Hawkins, Indiana, 2013
“Sarah, go wake up your brother. He's going to be late. Again.” El rushed around the kitchen trying to make lunches. Mike gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, grabbed a slice of toast and dashed out the house, running late for work. El could see where their son got his lateness from.
Sarah came back, shaking her head. “He's not there again. I think he's with Uncle Dustin again. But I need to get to class so he can cycle to school.” She grabbed her rucksack and car keys leaving El alone in the house.
“That boy…” she picked up her phone and called Dustin.
“El! Hey, how's my favourite Wheeler?” Dustin answered after a few rings.
“Is Matthew there? He's late for school... again.”
“Chill, we were working on a new project last night. I think it may work. It's a-”
“Dustin. I love that my son is taking an interest in science but I don't want him missing school.” She leaned on the counter. Her son had been helping his uncle Dustin with his experiments, but he was missing an awful lot of school.
“He’s only 13, too young to be getting caught up in science experiments.” She laughed at how ridiculous that sounded coming from her. “He should be out being a normal kid.”
“You’re kidding right?” Dustin laughed at the other end of the line. “We were never normal kids.”
“That's why I want them to have a normal childhood. The one I never got.”
Dustin sighed. “He was here. But I sent him on his bike about ten minutes ago. Don't worry.”
“Thank you. I'll see you Friday with the boys?” It had become a kind of weekly ritual that they would meet up, the old party. Mike, El, Dustin, Lucas and Will. With jobs and kids it was harder than ever to stay connected, but they made it work. Somehow.
“You got it.”
“Matthew James Wheeler!” El called as soon as he got home that afternoon. Marty froze in the hallway. Uh oh, full name. Yeah, he was in trouble.
“Hey, mom.” He casually leaned against the railing of the stairs. Marty had inherited his father's messy black hair and freckles, but his eyes were identical to El's. He could see the good in people, but he was also quick to temper. He also inherited her wit and quick intelligence. “Looking lovely today. Is that a new shirt? Dad's sure one lucky-”
“Cut the shit Marty, she knows you were out last night.” Sarah came down the stairs smirking. She loved watching him get in trouble.
“Language.” El folded her arms and ajaja rolled her eyes, mumbling a “whatever” under her breath.
“Mom, I don't see what's so wrong with-”
“You're out late doing who knows what. I just worry about you Marty. You're 13. When I was 13 I sure wasn't out there running around getting into trouble.” She'd never told them the truth. Never told them the secrets of her childhood. Mike and El had decided they wanted their kids to have a normal life, so no powers - unless absolutely necessary - and no talk of the bad men. It wouldn't help anyone to just relive it all.
“I get it!” He shouted back. “I get it! At 13 you and dad were perfectly in love, getting good grades and shit. I'm just a huge disappointment. I get it.” He stormed off up the stairs, he certainly did inherit his parents’ bad tempers.
“Matthew!” El called after him. “Marty?” But he didn't listen. She collapsed on the couch, waiting for Mike to come home.
“El?” Mike got home about 10 minutes after their argument. He saw her curled on the couch and instantly ran over, wrapping his arms around her.
“Are you ok?”
“Marty…” she buried her head against his shoulder as Mike loosened his tie. “I just don't know what to do about him. I want him to have fun with Dustin but he can't just ignore school. Maybe it's because I never got the chance to go that I'm so passionate about the kids going. I don't know... I'm a terrible mother.”
“Hey…” Mike hugged her tightly rocking her back and forth like he used to do back in the early days after Hopper allowed him at the cabin. She used to get nightmares about the upside down, about Kali...Brenner. But she would call out to Mike and he would waste no time in cycling over in the dark, banging on the cabin door until Hopper let him inside. “You're the best mom there is. It's hard, they just don't understand. And we can't ask them to. If they knew the truth about how we met, Will, all of it...it would just freak them out.”
“I know... sometimes I just wish we didn't have to hide it anymore.”
He kissed the top of her head. “I know.”
They stayed there for a while, wrapped in each others arms like they used to when they were kids. Mike suddenly grinned and whispered into her ear. “I know what'll make you feel better.”
She lifted her head slightly. “Hm?”
“How about I make you a triple decker Eggo extravaganza?”
“That...that could work.” She mumbled and let him drag her to the kitchen.
Marty paced in his room. He got a text from Dustin telling him to meet at the mall parking lot at 1 am. Marty knew he was in trouble….but Dustin had told him about the experiment he needed to show him. It was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.
Marty grabbed his rucksack and hid his messy curls under the old vintage hat Dustin had given him a few years ago. It was red on the rim and blue and white on the sides. He liked to wear it backwards though, Marty thought it made him look cooler despite his sister's teasing.
He checked his phone. 12:30. That was enough time to find Dustin. He hid a few clothes and pillows under his bed covers to look like his sleeping form should his parents check on him in the night. Carefully, Marty crept out his room, his sister was fast asleep. The stairs creaked beneath his feet and he turned back to check his sister hadn't heard.
Just when Marty thought he was in the clear, he could hear... giggling? His parents were in the kitchen laughing with each other like a pair of twelve year olds. Marty hadn't heard them laugh that much before. His father had a can of whipped cream in his head and Marty watched as he sprayed it at his mother, both shrieking with laughter, covered in whipped cream and bits of Eggo from what looked like a food fight. He almost vomited when his father wiped the cream from his mother's face and kissed her.
“Ew…” he scrunched up his nose, but took the chance that they were distracted to sneak out the front door.
He grabbed his bike and cycled away from his house.
The mall parking lot was empty except for some old beat up car and a van labelled: Henderson Industries.
Marty rang his bell as he approached, Dustin poked his head from behind the van and his small dog Dart ran out to meet him.
“Ah! Marty! You made it!” He slammed the door shut, a stopwatch in his hand.
“What's so special that it had to be at 1 am?” Marty lay his bike on the floor and patted Dart’s head. “My parents are going to kill me when they find out. I'm already in enough shit as it is.”
“You didn't have to be here…”
“And miss an experiment?” Marty laughed, “It'll be worth it.”
Dustin felt a weird déjà vu looking at Marty. He sounded and looked so much like Mike did that night they went out at night to find Will, even though they'd been told specially by their parents not too.
“What?” Marty tilted his head. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
Dustin shook his head. “Nothing you just...remind me of your dad when we were younger.”
“How? He never did anything like this.”
Dustin sighed, he hated it that they couldn't tell the kids about what really happened. It was sad to hear Mike's kid talk about him like that, only because he didn't know what Mike had really done. If he knew….the kid would certainly think of Mike differently. He'd think of all of them differently.
“You're more like your dad than you know. And I hope one day you'll understand.” Dustin gave him as sad smile. “Right, on with the show. You're going to want to film this, Marty.”
Marty pulled out his phone and began to film Dustin. He tied a stopwatch around the dog's head and opened the door to the car.
“I'm Doctor Dustin Henderson, the time is 12th January, 2013. Are you getting this Marty?”
Marty have him a thumbs up. “Loud and clear Uncle Dustin!”
“This,” Dustin gestured to where Dart was sat. “Is my dog Dart. Notice the stopwatch around his neck? It is exactly in sync to the second with mine.”
Marty zoomed in to capture the stopwatches.
“Now, if my calculations are correct. Dart is about to be the world's first time traveller.”
Marty lowered his phone in awe but Dustin gestured to keep recording.
“Dustin...you mean to tell me this old car is a... time machine?”
Dustin rolled his eyes. “This, “old car” is a DeLorean, aka the coolest car of the 80s.” He genuinely looked insulted. “Seriously? “Old car”? Mike I'm going to have to have words with you about what you're teaching your kids.” He said to himself.
“So you built a time machine out of a DeLorean?”
“Exactly! Are you even listening to me?” Dustin climbed inside the car and waved for Marty to keep filming.
“Flux capacitor. It's what makes time travel possible.” Dustin pointed to a weird component just behind his head. “When this thing reaches 88 mph, it's going to be epic.”
Dustin strapped Dart in to the car and closed the door.
“Dustin, how exactly is a dog going to drive?”
“With a remote control, Marty.”
“You're really sending him into the future?”
Dustin sighed, “Do you hear me when I speak? Or is it all just white noise? Of course I'm sending him to the future! A minute into the future to be exact.”
Dustin drove the car with the remote control up to the farthest point of the car park. He revved the car, Marty began to move away but Dustin pulled him back so they were directly in front of the car.
“I don't know about this…”
“Don't you trust me, Marty?” Dustin flipped a switch and the car began to race towards them. Surely they were going to be hit if they didn't move.
“Dustiiiiin.” Marty looked away as the car quickly approached.
The car started to flash, as if captured by lightning. Just before it hit Marty and Dustin, it disappeared in a flash of blue light leaving behind two streaks of flames, passing right underneath their feet.