wrong, but you didn't let me leave the house. I had to. I'm sorry...about everything".
Hopper was silent for a while, until he just grumbled "Gonna give me a heart attack one of these days".
Eleven smiled brightly at him and hugged him tightly, "I'm sorry".
"It's alright, kid" he said, "but you're still grounded".
"How long?" she whined.
"Dunno" he shrugged "let's see. For now you get to stay to the cabin, and lucky you, you even get to have company. You know you just got yourself someone to
share your room with, right?"
Kali smiled widely too, "Thank you, Chief. I really appreciate it".
"Ah" he said, "call me Hopper and don't be this polite, it's not necessary. You got any plans on what to do? School? Something?"
She looked lost for a moment as she shook her head "I don't know. I guess I'll start thinking about it".
The Chief nodded and with a final sigh he said "I guess we can call it a night".
When Nancy got up to drink at the early hours of the morning, she stopped by Mike's room as she heard voices coming from inside.
She opened the door only to find her brother and her mother talking.
"What are you two doing? It's 5 a.m." she yawned "just go to sleep already".
"Will do" Mike nodded, suddenly feeling sleepy "we were just talking".
"Oh" Nancy nodded, a little confused, but decided to let it go as it was too early to worry about that. Before going to sleep her mother did something that shocked her: she gave the both of them a kiss on the forehead, and Mike didn't even cringe when she did so.
It certainly had been an exhausting day for everyone.