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home (is where the heart is)

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Moving from the cabin to their new house on Dearborn is, a process, to say the least.

When Hop first gives her the news that they’re moving, El doesn’t really know exactly what to think. Sure, it would be nice to have more than one bathroom, and she knows the Hop would love his own bedroom that doesn’t also double as the living room. But, El loves their little cabin that’s slowly become home in the last year and a half.

But, then she sees the house.

It’s not huge, definitely not as big as the Wheeler or Sinclair house, both of which are still slightly intimidating to her, despite the countless amount of times she’s been over to the former, but it’s still way bigger than the cabin. There’s big windows in the front that let in more sunlight than El could imagine, and the kitchen is open and breezy, cool countertops covering the surfaces.

Not to mention there’s a whole separate room for eating, just like the Wheeler’s have.

However, it’s the bedroom, her bedroom, that really seals the deal. Hop is practically beaming with pride when it shows it to her, opening the door with a grand “ta da!”, his hands pushed out in a showy motion. And, honestly, he has ever reason to be proud.

The room is perfect . There’s soft green walls covering the wood paneling, giving the room a cool, relaxing environment. There’s two small windows above where El wants her bed to go, letting in natural light and pooling the room in soft, pale, late afternoon sunlight. El can’t keep the smile off her face as she walks around, her hands dragging along the walls.

“You like it?” Hop asks from the door, his arms across his chest and a cheeky grin on his face. El knows the double meaning of his question, he doesn’t just mean the room, although, El would be lying if she said that the room wasn’t the best part of it all.

“I love it.” She whispers, too caught up in the idea of this place being hers to look in Hop’s direction. She’s already imaging where she’s going to put her stuff, not that she has much stuff to begin with, and she doesn’t think the smile on her face is going to go away any time soon.

So, that’s how the Hoppers find themselves moving to Dearborn street.

El didn’t know how complicated it was to move before that. Not that she had really had much experience with it, but it always looked so easy on tv. But it turns out it’s a very long, and according to Hopper a “bitch” of a process. For a while, El is almost afraid they won’t get it, because of how long it takes, especially after a very loud, and angry, conversation El overhears one night between Hop and someone from the bank.

But, soon enough, on a warm, sunny, Saturday afternoon in the middle of June, Hop and El pack up all of their stuff into Hop’s cruiser, and say goodbye to the cabin.

El gets a little emotional as she packs up her stuff, but Hop makes sure to gently remind her that he still owns the cabin, they’re just not going to live there anymore. It helps, but as El flicks the light off in her small bedroom, there’s a small tugging at her heart.

A tugging that only dissipates when they pull up to their new house, the word ‘sold’ plastered across the sign still lodged in the grass. A tugging that morphs slowly into a much stronger, and deeper, emotion as El catches sight of what, or who rather, is sitting on the front steps.

There, in the glare of the of the afternoon sun, bathed in light like the angel El knows he is, sits Mike Wheeler.

Her heart thumps three times in her chest as she yanks the door to the cruiser open, only barely waiting for it to come to a complete stop, ignoring Hop’s disgruntled, “hey!” at her impatience. She couldn’t help it though, it had been so long since she had last seen Mike.

(Ok, so maybe three days didn’t count as so long, especially when they had gone almost a whole year without each other, but regardless, they were a long three days. Three days that El had spent doing school work in an attempt to catch up while Mike had been stuck at home, being forced to watch Holly while his dad was away for work and his mom attended her jazzercise classes and ran errands).

In fact, El had been insistent that Hop wait until school was out for them to move, all so Mike could come along with them and help. Hop was a little reluctant at first, especially because Mike wasn’t all that strong so it’s not like he could carry much, but eventually, with a little pushing, he gave him. As he almost always did when it came to El.

“Hey.” Mike said, sounding almost slightly out of breath when El finally was standing in front of him. He had a wide smile on his face and El knew that he was just as excited about her moving as she was. Of course, she knew that most of that was because he was tired of trying not to trip the wires outside the cabin, and his bike kept getting stuck in the mud when he tried to come and visit, but his excitement still made her heart sing.

“Hi.” She said, unable to keep the smile off of her face. She could hear Hop behind her, shuffling boxes around and pulling things from the cruiser and putting them down on the front lawn. “Thanks for coming to help.”

Mike’s smile seemed to widen even more and El’s stomach swooped. It had been eight months since they had been reunited and she had yet to stop feeling this way around him.

“Hey, lovebirds.” Hop called from the cruiser, breaking their eye contact. El heard Mike sigh and she giggled, reaching out and clasping his hand in her own. His palms were sweaty, no doubt from the heat and the warm rubber of his bike handles, but El didn’t care. “I’m not paying you to stand around and stare at each other all day.” He teased.

El rolled her eyes, tugging Mike forward with her as she made her way to the piles of boxes that now lined the front lawn. “You’re not paying me.” Mike said, scoffing slightly.

“Make you a deal,” Hop said, picking up a box from the ground and tossing it in Mike’s direction. Squeezing her eyes shut, El made sure the box landed in Mike’s, now free, hands and let out a sigh of relief when Mike grunted slightly from the weight of it. “You help, I buy you pizza later.”

Smirking, El looked over her shoulder at Mike, who nodded, his shoulders sighing relief. “Yeah, okay.” He muttered, spinning on his heels and walking in the direction of the house. El bent down and grabbed a box, purposefully picking one labelled “pillows” and followed Mike, tipping her chin ever so slightly to lodge the door open.

The next couple hours were spent in relative silence, the only noises coming from the dropping of boxes to the ground with light thuds and occasional sighs and noises of discomfort from the heat. El had to refrain from giggling when Mike’s face began to turn red and sweat started to seep through his t shirt.

That’s what he gets for wearing the ridiculous denim vest that he swears makes him cool.

Eventually, Mike and El find themselves up in her bedroom with Mike claiming he’s helping El with the sheets on her bed, even though El knows he’s just tired of carrying stuff around. Hop definitely knows this, but he does both of them the courtesy of not saying anything.

“Hey, I got you something.” Mike says, when El starts unpacking the assorted knick knacks she had acquired from her time in the cabin. A drawing Will had gifted to her. A ceramic unicorn that had been a present from Nancy for Christmas. A radio that Jonathan had helped her pick out. Things that reminded her of the people that she loved.

Scrunched her eyebrows together, El cocked her head. “Why?” She asked, setting the box down at her feet and adjusting herself on her bed so she could look at Mike.

Mike shrugged, unzipping his backpack. “Think of it as a housewarming present.” He said with a smile, chuckling lightly when he saw the confusion still present on her face. “I don’t really know what the point is, but my mom buys them all the time when one of her friends moves.”

“That’s weird.” El said, giggling lightly. She didn’t really get it, why would you need to buy someone a gift when they move into a new house. Shouldn’t they already have everything that they need? “But, what is it?” She asked, with a grin.

Sure, housewarming gifts might be weird, but she wasn’t about to turn down a present for Mike. Not in a million years.

Mike laughed, brandishing a tube from his backpack, his face turning red slightly when he handed it to her, almost like now that he was giving it to her, he was embarrassed by it. Slowly unrolling it, El tilted her head.

“I know it’s stupid, but it was hanging up in my basement and I don’t know, I thought you might like it.” Mike said, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. El smiled, she recognized the poster. She had spent a lot of time studying it when she was staying at Mike’s. She had told him once that she thought it was pretty. El couldn’t help but wonder if he remembered that.

“I love it.” She said with a grin, her heart flipping as she watched Mike’s slightly pinched embarrassed face morph into a wide smile. “Thank you.”

Kneeling down next to her bed, Mike reached across the blanket, grabbing her hands. “You’re welcome. I’m glad you like it. I thought maybe you could hang it on the wall. I know you said you wanted more pictures.” He shrugged and El smiled, she couldn’t believe all the random stuff about her that he remembered.

There was a beat of silence, and El took to lacing her fingers through Mike’s smiling when he squeezed them. “Welcome home, El.” Mike said softly after a moment, pulling El’s attention to him.

His eyes were warm and big as he looked at her, the corners of his mouth lifted in a gentle smile that made El’s stomach flip and her heart squeeze. She was sure that if she was standing her knees would go weak. She knew that she was only fourteen and still had so much to learn about the world around her, and Mike was the first boy she had ever really known, but she knew that what she felt towards him was something she would never feel for anyone else.

Before she could even consider thinking of a response, Mike leaned forward, pressing his lips gently against hers and she smiled against the kiss. Her butterflies in her stomach fluttered awake and electricity coursed through her veins like lightning.

Mike’s lips were soft and his hands were still squeezing her hands and El felt dizzy from how much he surrounded her. But it was the best kind of dizzy and she never, ever wanted it to end.

Home . She thought as Mike pulled away from her, his lips spread in a wide grin and his cheeks pink. Yes. She smiled, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear, her teeth biting down on her bottom lip to keep her face from splitting in two because of her smile.

She is definitely home.