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New Fic: Hand-Me-Downs

Hand-Me-Downs

Fandom: Stranger Things
Rated: PG
Category: Gen. Vignette. Family, Friendship. Entire Party.
Time Frame: Shortly after Season Two.
Spoilers: Stranger Things, Season Two.
Summary: Eleven gets a lot of hand-me-downs. But not usually from Dustin.
Word Count: 2113

-------

The basement was exactly as she remembered it.

Even her fort and bed were there.

But there was one thing missing: Dustin.

The others were all there, gathered around a small table in the center of the space. Because apparently tonight was game night. And since both Max and El were new and couldn’t just join in to the boy’s usual D&D adventure, they were going to start a new one.

Mike had helped Eleven create a character, and Lucas had made one for Max.

But they couldn’t start until Dustin got there, so for now, they were playing Sorry and talking about everything and nothing. Finally, Lucas had had enough.

“Man, where is he, anyway?” he asked.

Mike muttered an answer around a mouthful of chips. “Hockey.”

Lucas sighed and Will rolled his eyes.

“Oh, yeah. I guess it is that time of year,” said Lucas.

“Yeah, the time of year when Dustin is late for everything,” complained Will.

“Yep,” agreed Mike.

The boys were so busy complaining that they didn’t notice Eleven’s confused look nor Max’s interested one until El interrupted them.

“What’s hockey?” she asked.

Max answered for the boys, who seemed to have forgotten the girls were even there.

“It’s a game,” she said. “Like baseball, but different. And on ice.”

Eleven nodded in understanding. She knew about baseball, courtesy of Hopper’s obsession with it and the radio in the cabin. But she still had questions.

“On ice?”

“Yeah,” chimed in Mike. “With skates.”

“Skates?”

The others shared a look at Eleven’s expression of utter incomprehension. With her age and abilities, it was easy to forget that she had the life experience Mike’s little sister, and a very limited vocabulary too. Max took pity on her first.

“They’re these things you wear on your feet, to go fast,” she explained.

“Yeah,” agreed Will. “You glide around on the ice with them.”

Just then, Dustin burst through the door and came charging down the stairs.

“Did I miss it?” he yelled. “Did you start yet?”

“Dude!” answered Lucas. “You know we wouldn’t start without you.”

“Sweet,” said Dustin. “Let’s do this!”

“Hold on,” said Mike. “We’re explaining hockey to El.”

Dustin’s eyes lit up. “Oh, what part? Offense? Defense? Penalties? Power plays?”

The entire party, save Eleven, gave him a look.

“We’re up to what ice skates are,” said Max in a deadpan voice.

Dustin blinked. “Oh.”

“Yeah,” said Lucas. “Oh.”

“So, anyway,” said Mike. “You put on the skates and you try to get the puck in the net.”

Eleven just stared at him and blinked a few times until Mike grew restless.

“Uh… Dustin? A little help here?” he said.

Dustin sighed. “Okay, so the puck. It’s this little black thing. And you have this stick. And you hit the puck with it and try to get it in the other team’s goal.”

Eleven shifted her stare to Dustin, but still didn’t say anything, and it was obvious she was still confused.

“You know what?” said Dustin. “It’d be easier to show you.”

Then he turned to Mike. “Is Nancy home?”

Mike shook his head, as confused as Eleven at the sudden topic change.

“Good,” said Dustin. “Come on.”

With that, he grabbed El’s hand and dragged her up the stairs. The rest of the party looked at each other for a minute, then shrugged and followed.

They kept going until they got to Nancy’s room, where Dustin barreled in without knocking.

“Dustin!” yelled Mike, Lucas, Will, and Max at the same time.

“What?” asked Dustin. “You said she wasn’t home.”

“You still can’t just barge into her room,” said Mike.

“Well, your dad’s watching the other TV,” explained Dustin. “What else was I supposed to do?”

As he spoke, he turned on Nancy’s little TV and played with the knobs and the antenna for a minute until he got a mostly clear picture of the Blackhawks game on the screen.

“There,” he announced. “Hockey.”

The other boys groaned, wanting to head back to the basement and do anything else, but Max looked interested, and Eleven was grinning from ear to ear.

“Like the pond!” she squealed, seeming half her age all of a sudden.

The group didn’t get it, and it showed on their faces.

“Like the pond,” she repeated. “In the woods.”

Dustin snapped his fingers. “Yeah, yeah!” he exclaimed. “Old Man Murphy’s pond! I used to skate there all the time.”

“Me too!” said Eleven.

“What?” asked Mike, as the others goggled at her.

“No skates,” she said, “but still fun. Before the cabin.”

“When you lived in the woods,” said Max, understanding before the boys caught on.

Eleven nodded, then grinned mischievously. “And more after, but don’t tell.”

Dustin laughed out loud. “Oh my God! You used to sneak out of the Chief’s cabin and go ice skating on Old Man Murphy’s pond?! Holy shit! That’s classic!”

“It was fun,” said El with a shrug, as if that explained everything.

Mike gasped. “Someone could’ve seen you! You could’ve fallen in! Or… or anything!”

“Oh, lay off, man,” said Lucas. “You worry too much.”

“Yeah,” added Max. “She’s here, isn’t she? So calm down.”

Even Will had to agree. “Yeah, come on, man. How many times have we done stuff that was dangerous?”

Mike snorted and fell back onto his sister’s bed. “You mean besides The Upside Down?”

They all laughed nervously. Because Mike had a point. There wasn’t much any of them could do now to top that.

“Exactly,” said Dustin, sitting next to him on the bed. “She beat the Demogorgon. And a whole mess of Demodogs. I think she can handle Murphy’s pond.”

Mike conceded. “Yeah. Ok. Alright. Whatever.”

Eleven giggled and joined the pair on the bed. She was followed by Max, Lucas, and Will. As the TV announcers droned on in the background, they chatted for a few minutes about school and how mad Nancy would be if she knew they were hanging out in her room.

Suddenly, Max changed the subject.

“Do they let girls play?”

The group just stared at her until she elaborated.

“Hockey,” she said, nodding toward the TV and looking at Dustin. “Your team. Do they let girls play?”

“Oh,” mumbled Dustin. “Yeah, actually. They didn’t used to, but they do now. We have two girls on our team. They’re pretty good, too.”

“Do you think they’d let me play?”

Mike, Will, and Lucas looked at her like she was crazy, but Dustin grinned widely, nodding his head up and down. He hadn’t forgotten her actions at the Byers’ house the night El closed the gate. And if her treatment of her brother was any indication, she’d do just fine.

“Oh, yeah,” he said.

Max beamed, and the other boys looked positively scared at the notion of Mad Max with a hockey stick.

But Eleven just looked pensive. Mike, as per usual, noticed.

“What is it?” he asked, laying one hand on her arm.

“I can’t,” she murmured.

“Can’t what?” asked Lucas.

Eleven nodded toward the television like Max had. “Play.”

Five heads immediately started shaking from side to side, and five voices talked over each other.

“No way.”

“The Chief would flip.”

“It’s not safe. For anyone.”

“You’re not even really supposed to be here.”

“Nope.”

Eleven nodded. “I know. But I could… skate?”

Now the head shakes turned to nods, and the voices competed again.

“Yeah.”

“Why not? Hopper wouldn’t even have to know.”

“Of course.”

“Sure.”

“Absolutely.”

Eleven grinned.

They never made it back to the basement that night. Instead, they talked the evening away on Nancy’s bed and kind of sort of watched the hockey game, with Dustin explaining things the whole time.

That is, until Nancy came home and abruptly opened the door to find them all there.

“What are you doing in my room?” she demanded.

“Uh… nothing,” said Mike, already pushing past her at a run with the others hot on his heels.

Nancy sighed. “Stay out of my room, you little brats!”

They all giggled and kept going. They charged down the two flights of stairs to the basement, sounding like a thundering herd of wild animals.

“Hey!” yelled Mr. Wheeler from his armchair, “no running in the house!”

“Sorry, dad!” returned Mike as they passed.

But no one slowed down, and Mr. Wheeler just rolled his eyes at them and turned the page of his paper.

Ten minutes later, the doorbell rang, and Will departed with Joyce.

Hopper arrived a bit after that, and El left with him.

Dustin, Lucas, and Max rode their bikes home ten minutes later, and game night, such as it was, came to an end. Mike put away all the D&D stuff on his own, then headed to bed.

-----

Christmas was three weeks later, and the crew made out like bandits.

Max got exactly what she’d asked for: a pair of hockey skates. It would be a year before she got the rest of her gear and took the ice with a team, but it was a start.

Mike got a Commodore 64, making his house the place to be for the next two years.

Will got an easel and a real set of pencils.

Lucas received a newer, better set of walkie-talkies.

Dustin got the full-fledged chemistry set he’d been pining after for years.

And Eleven got a makeup kit to go along with all the practical clothes she’d received.

But she also got something else. When all was said and done; when the wrapping paper was strewn about the cabin and everyone was gone and Hopper was dead asleep on the couch after hosting his first Christmas with six adolescents, she slipped into her room and noticed something she hadn’t before.

There was a package peeking out from under the bed.

She pulled it out and saw a card on top. Opening it carefully, she read Dustin’s writing.

I know we weren’t going to exchange gifts, but these don’t fit me anymore, and I thought maybe you could use them.

She opened the box to reveal a beat-up pair of ice skates.

Her face lit up brighter than the Christmas tree in the living room as she admired the gift. Then she shoved the box back under the bed and calmly changed into her pajamas for the night.

Later, when Hopper was at work, she tried them on. When she did, she found another note from Dustin inside the right skate.

Hope they fit!

They didn’t. But with a pair of Hopper’s thick hunting socks, they got the job done.

She never told Hopper about the skates.

Nor did she tell him about the countless afternoons spent on Murphy’s pond, both by herself and in the company of her friends.

But she did start watching Dustin’s hockey games when she could, and when she asked for new skates the year she turned fifteen,
absolutely no one was surprised.

-----

A/N: They say to write what you know. Here’s what I know about my childhood in a small town in Northern Ohio. Old Man Murphy was a real guy. And he did have a pond on his property. We weren’t supposed to go there, so of course we played pick-up hockey on that pond whenever we could. Most of us didn’t have ice skates or even hockey sticks. That didn’t matter. Oh, and my dad listened to baseball all day on the radio while we hung out around the garage and told stories and such. My Hopper does the same thing while he works on the cabin.

Also, my personal head canon is that Dustin plays both hockey and baseball. I base this on the fact that, as far as we know, he’s an only child and he has both hockey and baseball gear in his house that fit him. Also, he slap shots Dart into that storm cellar pretty well. He’s comfortable in the gear. So he’s a geek. Yep. So was I. I was on the chess team and in all honors classes and desperately wanted a chemistry set. I also batted cleanup for my softball team and was an average soccer player. I ran track, too. It took me many years to get to play hockey, but finally I managed it. Being an AV club member doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t play sports. I think Dustin fits into both worlds, like I did. Also, there’s pariahs on sports teams, too. Just saying. As for the other boys, I don’t see that so much, but a pick-up game with their squad? That’s a totally different thing, and something that I see happening sometimes. Eleven’s trickier. El can’t play sports. Ever. It’s not safe, for so many reasons. But skating? I can see that as relaxing for her. And then there’s Max. If that girl isn’t a hockey player, I don’t know who is.
This entry was originally posted at https://jackwabbit.dreamwidth.org/841843.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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