Chapter 1: The Powers
Januay, 1985 - Hawkins, Indiana
It was the last day of winter holidays and Mike, Will, Dustin, Lucas and Max were spending it on Mike's basement, as it was too cold to go to the Arcade. They had spent half of the holidays teaching Max -and El, when Hopper lets them go to his cabin- how to play D&D, and even though she always says it's a nerd thing, they know she really enjoys playing with them. It made her feel more like a part of their party.
“And then you hear it” said Mike with the deep, mysterious voice he makes when he's playing as the DM. “First his big, majestic wings flattering. Then his big paws, as he makes his way to you. And then…” he made a pause for suspense, his four friends leaning closer to the table when…
“Boo!” The five kids screamed at the sudden shout just to laugh seconds later, realizing it had been Jonathan messing with them. “Sorry guys, I didn't know how else get your attention. Will, we need to go. Tonight is the dinner, remember?”
“But the campaign is not finished!” Complained Dustin, Lucas and Max nodding in agreement.
“Sorry guys” said Will as he got up. “We have dinner with El and Hopper tonight”.
Mike entire face lit up at El’s name, the campaign almost forgotten. They've started dating a few days after the Snow Ball and things were going great for them.
“Can… can you ask Hopper if I can see her this week?” he asked, hopeful.
“She’ll be at our house tomorrow. It’s mum free day” said Jonathan before Will could answer. “I’m sure she’ll let you come after school”
“Can I go, too?” asked Max. Despite their bad start, it took them only one afternoon to warm up to each other. After El learned everything Max did to help her friends she apologized to her for being rude and didn’t take long for the two to become good friends, Max being a breath of fresh air to the girl whose only friends have been boys.
“Me too” said Lucas and Dustin at the same time.
“Yeah, I’m sure you all can come if you want” answered Will, feeling relieved that the rest of the party wanted to go too, as he didn’t feel like third wheeling on the lovebirds. The group cheered as the Byers brothers wave goodbye at them.
They got to their house with just enough time to change before their guests arrived.
Hopper greeted the kids and went straight to the kitchen to help Joyce to finish with the cooking while El went to the living room where the two boys were sitting on the sofa, Will with his new sketchbook and pencils that Joyce and Hopper respectively had gotten him for Christmas and Jonathan with his new walkman.
“Hi Jane” said Jonathan, smiling, when the girl approached them.
“Hi El!” greeted Will moving a little to make room for the girl.
“Hi” she said, sitting next to the kid. “What were you drawing?” she asked looking at the sketch. Will smiled while he explained his drawing to her, a comfortable atmosphere around them, almost familiar. An atmosphere that surprisingly had been there since the first time they met each other.
“Dinner’s ready!” announced Joyce. “Hey sweetie” she hugged Jane when the girl went to the dining room. The two of them had a really close relationship, and Joyce loved her like a daughter. “How are you?”
“I'm good” she said smiling as Joyce brushed one of her curls behind her ear.
“How are you, kid?” asked Hopper, placing a hand on Will’s shoulder.
“Fine” he answered with a small smile forming on his lips. He wasn’t lying like many other times. “Today was a good day”
“Well, I’m glad kiddo” said the man, palming the younger boy’s shoulder before sitting on his usual chair beside Joyce’s. The rest of them imitated him and started to eat the delicious lasagna that Joyce has cooked.
“Were you with Nancy all day?” asked Joyce, to what Jonathan blushed, almost choking on his water.
“Y-yeah, she is helping me with the application for the NYU”
“How is that going?”
“Pretty good, I think. I couldn’t have done it without her help though” said the teenager, smiling. “If everything goes the way we want to, she even thinks I could get an scholarship”
Will smiled at that. He knows how important is for his brother to get into that college. And an scholarship would make everything much easier.
After dinner, Joyce and Hopper went to the kitchen to make Eggos for the five of them while Will and El shared a look. They know Joyce is still grieving Bob’s death but they suspect that their parents have feelings for each other, and with everything that has been going on they just hadn’t realized it yet.
“Oh, I almost forgot!” said Will suddenly. El looked at him expectantly. “I invited the party to come home tomorrow after school. They wanted to see you”
“All of them?” asked the girl with a smile forming on his face. Will nodded. “Good” she said, her smile widening.
“Is that okay mum?” Will asked as his mother put a plate with Eggos on the table. He knew she had heard him.
“Of course sweetie” she said. She knew how much it helped Will being with his friends, and she loved those kids anyway.
“Pops?” asked El looking at Hop with hopeful eyes. Hopper nodded. He wouldn’t make the same mistakes again.
When Joyce and Hopper went to the kitchen moments later to wash the dishes, the kids heard her mumbling a happy “woah, she calls you pops now” that made El chuckle.
A while after the Hopper’s left, everyone in the Byers house was sleeping. Except Will.
He used to love the night because that meant peacefulness, long hours he could spent drawing or reading without anybody bothering him, but since he got taken to The Upside Down that changed. The night terrifies him. Now it means nightmares, memories, his demons haunting him.
After being possessed by the Shadow Monster everyone asked him if he could remember what happened. He said no, he couldn’t remember anything after going to rescue Hopper.
He was lying.
At first he only remembered little things, like being in the lab and hearing Dr. Owens asking him his name or if he remembered anything from the night before. He also remembered repeating like a mantra “He likes it cold” and feeling really, really cold.
When he first started remembering those things he had asked to his mum and his friends what had happened, but their answers were really vague and he somehow knew they were hiding some things.
He was right. He started remembering everything.
At first the memories came while he was sleeping. He remembered the “soldiers” burning the vines and feeling like he was being burned alive. He remembered Owens asking him things but he wasn’t the one answering those questions. Yes, he was the one talking, but it was like someone else was telling him what to say and he couldn’t refuse to do it. He remembered when the doctor told him they were gonna try something. Remembered feeling like burning again and how upset that someone -the Shadow Monster, he deduced- got after that.
The most terrifying memories were the memories were he fought against the Shadow Monster. He remembered when Owens asked him if he knew who Mike was, how much he needed to tell Mike that he was still there, so he fought. He remembered how the Shadow made him send the soldiers to their death for “upsetting him”. He remembered feeling so guilty after that, that he fought his hardest and got to tell his mom the Shadow made him do that, only stopping fighting when Mike understood what he was talking about. But there was one that terrified him the most: when the Shadow Monster decided he was going to kill them, right after Will got to warn them. He remembered how upset it got and that only worsened when Mike suggested to sleep him. Will knew they were in danger, and hated himself for not fighting harder against the monster. Maybe if he had, Bob wouldn’t have died.
Will shifted on his bed, trying to shake those memories out of his head and looked at his watch on his wrist. 01:15. The next morning was the first day of school after their winter holidays and he needed to sleep, so he forced himself to close his eyes and wishing it was one of the nights when his dreams leave him alone.
Luckily it was, and he woke up in the morning thinking that maybe that day would be another good one. Maybe that day would be a normal one.
Poor boy, he was wrong.
The bell rang, indicating the end of Science class and the start of lunch. While everyone else got up and almost run to the cafeteria, Will, Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Max were the last ones on leaving the classroom, to avoid the chaos on the hallways.
“Guys, I'm going to get my History books from my locker” announced Max.
“I’m going with you” said Lucas, taking the girl’s hand. She smiled at him as they walked towards their lockers. They weren't dating officially, but they liked each other and had something special going on.
Will saw Dustin's face fell as he watched them, and he knew that even though he was happy for them, he still liked Max. And Will understands him, more than he is willing to admit.
“C'mon Dustin” he called him. “Let's wait for them at the cafeteria”
The group started walking down the hallway, when two kids stood on their way.
“Well, well, well… Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the freaks show!” exclaimed one of them. The other laughed.
“What do you want Troy?” asked Mike, annoyed. Will felt his heart on his throat, the anxiety growing up on him.
“I just wanted to remind you how ugly you are frog face” said Troy smiling and stepping closer to them, trying to intimidate them. “And how weird you are toothless”
“I have teeth now” mumbled Dustin, but the other boy ignored him, focusing all his attention on Will, who was almost shaking.
“But specially, I wanted to remind you how disgusting you are fairy boy” he said, hate clearly on his voice. “You should have died when you had the chance” He was cut by Mike punching him on his face. Dustin and Will looked at Mike surprised.
“You're so dead Wheeler!” screamed Troy before punching Mike on the stomach, making him gasp. Troy took advantage of that and tackled him to the floor.
Will was frozen. He wanted to stop the fight but he was unable to do anything, an only thought running through his mind: “Don't touch him!”
Troy tried to punch Mike again, but as his fist was about to touch Mike's jaw he stopped. Mike frowned, too confused to try to escape. Dustin and James frowned too. Troy growled and tried again, but his fist was also stopped this time. It was almost like a force was preventing him from touching Mike. A force that felt almost too familiar to Troy. He looked around scared and got up.
“The crazy girl is here” mumbled, before starting running, his friend quickly following him.
Mike lied there, confused. He knew Eleven couldn't be there, but if it wasn't her the one stopping the punches then… who was it?
Before he could ask anything Dustin was by his side, helping him getting up. “Dude, that was awesome! Are you okay, though?”
“Yeah, I'm good. But what the hell happened? Eleven is not he-”
“Mike” mumbled Will, almost like a whisper. Mike and Dustin turned to see him, their eyes widening and their mouths falling open: Blood was coming off Will's nose before he tried to clean it with a trembling hand.
"You did it" mumbled Mike, surprised. Will nodded, but he looked really scared and Mike feared he was going to faint. "Are you okay?" he asked, knowing that it was a stupid question but hey, who can blame him? Will shook his head. "You wanna go home?" the smaller boy nodded.
"Sh-Should I call his mother?" asked Dustin, still a little shocked.
"Yes, tell her to be here as soon as possible. I'm taking Will to the AV room, tell her to go there first. And don't say anything to Max and Lucas. We're gonna tell them later, on Will’s house” indicated Mike, wrapping an arm around Will, who looked worse and worse by the seconds. Dustin nodded and ran towards the phone, while Mike started carrying Will along the hallway.
Once inside the room, he pulled a chair for Will to sit in. The boy was paler than ever and looked like he was really, really sick. Suddenly his eye widened and Mike put the trash can under Will just in time for him to throw up.
Mike stood behind him, pulling Will's bangs up and gently rubbing his back. When Will stopped puking he handed him a paper tissue. “Feeling better now?” He asked in a soft, concerned voice. Will shook his head. “What's wrong?” he asked.
“I'm scared Mike. I'm really scared. I'm supposed to be okay, the doctors said I was okay. But this happens and I don't know what it means and I'm scared” whispered Will, his hands shaking. Mike’s heart broke as he hugged the smaller boy and he wished there was something he could do to take the fear away from his best friend.
Will had calmed a little by the time his mum arrived to school.
“How are you feeling sweetie?” She asked Will, running a hand through his hair. Mike had gotten him a water bottle and some candy and he looked better than before.
“I don't feel like puking anymore” he said forcing a little smile on his face, but that didn't make Joyce feel less worried. The kids hadn't told her what was happening and Dustin's voice on the phone sounded way too nervous and scared to be just Will feeling sick. She looked at Mike, silently asking him to tell her something but the boy had her eyes fixed on Will, a concerned look on his face.
“Do you want to go home?” she asked, her eyes back on her son. The boy nodded.
“Mike?” he said weakly, and the boy understood what he was asking for.
“I’ll go with you”
Minutes later, they were at the principal’s office.
“Joyce, what a surprise!” Said the man, faking a smile. “What brought you here?”
“One of Will's friends call me because he wasn't feeling well and he wanted to go home” explained the woman. The principal nodded and looked at Mike.
“I assume you were that friend” he said.
“I… yes, sir” lied Mike. “I know I should have took him to the nursery but I… I panicked? He threw up on the AV room” he wasn't very good at lying, but it was easier when he had to lie to someone he didn't care about.
The principal nodded.
“So, can I take the boys home?” Asked Joyce, urgency clear on her voice.
“Yes, you can take William, but I'm afraid you can't take Michael”
“Why not?” Asked Joyce and Mike at the same time. Will remained silent, almost like he wasn't there.
“Because you need Mike's parents permission, I'm sorry but I can't do anything about it” added as the two were about to start arguing with him.
“This is bullshit” said Mike crossing his arms.
“Mr. Wheeler!” exclaimed the principal, startled by the word and Joyce had to repress a chuckle.
“But sir?” spoke Will in a soft voice, turning all the attention to him. “Mike's parents had signed a permission saying that my mother can take him out of school” Both Joyce and Mike frowned. What was he talking about? “Believe me, sir”
The principal looked confused for a few seconds, but then he smiled.
“Oh, you're right kid” Mike and Joyce looked at the principal like he had gone crazy. Was him really so easy to convince? “You can take the kids, Joyce. Have a good day!” and so the three of them rushed outside the office, before the man could change his mind.
No one noticed the small stain of fresh blood on Will’s sweater.
“So, will any of you tell me what’s happening or…?” asked impatiently Joyce looking at the boys sitting in the couch in front of her. They hadn’t said anything since they left the school, not even to Eleven who was sitting on the floor by the fireplace, and it was starting to freak her out. Both boys looked at each other before Will showed his mum the sleeve of his sweater. Joyce looked at it, her brows furrowed in confusion.
“What does that-”
“You have powers” said Eleven, getting up for her place on the floor, eyes wide open in surprise. Will nodded, tears slowly filling his eyes as he looked down. Joyce looked at Mike, hoping the boy would laugh and tell her it was all a joke, but the somber face of the kid confirmed that it was true. Suddenly she felt the room spinning and had to sit down next to her son.
El kneeled in front of Will, gently touching his cheek trying to get him to look at her, but he refused to meet her gaze.
“I’m scared, El” he whispered. “I’m so fucking scared”.
“I know” she said, whipping with her thumb some of the tears that had escaped Will’s eyes. “I was scared too, at first” confessed.
“You were?” asked Will, meeting her eyes for the first time that day. She nodded.
“I didn’t know why I could do what I do, and I couldn’t control it. But now I do. And soon you will do it, too” she assured him, taking his hands in hers, something she had seen Joyce do to comfort the boy.
Will tried to smile at that, but didn’t seem convinced.
“But… how did that happen? Why did that happen?” asked Joyce, finally able to form a coherent sentence. Will look at Mike, silently asking him to explain what had happened.
“We were heading to the cafeteria when Troy and James found us and they started saying… you know… the stuff they always said to us” mumbled the kid, scratching the back of his neck not wanting to repeat the insults. El narrowed her eyes.
“Mouthbreathers” she said in between her teeth, feeling the anger inside her grow. She couldn’t believe that those two were still harassing her friends after the incident at the cliff.
“Yeah, mouthbreathers” said Mike, a little smile forming on his lips. “And Troy said something really mean and horrible to Will that made me lose control so I punched him, which of course angered him and led to me being shoved to the ground with Troy about to punch me on the face. Which he didn’t” he added, seeing the worry on Joyce and El’s faces. “He didn’t because something stopped him. Will stopped him”
“I don’t know how I did it” said Will. “It just happened”
“Were you scared?” asked El, softly.
“Yeah. It all happened so fast and suddenly Troy was dangerously close to hitting Mike and all I could do was thinking that he please didn’t touch him” confessed Will, a slight blush appearing on his cheeks as he saw through the corner of his eyes Mike’s lips forming a soft smile.
“She was right” whispered El, more to herself than for the others to hear. She then opened her eyes widely. “Will! She can help you!” exclaimed the girl.
“ She? ” asked Joyce, confused. “Who is she ?”
El looked at her as she said only one word.