Words w/out AN: 4800+
Pairing(s): Mileven, Lumax
I own nothing.
the social system: chapter eleven
Mike had been anxious the entire day.
Nervously checking the clock every twenty minutes once he got back from the doctors hadn't done much to ease his nerves.
But at the same time, Mike felt a strange sense of calm wash over him. Enough so that his usually restless leg was completely still.
All he had to do was wait until El actually showed up. It was around the time when school usually ended, and Mike had been slowly inching his way closer and closer to the front door, waiting for her to knock.
He sat on a couch in his living room, staring in the general direction of his front door. His thoughts were filled with nothing and everything at the same time. Unanswered questions, possible scenarios. Anything they could've talked about, Mike was thinking about it. He was trying to figure out what he wanted to say, in what order he wanted to say it in, that way when the time came, he knew what to say and he wouldn't stumble or stutter while trying to say it.
But a couple of seconds turned into a couple of minutes. And once those minutes turned into an hour, Mike started to get worried. He checked the clock, just to make sure.
El was an hour and a half late.
And Mike tried to rationalize his thoughts, to not spiral. Maybe she was just late. Maybe she had thought they were meeting at a different time. Maybe she thought he was supposed to meet her at her house?
Mike shook his head. They agreed to meet at his house. They agreed to meet after school.
Maybe she just didn't want to see him…
It was the thought that Mike was trying to shake away. He knew it was stupid and irrational to think it. But he still did. He didn't know what exactly they were discussing, and as far as Mike knew, she was explaining why she had said the things that she did.
But then again, all of his friends were saying to give her a chance.
Mike shook his head and sighed. Maybe he should just send her a text before he goes off the deep end.
He pulled out his phone, and his jaw literally dropped.
47 missed texts, 14 missed calls. All in the past 15 minutes.
The missed texts and calls were all from his friends. Each text was just his name or a random string of letters. It seemed like they were trying to get his attention.
He scrolled to the top of the messages, trying to see what they originally needed him for, but Dustin's name interrupted him, filling the screen.
Mike was getting a phone call. He answered it. "What's up? I saw all your guys' texts."
"It's El," Dustin exclaimed, panting. As if he had just finished sprinting.
Mike's front door burst open and he jerked his head to look at it. Dustin stepped through, phone in hand.
"Where the hell have you been?" Dustin asked in between breaths, leaning against the doorframe to catch his breath.
Mike hadn't even processed what Dustin had first said. "Are you alright? Why are you so tired?"
"Because I just biked to your house as fast as possible." Dustin snarked. "No, I'm not alright."
"Well… why?" Mike asked, thinking for a moment. "Wait. El?"
Dustin nodded, taking another second to catch his breath.
"What happened? Is she okay? Did something happen?" Mike bombarded Dustin with questions, worried something might've happened to her.
"She got in a car crash."
Mike felt numb.
Ever since Dustin told him what happened, time seemed to slow. His vision became slightly blurry, he couldn't focus on anything said to him. He somehow instantly felt sick.
He allowed himself to be guided away by Dustin. He pulled his bike out and automatically started pedalling. The thought of driving his car not even crossing his mind. He followed Dustin down back roads and sidewalks until his legs started to burn but he didn't think about stopping. There was only one singular thought on his mind.
Mike doesn't know how fast he pedals but it had to have been a personal best, practically cycling across all of Hawkins to get to the hospital.
Mike subconsciously noticed Dustin slowing down. Mike assumed Dustin was still tired, having biked from his house to Mike's house, now biking from Mike's house to the hospital, where he said she was.
Mike wanted to focus on biking, but he couldn't stand the silence.
He pedalled for a moment or two, trying to steady his voice. "Is El okay? What happened?"
"Car crash." Dustin called back, eyes focused on the road ahead of him. "She was… She was driving to your house. A car ran a red light and now she's in the hospital. That's all we know."
"S-she got hurt because… Because she was coming to see me?" Mike asked in disbelief, guilt slowly creeping to the front of his thoughts. It was his fault?
"Mike." Dustin warned. "I know what you're doing. You need to stop."
"B-but if she wasn't coming to see me…" He didn't finish the sentence.
"It's not your fault." Dustin firmly said.
He didn't say anything else, letting the rattling of their bikes fill the air between them. The wind rushed against Mike's face and he just wanted to be at the hospital already.
"What about everyone else?" Mike asked. "Where are they? What are they doing?"
"I think Hopper told Max, who told Lucas, who told me and Will. We've been trying to text you but you weren't answering."
Mike shook his head. He should've checked his phone when El didn't show up on time. He knew something was wrong.
"I think Max, Lucas and Will are at the hospital." Dustin continued. "I was still at home and decided to see what's up when you weren't answering. It was a Code Red."
"Yeah, that's my bad." Mike said. "I guess I was just distracted…"
They made it to the hospital five minutes later.
Choosing to ditch their bikes beside the building, instead of properly parking them, Mike and Dustin rushed into the hospital. Pushing through the front doors, the hospital walls and lights were harsh and bright. A stark contrast compared to the gloom Mike was feeling. The hospital was fairly empty, but Mike followed Dustin as if he knew where he was going.
Mike's breathing was heavy and it wasn't because of the biking he did earlier.
He spotted Will, Lucas and Max waiting by a couch and quickened his pace. Will looked up at the sound of Mike's feet slapping against the ground in the otherwise quiet hallway.
"Where is she?" Mike asked.
"She's in an operating room right now." Lucas replied. "Where were you?"
"I was at my house. I didn't notice you guys were texting me."
"Wait." Mike worried. "An operating room? Is it that bad."
"Doctor says it looks worse than it is." This time Max answered. "She has a broken ankle for sure. And maybe a slight concussion."
"She's really lucky right now." Will said. "Well… Not that lucky. But she could've died."
Mike nodded, unsure of what to do. He squeezed himself onto the couch, in between Lucas and Will. He sat silent, for what seemed like a few minutes. The tension between everyone didn't leave much for things to be said.
"Max!" A voice boomed from across the hall. Hospital employees alike all turned towards the sound of the voice.
Hopper bounded down the hall, his face unreadable. "What the hell is going on? Where is she?"
He was still in his police uniform. Mike guessed he was in the middle of his shift when he heard about the crash.
"Excuse me, sir." A doctor interrupted. "Can you please keep it down?"
Max's eyes grew wide as she looked up at the doctor. An angry Hopper should not be told what to do.
Mike watched Hopper scowl. He narrowed his eyes, focusing on the doctor. "My daughter was in a car crash. Unless someone tells me where she is right now, things will not go down well."
Mike felt a shiver down his spine. Hopper, when he's angry, was not something Mike wanted to be on the receiving end of. Mike felt for the doctor. He really did.
"Ah…" The doctor said. "I'm sorry. Your daughter is in the operating room right now. She's almost done in there, though. I'm sorry I can't tell you more, right now."
Mike figured this doctor was about to get the scolding of his life, but Mike watched Hopper just sigh.
His shoulders dropped. "Thanks, doc… Let me know when I can see her."
As Hopper sulks closer, Mike gets a better look at his face. His eyelids were drooping, and a frown filled his face.
He was tired.
Rightfully so, Mike figured. His daughter was in a serious car crash and he knows just as much about it as the five teenagers sitting on the couch.
Mike silently laughed but there was no humour behind it. He was focusing so much on how the people around him were feeling because he wanted to avoid how he was feeling.
How was he feeling? Mike didn't know.
He didn't know if he could describe everything he was feeling with words.
Mike was scared. Seriously scared.
He didn't even care about any drama that was happening between them. He just wanted her to be okay. He wanted things to go back to the way they were before.
Before the crash, before the rumours.
Mike wanted things to be okay.
After maybe half an hour to an hour later, a doctor came by and told them El was moved into a room to rest in. The doctor said she was sleeping but they could visit her.
Mike's anxiety came in waves. His initial adrenaline had faded long ago and now he felt eager and nervous at the same time.
Their group stood up, following the doctor as he led them towards where she was resting. Hopper, followed by Max, taking the first steps through the doorway into her room.
Standing outside the door, however, Mike stopped in his tracks.
Will looked at him and frowned.
"Maybe we should wait out here until they're done in there." Will suggested. "We don't want to crowd her when she wakes up."
Mike mutely nodded, his eyes fixed on the door in front of them.
He could hear muffled bits of their conversation through the doorway.
Eventually, Hopper and Max came back out into the hallway.
"How is she?" They all asked, anxious to know.
"She's good. Not dead." Max replied, a small smile peeking through. "She wants to see you guys."
Hopper put on his hat and looked at the kids. He looked a lot better. "I need to get back to work. I want you kids to take care of her."
He spoke to everyone in the group, but Mike couldn't help but notice Hopper was looking at him.
Mike took a deep breath and walked through the door.
El was sitting in a bed, wearing a generic hospital gown. Her left leg was wrapped up and elevated, propped up by a pillow. Bruises, cuts and scratches lined her arms and face, and a large gash peeked out underneath a bandage on her forehead.
She looked terrible.
It was the best thing Mike had seen.
"El…" Mike said under his breath.
She smiled at him and Mike felt himself smiling back. Maybe a tear was rolling down his face, he didn't know. He stepped forward, hearing the door behind him close. Mike turned around and didn't see any of them following him.
He caught sight of Will through a small window on the door. Will gave him a thumbs up and Mike shook his head, smiling. He appreciated the moment alone his friends were giving him with El.
He walked up to El's bedside, not saying a word. He pulled a chair out and sat down. The two stared at each other, not saying anything. Mike had spent all this time overthinking about different scenarios and possibilities, but once the moment actually came, he didn't know what to say.
The two were just staring at each other. Mike was savouring the moment, taking it all in.
"Hi…" El said, tapping her fingers against the bed.
She looked nervous, Mike thought. "Hi."
"Hi." El repeated, a small smile on her face.
Mike grinned, moving his chair closer to her bed. "Hi."
"Are we just going to keep saying hi?" El teased.
"Well… We could actually talk."
El nodded. "I have so many things I want to apologize for… to explain."
Mike shook his head. "I don't care. I don't care anymore. All my friends are saying you said that stuff for a reason. That I should give you another chance. I was just mad, letting my emotions get the better of me, and… and you were hurt. Seriously hurt. None of that stuff matters… I'm just glad you're alive."
Mike didn't care about any of the stuff she said before. He was just glad she was okay.
"But I want to explain." El pleaded. "I hurt you… because I said some stupid stuff to Troy. I should've never said it. It's not even true. You aren't losers, or nerds. I'm not using you to pass math class. I hang out with you because you're amazing."
El was rushing her words, trying to get everything out.
"Troy said he didn't want me or Max hanging out with people like you." El shook her head. "He said he'd beat you up or something stupid if we hung out. So I said we only hang out because you tutor me."
Mike should've figured. Troy has done worse stuff to him and his friends for less. There was a time when Mike was younger where anyone who was seen with him and his friends were bullied. It didn't surprise Mike that Troy would do it again.
"It's okay, El." Mike soothed. El's voice cracked a couple times and she was sniffling. "I believe you. Thank you for trying to protect me. We can always talk about that stuff later."
El laughed, leaning closer to Mike. "How's your arm? Troy said he'd injure the other one, too."
Mike looked down at his wrist. It was better, but not fully healed. "What do you mean, How's my arm? What about you? You're literally lying in a hospital bed, half your body is covered in scratches and cuts."
"I just wanna make sure you're okay." El protested. She went silent for a minute. "Are we okay?"
Mike looked at El and smiled. "Yes. We're okay."
Mike let out a long sigh, resting face down on the bed, beside El.
"You had me scared, El." He said. "When Dustin told me what happened I biked all the way from my house to here."
Mike felt El tentatively run her hand through his hair. He loved when she did that, it felt comforting.
"Well, I'm glad you care."
Mike pulled his head up, face to face with El. "Of course, I care. It's you."
El's lip twitched, drawing Mike's gaze. Maybe he shouldn't have stared at them too long, but when he looked back up at El, her eyes were staring at his lips, too.
"I… uh. M-Maybe we could…" Mike stuttered out, his face blushing a bit.
El giggled, biting her bottom lip. "Uh-huh… Maybe we could."
She leaned closer and Mike's breath hitched. El planted her lips on his and suddenly they were kissing. Any nervousness or anxiety Mike felt washed away. Instead replaced by a sense of giddiness.
He lifted his hand up, cupping her cheek.
Mike half expected his friends to choose now as the perfect time to walk in, but they didn't.
After a few moments, Mike pulled away for air, but not too far.
"I'm glad you're okay." He exhaled. "I'm really glad you're okay."
El beamed, grabbing his hand. She rested her head against Mike's shoulder.
Their friends took this as their opportunity to walk into the room.
"We saw all of that through the window." Max said. "You guys are disgusting."
Mike blushed and he felt El hide her face behind his shoulder.
You never know how much someone means to you until you almost lose them.
"Mike!" El yelled from her room.
"Coming." Mike called back. He balanced a bowl of homemade soup in his hand as he opened up the door to El's room. "What's up?"
"My dad just phoned me." She said, a smile growing on her face. "He said Troy was caught vandalising a building with his friends. Under police questioning he admitted to all of the stuff he did to you."
Mike frowned. "So what?"
"My dad said they gave Troy 100 hours of community service that need to be completed." El beamed. "And if he does anything like what he did to you again, then he could face actual prison time as a repeat offender."
"Does that mean… Does that mean Troy won't bother us anymore?" Mike asked in disbelief.
El nodded. "Since he's almost 18, he could be tried as an adult, too."
Mike broke out into a grin. He set the soup on El's bedside table and pulled her into a hug. "This is amazing. Thank you."
"Don't thank me." El teased. "Thank my dad. You're lucky he likes you or something like this might not have happened."
"Of course." Mike blushed. He turned toward the soup he set down. "Here's the soup my mom made for you. She hopes you get well soon."
"Well speaking of thanking parents…" El said. "Once I'm able to use my crutches, I'll come to your house and thank her personally."
Mike hummed in agreement, sliding beside El into her bed. "She wants to meet you. Ever since I told her about you she has."
"It's settled then." She crossed her arms. "The moment my ankle heals enough to where I don't need you to take care of me, I'll come to your house and meet her."
"I don't really mind taking care of you." Mike admitted, stretching his arm around her.
"I know." El smiled.
MIke was walking to the AV room to make some last minute changes on their video project.
He didn't expect anyone else to be there, he figured he would maybe listen to some music, spend a couple hours working.
Although he also didn't expect to walk into a supposedly empty room and catch two of his friends making out.
"Uh…" Mike said, "I can come back later, if you want."
Lucas spun around, eyes wide, while Max just blushed. "Uh. We were just working on the video project, right Max?"
Lucas turned to look at Max, hoping for some support.
"No we weren't." She said, a devilish glint in her eyes. "I should get going. Good luck explaining that."
Max picked up her bag from the corner of the room, giving Mike a nod as she left. "Wheeler."
Mike nodded back, still a bit dazed. "Max."
Max left, leaving just the two boys. Mike stared at Lucas.
"We were just working on the video project. I swear."
"Uh-huh. I'm sure you were." Mike nodded, agreeing with Lucas. Although he didn't sound like he was agreeing with him. "So, are you two dating?"
"We're getting there." Lucas said, instead of trying to keep up the obvious facade.
"Well that's good." Mike replied, pulling out the necessary items needed to actually start working on the video project. "Don't take too long, though. Everyone is waiting for it to happen."
Lucas mutely nodded.
"And while we're talking about this…" Mike said. "In the AV room? Seriously?"
"I didn't think anyone would come in here!" Lucas said, flailing his arms around in defense. "I originally came in here to actually get some work done, but… uh… Max had other ideas."
"Great. Now I know what her other ideas are."
"Well, it's not like you and El are any better." Lucas argued. "You guys basically have goo-goo eyes for each other all the time. It's annoying."
"They aren't goo-goo eyes." Mike retorted. "And we're dating. So, it's okay."
"We're dating so it's okay." Lucas mocked in a high-pitched voice.
Mike laughed, shaking his head. "Whatever man. Just don't let her slip away. She seems like she makes you happy."
Lucas nodded. "She does."
"Holy shit." Lucas bursted through the doors of the AV room. "I did it. I actually did it."
The Party was working on the video project a few days after Mike walked in on Max and Lucas, uh, making out, in the AV room. The video was supposed to be finished but one of the teachers needed a last minute section added. It wasn't too much work so the guys agreed to meet up after school to quickly get it done.
"That's awesome." Mike nodded, engrossed in his work and not actually registering what Lucas said. "Good for you."
"I didn't even say what I did yet."
"For sure." Mike replied, his eyes were fixed on the computer screen in front of him.
El smacked his shoulder, trying to get him to pay attention.
El was there, too, by the way. Mike was supposed to give her a ride back to his house, so he could introduce her to his parents. Today was the first day she's been able to go to school. Her ankle had healed enough for her to use her crutches. But since the guys were working on the last part of the video project, she had to wait until they finished.
Mike figured El didn't mind waiting, though. He was able to show her a major part of one of his favourite hobbies.
"Don't worry Lucas," El called out. "I care about what you have to say."
Will turned his head, indignified. "We care about what he has to say, too."
"Yeah." Dustin agreed. "We just care about the video project more than whatever Lucas is gonna say."
"Thank you, El." Lucas said, ignoring his other friends. "I feel like you'll be excited for me."
"Are you gonna say what you did?"
"Right." Lucas nodded. "I asked-"
El's phone buzzed. Mike instinctively turned toward the sound, thinking it was his phone. A new text message flashed across her screen. It was from Max.
Mike read it and his eyes went wide.
"You asked Max out?" He blurted out, unable to censor himself.
"Dude." Lucas was silent for a moment. "You're really gonna spoil the moment for me?"
"Sorry, my bad." Mike frowned. He gestured for Lucas to continue.
Lucas shook his head. "Nope. You ruined it."
El smacked Mike on the shoulder again, harder this time. "Sorry about him."
"Congrats, though. I'm happy for you two." Will said.
Dustin nodded in agreement, stroking a nonexistent beard like he was deep in thought. "This is very interesting…"
Mike didn't like the sound of that.
The Party's Dungeons and Dragons campaign was put on hold until El was able to attend. Mike did promise that they wouldn't continue without her, after all.
But now that she was out and about, hobbling around on her crutches, the Party's longest campaign to date was ready to be continued (and hopefully completed).
The gang was set up in Mike's basement, like they were two weeks ago. Mike hadn't touched any of the game pieces, so it was all still set up. They had grabbed a couple bags of chips and made some popcorn and they were just about ready to start playing again.
"As you all know," Mike said, looking around the table at his friends. "This is a continuation of our longest campaign yet."
He continued introducing the game, explaining where they left off, in case anyone had forgotten. Mike continued speaking, explaining what they're current objective was and where in this make-believe world they were. He fielded questions, answering as much as he could without spoiling any of the future plot. He tried his best to re-immerse everyone in the world he had spent so long building.
When they had last played this with El and Max, Mike was nervous. He didn't know what they'd think of the game, maybe they'd judge him for being such a colossal nerd. Maybe it would've been too confusing for them, after all, their very first experience with the game was on one of Mike's most technical campaigns he had made.
But Mike could tell by how engaged in the game they were last time that they really liked it. It made him smile, and more confident, to see them enjoy the game and his storytelling.
Hopefully, tonight would be like that, too, he thought. Mike looked around again, everyone's eyes were on him. He had their sole attention and they seemed to be engrossed in the story.
Whenever the group was faced with a problem, Mike smiled because he saw his friends actively turn to El and Max for help. They were included in the decision-making and in Mike's opinion, it really brought the group together.
Mike liked to think that the Party worked well on its own, before they knew El and Max, but it was incredible to see all of them working together. It was a Dungeon Master's dream to see the campaign he's written play out so smoothly.
El and Max were even getting the hang of some of the more intricate game mechanics. Mike remembered last time, El wondered what "perception checks" were and why they did them so often. Max wanted to know more about the dice, and what getting different numbers meant.
Mike smiled. Even though Lucas', Dustin's and Will's, were the only characters in the campaign, it didn't mean El and Max weren't just as much a part of it.
They took a break from the gameplay, El and Max going to the kitchen for more snacks, while Will left to stretch his legs and Lucas left to use the washroom.
Just Mike and Dustin were in the basement at the moment.
"So, what do you think?" Mike asked him.
"What do I think of what?"
"The campaign." Mike replied. "Max and El. Max and El and the campaign."
"The campaign is great, obviously." Dustin rolled his eyes. "Max and El are pretty cool too. We all work really well as a team. We should try and get them started on their own characters."
Mike nodded his head. "That would be pretty cool."
"I didn't think they'd be such nerds, like us." Dustin laughed.
"What, people like them can't enjoy some Dungeons and Dragons?" Mike sarcastically asked. He remembered back to earlier. When they didn't know El and Max at all.
Dustin had thought they were so popular. That they shouldn't be hanging out with nerds like them. Yet, here they are playing Dungeons and Dragons in his Mom's basement. Laughing and having a good time. It was unnatural, according to Dustin's… What did he call it?
The social system.
"I guess your social hierarchy was wrong." Mike commented. "People like them are able to hang out with people like us."
Dustin nodded his head in agreement. "Dude… Honestly, screw the social system. Popularity doesn't matter when you spend your time with genuine friends."
"Popularity is overrated." Max said, walking down the stairs, El hobbling down the stairs, the best she could on one ankle, right behind her. Mike stood to help her, but she had already made it down and was on her way over. Max walked past Dustin, playfully punching his shoulder. "Give me Dungeons and Dragons with some loser nerds any day."
El walked up beside Mike, taking her seat beside him. She knocked her good knee against his and Mike didn't bother suppressing his smile. He grabbed her hand and held it under the table as Lucas and Will walked downstairs.
"Are we continuing the campaign or what?" Lucas said, a spring in his step as he walked back to his chair.
"Now that we're done waiting for you guys we can." Max retorted, even though she had only just returned as well.
Mike smiled. It may have been a struggle to get here, with its ups and downs, but right here, right now; That's the only place Mike wanted to be.
okay. hi. sorry.
so it's been a while since i've updated and that's totally my fault. but i will blame university as much as i can (they really keep you busy there). i've recieved so much school work that its gotten to the point where i have no free time for anything. that plus some unfortunate personal events have made it so i've had absolutely no drive to finish this story. (but its done now! only three-four months too late. my bad. my bad).
i really didn't want to do a cliche "el gets in a car crash, they confess their love to each other, they get together" kinda schtick. but in the end i basically did that. also its been so long i wouldnt be surprised if you've totally forgotten what even has happened in this story. (don't worry, i did too. you could fix that by re reading the story tho ;) ). but i really wanted to make this story unique, and good, and stuff. i played around with a lot of different options for how the story could end but i did in fact decide to go with the happy ending.
yes, that's right. theres an ending where el dies in the car crash, mike is heartbroken. literally no happy ending for the two. this potential ending was the product of some unfortunate personal events that put me in the wrong headspace to write anything related to love (sigh, heartbreak. it sucks)
but i figured you guys deserved a happy ending. so i waited a few months until i was feeling better and tried to write the best quality work i could under the given circumstances. i tried to fill any remaining plot holes and also tried to give a coherent enough explanation without going to in depth, since i really just wanted to get back into the mileven romance. also in case it wasn't clear enough, this is the last chapter
im tired. its 3:30 am. (i really worked to get this story finished lol) this was very minimally edited (shout out grammarly) and im tired. either way, all mistakes are mine, and i really hoped you've enjoyed this fic. i've put a lot of work into it and so many people have left kind reviews. if you could leave one telling me what you think, I would really appreciate it !