“Are you going to tell him?”
Dustin looks around at the blatantly loud voice that is Lucas’s attempt at a whisper. He doesn’t have to ask what Lucas means, because he already knows. They don’t have any super powers of their own, but they have the connection that comes from years of friendship.
“Why should I tell him? You’re the one that started it,” Dustin points out reasonably.
“Uh, how did I start it? You didn’t see me kissing El, did you?”
“Sweden.” It’s the only thing Dustin says. The only thing he has to say.
Lucas sighs. He opens his mouth to begin the latest round of squabbling, but he’s interrupted when Mike, Eleven and Will join them.
“Hey guys,” Dustin says, in a falsely cheerful voice. He pastes on a wide smile. Lucas and Will roll their eyes but Mike doesn’t notice the odd tone. Lucas can tell that Mike is still on cloud 9, judging from the dopey look on his face. He probably wouldn’t notice if they all spontaneously combusted right now.
“Hey,” Will replies, then turns to Mike. “Your place tomorrow?”
“Yeah, come over whenever.” Mike looks at Eleven. “You want to come over tomorrow? We’re going to start working on the science fair project; you can help if you want.”
Dustin opens his mouth, thinking that Eleven would be the coolest thing they could write about for their project. They’d definitely win, unlike last year’s travesty. Lucas shakes his head just once, firmly, and Dustin closes his mouth. Oh yeah. Probably not the most sensitive thing he could say. El is kind of already a science project.
“Okay,” Eleven tells him, and smiles. Mike smiles back. Dustin mimics them immediately, giving Lucas a sappy look, but Lucas doesn’t return it. Lucas gives Mike a pass this time. He has to; because he’s pretty sure he’s been giving his own sappy looks this evening.
Without another word between them, they move toward the parking lot. Joyce is waiting patiently. Steve isn’t here yet, and Mike and Lucas are riding together with Nancy. The Snow Ball is officially over for another year. They slowly walk Will to the waiting car.
“See you guys,” Will says, waving at them before opening the door. The guys wave back, distracted, because they’re debating the topic of this year’s project. It has to be awesome. Eleven smiles at Will and he returns it. She doesn’t hug him this time, because she can’t. One of her arms is already doing something else. She’s holding Mike’s hand. Joyce gives her a little hug as best as she can, without making her break contact with Mike.
“You look beautiful,” Joyce whispers in her ear. “Did you have a good time?” Eleven nods and smiles. She glances automatically at her hand-the hand entwined with Mike’s-and Joyce laughs.
“I’ll see you soon, sweetie,” Joyce says, before going around to the front of the car. Eleven sees movement out of the corner of her eye. It’s Hopper. He’s leaning against his station wagon and smoking a cigarette. He doesn’t look cranky, which is a change for him. He looks patient.
Mike catches sight of him, too, and breaks off the conversation with the guys. The Snow Ball is officially over, and it’s time to walk El to her car. He smiles at her as they leave the guys to their bickering. Eleven waves with her free hand and Lucas waves back. Dustin doesn’t wave, he starts following them instead. He’s not even thinking about it, it’s just what they do. Walking their friends to their cars or bikes or whatever other mode of transportation is available to them. He doesn’t even consider that Mike might want to do this alone. He’s right on their heels until Lucas grabs his jacket and pulls him back.
Lucas sighs. “Idiot.” He doesn’t bother to elaborate.
Dustin notices Mike giving El a hug. He’s talking with her quietly. It’s clearly a private moment, since they were on a date. Kind of. Oh.
“Yeah, oh.” Lucas rolls his eyes again and Dustin shrugs. They both retreat a few feet away and give their friends the illusion of privacy. Steve rolls up in front of them and Dustin grins. He cocks one finger at him.
Give me a minute.
Steve nods. He’s rummaging through his glove compartment for some music. Coincidentally, it gives him the opportunity to avoid looking at Nancy, who is having her own private goodbye. Steve’s fine with that. Really. Mostly. Jonathan is a great guy. He just doesn’t want to see them kissing or anything, if he can avoid it.
Mike joins his friends and they wave as Hopper pulls around Steve’s idling car. Eleven raises her hand in her own version of a wave, not actually moving her hand. Dustin would tease Mike mercilessly, but like Lucas, he gives him a pass. He’s happy for him, and he kind of owes him one. They all do. Mike is going to lose his shit in approximately 40 seconds. He raises his eyebrows at Lucas.
“Um.” It’s the best Lucas can do, despite Dustin’s encouraging nod.
Mike looks at him, waiting. Lucas cleans an invisible spot of lint from his sleeve for a few seconds, until Dustin glares at him.
“Uh. So. Um. Ah.” He gives Dustin a helpless look.
Mike turns to Dustin, raising his eyebrows.
Dustin rolls his eyes at Lucas before breaking the news.
“So, Mike. Science class might just be, like, a little bit awkward on Monday,” Dustin tells him in a breezy voice.
“Well. You know. Mr. Clarke’s here.”
Oh. Shit. “Shit.”
“Did he recognize El? She wore a wig last time!”
“Yep. Yep. Yes, he did.”
Shit. “Are you sure?”
Dustin bites his lip to keep from guffawing. It almost works.
“Uh, yeah. Pretty sure. Like, 100% sure, actually.”
Mike looks at Lucas, who is still picking at the spot of nothing on his sleeve, then back at Dustin. Neither one of his friends is meeting his eyes. They’re both staring into Steve’s window, as if watching him select cassettes is a fascinating way of passing the time. Mike sighs.
Less than a minute later, the cassettes shoot out of Steve’s hands and onto the floor mat when Mike startles him with a scream.
“You told him WHAT?”
“Um…well. I might have said…that they do things differently in Sweden?” Lucas pulls a thread out of his sleeve, trying to avoid eye contact.
Dustin’s a little alarmed at the look on Mike’s face. His eyes are bulging and his face is red and it just doesn’t look very healthy, to be honest.
“Um. Yeah. And uh. Apparently, Will told him you guys are just…um…very close.” Lucas takes a quick peek at Mike’s face.
Dustin sniggers again, he can’t help it. Mike makes a strangled little noise and Dustin rearranges his face into a suitably somber expression of commiseration.
“What the fuck? Seriously?”
Lucas glares at him. “Well, how else was I supposed to explain it? We told him she was your cousin!”
“Yeah, and why did you guys tell him that?”
“Hey! I made her your second cousin,” Dustin points out helpfully. “To give you a little leeway.”
“Oh, like you planned this would happen,” Lucas sneers at him.
Dustin ignores him. “You’re welcome,” he tells Mike, trying not to giggle.
Mike gives him an exasperated look. “Are you serious?” He faces Lucas again. “Why did you have to tell him she was my cousin?”
“We needed a cover story! And I didn’t exactly hear you come up with anything better. Besides, how was I supposed to know you’d start, like, making out with her in front of him later?”
“We were not making out!” Mike screams.
If his voice gets any higher, Dustin thinks, only a dog would be able to hear it.
Lucas sighs and gives him a patented are you kidding me look. The look expands to include Dustin as soon as he speaks.
“That’s technically true, I think. I think making out involves tongue,” Dustin tells them both thoughtfully.
They both give him a vicious look and he spreads his hands.
“What? What did I say?”
“Why don’t you ask Steve,” Lucas snaps sarcastically. “Isn’t he the dating expert or whatever? Although Nancy dumped his ass, and for Jonathan.” He glances at Will. “No offense.”
Dustin doesn’t even notice their exchange. “That’s a good idea,” he says, brightening.
“Seriously?” Mike and Lucas ask in unison.