El stood at the doorway of his sister's birthday/ soon to be engagement party.
El, who saved his sorry hide by helping him bake a cake for said party.
El, who was lovely and kind and had unintentionally stolen Mike Wheeler's heart almost immediately.
El, who was… Wait. Why was she here? Didn't she have a date with Max?
Elation, confusion, and nervousness crashed through him all at once.
There were too many unanswered questions and Mike's brain was currently floating miles above his body with no hopes of ever reconnecting. He nearly asked Nancy to pinch him, because this couldn't possibly be happening.
And yet… there she was, looking absolutely stunning in a long sleeved black top and an overall romper.
Mike couldn't stop staring like a complete goof.
He almost didn't notice the other person El entered with. The woman was taller, but they were no doubt together as they shared a laugh and hung their coats.
"Come on," Nancy was suddenly dragging him along again, "let's go say hi!" Mike could hardly process what was happening before his sister yanked him over to greet the two women.
El caught sight of Mike just before his sister tackled her.
"Cupcake Queen! Hi!" Nancy exclaimed happily, letting Mike's arm go and throwing her arms around the shorter girl. Apparently, Nancy had her own nickname for El too.
"Hey Nance!" El's voice was muffled, her face pressed into Nancy's shoulder. "Thanks for inviting us! This is my plus one, Max." She stepped back, letting the birthday girl and Max greet one another.
This was Max?
Holy shit, Mike thought with a groan, I definitely never stood a chance! This must be El's girlfriend!
"It's great to meet you Max!" Nancy said happily, giving her a friendly hug before turning her attention back to El.
"Mike told me you two met! You'll have to tell me how later. Max, this is my little brother, Mike." Nancy added excitedly. Mike shook Max's hand out of muscle memory alone.
Max was startlingly beautiful. She had striking red hair and piercing blue eyes that made him feel as though she could see right through him. It was almost as if her gaze said: I know you were flirting with my girlfriend earlier today, wise guy.
"Oh! I have more people arriving. I need to go say hello. El, your sister is in here somewhere." Nancy gestured vaguely to the full room before turning to her brother. "Why don't you show them where the refreshments are? I'll see you in a bit." And just like that, she vanished into the throng of party guests, leaving Mike alone with El and Max.
El's dark eyes flashed to Mike and he suddenly felt very embarrassed. She didn't seem surprised at all to see him!
"So…" he trailed off unsurely, "you uh… know my sister?" He coughed lamely; it was impressive he could even piece together a sentence right now.
El grinned. "Yeah, I met Nancy about eight months ago! She's great. She's always in the shop for a cupcake and a cup of coffee. We hit it off."
"Did you know the whole time?" Mike asked a little sulkily, unsure if she'd been playing a prank on him or not.
"No. Not until you said you'd wish Nancy a happy birthday for me! But by then the cab left." El explained, smiling from ear to ear. "I didn't think there could be so many Nancy's in the same city celebrating their birthday on the same day. And then the rest just kind of clicked too."
"Wow." Mike groaned, "I can't believe it. And you're a baker! You said you just did it for a hobby!" He accused giddily. He couldn't believe it! El was here!
"It is a hobby! I just help my sister Kali out at her bakeshop sometimes when she's busy. I'm just a boring student most of the time. Today was my day off and I wanted to help Kali but she kicked me out and told me to go home." El explained just as excitedly. In their exuberance they had grown louder and closer and Mike had the strangest urge to hug El, he was so happy to see her!
"Nancy loves the cake, it's over here, it made it safe and sound this time!" Mike reached for El's hand to lead her to the dessert table and that's when he caught sight of Max's blue eyes boring into him.
He stopped cold.
She wore a lazy smirk on her lips as she looked back and forth from El to Mike. Both of them blushed brightly and Mike immediately dropped his hand.
He'd completely forgotten about Max.
"S-sorry." Mike mumbled, putting a little space between himself and El.
"I could show you the refreshments now if you'd like?" He offered politely.
El seemed puzzled by the shift in his tone, her brow furrowed, and the previous excitement faded from her features. She nodded anyways.
Mike turned and led them towards the refreshments.
Jonathan had really gone all out for Nancy's birthday. The food and drink tables were practically groaning under the weight of all the refreshments. El and Max eyed the tables appreciatively, El's eyes lingering on the gleaming cake. The corners of her lips twitched upwards and she opened her mouth to say something but was cut off by an unexpected source.
"Mike! It's nearly time. We need to get ready." Will said breathlessly, surprising all three of them. It took Mike a moment to realize what he was talking about.
"Oh. OH. I'm sorry, I have to help with something for a minute." He apologized.
"We'll catch you after." El said understandingly with a wink.
Mike nearly died right then and there, but before he could expire, Will (thankfully) dragged him away.
It was just about ten o'clock—almost time for Jonathan to pop the question! He and Will had to hurry up and get into position.
Mike was sorry and yet not sorry to leave El and Max.
El was stunning and it was hard not to stare at her like a complete dork—but Mike knew he had to get it together. For Pete's sake her girlfriend was right there! He was literally ogling a woman in front of her significant other.
Not cool, Wheeler. Mike sighed to himself.
"That's the signal." Will said excitedly, watching Jonathan scratch his nose with an overly exaggerated motion that made Nancy look at him funny. Mike nodded and quickly faded out the music and the room gradually hushed.
Dustin and Lucas reemerged from the crowd and beelined for the speakers to hang out with Will and Mike as Jonathan offered a birthday toast to Nancy.
The crowd offered cheers to Nancy on her 27th birthday, and then they watched as Jonathan lean close and whisper something into her ear. Nancy looked confused, but she followed Jonathan onto the small patio just outside.
This was a part of the plan. There was no way Jonathan wanted to say something as private as the words he was proposing to Nancy with in front of the crowd. So as everyone resumed the party, they kept a close watch on the door for the couple's reemergence. Barb (his sister's best friend and undoubtedly future maid of honor) loyally guarded the patio door, keeping anyone else from going outside as a very important conversation happened.
"So Mike, who were those girls you were talking to?" Lucas asked suddenly as the chatter picked up once more.
Mike was taken off guard by the question. He looked to his friend, but Lucas was looking over towards El and… Mike realized, specifically Max.
"Oh, that's El and Max they're—"
He was cut off by a loud squealing sound.
Everyone in the party halted and about a hundred heads swiveled as one to face the patio door, breaths held in anticipation. A moment later, a thoroughly kissed looking Jonathan Byers opened the door and stepped solemnly back into the venue, Nancy's hand clutched in his own.
For a moment no one said a word and Mike feared the worst—had Nancy said no? He'd been so certain she would say yes, she loved Jonathan with all of her heart.
Jonathan cleared his throat and then shouted: "SHE SAID YES!"
Cheers and wolf whistles erupted.
Will threw his arm around Mike's shoulder and squeezed him excitedly, "we're going to be official brothers now!"
"Yeah!" Mike agreed just as cheerfully.
"Ahem." Dustin coughed, clearly feeling left out.
"Don't worry Dustin, you can marry Mike and then you'll be in the Wheeler family too." Lucas teased. Dustin and Mike glanced each other over.
"Please. I could do so much better." Dustin said, rolling his eyes.
Mike snorted and punched his friend playfully in the shoulder.
The four friends watched as the ecstatic crowd immediately mobbed Jonathan and Nancy and the party took on an even more festive atmosphere. Mike, Will, Dustin and Lucas hung back, letting others congratulate the newly engaged couple first. There would be plenty of opportunities to offer congrats later.
The room became even more boisterous; the mix of happy news, good food and alcohol filled the small art gallery with plenty of cheer.
Mike stayed with his friends for a little while, watching Dustin do a walrus impression with two sliced green peppers and snorted when Lucas laughed and his drink shot out of his nose.
Still, he found his gaze searching for a familiar head of soft curls and his stomach flipped every time he saw her. She was talking with an olive-skinned girl with long, lustrous dark hair at one point and judging by how friendly the two were, Mike had to guess that this was El's sister Kali.
Will perked up when his boyfriend arrived, and when they disappeared to go get some drinks Mike decided to take a small breather out on the patio. It was loud and hot in the art gallery now and he just needed some fresh air.
He slipped out into the cool night air, the voices became muffled as he shut the door behind him and let out a deep sigh. There were only a few people on the patio taking a quick smoke break and Mike said a brief hello before sitting down at one of the two small tables. Soon enough he had the patio to himself when they disappeared back inside, and he was left alone.
Even the patio was decorated beautifully.
Light strands crisscrossed across the rafters, illuminating the patio in an ethereal, romantic glow. A vase of beautiful, pink peonies was on the two small bistro style tables with heart shaped confetti strewn on the surface.
It was a beautiful night and Mike was incredibly happy for his sister. Jonathan had made her so happy over the years and it was plain to see that they loved each other deeply. His soon to be brother in law had really thought of everything and Mike was glad that Nancy found someone so kind hearted and thoughtful to spend the rest of her life with.
He couldn't help but wonder if he would be so lucky too.
Whiskey brown eyes and a slightly crooked smile flitted through his thoughts and Mike immediately squashed them down.
He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't hear the patio door open, nor did he notice the person sit beside him until they spoke.
"So, Mike. Who's your friend? The one who snorted his drink out of his nose?" Mike jumped when he noticed Max, who gave him a smirk and she leaned back in her chair nonchalantly.
"What?" He asked dumbly.
Max gave him an unimpressed stare.
"Who's your friend?" She repeated impatiently. Mike stared at her uncomprehendingly. Why was she asking about Lucas?
"Lucas?" Mike said unsurely. "What do you want from him?" He asked.
"Is he single?" Max pressed, ignoring his question.
Mike stared again. What was with today and feeling totally, completely, fucking lost?
He nodded anyways.
"Great." Max said happily, her blue eyes flashing. "I wanted to make sure before I asked for his number." She let out a breath and glanced around the patio appreciatively, admiring the décor.
Mike, meanwhile, stared at Max in complete and utter bewilderment. Why was she asking about whether or not another person was available to date when she was here with El… unless….
"Aren't you El's girlfriend?" He blurted inelegantly.
"What?" Max's head whipped towards him in surprise, eyes wide.
"You and El. I thought you were dating?" Mike asked, growing increasingly confused at Max's reaction.
There was a beat of silence that seemed inescapably long.
Mike staring at Max. Max staring at Mike.
"Me and…" She trailed off, a look of comprehension passed through her gaze and she burst out laughing.
"That's why!" Max laughed, "that's why you were acting so weird—you thought El was my girlfriend?"
"I heard her talking to you on the phone and I just assumed…" He stammered, his heart racing in both mortification and hope.
"That's just how we talk to each other," Max rolled her eyes. "El is my girl friend, but not my girlfriend. Get it?" She stressed the words carefully, watching as understanding finally began to seep into him.
"I—" Mike opened and closed his mouth, his teeth clattered together at the abruptness of his movement. From the moment El picked up the phone he'd just assumed that Max was her boyfriend. Because she was amazing and wonderful and so cool! It wouldn't be a surprise. But what Mike should have accounted for was that El leaned towards him too. And then when El tried to take the time at the cab to ask him a question… He didn't have the courage or luck to believe that what he thought El was going to ask him could be true.
"I get it." Mike groaned loudly, dropping his head into his hands. "How bad did I mess this up?" He asked, peering over at Max.
"Well, you probably should have let El ask you out at the cab." Max mused, "but I think you just confused her. I understand why you were so hot and cold now though."
He groaned again and slumped down in his chair. Max let him squirm a little as she hummed and hawed over what to do now.
"Honestly? I don't think it's that bad. You just have to talk to El. She'll understand." Max relented and gave him a small, encouraging smile. "She couldn't stop gushing about how cute you were and something about nerdy hobbies… blah, blah, blah." She waved her hand dismissively as Mike flushed in both happiness and embarrassment.
El had gushed… about him?
He tried to ignore the pleased, embarrassed warmth that welled in his chest at the thought. El had been going to ask him out at the cab. She must like him too! In between trying to calm his erratically beating heart and not grin like a lunatic, Mike was completely taken off guard for what happened next.
"Whatever you do," Max drawled, trying not to think about how disgustingly cute these two nerds would be if they did start dating, "you'd better decide quickly. Here she comes."
Mike nearly jumped out of his skin because sure enough, El opened the door to the patio and caught sight of the two of them.
"Oh! There you are Max. With Mike?" His entire body flushed. Knowing that El quite possibly maybe liked him too… was his heart going to explode out of his chest? Hopefully there was someone with first aid training onsite because the way his heart hammered in his chest, it was a real possibility.
"El. Perfect timing. Mike here just confirmed that his friend is single. I'm going to talk to him and hopefully get his number." Max stood abruptly, before walking to her friend, grasping El around the shoulders and leading her over to the small patio table.
El looked suitably startled when Max plonked her down in the now-empty seat across from Mike.
"Mike was just telling me something very interesting and I'm sure he'd love to share the story with you too. Wish me luck!" Max patted El fondly on top of the head while simultaneously shooting him a pointed look before she disappeared back inside.
Click! Mike winced at the sound of the patio door locking. Max wasn't exactly subtle. But perhaps he couldn't afford to be subtle either.
"Did she just… lock us out?" El asked incredulously, brow furrowing.
"She did." Mike sighed.
He was suddenly very glad for the dim, romantic lighting on the patio because he was certain his face was stained permanently pink. El shook her head at her friend's antics and settled down into her seat, peering around in a dazed wonder at the décor.
"Beautiful." She breathed contently, the lights reflecting in her gaze and Mike was fairly certain his whole heart might already belong to this almost stranger.
"Yeah." He sighed without taking his eyes off of El. She turned to him, expecting to see Mike admiring the décor too, but was startled to see that he was only staring at her.
Mike Wheeler realized he'd been granted an amazing stroke of luck here—and it was one he couldn't let slip away again. Sometimes you had to make your own luck.
Her cheeks darkened, and Mike knew it was now or never.
"I thought Max was your girlfriend." He blurted.
El's eyes widened.
"The phone call. I was trying not to eavesdrop, but I thought you were dating Max because of the way you ended the call." Mike rambled, "and it made sense that someone as awesome as you would already be dating someone. So I just assumed and um… I shouldn't have." He finished lamely, falling quiet.
He was too nervous to look at El and she was quiet for a moment before a chuckle slipped through her lips.
He looked to her and was flattered to see that her cheeks were stained pink too.
"You thought I was dating Max…" She trailed off, grinning. "That's why you were so strange after!" El exclaimed, the giggles spilling from her lips before she could stop them.
"I thought I'd made you uncomfortable earlier. I was going to apologize." She admitted, laughing still. Mike couldn't help but join in a little nervously at first.
"I thought I was making you uncomfortable too! I thought you had a boyfriend and I almost kissed you!" Suddenly the whole situation seemed so silly.
El clutched her stomach as they both laughed long and loud. Luckily they were out here all alone; otherwise people would have thought they were loons. Eventually their laughter died out and they sat there, in a comfortable silence, listening to the din of the party inside.
"Well, now you know I don't have a boyfriend or girlfriend. And I assume you're not seeing anyone either…" At El's questioning look Mike shook his head vehemently. Her dark gaze danced with mirth and something, she nervously wet her lips.
"Does that mean I can kiss you now?"
It was a simple question and yet it stole his breath away. Somehow Mike knew he'd have to get used to being so affected by El.
Mike swallowed heavily, lost under the depth of her dark gaze.
She leaned forwards slowly, with plenty of time for him to pull away if he wanted.
The kiss was soft and sweet with just a touch of hesitance at first.
El's lips pressed against his tentatively and Mike melted. His breath hitched and suddenly her arms were wrapped around his neck and the kiss began to burn. It simmered under his eyelids, under his skin, digging down into his lungs and burning into his heart. His hands buried into those soft curls he'd been dying to touch all day and El sighed against his lips. He kissed her sweetly on the corners of her mouth, pulling back with great reluctance when he could feel her smiling against him.
El was glowing when they parted, though they did not move away from one another.
"I've been wanting to do that since you suggested a Dungeons and Dragons board game night." Mike admitted, trying to let his brain catch up with his body.
How could she affect him so much? It wasn't fair.
"I know this is a little late now, but I was wondering if you wanted to go out with me sometime?" El asked breathlessly, her eyes flickering down to his lips once more.
"Hell yes." Mike blurted.
El laughed and he groaned in embarrassment.
"Points for enthusiasm." She murmured, leaning in to steal another kiss.
The loud, undeniable sound of a throat clearing interrupted their second kiss. Mike and El bonked heads as they jumped apart in surprise.
A newly engaged Nancy and Jonathan stood by the doors of the patio, not even trying to hide their knowing smirks.
"Well, had I known you two would have gotten along this well, I would have introduced you two to each other myself!" Nancy teased.
Mike blushed brightly, but he was glad to see that El's cheeks were just as flushed but she was still smiling.
"Congratulations you two." El kissed Nancy and then Jonathan's cheeks happily.
"Yeah, congratulations guys." Mike hopped up, happy for the distraction of being caught kissing by his sister of all people. At least it hadn't been Lucas or Dustin. He'd never hear the end of it.
He hugged his sister, who very well might have been trying to squeeze the life right out of him with how hard she hugged him back. Jonathan gave Mike a firm hug, keeping a tight grip on his shoulders before asking:
"So what happened to the first cake?"
Nancy and Jonathan were married eight months later and it was beautiful.
Karen Wheeler was a crying, happy, sappy wreck all day, closely followed by Joyce Byers. Seeing their babies all grown up and married—it was a joyous occasion for both sides of the families.
Will was Jonathan's best man of course, and Barb was Nancy's maid of honor with their younger sister Holly as her bridesmaid.
El was kind enough to agree to go to Nancy's wedding with Mike as his now girlfriend. (Mike still could hardly believe his luck that El wanted to date a nerd like him).
Lucas, who had been in a dazed, love struck stupor since the night of Nancy's birthday party, was accompanied his girlfriend: Max. They'd hit it off after that night and had started dating shortly after.
Will ended up catching the bouquet by complete accident.
Nancy hadn't even meant to throw it! She'd gotten a little too into a conversation and it flew from her hand when she gestured, soaring over to the table and caught by a startled Will.
Dustin nearly killed himself laughing and almost killed himself laughing again when not two years later, Will was the next one to be married to his partner Jordan.
Five years later…
Mike Wheeler never counted himself a lucky person until the day he met El.
And here they were—holding each other close on the dance floor as husband and wife.
He'd never get tired of the feel of El against him. In the five years they had been together, she never stopped affecting him so deeply. She was so sincere, so kind, so beautiful of a person that Mike Wheeler long realized he'd been doomed to fall in love from the day they met.
At the end of their first dance Mike pressed a soft kiss to El's lips.
"I love you." He sighed happily.
"I love you too." El stole one more kiss and their friends and family clapped (or in Max, Dustin and Lucas's cases, wolf whistled). As they parted, Mike chuckled under his breath, earning a curious look from El.
"What is it?" She asked with that slightly crooked smile that did funny things to his insides.
"I was just thinking that I found my good luck charm after all." He whispered into her ear. Her face lit up and she gave his hand a tight squeeze.
Their wedding went perfectly...
Right up until the moment Mike tripped and face planted into the wedding cake.
(And then, it was perfect still.)
Bonus Scene: The Phone Call from El's perspective
"Oh hey Max!" El greeted happily, tucking the phone under her chin and reaching for the cookbook at the same time.
"You sound way too chipper," Max remarked incredulously. "What are you doing right now?" El giggled.
"I'm just baking a cake with Mike." She explained.
There was a beat of silence.
"Is that code for you're having sex? Who the hell is Mike?" Max exclaimed excitedly. El blushed violently, nearly dropping her phone in surprise.
"Max!" El hissed into the phone. Her friend laughed on the other end of the line. El glanced up worriedly; paranoid that Mike had somehow heard Max. Luckily he seemed far too engrossed in searching for the icing sugar to notice.
"Sorry! Sorry." Max laughed, not sounding the least bit sorry. "But seriously, baking with a dude? That's like… third base for you." El's cheeks darkened further and she wondered why her best friend was such a shit disturber.
"I bake with you all the time?" El asked, thinking to all those afternoons together.
"Correction—you bake while I lay on the couch and complain until it's ready and then I stuff my face. And wait a second. Who the hell is Mike anyways? You've never mentioned him before! What if he's a serial killer?"
"Oh…" El trailed off for a moment. "I never thought to ask. Hold on." She covered the receiver and looked at Mike over her shoulder.
"Mike?" She called tentatively.
He turned around, a look of curiousity passing over his face and El's stomach swooped deliciously. He had a smear of butter on his cheek.
Cute. El tried to refocus on the question at hand.
"You're not a serial killer, are you?"
A sound that was a garbled mix between a snort and a laugh erupted from Mike. She couldn't help but grin in response and did a damn poor job of hiding it when his dark gaze flitted to her lips. Somehow that innocent action made her face grow hot.
"No. Are you?" He finally managed to ask. It was a fair question to receive in return.
"No." El nodded approvingly before uncovering the mouthpiece on the phone once more.
"Well I'm glad we got that settled." Max drawled, unimpressed. She was silent for a moment before asking:
"So El, is Mike cute?"
El nearly choked on her own saliva.
Dammit Max, yes he is, she swore mentally. From the moment El had stopped on the sidewalk at the scene of the first cake's death and Mike had turned around to face her… Cupid may as well have shot an arrow straight through her heart.
She recognized him from class, but he always looked like a zombie in their 8AM class and she'd been distracted, taking note of his entrance but never really paying attention beyond that. Mostly she noticed him because in his sleepy, zombie-like state, his fluffy hair was always askew.
And now… he was in her kitchen and his name was Mike and she was helping him bake a cake for his sister's birthday of all things. This wasn't how she'd anticipated her Saturday to go, but El was glad she'd met him.
Of course she couldn't say any of this right now.
"I'll call you later Max, we have to get this done in a jiff." El inelegantly ended their conversation. Her refusal to answer Max's question would only provide more fodder for later teasing, even though Max was just being a brat because she knew Mike was in the kitchen with her.
"Sounds good El. We still on for tonight?" She could hear the grin in Max's voice.
"Of course you're my date. I'll pick you up at seven. Love you." El smiled and hung up the phone.
"I'm sorry," El said apologetically and turned back to Mike, "now where were we?"
A/N: I'm a sucker for a happy ending :')
Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed!
I have another story in the works currently, it will loosely follow the storyline of 'Knight and Day' (that Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz movie) and be a Modern Day / POWERS AU. It will likely be around twelve to fifteen chapters.