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Blood in the Water

Chapter Text

 

It took five hours to realize Dustin Henderson was missing.

 

It was the days after the whole Starcourt fiasco and everyone was trying to return to living. Joyce and Hopper finally started dating, Eleven was healing, Will finally felt safe, Mike was learning trust, Max mourned her brother, Lucas and Steve were trying to help.

 

Dustin was gonna surprise the gang with gifts he made at camp. He didn’t get to give them their gifts since everything went down. 

 

He wished his mother goodbye, taking out his bike. His mom gave him a kiss and watched him off. 

 

Hours passed and Dustin never appeared. 

 

Steve had waited for Dustin, he was the kids ride home. It was dark and the kid had let him know about his late night festivities. He waited in front of Wheelers patiently. However an hour passed and there was no sign of the trucker hat boy. Being the paranoid guy he was, he went up to the Wheelers and knocked.  

Miss Wheeler opened, clearly surprised to see him.

“Steve! What on earth are you doing here?”

“Hey...Miss Wheeler. Hate to bother you but have you seen Dustin? He told me he was gonna be here.” Steve glanced up to the staircase to see Mike watching the interaction. His expression already giving him his answer.

“No, I’m afraid not...I haven’t seen him all day.” Miss Wheeler looked nervous, concerned that another child might have gone missing. 

“I-It’s probably nothing!” He lied. “I’m sure he’s at home or something!”

“Alright, it was nice seeing you Steve.” 

“You too,” Steve shot a quick glance at Mike before turning around. He made his way to his car, jumping in the driver's seat. He was about to start the engine when Mike came running towards the car and knocked on the window. 

Steve rolled down the window. 

“Is Dustin okay?”

“I’m sure he’s fine. He’s probably at home, eating dinner or something.” Steve wasn't sure if he was saying that to reassure Mike or himself.  

“What if it’s the Mind Flayer or the Russians again?”

“It most likely his mom wouldn’t let him come. Now we won’t ever know if you keep asking questions.”

“Let me come.” Steve let out a scoff. “No way, you mom would kill me!”

Mike ignored the older boy, grabbing the door handle and pulling it open. He sat himself down and gave Steve a look that stated ‘ tough shit, I’m going ’.

 

The drive to the Henderson’s was quiet with an unspoken tension. Each of their minds clouded with concern for their curly haired friend. 

When the Henderson’s home came into view, all the lights were off.

 

Steve pulled up in the front, feeling his stomach drop. Miss Henderson always left the front porch light on in case their cat, Mew’s, ever came home.  

“Stay here,” He ordered, jumping out of the car. He didn’t bother to lock the doors, which gave Mike the ability to ignore his orders and follow him. 

Steve knocked on the door.

Nothing.

He knocked again.

Silence.

Mike knocked this time. “Miss Henderson?”

Steve and Mike exchanged worried glances. The oldest of the two reached for the door knob but was shocked to find it unlocked. He knew Dustin’s mom was laid back but this was unusual. Once the door opened the stench of powerful disgusting odor that could only be described as rotten meat.

“Listen Mike, I need you to run to the neighbors and call Hopper. Now .”

“But-”

“GO!” Mike went running. He watched the kid go before walking inside. He cautiously walked into the living room towards the light switch. Once flipped it, his body went cold by the sight before him.  

Blood covered the walls, caking every photo on the wall and tile. It reeked of rotten eggs and rotting flesh. Miss Henderson was lying in her chair in the living room, covered in blood. Her eyes closed and chest unmoving. Her cat sat on her lap, meowing.

Steve wasn’t squeamish around blood, not after getting roped into the crazy conspiracy that was the Upside Down and government secrets. However this made him nauseous. However he pulled himself through it, forcing himself to move passed the deceased body.
“Dustin!” He called out, praying the boy wouldn’t be in a similar condition as his mother. He barged into Dustin’s room, relieved to find it untouched. His bed was a mess. His toys and comics scattered across the room. However one thing he noted was the boy’s backpack was missing, He couldn’t find it anywhere. 

Steve couldn’t control his breathing, the sound of sirens became evident in the distance. However nothing was more spine chilling then the loud scream coming from the living room. Steve rushed over to find Mike standing in the living room, pale and frightened. He ran over, covering the kids line of sight of the gruesome scene.

“Don’t look. Just don’t look,” Steve told the boy, “Eyes on me Wheeler.”

Mike suddenly wrapped his arms around the older boy, sobbing tears of fright. It only served as a reminder that the kid was still a child. He may have been through hell but he still was a little boy. 

Police cars pulled up and Hopper came out, their eyes meeting for a split second. That was all that was needed for the senior sheriff to understand what was going on. 

 


 

 

It took five years for Dustin Henderson to find himself back in Hawkins.

 

After hitching a ride with a trucker, the boy stepped out onto the woodland road he glanced at the sign that read ‘ Welcome to Hawkins ’. 

“You sure you gonna be okay? It’s pretty chilly outside,” The trucker asked him. The boy nodded. They parted ways at a gas station nearby. It was quick and left Dustin walking in the middle of the night near woods wearing old borrowed hand-me-down clothing. His shoes were far too big and covered in holes. The shirt he was wearing underneath the old ratty trucker jacket was far too big for his small body. 

His feet ached and body demanded sleep however he was determined to make it home. He pushed himself further until he saw lights in the distance. It was the town.

Everything was mostly the same, give or take a few missing shops. He stopped in front of Melvald's General Store, glancing through the window into the dark retail store. 

From there he knew his way on home, following his muddled memories till he reached a familiar neighborhood. He eyed each house, taking in the changes made during his short time missing. It wasn’t long till he reached a familiar home did the first smile in a while spread across his lips. He hurried his pace the more familiar things got, practically sprinting by the time he closed in on his destination. 

It was his house. The lights were off which must of meant his mother was asleep. He briefly wondered how his mother would react to seeing him. Would she hugged him or hit him for scaring her? 

Dustin knocked twice and patiently awaited an answer. 

He waited with a smile, bouncing with joy to finally be home. His heart pounded when he heard footsteps leading up to the door, tears nearly poured at the sound of the door unlocking.

“Mo-” Dustin was taken back by the sight of a disheveled grown man standing at the door, his hair sticking up in all sorts of directions, shirtless, and in boxers.

“Look, tell Miss Katherin to stop sending her spawn to complain! I’m trying to sleep!”

Dustin was taken back, finding the words he wanted to say get stuck in his throat. His world crashing down on him as the door was slammed in his face.  He reached out with a shaky hand and let his fingers touch the tattered and faded address numbers. 

 

What was he supposed to do now?




Chapter Text

1985

 

Fourteen year old, Dustin Henderson, has gone missing earlier this week from Hawkins, Indiana, after the brutal murder of his mother, Claudia Henderson. This is the second missing persons tragedy to strike the small town since the Byers case!”

 

The kids all searched for their missing friend, scouring the woods, nearby parks and backyards. They helped put up posters around the small town in hopes of finding more information about their missing friend.

 

The police had no leads, no suspects. There was no evidence from the brutal muder of Miss Henderson to point to who did it. Hopper suspected something though. He thought the Russians played some hand in his disappearance however he couldn’t find any of them in Hawkins after blowing up their portal. They had rushed out faster than a cheetah on fire and left not much evidence. 

 

Steve had joined all the searches, printed posters, plan the funeral, and helped any time he could. At first officers suspect Harrington of the crimes considering he found the body and was close friends with the Hendersons. To them, an adult hanging around a fourteen year old and their mother had some sort of evil scheme planned. They interrogated him for hours before Hopper found out and shut down their suspensions. Those hours of being yelled, cursed, and accused at were some of the worst moments of his life. Especially when they tried to ‘appeal’ to him that he hid the body. They tried to describe what any crazy perp would do and it made him sick to his stomach. 

Steve had moved on from that, holding onto the belief his best friend was still alive. He kept searching, with the help of Robin at times. Though she’d never admit it, she actually was fond of the boy. Both of them would go out and search until nightfall. 

 

Dustin was still alive and Steve was gonna find him no matter what.

 

One night during a party search, Hopper had been leading them through the woods nearby the Wheeler’s residence. It was looking like it was gonna start pouring soon and the world around them began to get dark. Steve had been in the group along with Joyce and Robin, searching endlessly. 

Hopper was about to call it when a woman from the party piped up exclaiming, “I found something!”

Steve was the first to make it over to see what it was. The sight made the older boy sick to his stomach, causing him to vomit in the nearby bushes. 

 

“Oh my god,” Robin gasped. 

 

Hopper made it over to see what the fuss was about feeling his heart dropped when he saw what it was.

 

Dustin’s trucker hat laid abandoned on the ground and the twigs underneath were stained with spots of blood. 

 

Later that week Hawkin’s PD changed the status of the case from missing persons to homicide investigation.

 


 

 

September 1990

 

Dustin wasn’t sure where to go. 

 

The dark always made him nervous, and the kid needed some sleep. His body was running on zero and he wasn’t sure how much longer he could make it. He took a familiar route to the back of his house and into the woods. He didn’t go too far and instead climbed the tree closest to the town lights. That way he wasn’t completely in the dark. 

He used the jacket for warmth, wrapping it around him. As he drifted off, he stared at the city lights for comfort. Not long until he was out like a night light. 

 


 

1985

 

Russian Base 

 

“Tell me what you know.”

“I’ll never tell you anything!” Dustin spat. 

The russian seemed unphased, speaking to his comrades in russuian. Before he knew it, he was being dragged away by two soldiers and thrown into a cell. Without any parting words, the door was slammed shut.

Dustin was left all alone. The room he was trapped in was small and unfriendly. Clearly the place hadn’t been washed in what seemed like years. 

“Let me out!” He cried, banging his small fists on the metal door. “My friends are gonna kick your asses when they find out I’m here! They’ll save me and send you straight to hell!” 

His threats went on deaf ears. He could only scream until his lungs hurt as he awaited for help.

Minutes turned into hours.

Hours turned into days.

Dustin grew desperate for help but it never came. It only enforced the idea that help was never coming. All his excuses for it wore thin, growing old.

 

As the last of his hope dwindled, so did his courage. 

 


 

 

1990

 

Present Time

 

Dustin woke to a loud crowing coming from a bird nest above him. He lifted his tired body to examine the world around him. It was barely sunrise and the world was barely waking. He shot an irritated glare at the nest above before sighing.

He glanced at his home, seeing an unfamiliar woman walk around the bedroom that was his mother’s. He watched her comb her long glossy hair in the mirror before turning around to meet the man from last night. They kissed and Dustin looked away in disgust. 

The boy climbed down the tree, carefully minding his steps. 

Once his feet met the ground, he made the choice to go into town and search for somebody who could help him. He wasn’t sure if his friends were home and really didn’t want random strangers opening the door. 

So he made the choice to search for Hopper. He was a cop! He could help him find his mother! He practically knew everyone! The kid was about to start walking on foot when his eyes landed on a strange red bike in the distance. It was one of those motor scooters! He always wanted one but was too young for it. 

Dustin noted that nobody was awake to see him and he would be borrowing the bike for a short period of time. This was a matter of life and death. Surely the owners wouldn’t mind!

 

Right?

 

“WOOOOAHHHH!”

 

Dustin cried as the bike cruised down the street. His helmet shook losely, reminding him that this was some grown up’s baby. His heart raced but he made sure to keep his mind on track. 

 

It was time for Dustin Henderson to pay a visit to an old friend.

 


 

 

1985

 

Late August — Hawkins, Indiana

 

The Henderson case went cold. 

 

With no evidence, no suspects, and no leads. It was only a matter of time before people began to forget the Hendersons case. Once it was out of the eyes of the public, funding for the case disappeared and went into other cases. 

Mike had protested this along with everyone who knew him. They tried for so long but nobody would listen except for Hopper and Joyce. They knew what really went down. However the world wasn’t prepared to listen. 

Hopper had tried to continue the search but with nothing left he wasn’t sure what else he could do. With no funding, there was no case. In the government's eyes, Dustin Henderson was as good as dead.  

Hopper was ashamed to admit they were probably right. The Russians had shown no mercy before by killing their own with a bullet to the guy and they would do anything to preserve their secret. 

 

Even if it meant the murder of a child. 

 

Though never forgotten, he slowly stepped back from the case. Without a body, they declared the boy deceased.

 


 

 

1990

 

Present Day

 

Dustin didn’t mean to crash the bike. How was he suppose to know the brakes weren’t working properly? He had no ill intention with the bike as he crashed it into a pole. Thankfully this was outside of the town where nobody could see the disaster that was his parking.  

Lucky for him he managed to slow down enough to prevent any massive injuries. However he did get cut up and scraped. The grass cushioned his fall making him a lucky guy. 

Dustin had to walk his way into town, walking past dozens of people who stared at him like he was just like another homeless lowlife that didn’t fit in with their small town theme. He passed the shop where Miss Byers works but he was disappointed to find she wasn’t there. Only some old geyser was behind the register probably smelling like anchovies or newspapers. So he kept on walking past dozens of little hometown shops. 

Halfway through his little walk he past a biltonboard where people hung their flyers outside the grocery store for people to see. Most of them were about selling cars of furniture. However in the mix, hidden behind a for sale poster was a picture of him. 

‘Missing boy: Dustin Henderson. Age 14. Brown Hair and Eyes. If seen, call Hawkins Police Department.

The picture was recent. It was him at summer camp holding a ginormous fish that he caught. He was smiling widely and look decently happy. An emotion that was starting to feel a bit foreign for him. 

Dustin didn’t waste much time staring at the poster, he forced himself to move on from it and push through. Being gone for months and all he got was an old poster hidden behind a for sale ad. He didn’t bother to read too much into the details and moved on.

Soon he came up upon a familiar police station and felt his hope start to rise. He walked up to the front door which earned some looks from the cops around before marching in. The receptionist seemed surprised a teenager had just waltzed inside.

“I need to see Hopper.” 

“I’m afraid he’s not here-“

Dustin glanced at the sheriff's office. He had a hunch Hopper was there and went with it. Making a quick choice he ran past the receptionist and towards the door. 

“Hey! You can’t go in there!” 

Before he could open the door, three cops grabbed him and pulled away. He struggled but there was no chance against three grown men who graduated from the academy. 

“Woah! What’s going here?” Dustin’s eyes widen at the familiar voice speaking up from behind them. 

“This kid just ran inside acting all crazy!” One of the cops said, their accent making it hard to understand what was said. “Yeah! He tried to go in the chief's office even after we told him he wasn’t here! Not that that has anything to do with you kid !” The second cop sounded pissed that he was explaining himself to somebody. 

“It becomes my business when I find three grown men manhandling a kid!” 

“Steve!” Dustin’s voice cracked. Relief flooded him at the sound of his best friends voice. It was like the nightmare he was living suddenly started to look brighter. 

The cops seemed taken back as they all released the boy. The kid fell onto the ground with a thud. 

“Oh my god…”

 Dustin shook off the hard landing and looked up to where his best friend stood. His jaw dropped at the sight. 

There stood Steve by the door wearing an officer uniform with a real badge looking like he’d just seen a ghost. Dustin gaped like a fish underwater.

 

“Dustin?“

 

Chapter Text

1990

 

Hawkins Police Department

 

Steve had spent so long imagining the moment where he’d get to see Dustin again when they saved him from whatever trouble he was in. It was the only thing he could cling on as Hope around Hawkins faded.

As time passed, that dream died along with his self preservation. 

He grew depressed and loathed himself. After all, he was supposed to protect the kid. Instead he failed and was probably hidden somewhere in the woods or in Russia doing god knows what. He separated himself from the gang, going his separate way. He joined the police academy and passed the exams. It was the only way he could live without feeling useless. Sometimes at the end of his shift he’d look over the Henderson case file and ponder. Always the same facts. Always the same murder and disappearance. Always the same happy photo.

Right now, he was wondering if he was living some sick twisted dream. 

Steve was staring at the same face from the photo in the files. He spent so long staring at the photo, memorizing every detail, and seeing it in real life was unbelievable. Everything was the same, all the way down to the same stupid haircut. He hadn’t aged a bit from the last time he saw him. It was impossible.

Hearing him speak reminded him that he was here.

“Steve, where did you get that uniform? Is this a joke?” Dustin asked, brushing himself off  as he stood up. His dementor so calm for a boy who’d been missing for five years. 

“Call Hopper,” Steve told Florence. The woman didn’t argue and the cops seemed to back up at the kids intense aura.

 

However no matter how tense he was, nothing changed the fact the pain of the past he barely began to pull through from stares him right in the face once again. 

 


 

 

1985

 

Hawkins Graveyard

 

People gathered by the caskets.

 

Some were just neighbors who knew of the boy, others kids who attended school with him. 

 

However none of them were as important as Dustin's close friends. 

 

Hopper stood tall for the kid, holding his hat firmly in one hand and Joyce’s in another. His eyes glassy as he stared at the photos. It was of Dustin and his mother smiling at the camera on Christmas Eve. A priest spoke out, wishing the family a safe travel to the life beyond, speaking some words before people dropped roses onto the casket. The kids were gathered in the front, their eyes watering as they dropped two roses each for both people they mourn. Some of them in disbelief that this was actually happening. Nancy and Jonthen watched from next to Miss Byer’s and Hopper, their grief showing clear of their faces. 

 

Hopper felt the urge to turn around, and when he did he saw a familiar young face watching from a distance. Steve Harrington was standing by a tree, watching the burial from the distance. 

 

Their eyes met briefly before the boy left.

 

Hopper didn’t follow.

 


 

 

1986

 

Less people showed this year.

 

The gathering was quite as the people who could make it wished for the safe return for the boy. Though as the night grew longer, people slowly began to fade. 

The kids held hands, close to tears for their fallen friend. Nacy stood by her brother, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder and Jonathan did the same for his own. 

Joyce was working the late shift that night however she sent her regards. 

Hopper turned around and just what he thought, Harrington stood across the street, peaking in like it was his parent’s forbidden bedroom. They didn’t make eye contact but the kid sensed his stares and turned around.

 

Hopper sighed but didn’t confront the boy this year.

 

 


 

 

1987

 

“I would give anything to hear his stupid voice again…” 

 

Hopper carefully approached the grave, his eyes trained onto Steve whose entire focus was on the photo in front of him.

 

“You don’t have to go through it alone,” Hopper told him, standing beside the kid. He knew the kid was going through a rough time, so he didn’t think much of it. 

 

Hopper couldn’t help his maternal side began to seek through and wrap itself to the grieving boy. He covered the boy with an umbrella and kept his eyes on the grave, ready to listen.

 

“I said I’d keep the shithead safe. I failed him.”

 

“You didn’t know-“

 

“I told the Russians who he was,” Steve cut off abruptly, “They gave me some weird truth serum thing and I told them his full name and even described him. It’s my fault they knew who he was.”

 

Hopper fell silent for a moment, his eyes traveling to the decaying gravestone. He studied the dying flowers left and the candles that were left there for god knows how long. Forgotten like the little boy that once was living here too.

 

“If Dustin was here, he wouldn’t want you to blame yourself. He’d want you to move on...” 

 

“I can’t move on. Everywhere I go, I see his face. Every kid that I walk past, every bookstore I pass by, even in my dreams.” 

 

“I understand. I still see my daughter. When she died, all I could see was her innocent face smiling up at me. It crushed me. I nearly jumped off a roof because I thought I saw my daughter fall off of it. I had lived so long with this delusion that I nearly died over it.” 

 

Steve didn’t speak, his eyes sticking on the ground but his ears flying up to listen.

 

“After time passes, I realized this fantasy I built wasn’t right. My daughter was gone. I had to face it. So I took all that pain, that anger, frustration, grief and channeled it into my work. That’s why I became a cop, to help people. I couldn’t save her so I save others in her memory. 

 

They fell into a comfortable silence. Neither spoke but both took a moment to remember the young boy in the photo. 

 

Then together, they took a step forward.

 


 

 

1988

 

“Hey Dustin, it’s us. Will, Mike, Lucas, Max, and El. Sorry we missed you last year. Life has been crazy without you.” 

 

The kids hoped that Dustin was listening from wherever he was and was standing with them. They knew their loyal friend was having fun playing D&D in the afterlife. Hopper said he was probably in heaven with Mews and his mother despite not being a religious man himself. 

 

When they broke the news of their friend being declared dead it was like Will all over again.

 

Only this time, there was no body or clues. There was no demogorgon that snatched him away. It was just cold blooded murder or at least that’s what the papers are saying. 

 

“We brought D&D! We thought we would play a game for you!” 

 

The kid’s set up the game, in remembrance of old times. Each player getting their usual piece, leaving Dustin’s untouched. They started the game, and suddenly everything felt okay.

 


 

 

1989

 

Joyce watched the altar from the distance.

 

She watched the dead flowers get brushed away, wondering if this would've happened if she never found Will. The alter looks old, barely keeping up with the passing years. Sometimes she’d come and fix it up with supplies from the store out of respect. 

Nobody spoke about the missing boy. Dustin wasn’t a popular kid overall and lived with a single parent who was murdered. Of course he wouldn’t get much coverage as the perfect boy with rich parents. Nobody was speaking for him like she did with her son. There was no mother’s crazy outcry, heck his father hasn’t even shown up, probably unaware of his deceased family that he left behind.

Joyce found it heartbreaking. 

She left a new set of flowers for alter and left with a sadness in a heart.

 


 

 

Hawkins Police Department

 

One Month Later...

 

Hawkins had learned to live without Dustin in it.

 

Not that it took that much work. While the people found the disappearance saddening, they moved on without a scratch on them. However the people who knew him and were friends with the outgoing ball of energy would forever be burned by his sudden disappearance.

El had lost her powers and carried the guilt of not being able to find her boyfriends lost friend.

Mike was scared by the whole ordeal and forever changed, always falling silent when the subject is brought up and kept his suffering behind closed doors.

Steve had went silent after discovering the trucker hat, not making an appearance in the kid’s or any friends in his life. He was like a shadow, always there but never seen. His only contact with 

The rest carried the big hole in their life. They never moved on, and wished for the boy was in a better place.

 

Hopper went through his usual morning schedule. Shower, change, brush, breakfast, and leave for work. 

He arrived, picking into the fresh donut from the pile. 

“Chief?”

Hopper ignored Florence once again and kept moving towards his office. 

“Wait! Hopper-“

Before anybody could stop him, he walked into his office. To his genuine surprise, Steve Harrington had been sitting there this whole time. The kid looked like a mess. His hair was hardly done in the ‘Harrington way’. He looked like he hadn’t eaten or slept in a few days. However compared to the cemetery Steve he saw, the kid looked better. Still a mess, but a better mess. 

Hopper glared at Florence with a ‘why didn’t you tell me’ expression on his face.

The receptionist only looked away with a rolling of her eyes and sigh. 

Hopper sighed, removing his hat out of respect, and sat down at his seat.

“It’s been a while kid. How’ve you been-“

“Let me join your team,” Steve blurted out, cutting the niceties short. His abrupt tone showed Hopper he was in no mood for small talk, his determination hitting the senior cop in the face.

“Kid-“

“I know what you’re going to say and quite frankly I don’t care. I already did everything! I have my paperwork-“

“Woah! Hold on!” Steve paused, letting the older man speak. “I haven’t seen you in what? Four or five months? Then out of the blue you’re asking for a job? Am I hearing this right?” 

Hopper wasn’t angry. Far from it. He thought the kid was here for the Henderson case and if there had been any updates. A job at the station was the last thing he expected.

“I need to do this.”

“Kid-“

“Maybe you won’t understand-“

“-If you’d stop interrupting me for a second you’d find out that I actually do understand. You feel guilty for not being able to help your friends and now you want to help others.” Hopper avoided naming the certain friend, finding saying his name to be too emotionally triggering for the young adult before him. 

Steve didn’t have to speak to know what he said was true. That was enough to influence his decision. He could see their last encounter took a huge effect on the boy. Inspiring him in a way only a father figure could.

“You’re hired.” 

“What, what?”

“You’re hired,” Hopper repeated clearly, standing up from his chair, ignoring the tons of paperwork. Not enough paperwork in the world could tell him the kid was a good man. He knew it was the right pick, his gut was rarely wrong with this sort of thing. 

Steve just stared at him like he grew two heads. 

“You’re not joking with me, are you?” 

“Nope. You’ll start Monday. 8pm. Don’t be late.” Steve looked like he had just won the lottery and couldn’t believe his luck. He seemed shocked that this conversation even happened if you asked Hopper back then. 

 

“It’s good was good to see you, kid.”

 


 

 

1990

 

Dustin sat in Hopper’s office, eating a fresh doughnut and chocolate milk. He wasn’t quite sure where the milk came from considering not a lot of officers drink milk in the morning.

 

Steve was nowhere to be seen, presumably outside. He seemed like he was having a rough day. He looked like he’d seen a ghost when Dustin saw him. Like he had the air knocked out of him.

 

Dustin bit into the powder treat, relaxing as he finally had some food to eat. He glanced out the window to see just in time as Hopper’s car pulled up to the station. So maybe he was wrong, the Chief wasn’t here. He watched as the man practically jumped out of his car, looking like he was told the president was here. 

 

Dustin didn’t think much of it and continued to eat until he heard muffled voices on the other side of the door.

 

“What do you mean he’s in my office?!”

 

“Where else was I supposed to put him?! The holding cell with all the other weirdos?!”

 

“Yes Steve! He could be another trick by the freaking government! He could be searching through classified information!”

 

“Yes because your love life is classified information that the government wants!” 

 

“If this turns out to be a scam, I’ll hunt you down Harrington!” 

 

Dustin heard footsteps approaching the door and he raced back to his seat, acting as if he hadn’t heard anything as the door opened revealing a much older looking Hopper. He had significantly more white hair but not a lot where he looked like his grandfather. 

 

Hopper stared at him like he was some sort of alien being sitting in his office. Dustin wasn’t sure if it was him or something else. Whatever it was, it had him feeling uncomfortable and confused as to what was going on. 

 

Dustin did the only thing he could think of, smile.

 

Suddenly Hopper shut the door, making him jump at the sudden loud racket. 

 

“Oh my god…”

 

“It’s him isn’t?”

 

“No! It can’t be! Dustin would be 19 by now! This is clearly a fourteen year old boy who strangely looks like him!”

 

“He knew my name and he clearly knew about you! We’ve seen weirder! It’s not impossible that this is the same kid!”

 

“That’s insane! First, everyone knows our names because we’re cops. Second, this is beyond our realm of weird!”

 

“Maybe we screwed up! Maybe Dustin was alive this whole time and you can’t face it!”

 

“It’s not like that Steve and you know it.”

 

“Let’s talk to him then! Ask him questions! Prove who’s right then!” 

 

From the otherside, Hopper let out a frustrated sigh at the younger cop’s suggestion knowing full well this interview was gonna bury them. Whether it be in guilt and questions or sorrow and disappointment is the question. The last thing he wanted to do was open old scars for everyone but he had no choice now.

 

The door flew open and both of them were greeted by Dustin who gave a small wave. 

 

Hopper puffed his chest, trying to look as intimidating as possible. He didn’t want this faker to think he was gonna go easy on him. Meanwhile Steve just watched him, confused as to what he was doing. 

 

“Alright son, what’s your name?”

 

“Haha, very funny Chief,” Dustin rolled his eyes but for the sake of entertaining the man he went along, “It’s Dustin Henderson.” 

 

“Nice try. Dustin Henderson would be 19 and you’re clearly 12.”

 

“Fourteen,” Dustin corrected. “I’m pretty sure I’d know if I’m 19.” He cringed underneath the intense Hopper glare, sinking into his seat. 

 

“Fine, Dustin,” the way Hopper said his name made it sound like he didn’t believe him, “what happened the night you disappeared?” 

 

Dustin glanced at Steve, who seemed deadset in avoiding his gaze, before back at Hopper who was clearly playing games with him. He wasn’t sure what was happening but he sure didn’t like being made a fool out of. Troy already does that enough at school.

 

“It’s a long story...”

 


 

 

July 1985

 

The Day Of Dustin’s Disappearance... 

 

Dustin had left his home on his bike, pedaling full speed down the road. 

 

His backpack was set on his back and his hat was where it was supposed to be. The kid traveled fast. He began to slow down when he recognized a short cut.

 

“Just cut through the woods and it’ll take you wherever you need to go just ten times faster.”

 

Dustin hesitated. It’s not that he didn’t trust Max, it was just that the woods haven’t gave him a lot of good memories to cherish. He looked around him, momentarily pausing on the van that pulled up on the lonely street. 

 

In the moment, he felt a weird chill go up his spine. Dustin didn’t do much thinking and started pedaling into the woods. The ride was bumpy and uneven thanks to the dozens of twigs and pebbles underneath. He kept glancing backwards, making sure nobody was behind him. The further he went the more lost he grew. 

Dustin began to pedal faster, feeling his heart skip a beat. He glanced backwards one last time before suddenly he fell off his bike. He had missed the small hill and rolled downwards, scraping his knee when he landed hard on a rock leading to his blood being splattered onto the ground. 

Dustin glanced at his bike that landed further away from him before he realized something was right. It was quite. Not a single thing was out of place. He felt his heart drop when he heard what sounded like an engine roar nearby.

Fearing the worst, he ran to his bike leaving behind nothing but his hat and blood. 

Dustin didn’t get far on his bike since one of the tires popped on a thumbtack that was discarded on the ground. So he dropped the bike near the riverbank. He was about to make a run on foot when something grabbed him from behind and covered his nose and mouth with a rag. He tried to scream, kick, fight, scratch but he was no match. He felt his eyes grow heavy and his sight droopy. His body went limp and suddenly he was consumed by a blackness. 

 


 

 

The two men were silent, occasionally sharing glances at each other. Hopper seemed to believe him at first but something changed.

 

“We didn’t find a bike by the river.”

 

“Well I guess I must’ve forgot where I got kidnapped then!” Dustin sarcastically exclaimed. 

 

“What were you doing out that day?” Steve spoke up, watching him intently. Like his answer depended on the whole fate of the universe. 

 

“I had gifts,” Dustin sounded almost sad as he recalled the lost memory, “I made them at camp. I was gonna surprise everyone since all of them seemed to be down in the dumps after the whole Mind Flayer incident.” The wasn’t sure how this was important. This was months ago after all, the gifts were the last thing he was worried about. 

 

Steve’s eyes went wide. “Henderson?” His voice was quiet, filled with so much emotion as he stared at the little boy in front of him. It was foreign to hear this tone from his best friend.

 

“No shit Harington! Am I speaking Russian or something?!” Dustin wasn’t sure why he was being treated like a criminal. He’d just escaped hell and people are acting like he shouldn’t be alive! 

 

Hopper’s tough guy motto fell as the realization dawned on him. No clone or random impersonator would know about the Mind Flayer or how they were afterwards. 

 

“H-How are you still young?! How is this possible? Is it really you?!”

 

“I don’t know what planet your on but a few months isn’t that long.”

 

“Wait, Dustin,” Hopper interrupted, concern written all over his face, “what year do you think this is?”

 

“1985,” Dustin replied with confidence. Not once showing any hesitation, truly believing his words.

 

Steve and Hopper shared a concerned gaze before back at the boy. Dustin watched in confusion, clearly missing a piece of the puzzle. 

 

“Am I missing something?”

Chapter Text

1990

 

Dustin sat in Steve’s car, in the front seat he might add, exploring the new vehicle. He had never seen 1990 Toyota Century before, his fingers running across the interior in awe. 

 

Steve and Hopper stood by the entrance of the station hashing out a plan to deal with the situation at hand.

 

“The kids can’t know. If he finds out he’s five years in the future he’ll probably lose it. He’s still very much a kid with kid emotions.” Hopper explained, his tone serious. “More importantly if the kids find out, they’ll demand to see him and I’m not ready to answer their questions!” 

 

“I can’t pretend that five years haven’t passed! Things have changed and I don’t know what to say when he starts asking about his friends or mom!”

 

“Make something up! It’s easy! They eat, they sleep, and they talk a lot! Just go with the flow! Meanwhile I’ll do some digging in cold case and see what I can find. Just don’t tell him the truth and keep him hidden in case the Russians come looking.” Steve wanted to argue but deep down he knew the sheriff was right. The truth would only break the boy. It was too risky. He wouldn't risk losing the kid again. Best thing to do was slowly adjust him to life before breaking it to him. He didn’t want to lose the kid he just got back.

 

“I hope you’re right about this.”

 


 

Dustin watched as Steve and Hopper parted ways with curiosity. He wanted to know what they were spending so long talking about. 

 

When Steve began to approach the car, pulling out his keys from his uniform pockets and climbed in. 

 

“So, you’re you want to tell me what’s up with the whole badge getup?” Dustin asked as the car started up. 

 

“It’s not a getup, it’s a uniform,” Steve replied his tone off balance. 

 

“You expect me to believe you went from an ice cream shop employee to a cop in a few months?” Steve tensed. There was silence before Dustin broke out into an abrupt laugh. “Man you must’ve pulled a lot of strings.” All the tension left the cops body, his heart thumping at the sound of the familiar lighthearted innocent laugh. 

 

If Dustin didn’t know better, Steve was about to cry. He didn’t mention it, but there was definitely tears. 

 


 

“What happened to your old house?” Dustin asked as they approached a cabin. The lights were off but the place was surrounded by Steve’s things. Like his porch had his shoes and clothes that he hung out to dry. 

 

“Wasn’t mine, it was my parents. I moved out.” Dustin nodded, taking the information with ease, not suspecting a thing as he was led into the cabin. 

 

“Edward Scissorhands? Goodfellas? Aliens?” Dustin read aloud, examining the VHS collection. “The Princess Diary?”

 

“Hey! Back away from the movies!” Dustin raised his hands in peace and backed away, unsure of the big fuss. He’s never even heard of these films! He moved onto the rest of the place. There was a couch and television which was good. However the boxes of leftover take out were just disgusting. 

 

“Really? Couldn’t be bothered to take out the trash once and awhile?” Steve shrugged. “No wonder you’re still single,” Dustin muttered, moving on. He went to explore the bedrooms. There were two in total, one being Steve’s and the other being a guest bedroom. Judging by the dust factor in the room, nobody has been in there for a while. 

 

Dustin ran his fingers across the wall, feeling the wallpaper pasted on. He felt every bump and dip in wall. His hands traced onto the window near the room. It gave him a view of the woods behind. It left an uneasy pit as he stared into the endless trees and woodland. 

 

“Keep your eyes open. We are everywhere. We are always watching. We will always find you.”

 

Dustin clenched the shades string, his mind replaying the words like a broken cassette. They are always watching. They are always there. 

 

“Hey!” Dustin jumped at the sudden loud bang on the wall. “I’ve been calling you for the past five minutes!” He turned around, feeling goosebumps chill through his arms. His body tensed. 

“Are you okay?” Steve asked.

“Yeah…” Dustin’s eyes traveled back to the window, feeling his skin crawl. 

Steve must’ve seen what was happening and realized his tension. He walked over and closed the blinds, making sure the kid couldn’t see out the window. 

That seemed to make Dustin better, his tension leaving his body as fast as it came. 

 

“Why were you calling me? I kinda spaced out.”

 

“I just wanted to know if you wanted Chinese for dinner or pizza?” 

 

“Oh! Pizza most definitely!” Dustin left the room quickly and rushed into the kitchen. 

 

Steve watched, taking in the odd behavior, and couldn’t help but ask himself what the hell happened to the kid in these past five years. 

 


 

Dustin and Steve sat at the table, eating pizza that they ordered. The got pepperoni and sausage, one of Dustin’s favorites next to bacon and pepperoni. 

The table was awfully silent as Steve watched the kid stuff the delicious greasy pizza in his face like he hadn’t eaten in days. He hadn’t touched his pizza, finding his curiosity distracting. He hadn’t noticed before but now he can clearly see that the kid had lost some weight. He was thinner, like he hadn’t eaten in ages. 

 

Then again, five years will do that to a person. 

 

“Want some more?” Steve offered, showcasing another slice of pizza.

 

Dustin glanced down at his plate, hesitating. 

 

“You can have it if you’re still hungry.” The kid slid over his plate, and Steve placed the slice on the plate. He watched the kid demolish the pizza, wondering if he should’ve gotten a second box.

 

“So…” Dustin didn’t acknowledge his voice. “I know this may be...scary...but I need to ask you some questions.” That seemed to catch the kid’s eyes, making him pause. 

 

When he didn’t say anything to follow up, Steve took that as his cue to continue.

 

“Do you know who kidnapped you?”

 

A simple question, but for Dustin it seemed to be the hardest question he’s ever been asked. He stopped eating and looked down at his palms finding them much easier to look at.

 

“Yes.” 

 

“Do you know their names?”

 

Dustin shook his head. “They never told me.” 

 

Steve cursed them for being so smart. 

 

“I’m sorry.” Steve glanced at the kid, taking in his guilty expression. 

 

“It’s not your fault.” Dustin didn’t seem convinced. “It really isn’t. It’s there’s. They are the only people who did something wrong. Not you.”

 

Dustin didn’t say anything, but he could see the kid took the words to heart. He could see that deep down the kid was listening. He took his relaxed posture as a hint to continue.  

 

“What do you remember from the months you were gone?” Steve asked, treading on thin ice. He studied the kid’s body language carefully. At any time the kid would show signs of trauma that would mean the end of the questioning.

 

Dustin took a shaky breath, his eyes blown wide as if every single bad thing that happened to him was replaying before his eyes all over again.

 

 


 

 

Flashback

 

Dustin panicked.

 

He was stuck in the dark room. He curled himself in a ball in the corner, hiding. Tears fell freely as he rocked himself. He couldn’t breath, he couldn't think, he couldn't see. Everything was far too small. He could feel the lab coats suffocating him, killing him as slowly as possible. A choked cry for help got caught in his throat, and he felt a droplets stream down his cheek. It seemed as if this was the end of the road for him. 

 

Sometimes all you need is a little push to unlock your potential.” 

 

The words rang in his head. A loud croak caught his ear making him choke out a sob. His body shook as he buried his head in his legs. His hands flew to his ears, trying to block out the croaking get closer. He begged for it all to stop. The noises to stop. 

 

Then they did.

 

Dustin felt his heart pound on his rib cage begging to be set free. His head slowly rises, his eyes blown wide as he searched the dark room. For a moment he wondered if it was over. Had the test stopped.

 

Then there was a loud growl. Slowly the kid raised his head, his eyes rising towards the ceiling, following the loud growls. A strange liquid goop dripped onto the ground below him.

 

His screams filled the air as suddenly the monster came into view, screeching at the top of its lungs. 

 

It went white and suddenly dozens of imagines flashed before his eyes.

 

Every time they stuck him in that room, all the experiments, the pain, the torture. Every single little thing they did to him rushed at him like a speeding bullet, hitting him full speed. All of it caught up to him, shattering his facade, and consumed him. 

 


 

 

“Dustin!” 

 

The kid hadn’t realized he moved from the chair and into the closet until Steve had grabbed him and shook him out of it. He had his hands over his ears, curled into a little ball, hidden inside the closet. His breathing had slowed down as he grounded himself in reality by listening to his friend talk. The world around him had came into view, showing him he wasn’t in the dark room anymore. He was elsewhere. Somewhere safe.

 

“It’s okay, you’re safe here,” Steve ressured.

Dustin threw his arms around the older boy, and sobbed. His eyes screwed shut, frightened. 

 

Steve wrapped his arms around the boy and held him tightly, feeling his heart drop. He continued to ressured the kid he was safe, whispering comforting words. 

 

“I’ve got you...I won’t let anything happen to you…”

 

“Promise?”

 

“I promise.”



Chapter Text

1990

 

The next day, Steve had woken up early at dawn.

 

He took a shower, did his hair, brushed his teeth, and fixed breakfast. Growing up with absent parents, he learned pretty quickly how to feed himself. He wasn’t a famous chef, but he wasn’t an amateur either. Although he hadn’t made many home cooked meals while living alone, which led to being little to now food in his kitchen, having Dustin changed that. He went to the guest bedroom, hesitating for a moment before peeking inside. 

 

The bed was empty, left virtually untouched. 

 

Underneath on the ground however was Dustin, fast asleep, huddled under the bed, fast asleep. Steve bent down, gently nudging his shoulder. 

 

That seemed to do the trick since the kid shot up, eyes wide and body on full alert. 

 

Steve quickly showed his hands up to surrender in peace. “Calm down kid, it’s just me. Your good old pal Steve,” He reminded. 

 

It took a few minutes for the kid to calm down enough to talk and by then, Steve had already said, “You know, you can sleep in the bed.”

 

“I can’t sleep,” Dustin replies, his voice low and head hung. 

 

Steve wanted to push further but ultimately decided to back down when he saw the uncomfortable look on the little boy’s face.




 

 

Breakfast was quiet. 

 

Like the night before, Steve’s main focus was on the kid sitting in front of him, eating away like a vacuum. The kid’s persona always changed when it came to basic necessities like food and water. He was always much more quiet and reserved. Very territorial too, always watching him like a hawk when he got close. It was a side to the kid he’s never seen before. 

 

However as much as it bugged him, he had other fish to fry. 

 

“Alright, we need to lay some ground rules since you’re gonna be staying here.”

 

Dustin glanced up from his plate, his body language screaming worry as he tensed. Steve tried to rid his worry by making his body language as nonchalant as he possibly could.

 

“Rule one, don’t answer the door or phone. Got it?” The kid gave a nod showing him he understood. “Rule two, don’t leave the house. I don’t care if you see freaking Jesus coming out of the sky, you stay in these walls.” 

 

Another nod.

 

“Rule three, stay away from the windows. I don’t think I need to explain why.” The kid seemed to ponder for a second before nodding again. 

 

“Alright, rule four! Don’t talk to anybody. If anybody somehow sees you, you don’t speak to them-don't even look at them!” Steve raised his voice, trying to enforce the importance of this rule specifically. “You call me right away!”

 

“I thought I wasn’t supposed to use the phone,” Dustin pointed out. 

 

“Only in emergencies. You call the station and ask for me or Hopper. Nobody else.” The teen nodded, taking the information in like a sponge. 

 

“Good. Think you’ve got it?” 

 

Dustin nodded.

 


 

 

Hopper hadn’t planned to go into work today.

 

However when a missing kid appears the same age as they disappeared, he had no choice. Hopper drove into work and made a beeline to his office where he awaited Harrington, who was fashionably ten minutes late. 

 

He was reading through the files when Steve barged into the room still wearing his ridiculous shades that he wears while driving. It was a trend he’d never understand. 

 

“Kill me,’’ Hopper muttered as Steve took off his sunglasses and sat down. 

 

“Sorry I’m late.”


“No you’re not.”

 

“You’re right,” Steve agreed. 

 

“So how was babysitting?” Hopper asked, glancing up from the files. 

 

“It was great actually. Did you find anything?” Steve asked.

 

“Nope but I thought maybe we can go look down the old river. There’s a slim chance that we’d find anything but wouldn’t hurt.”

 

Hopper placed a flashlight on the desk as on offer. Steve seemed to think for a moment before grabbing the light. 

 

“Let’s go.”

 


 

 

That’s the thing, you’ve been out there for fifty-seven years.

 

Dustin was starting to regret watching Aliens. Not because he was scared though. He watched the screen, frightened as the main character, Weaver began to panic. He wanted to barf when he saw the woman's stomach move. He considered turning it off since he was home alone and was already starting to fear his nightmares. 

 

The kid flipped the tv off, deciding that he had enough tv time. He decided to snoop around of Steve’s home instead to take his mind off the horrifying scene. He was glad Lucas and Mike weren’t here to watch him chicken out. 

 

Dustin traveled around the home, walking into the hall where he found a trap door on the roof. His curiosity got the better of him as he borrowed a chair from the dining table and dragged it over. He used it as a step stool to open the trap door. He stumbled back as suddenly a latter shot out. He realized it was an entrance to the attic. He climbs up to find a room of boxes. It was roomy and perfect for an upstairs hide out. He looked around, smiling in wonder as he examined the place. There was a large window that flooded in light, making the place shine. 

 

Dustin trailed over to some of the boxes, ripping one open causing dust to blow everywhere. He let out a lung crushing cough, making him lose air for a few seconds. He looked into the box finding a bunch of old photo albums. 

 

“No way,” He pulled out one of the albums and sat down, prying the pastel book open revealing old photos. By old, he meant old . He was currently staring at on old picture, that had the caption underneath ‘ Steve’s first Halloween ’. In the photo was a baby Steve dressed in a cow costume, in the arms of a woman he didn’t recognize. However the photo itself made the teen cackle. 

 

As he flipped through the photos, he noted that most of them were all young photos. They all had the same smiling woman holding a smiling Steve. So Dustin assumed naturally that this woman was his mother. 

 

The photos kept coming until suddenly they stopped by the time Steve reached age five. Then there was nothing. No photos, no smiling woman, no more young Steve. The kid found it odd but didn’t think much of it. 

 

Dustin set the book back and continued to search through the old boxes like it was a goodwill. He managed to find neat old clothes in one box and old toys in another. However by the fifth box he searched through he found something he never thought he would find in a Harington house basement. Inside the box was a first edition D&D board game just sitting there. He gaped, pulling out. He wondered what the hell this was doing in his friends attic. 

 

He examined the game, running his fingers across the piece of fine history. He made a mental note to ask about it later. 

 

Dustin continued to search through the boxes, finding each and everyone of them more surprising then the next.

 

Then he reached a pile of boxes that look different from the rest. They were hidden and had less dust on them. When he opened it, the first thing he saw was Cerebro broken down. He kept searching for more and more of his stuff hidden in these boxes finding all his stuff packed away, forgotten. He picked up a photo of himself and his mother, they were happily smiling at his father behind the camera. He was young and hardly remembered that day at the lake. 

 

Dustin threw the photo back inside, unable to look any longer. His gut twisting as he thought of his parents. He missed his mother badly and his father just as much despite him leaving for a new family. He hasn’t seen the man in ages yet still remembered his phone number, though never reaching out to him. 

 

Dustin shifted his focus onto all his toys and science kits hidden in the next box, forcing away his memories of father and mother. He pulled out his old posters, admiring each and everyone of them as if they were brand new again.

 

Then the question dawned on him, how come Harrington had all his things? Surely his mother...the thought of his missing mother drilled holes into his stomach. Had she left without taking any memories of him? She wouldn’t have done that though! Even with the inevitable proof in front of him, he couldn’t process the possibility of his mother abandoning all his things to Steve. Sure the two grew close because of him, but had she been burned so bad that she’d dump it all on her son’s best friend who kept it as if he knew he was gonna return?

 

‘This doesn’t make sense,’ his mind told him.

 

Maybe he was looking too deep.

 

Dustin tried to rid the idea from his mind, but slowly the idea planted seeds of doubt, which would eat him alive.

 


 

 

“It was a long shot,” Hopper announced, kicking a few leaves aside. 

 

“It was worth it.” Hopper didn’t look convinced. His expression dull. Steve was about to suggest they leave when something caught his eye. Something shined from underneath all the dirt near the trees. 

 

“Hold on.”

Steve went to investigate the reflecting light, bending down. Using his hands to dust away any dirt and muck. To his disbelief it was bike chain. Though rusted and covered in mud, it still shined. 

 

“That could be anyone's bike chain,” Hopper reasoned.

 

“Yeah but how many lost their bikes in this specific area?” 

 

“I don’t know! Maybe dozens! This place isn’t exactly a secret!” Hopper sounded exasperated. “You sound just like Joyce.” 

 

“Oh yeah? How many times has your wife been right?” 

 

Hopper shut his mouth, clearly backed into a corner. 

 

Steve ignored him, looking around him for anything else that could be lurking around. The sound of the running river gave him an idea. 

 

“The river,” He muttered, glancing down at the chain. “We’ve searched this place dozens of times. What if the reason we never found anything is because they got rid of it through the river! This river goes for miles!”

 

“Nice theory but you’re forgetting that the bike is far too heavy to be carried. It would’ve sunk,” Hopper pointed out. 

 

“Not unless they took it apart first. Separate it to lighten the weight.” Hopper seemed impressed, telling him that the idea was feasible without actually saying it. 

 

“Say if this is true, how does an old chain help us?” Hopper asked.

 

“It gives us a proof that the kid is telling the truth-” Steve couldn’t help but smile, like he was just told he won the lottery. “-And it tells us whoever took him wanted to make sure we didn’t find him. Only they suck at their job clearly since the kid is with us.” 

 

“What’s the chances the person who took him willingly let him go and won’t be back?” It was a rhetorical question that left both their stomachs feeling queasy. 

 

As both officers fell silent, both failed to see the strange figure lurking in the deep woods, watching them.

 


 

 

Steve returned home with a bucket of KFC only to find the kid was nowhere to be seen. He glanced around, searching for the curly haired boy. 

 

“Dustin?” He called out, setting the bucket down on the counter. He walked into the hall, peaking into the bedrooms. When he couldn’t see the kid he felt panic rise within him. What if the Russians took him again? Did they find him and snatch him a second time? 

Steve walked through the hall, his breathing growing heavy.

 

“Hey Steve!” Dustin’s head popped out through the roof, scaring the soul out of the boy. He let out a high pitched scream, stumbling back. 

 

The kid burst out in a fit of laughter. 

 

“What the hell are you doing up there?” Steve asked, annoyed. 

 

“Looking through boxes,” Dustin stated as if it was obvious. 

 

“What boxes?” Steve asked. 

 

“The ones in your awesome attic!” 

 

Steve’s eyes lit up in realization. His face falling. “Get down from there! Now!” He used a bit more force than he meant to. Dustin’s smile fell and immediately he began to climb down, his tone shaking the boy to his core, triggering a response. Once down Dustin scurried off to his room, closing the door behind him. 

 

Steve closed the trapdoor causing a photo to fall.

 

Steve’s third birthday!

 

He stared at the photo of himself staring happily at the camera, his eyes shining with an innocence while he was in the arms of the only woman who ever cared for him. She wasn’t her mother, but he wished she was.

 

 It was his full time nanny, Amanda. 

 

She watched over him while his parents worked. She lived with them until one day she didn’t. She did all the things a mother should do. Care for their children, play with them, teach them, scold them, and love them. She was the perfect mother.

 

Until one night he had woken up by the sounds of arguing. 

 


 

 

“Get out of my house! I won’t allow you to turn my son into a fag!” 

 

“I’m not turning him into anything!” Amanda spat. “I’m showing him how to be a good person with a heart!”

 

“I’m doing what’s best for my son! Something you wouldn’t understand!”

 

“How dare you! I raised that boy since he was a baby! I fed him, changed him, sang to him, read him stories, comfort him when he had night terrors! So don’t tell me I don't know what's best for him!”

 

“If you did, you’d take your whore ass out of my house now!”

 

“Gladly! I’m done working for such an ignorant meathead and his airhead of a wife!” 

 

Steve watched from the cracks of his bedroom door as the one person who loved him left him behind. Once he heard the door slam, his heart fell. He prayed for Amanda to come back and take him away but she never did.

 

She was gone and Steve had nobody left to love him.

 


 

 

Steve sighed, feeling the guilt crawl up his chest like a virus. He shouldn’t have snapped at Dustin like that. He was just being a nosy kid, it was in their nature. 

 

The memory of him snapping reminding him of his father.

 

He pocketed the photo and went over Dustin’s door and knocked. He waited a few seconds for an answer.

 

When there wasn’t one, Steve spoke up. 

 

“H-Hey Dustin, I’m sorry for snapping at you like that. I-I shouldn’t have done that.” 

 

There was silence for a few moments and right as he was gonna give up, the door flew open and a very puffy eyes Dustin opened up. 

 

His gaze remained on the floor, bowing his head in shame (or obedience). 

 

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have snooped around,” Dustin whispered. “I won’t let it happen again. I’ll behave, I promise! Just please don’t send me back!”

 

Steve felt his guilt worsen as the kid practically began to beg. He didn’t know the full extent of what happened to him before he came back. However this made him sick. 

 

A kid begging to be forgiven and frightened into behaving. It was sickening. 

 

“Listen to me, you aren’t ever going back. I won't ever let that happen. You don’t have to apologize. I made a mistake. I shouldn’t have yelled at you like that. You don’t ever have to apologize.” Dustin seemed off put by what he said, like he had just sprouted blasphemy in front of a church. It hurt to see the conflict in the boys face. 

 

Steve tried to ignore his sinking gut as the kid stayed silent. He hated seeing his friend like this, not being the outgoing and spunky kid he remembered. It hurt like hell but he had to hold it together. 

 

He had to keep it together for the kid.



Cause who else will?

Chapter Text

“Where’s my mom?  Dustin asked over breakfast one day. “Why haven’t we gone to see her?”

 

Steve had the day off and was chowing down a bowl of cereal. The question asked was one he’d been expecting and dreading. 

 

However the longer he stared into the kid’s face he realized he couldn’t bring himself to say the truth to the innocent kid in front of him.

 

“Make something up!” Hopper had told him when he asked him.

 

“Hopper’s tracking her down,” Steve lies, “She moved after you went missing.” 

 

Dustin’s shoulders slumped, clearly not wanting the answer that he was given. He could tell the boy was itching to reunite with his mother and Steve was only delaying the inevitable. 

 

“It can’t be that bad living with me,” Steve said, trying to lighten the boys spirit. Part of him was scared the kid hated it here. So waiting for the kid to answer itched at him.

 

“I guess it’s fun living off of fast food and watching rated R movies,” Dustin told him, nodding his head. 

 

The answer wasn’t perfect, but it kept his nerves in check. 

 

Steve glanced at the calendar, his eyes trailing onto the red circle around the date. ‘Interview 1 w/ Hopper’ .

 

He sighed, already wishing this day would hurry up and be over with.

 


 

 

“Alright Dustin, I’m just gonna ask you a few questions,” Hopper spoke up, sitting on the coffee table across of the teen on the couch. “We can stop at anytime just let me know if it becomes too much alright?” 

 

Dustin nodded in compliance.

 

Steve watched from the kitchen nervously, clenching his sweaty hands together tightly to keep himself from fiddling.

 

“Is it okay if I record this?” 

 

Again a nod. 

 

Hopper pressed turned on his recorder, setting it down on the table. 

 

“Alright, let's start off easy. What can you tell me about the day you went missing?” 

 

Dustin retold the story, recalling each detail clearly like it was yesterday. When he was done, the sheriff nodded.

 

“After that, what do you remember?”

 

“People talking...they were speaking Russian. I don’t remember what they were saying but I do remember it smelling like cheap fast food. It was dark and I could hear things around me. Like cars! They were all around me and the floor shaking. Then it goes blank from there...”

 

Hopper glanced at Steve and mouthed, ‘trunk’ . The sheriff wrote it down, keeping it in his notes. 

 

“Okay Dustin...I’m gonna need you to tell what you remember next and be very specific.” 

 

Dustin nodded, his eyes glossy as he recalled what happened next.

 

“I was in a room. It was dirty, I remember it smelled like a cat's litter box in there. I was alone. I tried to scream, but nothing happened. I couldn’t move my body. It was like I was stuck.” 

 

“Then what happened?” Hopper asked.

 

“Then he came in…” 

 


 

 

1985

 

“You are a very smart boy.”

 

Dustin’s body laid helpless, stuck in the position he was left in. However, his eyes were wide, showing he was very much awake.

 

“You managed to crack our code and find our secret base. I’m impressed.” 

 

He wanted to scream, run, maybe even cry but his body played against him. Keeping him centered. He listened to the man mutter something in Russian to the guards and they picked him up, setting him against the wall like some sort of Barbie doll.

 

“Though not as impressive as blowing up our base. Now that just blew my mind.” The man grabbed him by the chin, forcing his head to face him. 

 

“You took a very important thing from me, so I’m taking something from you.” 

 

Dustin felt his heart pause, his breathing come to halt. 

 

“Enjoy your new home, American scum.” 

 


 

 

1990 

 

“Who is he,” Hopper asked. 

 

“He’s a bad man.  H-He was the one who was in charge of everything. Y-You do everything he says or else...” Dustin fell silent, his voice trailing off.

 

“Or else what?”

 

Dustin just looked at him, his eyes distant and glossy.

 


 

 

1985

 

Dustin was curled in his cell under isolation. He was sick with god knows what and continued to vomit. 

 

The bad man told them to let him suffer. That if he dies, then he dies. 

 

It had been only a week of him being here and he was already fearing death. 

 

It was a slow torturous death, something that the men watched without remorse. No matter how much he screamed and cried, begging for help and to go home. 

 

Nobody lifted a finger.

 

Until one excruciating night, where death was certain, a soldier snuck into his room with medication despite his orders.

 

“I help you,” The man whispered, his English broken, showing off the medication in his hands. “I no hurt you..let me help.” 

 

Dustin didn’t fight the needle in his arm and just let the man do his business. He whispered a Russian lullaby, trying to soothe the child as he did this. Only later would he find out that the man had a son, which is why helped him. He reminded him of his son. 

 

“Баю Баюшки Баю
Не ложитесь рядом с краем кровати
Серый волк придет
И схватить тебя своей крошечной стороной Он схватит тебя своей крошечной стороной
И тащить тебя в лес ...
Перетащите тебя в лес ...
Вниз под кустом ивы.
Не приходи, волчица, не буди нашу Машу.
Баю Баюшки Баю..."

 

Dustin had passed out to the soothing voice and woke up the next day feeling considerably better than before, no longer waiting to greet death by the grand doors. He would live.

 

 

A week had passed and one night he was dragged out of his sleep and into a room with dozens of soldiers. He was led to the front where he saw somebody tied to a chair, their head covered with a bag. 

 

He heard people cheering in Russian, yelling random things until the Bad Guy came in. He announced something unfamiliar to the soldiers before ripping off the bag. 

 

It was the soldier who saved him. He sat tied and beaten to a pulp. His eyes meeting his own. 

 

Dustin shook his head, dreading what was about to happen.

 

Behold what happens to those who betray our country! Let this be a lesson!

 

The two never broke eye contact, their eyes remaining on each other in that moment. He ignored the shouting and yelling, finding them fading into the background. 

 

Traitor. ” The Bad Man snarled, pulling a gun out of his holster and pointing it straight to the man’s head. 

 

Bang!

 

“NO!” He screamed, fighting desperately against the restraints and guards.

 

The soldiers cheered like some sort of sick cult.

 

Dustin watched in horror as the soldiers dead body fell to the ground. “You sick bastards! You killed him!” He was pulled back, tears threating to roll down his face. “He was one of your own!”

 

The Bad Guy only smiled at him as he was dragged away from the scene. He spent the next two days in solitary confinement, humming the lullaby as his only source of comfort.

 


 

 

1990

 

“Dustin?” 

 

Dustin snapped out of trance, unknowingly he had started to cry. A single droplet fell down his cheek. 

 

Quickly he wiped it away, apologizing profusely. 

 

“Hey, no need to apologize. Remember, don’t apologize for something you can’t control. It’s okay to be upset,” Steve spoke up, comforting the kid. 

 

Dustin didn’t say anything, his eyes looking off into the distance, wishing they’d take the hint and move on. 

 

Hopper seemed hesitant but continued on with the interview.

 

“Dustin...this may be hard to answer, but do you know why did this...bad guy kept you alive?”

 

Judging by the kid’s facial expression, the kid knew exactly why. His eyes stayed on the wall for a few seconds before he began to speak.

 

“Чтобы выиграть войну, вы должны быть на два шага впереди нее.” 

 

Both older men blinked, shocked at the kids ability to suddenly speak Russian in a fluent speaking manor.

 

“I’m sorry, what the hell is that supposed to mean?”

 

“To win a war, you must be two steps ahead of it,” Dustin translated with ease, his voice tense with raw emotion. 

 

“I’m not following..” 

 

Dustin didn’t speak, he just stared off into the distance.


Chapter Text

1985

 

The boy could be useful ,” Doctor A stated, his heavy accent making it hard for Dustin to understand other than the large language barrier. He listened through the echoing vent system intensely.

 

The Americans have already given up their search. Nobody is gonna be looking for him. ” Doctor B seemed happy at this, a twisted smile in her voice. Dustin cringed, feeling that whatever she said wasn’t good for him. He’d hoped he wouldn’t find out what she meant. He was tired of spending his days wondering whether today was the day they’d finally throw him out like yesterday’s lunch or if it’d be next week. He tried to hold onto a little bit of hope that Hopper and his friends would save him.

 

However deep down inside he knew nobody was gonna save him from this nightmare.

 

What do you propose we do with him? ” Boss asked, sparing a glance at the room where the boy was trapped.

 

Чтобы выиграть войну, вы должны быть на два шага впереди нее.

 

Doctor M threw a folder down onto the table. Clearly by the men’s expressions they were off put by whatever was the folder.

 

This is nothing but fiction from a mad man! All the tests have come up with nothing concrete!”

 

That's because they didn’t have the research and equipment that I do .”

 

There were a few quiet murmurs as the people discussed and flipped through the folder. It wasn’t long until someone answered.

 

When's the earliest you can start?

 


 

 

Dustin couldn’t move.

 

He was strapped down to a chair, lab coats surrounded him bringing in different medical devices. Their eyes barely reached him, ignoring his panicked state. One lab coat even placed a scalpel on the table next to him to frighten him. It worked and made him desperate to break loose. He struggled against the restraints, pulling against them for freedom.

 

Though it never came

 

He laid there as they placed a mask on mouth and nose, pumping gas through it. Slowly he began to lose consciousness, his mind sinking into an endless dark muddy swamp. He glanced to his side where he noticed a chamber, lab coats surrounding it. They had hazard suits, writing notes, their expressions unreachable.

 

Then he closed his eyes.

 

When he awoke it had been nearly a month since whatever was done to him. He had mostly healed, no scars left to indicate what they had done. The only symptom he had was a sore body and a massive headache.

 

Part of him was glad he would never know, however another part dreaded the thought of what they did to him.

 


 

 

Dustin laid in a strange chamber.

 

It had been three months since the operation. Once they believed he was capable of walking, the real horror began. He wore a stranger latex suit that clung onto his body. His frightened eyes met those of the doctor who told him, “Everything will be okay. It will just be like falling asleep, alright?” 

 

The Doctor has surprisingly good English. She wasn’t like the others, dead behind the eyes. She comforted him instead of letting him go terrified. 

 

She hooked a bunch wires to him all over. They were cold at first, making him flinch. The last thing she did was clamp a metal latch onto his head, it’s cool and smooth surface latched onto his forehead like a snug headband.

 

Once he was done, she gave him a small reassuring smile. 

 

Then the capsule closed, and suddenly volts of energy shot through his body, causing his body to convulse for a few seconds before everything faded. 

 

Then there was nothing. 

 

Flashes of another place where water was solid and worlds meet. Another image flashes of a cold world where life was drained and sucked away. Not a single thing for miles, just decay and ruined parallel of the world he knew. 

 

Dustin awoke to see another Doctor, his face cold. The woman from before not in sight. He muttered something in a quiet whisper, his eyes distant. 

 

Dustin couldn’t find it in himself to care, he was too exhausted to care. It wasn’t long after his awakening did he pass out into the calming black sea. 

 


 

 

“LET ME OUT! PLEASE!”

 

Dustin screamed. He stretched his arm through small bars, reaching out desperately. His eyes full of terror.

 

The men behind the glass didn’t flinch. They watched without any remorse for the sobbing child. 

 

“PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME! PLEASE!” 

 

The white coats watched, writing in their notes. Their eyes distant and remorse gone. Nobody flinched as the terrified child begged and begged. 

 

Then there was the same low growl from before.

 

Then there was screaming.

 

Then there was nothing.

 


 

 

19...86?

 

Dustin laid in the same capsule.

 

His body ached, only having been awake for a few weeks. His mind grew weary as the added more and more wires, latching the same metal headband against him. 

 

This time it wasn’t just the labcoats watching him, the Bad Guy was there. He was looking over him, asking questions in Russian.

 

Put it on maximum power.”

 

“But that could kill him sir, years of progress would be lost-“

 

“When I say something,” the main lab coat was grabbed by the shirt , “you do it! I don’t need to repeat myself to the likes of you!”

 

I-I understand sir!”

 

Dustin listened to the crank beside the capsule go up and before he knew it, there was a sharp pain in his temple and everything went black.

 

He saw the group.

 

Max, El, Mike, Lucas, and Will. They all were standing around something, their backs turned to him. He could feel them, smell them, hear them. His senses were maximizing as he forced himself to take a step forward. His feet felt cement and his mind was being dragged through a swap. 

 

Each step grew harder, his body weaker.

 

Once Dustin was near, he reached out but by the time his arm brushed against the shoulder of Max’s black sweater they were gone. 

 

Dustin’s feet sank, he could no longer stand, feeling his whole body get sucked away into the black water underneath. 

 

 


 

 

Dustin lost track of time, his senses dull and weaken. Time wasn’t his strong suit. Without a calendar and with no access to the modern world he had no definitive way to tell time. It wasn’t like he could ask the soldiers what day it was and expect a civil answer. Although he knew that it had to have been a few months, his hair had grown a few inches. 

 

However every time put him to sleep, his sense of reality dulls. He was always tired when he got out and he couldn’t think straight. They asked him how it felt, what he saw. 

 

However Dustin could never remember. His mind was been put through a blender and hadn’t processed anything. 

 

They shoved him in the dark room again, only this time he was too weak to fight. Surely he wouldn’t survive this. He was far too weak to fight, his limbs weighing him down like bricks. 

 

The croaking was the first thing he heard. Only this time it was smaller, and there were multiple of them coming from all around him. 

 

He recognized the croaks instantly. 

 

It was the same one Dart once made. 

 

Dustin could feel them surrounding him, like a lion circling their prey. He tried to lift himself off the ground but his body was too weak. 

 

No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get up. 

 

Dustin could only accept his fate of death as the footsteps echoed around him, their hissing and screeching ground louder. 

 

He wished that one day his friends would find out what happened to him, that they’d understand why this happened. Then he’d could rest happily knowing he was just another missing kid. 

 

His body collapsed, breaking under pressure. His eyes drooping. As he lost all sense of consciousness he could see the demodogs grow closer and closer.

 

He wished this would all end. He wished they would stop, that this whole thing would just end. 

 

Then, as if on command, the creatures came to a screeching halt, croaking and seeming intrigued by the child. 

 

Dustin couldn’t live the memory for long, passing out long before he could hear the Russian’s response.

 

 


 

 

Dustin sat on a chair, on his head sat a wired machine, surrounded his temples like a crown. 

 

For the first time, he was sat at a table with woman sat across from him. She smiled at him, looking like a friendly neighbor instead of a menacing Russian.

 

“It’s time,” She states, smiling numbly. “Close your eyes, sweetheart. Let the machines help.” 

 

Dustin just swallows, inhaling his fear and shoving it downwards. His eyes followed the lab coat, focusing on her hand as she gave a signal to the other men across the room who hid behind a mirror.

 

A murmur filled the room as the lights flickered off.

 

Suddenly he was back in the dark place. A familiar feeling of cement hit him like a pile of bricks, however it felt somewhat easier since this became a regular thing.

 

“What do you see?”

 

Dustin could see Steve. He was sitting on his bed, eyes staring off into god knows what. He felt his breath hitch at the sight of his own best friend, his expression unreadable. There were bags under his eyes, his hair a mess, and he looked like he hadn’t been out doors in ages.

 

“Steve.”

 

Dustin stepped forward, cautiously making his way towards his friend. His hopes grew high as he got close enough to reach him.

 

“Steve!” He called out, smiling with relief. 

 

The boy didn’t move, his eyes still staring into the beyond. Dustin felt his smile turn blue. He took a seat next to the older boy, feeling his heart grow heavy.

 

“Who’s Steve?”

 

In the real world, the needle went crazy, showing high activity in the brain. The machine only sped up as time passed, showing no signs of falling.

 

“Someone I know…”

 

Dustin reached out, gently wrapping his friend in a hug. Instead of disappearing as usual, the figure of his friend stayed. He could feel the man’s body shake.

 

“Dustin…?”

 

The needle snapped, the machine catching on fire. 

 

The kid squeeze tighter. Steve took a shaky breath, a tear dripping down from his water filled eyes. His head tilted downwards, almost as if he was staring right at him. 

 

Then there was light.

 

The doctor was standing right in front of him, her expression disturbed as she looked into his eyes. She glanced at the mirror, and at the men men behind it, already sensing their cheers. 

 

Dustin’s ears were ringing, his eyes blown wide. He felt something wet drip down his lip, and lifted a shaky hand to feel what it was. He wiped his nose and when he looked back at it, his hand was stained in a deep red.

 

It was blood.

 


 

 

“It’s like riding a bike.” 

 

Dustin listened to intercoms, staring at the large metal gate in front of him. 

 

“Focus on it. Open your mind, and take control of the wheels.” 

 

The words encouragement echoed throughout the room, bouncing off the walls like a school gym. 

 

His breath began to pick up speed as the locking mechanisms in the door unhinged. He listened to the sirens echo as the lights went dark. 

 

The only light he had was the flashing red sirens blaring through the room.

 

He could hear the door open before stopping abruptly. 

 

Dustin tried to maintain a healthy breathing pattern but as soon as he heard something began to walk around the room, he panicked. His breathing was quick and uneven, palms sweaty, eyes tracking all around the room. 

 

Let me tell you something son, you control your own fear and you decide what to do with it. You can either let it win or beat it. Now which one your gonna do?”

 

His father’s wise words echoing in his head. He told him that after asking his father about the divorce. His dad sat him down and told him exactly what he needed to hear. It was one of the few positive things he actually learned from his deadbeat of a father.

 

Dustin listened to the screeching and ugly croaking, the red lights capturing a silhouette in different places, moving closer each time. 

 

It was huge, definitely not a Demodog.

 

“I’m not afraid,” He told himself, repeating the phrase over and over again, “I’m not afraid.” He tried to stand tall, hold his ground. His eyes glared at the mighty beast. 

 

“I’m not scared!” He announced to the monster, as if it could answer. 

 

“I’m not afraid of you!” Dustin could feel his legs quiver as the red light captured the beast once again. It was right in front of him.

 

It roared and the kid let out a gut wrenchig scream as the beast latched onto his leg, pulling him away with its razor sharp bladed teeth. The doors pushed open and then there were gunshots.

 

The creature dropped his meal, retreating at the sound, frightened by the loud and dozen bangs. Men retrieved the injured boy, pulling him away by the arms, dragging him. 

 

Dustin couldn’t scream, his leg had gone numb with adrenaline and shock. He could only stare at the cell as he was taken away, frightened beyond imagination. He couldn’t bring himself to look away even after they were out of the room. The trail of blood from the room to him would traumatize the boy for the rest of his life.

 

 


 

 

Dustin sat in a room, his eyes trained on the floor. His vision was blurry, and everything in his body felt wrong. He couldn’t explain it. It was odd.

 

The kid stares at his hand, seeing four hands instead of just two. 

 

Suddenly the door opened revealing a lab coat, the one who ran the tests, her friendly eyes giving him a once over. They’re alone, which is strange since almost always they have a guard to drag him away. 

 

They must’ve knew he was weakened by whatever was done to him. Judging by the wheelchair that was brought in, he was correct.

 

“How are you feeling today?” They asked, their eyes trained on him as they rolled him down the hall.

 

Dustin didn’t answer the question, instead kept his dry lips closed and kept his eyes on the ground. He passed by dozens of rooms until finally they made it into one. This specific room was isolated from the rest, fit with painted walls and dozens of books.

 

Dustin didn’t make a move to say anything, he just stared, fearful of being thrown in the dark room if he angered the lab coat. 

 

“Don’t worry, I will not hurt you. There’s no tests today. I’m only here to insure your wounds are okay. I’m a Doctor. May you please take a seat on the chair?” Dustin did as he was told, taking a seat without hesitation. His nails digging into his arm skin, clenching his teeth. 

 

“Is it alright with you if I check your leg?” This time the kid hesitated, his mouth falling shut before a word can be spoken. It had been a while since anybody asked him anything before. His right to advocate for himself had been stripped from him, becoming a shadow to him. 

 

Dustin nodded. 

 

The Labcoat slowly lifted his leg up, unwrapping the bandages so effortlessly placed on him. The wound was nasty, still stained with blood. 

 

“You’re lucky it’s not infected. A clean up is all you need and you’ll be free,” They tell him with confidence and reassurance. 

 

Dustin didn’t speak but instead watched as the doctor grabbed rubbing alcohol. In his mind, humming a familiar lullaby as they began to pour the alcohol onto a towel. 

 

“This is gonna sting but I need you to stay still. Can you do that?” Dustin nodded, biting the inside of his cheek as he prepared himself for the worst. 

 

The Lab coat slowly pressed the cloth onto the wound causes the boy to jump as the alcohol stung him. He bit his lip, whimpering. 

 

“It’s going to be okay.” 

 

How desperately he wish for it to be true.

 


 

 

Every injury he received, every burn, scratch, and bite he was sent to Aniyah, the doctor. Over time they grew to become friends despite him being held captive by her boss. Their visits were few and every time he saw her she always looked older. 

 

Sometimes Aniyah would prolong their visits, allowing him to have fun in the dark hell he was living in. She was the one who kept that small part of his childhood alive. She’d teach him Russian, giving him short but fun lessons. Then they’d play games, sometimes even sneaking in movies to watch which later she’d claim his wounds took extra time to address. 

 

That all changed though when the Bad Man announced it was time for him to become a man, whatever that meant. A man of Russia. He was dragged from Aniyah, pulled into the capsule, forced down for a drift. He could still hear his friends protest against the guards as he was dragged like a doll. 

 

“You will be the one to win this war,” The Bad Man told him, “You will save us all.” 

 

Dustin watched as the wires were connected to him once again and he was tied down. He struggled against the tight grip however he was prepared for what happens next.

 

“Soon you’ll be the perfect weapon.”

 

Without any indication, he suddenly was pulled away from reality, drifting as electricity shot through his body.

 

He saw a world. One full of ruination, creatures that resembled Demogorgans, their screeches filling the world. The sky was red, like blood. This whole world existed right underneath him.

 

It was the Upside Down.

 

It was so cold. Dustin was freezing, goosebumps trailing down his arm. The sheer silence made his organs squirm. He reached out to touch the land.

 

Then there was nothing. 

 

Dustin had been awoken by Aniyah pulling off the wires, destroying the machine kept him. 

 

Wake up, now is no time to sleep, ” She told him in a harsh whisper. She pulled the sleepy boy upwards, checking his eyes, mouth, and forehead. 

 

Dustin didn’t understand what was happening. Groggily the boy had awaken, his brain being tugged out of the mud it had been buried in. His eyes zooming in on the familiar face as the doctor removed the wires and head latch. As far as he knew, he was supposed to be asleep again. He didn’t see any other lab coats welcoming him to the land of the living with their cold stares. 

 

Something was wrong.

 

They’ll be coming soon. We must hurry. ” She helped him stand, quickly leading him through a door. Together they rushed through the thin halls, each of their hearts speeding up with adrenaline. 

 

By the time Dustin was brought to life by the amount of adrenaline pumped through his system they had reached the above ground base. For the first time in so long, Dustin saw the night sky. The amount of stars were heart stopping. It had been so long, he had forgotten what it looked like to just stare upwards.

 

They passed by a few soldiers, using the shaded spots where the light doesn’t hit to their advantage. Despite the moon in the sky, dozens of soldiers were scattered around the base, unaware of the situation happening. 

 

Aniyah took his hand, rushing to hide behind a gigantic car. She checked her surroundings, examining the challenge when suddenly there were loud sirens. The red lights made Dustin’s breaths hitch. He tightened his grip on his friends face, finding the situation mind numbing. 

 

“Shit!” 

 

Aniyah looked fearful for a moment as the soldiers shouted in Russian and began to close down the base, locking them down from the inside. She looked like she was gonna cry when she turned to Dustin. 

 

“You need to run. Run as far as you can and don’t look back,” Aniyah told him. She shrugged off her raggedy bag, giving it to the child. “Find the place where land and water meet. There you’ll meet a man, he will be waiting for you! He’ll take you where you need to go.” 

 

“I won’t leave you.”

 

“You must, this world is not meant for little boys like yourself. It takes and it takes. A price that a child shouldn’t have to pay. They took so much, don’t let them take anymore from you.” The walls began to fall, slowly, taunting him and forcing him to make up his mind quick.

 

“Then come with me. Don’t make me lose another friend.”

 

“I’ll clear a path for you, once you see my signal you must run. I promise I’ll find you. One day we will see each other again but right now we must go our separate ways.” Aniyah cupped his cheek like a mother would, giving him a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. He knew it was time. “My husband was right about you. You do share the eyes of our son. He died saving the life of the boy who reminded him of his son.”

 

The shouting grew louder and more evident and the door was halfway closed. 

 

Aniyah gave him one last look before running. 

 

Wait!” She shouted to the men, raising her arms, drawing the soldiers attention. “The boy went this way! I saw him retreat!” Dustin watched as dozens of men peeled their attention away from the door and to the small hallway that Aniyah gestures to. He took that as his cue and ran. One of the guards must’ve seen him since they yell, “ Over here!” The guard drew his gun, aiming it towards the little boy ready to shoot.

 

Bang.

 

Aniyah lowered her gun, ignoring the shouting. 

 

Dustin made it to the door, sliding under right before the wall closed. 

 

Then he was free.

 

Chapter Text

Dustin sat on the chair, chewing on a cookie he baked while watching tv. By baked he means putting cookie dough on a pan and sticking it in the oven. 

 

Dustin glanced at the clock, taking in the time before looking back at the screen. Steve had yet to arrive home but was due any second. Not that he cared. It’s not like talking to the older boy was fun or anything. He just happened to like talking to him. It’s totally not because he’s the only form of human socialization he gets.

 

Dustin dipped his cookie into the milk, making sure the cookie was soggy enough that it would be easy to eat but not too soggy where it breaks. The perfect amount of cookie mile ratio to make anybody’s day.

 

Dustin took another bite, chewing on the chocolate goodness before glancing at the clock again, subconsciously counting down the seconds. 

 

After another five minutes, he checked again, and again, and again. It wasn’t until a whole hour pass did he start to feel the loneliness inside of him began to take his toll. He dropped his cookie, suddenly feeling full. 

 

Dustin had been home for nearly two months now, and he has yet to go outside into the real world again. He spent months in captivity to escape later only to be held captive again a second time, only this time under much better circumstances. 

 

His eyes wandered to the calendar, it was now October. 

 

Forgetting the tv, Dustin took his plate to the sink, washing it, and drying it. He placed it back where he found it, admiring how much his cleaning skills were improving. 

 

Dustin glanced at the clock, before deciding he was done waiting for somebody to show up. He went straight into his secret room. The attic. 

 

In the time he’s been staying in the Harrington cabin, he adopted the attic as how own little hangout/bedroom, preferring the higher ground than the actual guest bedroom. He hung his posters up, made a cot out of blankets and pillows, and used Christmas lights as his source of light while he awaited for the new bulb for the light. 

 

Steve had been hesitant to let him sleep up there but eventually allowed it, seeing as there was no way to stop him during the day.

 

Dustin laid down, squeezing his eyes shut, trying to forget the pang of sadness that hit him. He didn’t want to admit disappointment when his friend didn’t show up. It would’ve been weak.

 

The boy exhaled, turning around to face the wall, and let his mind take him.

 

 


 

 

Dustin hates interviews.

 

It was probably his hundredth interview by the time he finally snapped. He had been asked dozens of questions over a period of months, each one getting more personal than before. Hopper had been mid question when the boy had jumped up from his seat, screaming, “NO!” 

 

Hopper was caught off guard by the snap, stumbling over his words as the kid stormed off. He was upset and went to the one place he felt safe in. 

 

In his hideout, he grabbed his knees, glaring at the wall. He hated the questions, finding them always too hard to answer and painful to remember. 

 

Knock .

 

“Go away.”

 

Another knock .

 

“Hey, it’s me Steve...I’m sorry about the questions. You shouldn’t have to answer them if you don’t feel comfortable. I should’ve checked with you. Hopper will go, just let me up?” 

 

Dustin didn’t move for a few seconds, his breathing refocusing. He pondered if the older man would just go if he stayed silent but doubted it. Slowly the kid unwrapped himself and traveled to the door, opening it, allowing the ladder to fall so Harrington could rise. 

 

He sat back down in the blankets, starting back at the wall in frustration as the other man climbed up. He heard Steve sigh for making his way over and sitting himself down behind him so they were back to back. 

 

There was a heavy silence as the two boys thought separate things, feeling different things, seeing different perspectives. 

 

“I hate sweets.”

 

Dustin’s nose scrunched up, his confusion evident on his face. 

 

“What?”

 

“I hate sweets,” Steve states out of nowhere, Always was more of a salty guy myself.” The cop shrugged as if there wasn’t a large missing gap in this conversation like Dustin’s understandment of it. 

 

“Why are you telling me this?” 

 

“Because it’s important.” Steve still wasn’t making any sense to the younger audience. “So now you know sweet stuff makes me unhappy.” His young child brain was still running with questions. 

 

“Now it’s your turn.”

 

“My turn?”

 

“Yeah, tell me what makes you unhappy so I can help fix it and avoid it.” 

 

Dustin shifted awkwardly, turning his ears to be faced towards the cop. His eyes landed on the floor as he picked away on it. 

 

Weapons aren’t supposed to think, they’re supposed to act.

 

Those words echoed, making him grow uncomfortable with the thought of thinking for himself. He was used to being told what to do, feel, and act. He has done a bad thing by refusing questions, so why are they doing this?

 

They aren’t them.

 

Dustin deflated, his puppy dog eyes full of sadness and heartbreak as he laid his chin on his knees as he grasped them tightly to his chest. 

 

“I...hate…,” Dustin’s voice was quiet, showing he was on trailing thinly on ice, “nachos.” 

 

“Okay, what else?” The calm demeanor coming from the cop made his shoulders fall despite the rest of his body on high alert.

 

“I..hate spiders.”

 

Steve gestured for him to go on.

 

“I hate tests,” the confession made him feel like he just unloaded a ton of boxes, ”they hurt…”

 

“Does our interviews feel like tests?”

 

Dustin thought for a moment, contemplating his answer. In a way yes it did. He felt the same pressure to say or do the right thing. They both involved dozens of questions being asked at once. They all hurt. 

 

However, the big difference was that he wasn’t punished if his answers didn’t exceed expectations. 

 

“No...they’re not,” He concludes. 

 


 

 

Dustin finds himself starring at the clock again. 

 

Of course his friend was coming late again. It was late or nothing. He learned that quickly. As the days dragged on, he looked forward to being greeted by the older boy. He had became very quickly the older brother he always wanted. Every night he’d wait up and talk his ear off.

 

Though as the months went on, Steve came home later and later. Sometimes he’d fall asleep waiting for the man. Tonight wasn’t any different. 

 

He at the calendar which read November. His eyes trailed down from the big bold reading onto the red circle. 

 

Thanksgiving .

 

Dustin wasn’t sure if he should be mad. This was his first Thanksgiving without his mother here and Steve was late for that. While on the other hand, this overwhelming sadness depleted him of energy to be angry.

 

He dragged his feet over to the calendar, grabbing the pen set on the table nearby and marked off the date. He sighed, letting his shoulders drop. 

 

“Here’s to a shitty thanksgiving,” He told himself.

 

Dustin didn’t bother to hide his disappointment as he trailed to his room, dragging his feet along. He stayed in his room for a week, only eating the snacks he hid in the room on occasion. It wasn’t until Steve had practically begged for his forgiveness by bribing him with nougat bars.

 

 


 

 

“Kid, we’re trying our best to help you but without their names-“

 

“I don’t know their names,” Dustin cut in, his tone tensing. “We don’t know anything.” He didn’t like the amount of pity inside the chiefs voice. 

 

“I know but until we know who these people are, you need to say with Harrington here inside .” Dustin had went outside. It wasn’t on purpose, but he saw a wounded creature. It was a bird, it’s wing was damaged. He always had a soft spot for animals. So it was a no brainer that he went outside despite the rules and scooped the bird up and brought it inside. He patched the little fella up and kept him in a box with blankets. Steve and Hopper had returned for work for a few questions and found him with the bird. It didn’t take long for him to see through his lies. Now he stood in the kitchen, listening to the angry filled lectures from Hopper. 

 

Unbelievable ,” Steve scoffed.

 

It made his blood boil.

 

“One rule! You just had one rule to follow!” Steve raised his voice in a way that he’s never heard before. So full of anger and frustration, maybe fear. It was new. 

 

Dustin clenched his fists, biting his tongue. He tried to hold back his emotions and listen. However it proved to be useless.

 

“Steve-“

 

“Don’t try to tell me to calm down because that won’t work!” Steve looked away from the chief and back to the child. Suddenly slam . The junior cop slammed his hand against the doorframe. In a moment, the kid couldn’t recognize the man in front of him. “I told you to stay away from the doors and you didn’t listen. It’s like you don’t care if the Russians find you and take you back!” The words slipped from the younger cops angry rant. 

 

Dustin felt everything inside him snap. 

 

“You’re just like them!” 

 

Hopper sighed, already knowing how this conversation was gonna go badly. 

 

Steve went silent in that moment, looking like somebody kicked his puppy. It brought pity to senior cop, recognizing the guilt and self loathing in his partners demeanor. 

 

“I wasn’t aware that I was so terrible that you think of me like the communist bastards who did this to you.” 

 

“Dustin…” Hopper tried to interfere to stop this from getting worse but the kid already had eyes brimming with tears. 

 

“I hate you!” Dustin’s face was red, his heart racing. Suddenly it was like everything around was closing in, suffocating him as he struggled to keep a grasp on the situation. He couldn’t focus. It all hurt too much.

 

“Welcome to the club!” Steve laughed, though it wasn’t filled with joy. It was filled with hatred towards himself. “Anything else you wanna say to get off your chest?!” 

 

“Shut up!” 

 

“Steve I think you should-“ 

 

“No Hopper, I think we should let the kid tell us what he really feels! How he hates us and think we’re like the people who hurt him!” Steve sounded on the verge of a mental breakdown. He recognized it instantly. Hopper knew that the kid was hurt deeply by the boy who he found hope inside of years ago. The one person he wished wouldn’t hate him, was now saying his did. The kid was heartbroken with self pity.

 

Dustin shook his head, his hands flying to his ears as the yelling became too much. He couldn’t handle the extreme pressure and tension. His face was beet red with anger and an overwhelming amount of stress.

 

“Please keep telling us Dustin how much you hate us! We’d love to hear it!”

 

“I said, shut up!” It was like a strong gust of wind entered the room. A power gust that suddenly threw everything in the kitchen flying. Plates, spoons, knives flew around the room, hitting walls, exploding into broken pieces. 

 

Hopper stubbles back, grabbing Steve and yanking him towards him practically saving him from being a target board for a kitchen knife. It was a sight that left his stomach in knots. The strange event was over, like a burst of energy. It left the two men gaping at the sight of broken plates, tossed silverware, and knives sticking out of the walls. 

 

In the center of it was Dustin who broke out into a sob, blood trailing down his nostrils. His arms fell, his grip on his ears loosening. His body shook and he looked pale as he looked up at the group of men who stared at him like he was an alien who shed their disguises.

 

Dustin wished they would have never found out. Not like this. He had wished his secret would remain just that. A secret. He couldn’t stand to be in the spotlight so he ran.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Steve and Hopper cleaned the mess, gobsmacked. 

 

Dustin had literally moved things without touching. He used his mind like Eleven, his nose even bled. It was damming. 

 

“I should have never said those things,” Steve said, pausing from sweeping.

 

“Yup.” Hopper tossed the broken glass, barely even acknowledging the older man. 

 

“I’m such an idiot…”

 

“That you are.”

 

Steve looked at the chief, completely done. “Really?” 

 

“You’re learning. This whole parenting thing isn’t easy. At times you fuck up, and this happens to be one of those times.” Hopper shrugged, shoving another broken glass into the trash.

 

“I should talk to him-“

 

“I don’t think it’ll be safe for you to go up there right now,” Hopper states blandly, “I’ll go. That way you avoid getting stabbed.”

 

Steve tried to loosen the knife from the wall, glad it was the wall who stopped it instead of his head. He sighed, agreeing. He’d apologize later. Though a part of him wondered why the kid would hide something like this from him.

 

Maybe he was really that bad that the kid didn’t trust him enough.

 

 


 

 

Dustin sat in the corner, his legs drawn up to his chest. He stared at the wall, blank. His emotions hidden from sight. 

 

Dustin knew from the start about his abilities . It was the only thing that made him valuable to the eyes of the Russian bastards who captured him. They were the reasons he was like this. Like a monster . He wasn’t born like El. He was made . Made to be a freak. 

 

Unlike El, he couldn’t move things as cool like she could. She could freaking move a mountain if she wanted. He however wasn’t that powerful in the art of telekinesis. He could only pick up the light or like earlier, have a burst of energy to send everything around him move. It was probably for good he couldn’t move trucks or buildings with his mind. 

 

He was weak.

 

However that wasn’t the only thing he could do. The other thing was too horrible to think about. It only brought pain and suffering. 

 

“Hey kid…” 

 

Dustin hadn’t heard the trapdoor open. Nor had he expected the chief of Hawkins to be in his room. It filled him with a twinge of disappointment that it wasn’t Steve who came.

 

He really screwed up this time.

 

“Is everyone okay?” Dustin asked, his voice quiet and worriedly. He felt guilty for snapping and for his actions. He was always the soft one in the group, always caving in on his anger which hardly lasted. 

 

“We’re fine...just concerned about you.” More like curious. Dustin knew they had questions. That was to be expected. He had nearly killed somebody with his little tantrum .

 

“I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean-“

 

“We know you didn’t mean it kid,” Hopper ressured, “You we’re overwhelmed and released your emotions in the only way you could.” 

 

“You weren’t supposed to find out.” 

 

“How long have you known?” Dustin shifted uncomfortably.

 

“Ever since I moved a can during a test at the base…” Dustin shrugged, his face expressionless. “So basically this whole time.” 

 

“You should’ve told us kid, this is pretty big stuff here-“

 

“No,” Dustin snapped, “I didn’t. I didn’t need to tell you every single excruciating painful detail of how I got these powers or how they work!” 

 

“No you didn’t. However the fact you have powers changes everything now. You know that right?” 

 

“Steve hates me now, doesn’t he?” The question slipped out before he could stop. 

 

“Let me tell you something,” Hopper bent down next to him, “When you disappeared, the whole town was looking for you. The kid’s, me, and Joyce. Everyone wanted to find you.” 

 

Dustin thought of it. He imagined his friends out searching for him while he silently suffered far away from never to be found. It was the cold hard truth.

 

“Time passed and soon people gave up. As much as I hate myself for it, I gave up too. We all thought you were gone for good. However there was only one person in the whole town who never gave up and dedicated his whole life to finding you.”

 

Dustin looked at the older man in disbelief. 

 

“He was at every search, planting every poster, following every lead he could, heck even paid for your memorial. The man refused to give up. He wanted to bring you home whether it be dead or alive.” 

 

“Why?” Dustin whispered, tears threatening to spill again. Why would Steve do something like that? Throw away his life to find him?

 

“Because he loved you kid. Believe it or not he cares for you.” Hopper watched the kid carefully as he treaded onward. “He felt guilty the night you disappeared because he was the one who told the Russians who you were. He thought because of that, they targeted you. He thinks you blame him.” 

 

Dustin shook his head. He never blamed Steve for what happened. The man was high as a kite and was severely tortured prior of telling. He would know. Not once had he felt anger towards him. 

 

“I don’t blame him.”

 

“But he doesn’t know that. He spent ye- months thinking you were gone because of him and that it was his fault. It killed him everyday when he’d think about how you’d hate him for what he did.” 

 

Dustin felt his guilt eat up at him, dissipating all his anger. 

 

“I don’t hate him.” He shook his head. 

 

“No, the only person who hates him is himself.” 

 

 

 

Steve had finally loosened the last knife, yanking it out of the wall with a small victory. He heard footsteps grow closer as he placed the knife away. He turned around, thinking it was Hopper, only to be surprised when he felt a smaller body smack into him, wrapping their arms around him.

 

“I’m sorry for being a dick...I shouldn’t have said all that stupid stuff-“



Steve felt the tension leave his shoulders, dropping them. He was relieved that the kid didn’t hold a grudge.

 

“I don’t hate you or blame you for anything. You’re the best babysitter I could ever ask for!”

 

Suddenly there was tight grip holding Dustin close. He didn’t have to be looking at Harrington’s face to know he was misty eyed. He knew that his words meant the world to the younger cop. He just let the man have the extra hug time without another word.