The first time Kali came to visit El in Hawkins, it didn't exactly go smoothly. El was thrilled to see her "big sister" but the rest of her friends were more wary about the girl with wild hair and ice-cold eyes. To be fair, Kali didn't exactly work hard to ingratiate herself with anyone. Her initial intentions were essentially to kidnap (or "rescue," as she put it) her sister from Hawkins, which meant that Hopper spent ten full minutes fighting off an imaginary grizzly bear in the kitchen before El convinced Kali that she was fine, and this was her home now, and please stop it with the grizzly bear. So that didn't exactly win Hopper over to her side - and he didn't even know about all the burglaries and revenge killings and shit. Then, when El's friends came to visit, curious to meet the mysterious psychic punk older sister they'd only vaguely heard about, Kali immediately made herself invisible to everyone but El, and then went outside for a smoke. Later, Joyce had the whole crew over for dinner and bit back a smile when Kali, after turning up her nose at the macaroni casserole and roast beef stew, ended up going to town on a basket of freshly made Pillsbury crescent rolls. She proclaimed Kali "a tough nut to crack," which was probably the nicest thing anyone in El's circle had to say about the teenager.
Kali didn't stay long - she had her own crew to get back to, and being surrounded by corn fields and sports fans made her skin itch - but she promised El she'd come back to visit soon, and she kept her word. Every few months, she'd show up in a different beat-up car that Steve Harrington, for one, was pretty sure she had stolen, and tell El stories about life in the big, bad city, and make sure El was practicing with her powers, and annoy Hopper half to death. Kali took El to get her ears pierced even after Hopper expressly forbade it. For El's fourteenth birthday, Kali gave her a knife and a leather jacket. Kali knew that the policeman thought she was a bad influence and that most of El's other friends were terrified of her, but she was used to those kind of reactions. As much as she hated Hawkins - and she really, really, hated Hawkins - she felt strangely tied to it now. For the first time in her adult life, she had a sister - someone she could confide in, someone she wanted to take care of. It was a big change but it made her happy in a way she couldn't really explain.
By Kali's fourth visit, it was mid-July and she was almost glad to escape from the muggy heat of the city. The policeman scowled when she appeared at the front door of his cabin, but she ignored him and brushed past to greet Jane, who dropped her book on the floor and threw herself into Kali's arms.
Jane's bed was big enough for the two girls to share, and they stayed up half the night whispering, Kali absentmindedly playing with the younger girl's hair and feeling so much like a real, normal person that it made her heart ache. Jane told her about going to high school in the fall, about learning how to skateboard and ride a bike, about trying to read the Lord of the Rings books someone had given her for her birthday, about sneaking out on the fourth of July to watch the fireworks with her friends. Kali talked about her crew's trip to New York City, leaving out the details about the men they had killed (all of whom were active members of Brenner's conspiracy - after Jane's intervention, they'd stopped targeting retirees, at least) and instead focusing on the weird, awesome food they'd got to try and the cool bands they'd seen and the way the city looked when it lit up at night. After a long lull in the conversation, Kali was sure Jane had fallen asleep, but the girl surprised her, turning to face her older sister and looking at her seriously.
"Have you ever been in love?"
Kali grimaced. That was not a mistake she ever intended to make. "No."
She looked up and softened slightly when she saw El's disappointed face. "Why?"
"Because..." El looked around, checking that Hopper wasn't listening. She leaned in towards Kali and whispered in her ear. "I'm in love with Mike."
Kali couldn't help but smile at her sister's earnest expression, even as her heart twisted slightly in worry. She's growing up so fast.
"Aren't you a little young for all that?" This was not the right thing to say. El looked indignant.
"No. I love him. Joyce says I'm 'wise be on my years'."
Kali smirked. "You mean, 'beyond.' And of course you are, Jane. I apologize." She thought for a moment. "Mike... he's the tall one, yes? With the black hair?"
El nodded, blushing.
"And he's the boy who let you hide in his basement?"
"Yes," El began to babble excitedly, happy to tell her sister all about the miracle that was Mike Wheeler. "He thinks I'm pretty and he kissed me two years ago because he said didn't want to be like my brother. I didn't know anything about kissing then but now I know. He called me every day, on the radio, when I was hiding with Hopper. He danced with me at the Snow Ball. He said I looked beautiful! And then we kissed, again. And on Valentine's Day he gave me this!" El reached over to her bedside table and picked up a small white teddy bear with a red heart embroidered on its chest. "He made me promise not to tell his friends, though. They would tease him too much."
"Cute," said Kali reluctantly, looking down at the little bear. It amused her sometimes, how different she and Jane were, even though they called each other sisters. If a guy ever tried to give Kali a gift in honor of the corporate retrograde bullshit holiday known as Valentine's Day, she would probably chuck it at his head. "So is he your boyfriend, or what?"
El nodded, turning pink. "Since 83 days ago. But... he doesn't know. That I love him."
"You planning to tell him?"
The girl shook her head. "No. He's got to go first."
"Says who?" Kali blurted out, eyes narrowed.
El shrugged. "I don't know... movies. And the magazines Nancy gave me." Kali rolled her eyes and wished, not for the first time, that Jane wasn't quite so impressionable. "I
told you, those magazines are crap. They just want to make you feel bad and sell you shit. And the movies aren't much better."
"But I like the movies and the magazines. They're so pretty." Kali sighed. This wasn't an argument she was likely to win.
"Yeah, okay. Just don't... take it all so seriously, alright?"
A few hours later, unable to sleep, Kali disentangled herself from Jane's side and wandered out onto the front porch, wondering why she felt so damn worried all of a sudden. She knew Jane was tough - in fact, it drove her crazy the way the people here all babied the girl. She and the policeman had gotten into a huge fight about it, just a few months ago.
"She's old enough to make her own decisions!" Kali had shouted. "She's been through more shit than anybody. You can't protect her from the world when the world already got to her!"
"She's a child, Kali. She'd eat Eggos for every meal if she had her way. She needs safety and structure and a chance to get some education, okay? I'm her father now..."
"No you aren't! You know who her father is and what he did to her. The last thing she needs is another one!"
Hopper had grit his teeth and ripped Jane's framed birth certificate off the wall, shoving it in Kali's face. "I'm. Her. Father. Now. And that means I make the rules, not you. So get with the program or get out of my cabin."
Kali had snarled right at him, her eyes coal-black and furious. "I guarantee you're getting some fucked-up nightmares tonight, policeman. Hope you keep the lights on."
(It had taken a lot of glaring and cajoling on Jane's part to keep Kali from living up to her threat.) So yes, Kali knew Jane could handle herself. Kali had no intention of acting like an anxious mother hen. And yet... love?
Love was dangerous. Stronger than her powers and Jane's powers combined. It made you so, so stupid. It could fuck up your whole life. Kali had seen it, seen people caught in depressive holes or getting the crap beat out of them regularly or just making completely irrational decisions that nobody could talk them out of, just because they were in love.
Kali didn't want to see her little sister put through the ringer like that.
But what could she do? Even at fourteen, Jane was stubborn. Like most teenagers, her emotions were bigger than she was sometimes. Worse, she'd spent the last year and a half absorbing every soap opera and romantic movie the policeman would let her watch. She didn't know about the bad side of love, the dark side.
Then and there, Kali made a decision. She'd go into town one of these days and find this Mike kid, figure out just what he was all about. Jane talked about him like he was the most wonderful person she'd ever met, but Kali was a more objective judge of character. She'd find out if he was really worthy of somebody like Jane or if he was just another selfish teenage boy trying to get lucky. And if she had to ever-so-slightly emotionally scar him in order to get this information, well - she'd done worse things, hadn't she?