we're going old school with the AN at the front today. this is the first chapter in a multi-chap series mainly focused around mileven but with Lumax also. i've never really done well with multi-chaps before, mainly sticking with one-shots, but i might as well try it out, it could be fun. I'm gonna try my best to be consistent with an upload schedule. hopefully i'll be able to upload atleast one chapter every sunday. i'm not sure how many chapters this is going to be, but i'm hoping atleast six, although ten would be ideal. again, this is my first time doing a multi-chap so any and all feedback would be crazy good. but all mistakes are mine and i hope you all enjoy. (also the AN is only going to be at the front for this chapter only. every other AN will be at the end, like normal) oh, also the name could be subject to change. I have no idea how i feel about the name the social system, if you guys like it i'll keep it. although it is kinda growing on me... also if you see any spelling/grammar mistakes and any awkwardly phrased sentences, let me know, i'll try and fix them asap...maybe i could find a beta reader
Words w/out AN: 4591
Pairing(s): Mileven, Lumax
I own nothing.
the social system: chapter one
Mike looked over his answers for his math test, flipping through the pages to double and triple-check that each answer is correct.
It kind of sucked that there was a test on the first day of school, but his teacher, Mrs. Sanders, explained that the results of this test wouldn't affect their current mark. It was just being used to evaluate each student's level of skill so she would know how to help each student individually.
His period before this class, calculus, was a spare. So it was kind of jarring to go from doing nothing straight into doing a test.
It didn't really matter to Mike. A test was a test. Which meant he answered each question and made sure he's right.
Each question seemed pretty simple to Mike. That either meant he knew what he was doing, or he was going to get every question wrong.
He looked around the class to see how far through the test his classmates have made it. It seemed like everyone was more or less on the second and final page, but he saw a couple of people still on the first page.
"Excuse me." Mrs. Sanders called out from the front of the class. "Eyes on your own test please."
Mike's head swivelled to the front of the class so fast, he was surprised he didn't get whiplash. He blushed as his eyes grew wide in a shocking fashion.
Did Mrs. Sanders think he was cheating? Mike thought to himself. He wasn't cheating, he swears!
Mike tries to get a better look at Mrs. Sanders but a student's head is partially blocking his view. He leans a bit to the right to look around the kid and notices Mrs. Sanders scowling in his general direction.
Shit. He thought. She totally thinks he was cheating.
Mike has never cheated on a test before in his life. Why would he start now on a diagnostic test that wasn't even for marks?
Maybe he could explain to his teacher that he was just casually glancing around? Yeah, because that sounded believable.
Mike's heart rate quickened as he thought of the possible outcomes for this situation. Maybe Mrs. Sanders wouldn't report him? Cheating was a serious offence in this school. Serious enough to get you suspended and kicked off your sports teams and after-school clubs.
Oh gosh. What would Mike do without the AV Club? That was by far his favourite school club. He was the president for Christ's sake.
It was a chill time for him and his best friends to hang out and relax.
Mike couldn't focus on the test in front of him anymore. Being labelled a cheater could ruin the rest of his academic career for him.
As class drew closer and closer to an end he tried to draw his attention to his test. He looked it over the best he could one last time and shakily handed his test in, waiting for the scolding from Mrs. Sanders for this whole cheating misunderstanding.
Instead, all he received was a tight-lipped smile and a "thank you."
He stumbled away shocked, expecting his first-ever scolding.
Maybe this was just a misunderstanding then... Maybe she wasn't talking to me?
The bell rang as he contemplated what could have just happened. He walked back to his desk and grabbed his bag.
Maybe he was just overreacting?
El Hopper brushed by him, handing her test in also.
"El, I'd like to talk to you after class about the incident that occurred between you and the person in front of you's test."
Mike didn't mean to eavesdrop. That sounded like a private conversation that they needed to have, but he was just within earshot. Half the class had already left and the other half was too busy preparing to leave to notice the teacher's request.
What incident did El have with the person in front of her's test?
Mike slung his bag over his shoulder and nodded a goodbye to Mrs. Sanders, relieved there was no reprimand for his casual glancing. His bag felt lighter for some reason?
The person in front of you's test…
Wait...Didn't Mike sit in front of El today?
He took a couple of steps out of the classroom. She must have been trying to cheat off of his test.
Mystery solved, he figured. When Mrs. Sanders looked in his direction it must've been for El Hopper.
Aw shit. He thought, halfway to the AV room. He forgot his binder in his desk.
Mike quickly rushed back to the class. A couple steps outside the door, he heard the voice of Mrs. Sanders.
"I'm very disappointed in you for trying to cheat on this test."
"I'm sorry." A new voice said El's voice. "I just didn't know how to do any of the questions…"
Mike frowned. They were pretty easy questions.
"Well, these questions are important for your future in this class." Mrs. Sanders said. "The skills necessary to answer these questions will be essential in passing this class."
El sighed. "I don't know how to answer these questions."
"Well, I'd suggest getting a tutor. Maybe I can partner you with someone who did well on the test and you two could work together to further your understanding."
"A tutor?" She complained.
"No…" Mrs. Sanders said. "A study-buddy. Someone who can help you. I don't know who did well on the test yet, but I have a couple of ideas on who I could partner you with. Learning these concepts is critical, so I'll let you know as soon as possible when I have your partner chosen."
"Alright." She sighed. El stomped her way to the exit.
Mike feels like he shouldn't have overheard that. This is twice, that's he's accidentally eavesdropped on El Hopper and Mrs. Sanders. In the same hour!
Her footsteps were getting closer and Mike had to pretend he wasn't just blatantly listening in on her personal conversation with the teacher.
Mike rested his hand on his chin, stroking it like he was a philosopher deep in thought. His other hand grabbed the closest locker door handle, making it seem like he was just a student trying to remember his combination. Genius, right?
Obviously not, since as soon as El exited the room, she was halted in her tracks and looked at him like he was an anomaly she had never seen before. Now that he thinks about it, stroking your chin only ever looked cool on people with a beard.
He probably looked really stupid.
"Nerd..." She muttered as she rolled her eyes and resumed walking past him.
A bit harsh, but he probably deserved it.
He quickly entered the room to grab his binder.
"Sorry, Mrs. Sanders. I forgot my binder." He gestured to the binder in his desk.
"Not a problem, Mike." She replied. "Are you going to continue tutoring this year?" She asked him.
"Yeah, of course." Mike said. "It counts as community service hours."
She nodded thoughtfully, not continuing the conversation. Mike took that as his cue to leave.
"Guys, she was cheating off of my test." Mike explained to his friends in their usual lunch spot, the AV room. "And Mrs. Sanders said she needed to get a tutor."
His three other friends were all looking at him.
"So what?" They said.
"She cheated off of you…and got caught." His friend Lucas said. "It's happened to all of us."
"Yeah." Will agreed. "We can all think of like, a million times where people have tried cheating off of us or straight up asked us what answers to the test were. What's the big deal?"
"Uhh," Mike stuttered, because what is the big deal?
He didn't know.
"I guess it was just something interesting that happened…" He resigned.
"Well, wait a minute." Dustin said. "This is El Hopper we're talking about."
Mike, Will and Lucas were confused. "So…?"
Dustin sighed, his facial features drooping in a way that said are you all idiots?
"El Hopper!" He continued. "Daughter of the chief of police, Jim Hopper? One of the more popular people of Hawkins High?"
The boys still looked confused.
"Oh, come on!" Dustin said. "She's a bonafide badass. Doing whatever she wants, whenever she wants."
"She didn't seem like a badass." Mike commented.
"She is. Trust me."
"Alright then." Will said. "So, Dustin has a crush on El Hopper."
Mike and Lucas laughed.
"No, I don't have a crush on her. But if someone as popular and cool as her is hovering around us, maybe that'll make us cooler."
"I wouldn't really call using me as an answer guide hovering around us." Mike argued.
"But there's a social system. She is on the upper end of it. We are on the lower end of it."
"Dude, so what?" They said.
Dustin sighed. "Fine, whatever. I don't care anymore. We can just be losers for life."
And that ceased their conversation about El.
Mike's next class was advanced functions. Yes, another math class.
What can he say? He really liked math. He was good at it.
He shared the class with Dustin and Lucas. They all sat near each other at the front. Their teacher handed out a review package and told the class they could work on it in groups.
Naturally, the three boys were a group.
They hit a couple of roadblocks, Mike and Lucas had conflicting answers. They argued about who was right, asking Dustin to do the problem himself. But he hadn't made it that far yet, instead choosing to let his friends handle their problem themselves.
Although, the way Dustin said it sounded more like, "I don't care about your petty problems, figure it out yourself."
Usually, Will was the person they went to if there was an argument or disagreement in the Party, but Will had opted to take advanced functions over the summer, giving him a spare during period three.
After they managed to get over that bump, the rest of the package went by fairly easily. Class ended before they could completely finish the package, however. Their teacher told them the review package was homework and the boys agreed to meet after school at Mike's to finish it.
Mike's next and final class of the day was English. Will was in it, too, but their teacher had an assigned seating plan based on the first letters of their last names. And unfortunately, Wheeler was nowhere close to Byers.
El was also in the class, apparently. Mike learned that when she walked in five minutes after the bell. Their teacher muttered something about being fashionably late and how it doesn't work in high school.
This was one of the first times that Mike had ever sat at the back purposely. Usually, he sat at the front, near his friends and near the teacher. He didn't want to miss anything the teacher said, and all of the notes looked so small from back here. Maybe he needed glasses…
He looked enviously at Will, sitting at the front.
English was by far his worst subject. It was the polar opposite of Math, which is what he excelled at.
It's not like he wasn't able to read or write. He could do those perfectly fine, but ahhhhhh. He never wanted to.
The only reason Mike does well in Math subjects is because he's passionate about Math. He understands numbers.
Words, on the other hand, were much more confusing. Like why did he even have to read King Lear? The Shakespearean language was confusing and annoying. He's positive his friends would agree with him.
Their English teacher moved quick and talked fast. Mike didn't really know him like he knew the other teachers because the teacher was new as of this year.
Mike had already forgotten his name.
At the start of class, he handed out a copy of King Lear to each student, in alphabetical order. So anyone with a last name starting with A received their book first, then B, then C, and so on.
Unfortunately for Mike, having the last name Wheeler did no favours for him here. Mike was the only person in class to not get a book.
That is until El showed up late, making them the only two to not have a book.
Their teacher, Mr… Mr. uh.., Mr. something-or-other told them he would work on getting them their own copies of the book as soon as possible. For now, he said they can use the teacher's copy of the book and share it. He wanted them to get up to chapter two before the end of class and jot down the names of the characters they're introduced to.
He was sharing a book with El Hopper? That's great. He thought.
His classmates around the room darted their eyes between Mike and El as they heard that they had to share a book. He could literally see them start to whisper.
Mike rolled his eyes. They were probably saying how the nerd was partnering up with her. It's nothing he wasn't used to.
He looked to see what Will's reaction was. Will only shrugged at him, then went back to his book.
El looked back towards him, her face filled with boredom, like she didn't want to be doing this either, although probably for a different reason than Mike. Mike didn't want to work with someone who looked down on him and his friends. El probably didn't want to work in general.
She made no attempt to walk towards him, even though Mike was the one with the book. Their teacher had handed the book to Mike as he stepped out of the classroom, presumably to hunt down another King Lear book.
Mike had to admit that El probably had a better location for reading the book. She was secluded, off to one side of the room. There weren't many people around her and there was an open desk beside her that Mike could sit in.
But on principle, Mike didn't budge. People usually expected him to cave into doing whatever they wanted with him. Also, he was still pretty irked about the nerd comment that she made earlier. There was nothing weird about stroking a non-existent beard while holding a random locker. Absolutely nothing at all.
He waved the book in a beckoning gesture.
She just shook her head, looked at him, looked at the open desk beside her, then looked back at him. You. Here. Now.
Mike loudly sighed. At least three people around looked at him, startled. A couple of others had a what's wrong with you look on their face. He just stood up and sulked over to the desk beside El.
"Hello, El Hopper." Mike gloomily said.
She raised her eyebrows at him. "Hello, Mike Wheeler?"
She knew his name?
"You know my name?"
She seemed confused. "Yes, I know your name. We've went to school together for the past three years?"
"Uhh, yes." Mike cleared his throat and took a seat. "Yes, we have."
"Alright then, nerd." She muttered.
Mike scrunched his face at her as if he just ate something sour.
"Chill." She said. "It's just a joke…"
"Right…" Mike said. He plopped the book on the desk.
A joke? It never feels like a joke…
El picked it up and flipped to the first page.
The moment Mike saw the gibberish that was the words he sighed.
"Not a fan?" El asked, not looking at him, focusing on the words.
"What and you are?" Mike asked.
"God no." She replied, placing the book down.
"Mr. something-or-other told us we need to finish chapter one, though. So I guess we better get started on that."
"Hmm." She replied noncommittally. "Wait did you say Mr. something-or-other?"
"Well, uh, yeah?" Mike replied, scratching the back of his head. "I couldn't remember his name.'
"I thought you were on a first-name basis with all of the teachers, though." El said, a smile hinting on her face.
Mike's eyebrows shot up. Was she teasing him? She joked in a playful way. Usually, people would make a joke like that but have more venom in their words. El didn't seem to be trying to insult him at all.
Mike thought back to what Dustin said. How she's was some uber-cool badass. To Mike, she just seemed like some regular person.
Now that Mike was close to her, he could notice small details about her. Like her whiskey-coloured eyes. Or the dimple on her one cheek when she smiled.
Mike didn't know why whiskey was the first adjective to come to his mind, or why he was noticing her dimples, but it seemed to resonate.
She didn't seem like some bonafide badass. She seemed like El Hopper.
"What's that?" El asked, looking at him.
"What?" Mike said confused.
"You said my name."
"You said El Hopper."
Did he say that out loud?
"Uhhh," Mike eloquently said. "No, I didn't?" it was phrased as more of a question. All El did was raise her eyebrows at him.
"Alright then." She said, clearly not believing him.
Mike wondered if he should bring up the cheating incident. Would she get mad? Embarrassed? Did Mike even have a reason to bring it up?
He wasn't given the chance to think about it, since their teacher, who Mike officially dubbed as Mr. something-or-other, walked back into the class.
"I have some good news, and I have some bad news." He told him and El.
"Bad news." El said.
While Mike said, "Good news." At the exact same time.
Mike incredulously looked at her. What kind of person wants the bad news first?
She looked back at him and shrugged.
"Alright then..." Their teacher said. "We ordered some new King Lear books. You guys will get brand new books while everyone else has the older ones. Except they don't come in until next week. So, you two will need to share that book until then."
Mike looked over at El. Could he really do an entire week of sharing a book? They spent almost an entire period and they haven't even started to read it yet. If they had to share the book for the next week, Mike would be seriously behind once he got his own.
Mr. something-or-other walked back to his desk. To supervise, probably.
"We still need to finish the first chapter, by the way."
El tossed him their book. "Here, keep it. I probably won't even end up reading the book, even if I get my own copy."
Mike blanched. She wouldn't even end up reading it? "So you just won't do any of the chapter work either, then?"
Those are terrible study habits, Mike thought. He could never imagine purposely skipping work.
"Don't seem so shocked." El said to him. His facial expressions must've been really noticeable.
"In case you didn't know, I'm not really known for doing my homework." She continued. "Unlike you, and your friends." She added, almost as an afterthought.
"I heard what Mrs. Sanders said to you." Mike blurted against his better judgement. "About how you tried cheating off of me." Mike leaned in and whispered that part. People around the room were still carefully glancing back at them. He didn't want to embarrass her or anything.
El smiled, seemingly embarrassed. "It's okay. I know I'm not the smartest. I needed help during the test, and you were by far the smartest person around my group of desks. So I figured I'd help myself." She nodded, not really sure what he was expecting from saying it out loud.
"And who has a test on the first day?" El complained.
"Exactly!" Mike said, waving his arm around in agreement.
"It's whatever…" El said, shaking her head. "I had no idea how to do the concepts on the test. Mrs. Sanders is giving me another chance to right myself, but I- It's whatever. I'll figure it out."
"You know," Mike started to say but was cut off by the bell. He sighed. "I guess I'll have to tell you another time."
El stood up and gathered her things. "I guess you will." She confirmed.
She tried to hand him the book, but Mike shook his head. "I think you should keep it. Maybe if you have it, there's a better chance you'll do the homework questions."
He could always borrow Will's copy.
She raised her eyebrows at him. "Maybe I will. Although I probably won't." She joked.
Mike laughed and gathered his things too.
"I'll uh, umm. I guess I'll see you tomorrow then?" He said with an awkward wave.
"See ya tomorrow, nerd." She playfully said.
Mike smiled and made a beeline to Will at the front, almost knocking into two different people. His mind was still buzzing from the way she called him a nerd, but with no malice.
If Mike hated one nickname above all others, it was nerd. Troy had called Mike and his friends that for years. People used it as an insult when all he was doing was being a good student. It made his blood boil. So what if he was smart? Why should that be a reason to hold him down?
He constantly heard it through middle school and high school. Luckily he was in his last year, so he'd be gone soon.
He made it over to Will, who was still putting his books in his bag.
"Are you coming to my house?" Mike asked. "The rest of the guys are."
"Yeah sure." Will says. They started to walk out the door.
Mike awkwardly smiled when he passed El's desk. She gave him a small wave.
Will bumped his shoulder with his. "How was your English class?" He sing-songed.
Mike looked at him. "What do you mean?"
"It seems like you made a new friend."
"What?" Mike asked incredulously. "El? She's just the person I have to share the book with…"
Back at Mike's basement, the Party was finishing all the homework they received that day.
Mike still needed to finish his advanced functions review package and to actually read the first chapter of King Lear.
Dustin and Lucas were arguing over their Biology homework. Mike didn't take biology this year and from the sound of their arguing, he's glad he didn't.
"Will?" Mike asked. "Can you look over my functions work?"
"Yeah, sure." He replied.
"Wait, can you look over mine too?" Lucas asked.
"Me too!" Dustin chimed in, rushing to grab his review package.
Will looked at all of them, then back at Mike, and sighed. "Fine, I'll look over all of your functions homework."
"Thanks, Will. You're the best." They called back to him.
"I should have never taken advanced functions during the summer…" Will muttered, only loud enough for Mike to hear.
Mike laughed, but immediately felt bad. They just handed Will a bunch of extra work to do.
"I can do your English work if you want?" Mike offered. "I'll write down the names of the characters and stuff, and then give you a summary of what happened."
"Thanks, I appreciate that." Will said.
It was settled, then. Since Mike also had to do this work, he might as well do it for himself while he was doing it for Will.
He grabbed his backpack, searching for his book when he remembered he let El have it.
He mentally sighed, why must he be so nice. He gave the book to El in some chivalrous attempt to better her study habits and help her do homework. It's not like he was her tutor.
Although, Mike figured he felt bad for El, already getting admonished on the first day of school. A badass like herself, as Dustin would put it, probably wouldn't want his sympathy.
"Hey Will?" Mike asked.
"Hmm." Will replied. "What's up?"
"I need to borrow your copy of King Lear since El has our copy."
That caught Dustin's attention.
"El Hopper has your copy of King Lear?" Dustin asked. Lucas has stopped what he was doing and looked up to Mike.
"Well, technically, it's our copy. We share it."
Dustin's mouth dropped open. "So, you've probably talked to El Hopper, then?"
"They could sit in silence all class as they read from the same book." Will sarcastically suggested.
"Yes, we've talked." Mike exasperatedly said. "Why is this such a big deal?"
"Because she's popular." Was Dustin's reply.
"She's probably stuck up or something." Lucas said. "Maybe she bullies nerds like us in her spare time. I've seen her hanging out with Troy a couple times."
"I doubt she bullies nerds in her spare time." Mike said. "When I talked to her, she just seemed like a regular person.
"You never know, man."
"So do you think you'll continue talking to her in the near future?" Dustin continued.
"I don't know, probably." Mike said, fed up with these stupid questions.
"Well, I just wanna know if, when you inevitably end up becoming popular, you'll take us with you? Bring us up a couple of steps in the social system."
"We're not gonna instantly become popular if Mike starts dating El Hopper." Lucas said.
"Woah!" Mike said, wide-eyed. "Who said anything about dating? All we're doing is sharing a book, for like the next week."
"I think Lucas was the one who mentioned dating." Will stated.
"Oh, haha. Very funny." Mike sarcastically laughed. "Just gimme your book…" He muttered, swiping Will's copy of King Lear.
"Dustin. You keep saying a social system, but what even is it?" Lucas asked.
"It's kind of like a caste system. Except more school-related. Everyone in the system tries to work their way to the top. Those who are cool are closer to the top. Those who are not, are closer to the bottom."
"That seems superficial and unimportant." Will commented.
"Yes, incredibly so." Dustin agreed. "But if Mike over here is giving us a chance to become cooler, might as well see what it's like."
Mike sighed. "Can we just continue working, please."
The boys all focused back on their work. All thoughts about El Hopper and her whiskey eyes left Mike's mind as he began to work.
Mike handed Will his copy of King Lear back, also handing a copy of the character list to him.
"Why did you make three copies of the character sheets?" Will asked.
Mike frowned. He looked down and saw two copies of the character sheets, plus the one in Will's hand makes three…
"Uhh…" Mike said. He had subconsciously made three copies of the same homework when all he needed was two. "I, uhh, I don't know. I guess I thought I needed three copies? Maybe?"
"Hmm." Will hummed, like he knew something Mike didn't.
"I guess, I'll just throw it out then." Mike concluded.
"Well, wait. We might need it. Keep it for now." Will suggested.
He was definitely scheming, Mike thought. But Mike shook his head. "Fine, I guess. I'll keep it."
"Dinner! Boys, dinner is ready!" Mike's mom called down to the group of boys.
"Finally." Dustin said, dropping his work and rushing upstairs, Lucas quickly following him.
Will waited on the base of the steps for Mike.
Mike looked at the extra copy before quickly stuffing it in his bag and catching up to Will.
So yeah that's chapter one, cool