A/N

Thanks to all who have reviewed and even those who have only read. I write to satisfy my own curiosity, but I'm happy others are entertained. In answer to some questions, my goal is to cover the whole year. I have some basic ideas mapped out in a month to month fashion, but it's definitely an evolving thing. Updates are likely to be short and quick or long and slow (TWSS) depending on just how much I feel like avoiding work at that particular moment.

Today I am playing with the Mike vs Hopper relationship because I enjoy how the show balances the adult/child dynamic. The kids on their own have sort of a Goonies vibe that is absolutely appropriate for 13, 17 and 18 year olds on an epic adventure. Hopper and Joyce prefer to function as adults (Hopper's annoyance at the D&D references in the Mind Flayer episode), but when push comes to shove, they are forced by circumstances to interact with the children as peers (Hopper is ready to arm any of the children because there's a demodog coming and a second gun available, for example).

The perpetual problem of juvenile lit is how do you put juveniles into situations that are interesting without coming up with some believable reason for all of the adults in their lives to be so negligent as to allow it. (Which is why so many children's stories involve orphans and boarding schools.) Here the Duffers have tapped into a different explanation: necessity. But when the danger passes and the necessity is gone, the adults naturally want to go back to adults being adults and kids being kids even though those lines have been muddied. Something would need to happen to force a shift in the balance of power. In this case, it's Hopper taking this piss out of Mike. Because he can, because I'm convinced that he would and because I think it's amusing.

So here you are, post Thanksgiving, pre Christmas break...

Mike Wheeler never realized it was possible to simultaneously revere and hate a single person at the same time before Chief Hopper unilaterally appointed himself El's gatekeeper. It was not necessary to convince Mike's parents that Mike was on the verge of juvenile delinquency just to give them a viable explanation for Mike regularly disappearing with the Chief. He could just as easily have said Mike had been awarded an internship or something that made him look good, but no. Mike couldn't help but believe Hopper had done it to screw with him.

After Hopper had brought Mike out to see El for the first time, he stopped by the house to give Mike's parents a status report on the bud nipping. The problem, according to Hopper's made-up alternate universe in which he was taking up an interest in Mike in order to keep him out of trouble, was that these boys just didn't have enough to keep them busy. Idle hands, you know. And all the adults had chuckled and nodded their heads like that wasn't utter bullshit. If it was alright with the Wheelers, Hopper would like to give Mike something constructive to do in his free time and Mike's eyes rolled so far back in his head, he briefly wondered whether they might stick that way.

Now his previously oblivious parents were suddenly watchful and attentive any time Mike wasn't with Hopper. Mike was certain the man both knew that was going to happen and enjoyed Mike's predicament. Because Hopper was a sadistic asshole.

And yet, at the same time, Hopper had kept his word. They were able to communicate by radio…sort of.

"Your code," he explained to them both, "is not for conversation. Conversations can be intercepted. It's for checking in, got it?" And two dark curly heads bobbed in response. Christ, he notice, they have almost matching hair.

The code was deeply unsatisfying. Marco. Polo. That was it. And there was so much more to be said.

Marco. I had a crappy day at school today. I wish you could be there with me.

Polo. Hopper is late. Again. I'm lonely.

Marco. I can't figure out this stupid workbook. I hate it. I will never be ready for school.

Polo. I'm going to strangle my stupid sister.

But at least it was a sign of life, as promised. Once or twice a week, he took Mike out to see Eleven. Sometimes just for an hour after school, sometimes for an entire Saturday. Sometimes he'd stop to pick up the other members of The Party, sometimes it was just Mike. Because Hopper was the greatest.

Sometimes they worked at the small kitchen table doing homework or puzzles. Hopper sat on the sofa a few feet away with his back to them, a clipboard of paperwork balanced on his knee, appearing to ignore them but actually listening to every word because Hopper was a controlling dick.

Those were the times they would held hands under the table. They talked about innocuous things like school. El was very curious how school worked.

Sometimes, El wheeled the TV into her room ("Door stays open," came the gruff reminder each time) and they left it on but didn't watch. It was easier to have conversations that Hopper couldn't overhear with background noise. "Privacy," El whispered conspiratorially and Mike grinned. Hopper knew they were evading his supervision, but he let it slide because Hopper was actually a pretty cool guy.

Those were the times when they whispered about personal things. El had nightmares that Papa would come back. Mike had nightmares that the Mind Flayer would come back. El was afraid she was never going to get to go to school because she wasn't learning fast enough. Mike was afraid she was never going to get to school because Hopper wasn't actually going to let her. It was nice to have someone you could admit your fears to who wouldn't tease or overreact.

They were sitting next to each other on the floor of El's room, resting their backs against the bed, hands interlaced, not watching The A-Team which was plenty loud enough to cover a conversation.

"Remember before," Mike started, "at the school when I told you about the Snow Ball."

El nodded with wide eyes.

"Do you think he'd let you go? It would be at the school and only other kids would be there."

"Just a little bit stupid," El mused.

"What? Oh yeah, I guess it's kinda dumb."

"No," El laughed and tried to think of how to explain. "The rules. The Don't Be Stupid Rules. This time he says we can be a little bit stupid because they think I'm dead."

"Oh, ok," Mike was relieved.

"So maybe the Snow Ball is only a little bit stupid," El finished hopefully.

The ride home that day was extremely nerve wracking for Mike. Hopper could tell and he did nothing to break the tension. Mike should be nervous. A fearless Mike was a co-conspirator waiting to happen.

He waited until they were only a few minutes from his house so if it went poorly, at least he wasn't trapped in Hopper's car for long.

"Could El come to the school dance?" Mike blurted out before he lost his nerve. Hopper just raised an eyebrow in response. "It's the last Middle School dance and she's never gotten to do anything and it's only just kids so it shouldn't be risky. And Nancy and Jonathon will both be there," he threw in as an afterthought thinking maybe the four additional years the older teens had might make them the rough equivalent to at least one trusted adult.

Hopper said nothing because he was an over protective bully and Mike didn't know how to argue with someone who just sat silently, letting his displeasure be felt as though he couldn't even bothered to express it. Hopper pulled into the Wheeler driveway, put the Blazer in park and turned to face Mike. Mike, to be perfectly honest, was terrified. "It's already been arranged," he said and smiled. "Go on, now," he said dismissing Mike from the car.

Mike was walking on air. Hopper was amazing.