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love in their eyes

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Mike was sleeping.

The day had been busy. So many games of Life had been played while sprawled out across the floor of Dustin’s bedroom. Catching up with Max over a shared slice of pie and a stack of magazines had been so satisfying. But more than anything, she enjoyed the card games she had played with Mike and Will, Mike looking all too confused at the silent exchanges she and Wills shared, strictly through facial expressions.

Mike was sleeping, and El was wide awake, blinking slowly every few moments, just taking him in. Wow… wow, she thought, smiling, unable to take her gaze away from him. In just a few short months, it was like she had forgotten so much about who she had fallen in love with.

She had forgotten the slope of his nose, the way his hair fell over his forehead, how his lips tasted when they kissed, soft and slow. How had she forgotten? Eleven knew their love was not fleeting: it was the most real thing in her life, and showed in so many ways. Through random letters and cards that showed up at the new house when she didn’t expect them, through long evening phone calls, through the way his face shone whenever they were able to see each other again.

No, their love was not fleeting. But distance? That was hard, harder than either of them had imagined.

So she shifted until they were pressed together, noses touching, and she wrapped herself around him, letting her eyes close finally as she drifted to sleep, her love in her arms.

-

El was sleeping.

Mike had woken up with the sunrise, as was habit, and there she was, curled up against him and breathing gently, eyes fluttering as if she was dreaming. What about, he wondered. Him, maybe. Or something worse. He shimmied until he could press his nose to her neck, letting out a soft exhale against the soft skin there.

He wished she could be there all the time. Before the Byers-Hopper family had moved away, he had never seriously thought about the future, not seriously. But now, Mike’s whole life was set towards one thing: one day, he was going to grow up, get a college degree, and marry Eleven. That was it! That was the dream, that was the to-do list, those were his goals! And he was happy.

El shifted beneath him, but he didn’t pull back, didn’t move away from her. Eventually she moved to pull him close, impossibly closer, and he propped himself up on his elbows, hovering over her.

“Good morning,” she whispered, smiling sleepily at him. Her curls were messy against the blue of his pillowcase and he couldn’t help but move to kiss her gently. Their mouths moved together for a few long moments before Mike pulled back.

“Mornin’,” he replied. “Sleep good?” She nodded, eager. “Hungry?”

“Always.”

“Let’s go eat Eggos, yeah?”

That made her kiss him again, hands holding his cheeks, keeping him close, and she giggled against his mouth, making him laugh as well, the two of them rolling over the bed and kissing again and again.

-

Their chairs were pressed close together as they dug into plates of Eggos, drinking orange juice and talking softly. Karen watched them from her station leaned up against the kitchen counter, sipping from a cup of coffee.

She had not been entirely pleased at the idea of her son sleeping in the same bed as his girlfriend, but a talk with Joyce had erased all her previous fears. And Jane? What a sweetheart, such a great help with the holiday decorating and cooking.

Karen couldn’t find it inside herself to be upset any longer, especially when Mike looked so happy to have El and Will back in the house with them, if even for such a short amount of time.

El was still sleepy, but she could lean over to press a syrupy kiss to Mike’s mouth, him kissing her back just as sweetly, before they pulled back to just smile at each other, love in their eyes.