Five Times Mike Said “I love you” and One Time Will Said It Back
Warning: Slight swearing
Mike was jolted awake by the sound of the phone ringing from his bedside table. It took him a few seconds to register what was happening, so he ran to catch it. “H-hello?” He said quietly, not wanting to wake the other residents of the house up. He felt his stomach knot a little at the thought of who might be calling, he knew the Demogorgon was dead, but he couldn’t help but worry still. The knot was quickly released when he heard Will Byers’ voice on the other end of the line.
“Mike? It’s Will.” His voice was shaking and he too sounded scared. “Will! Are you ok? What’s going on? Are you hurt?” Mike listened to Will’s breathing, his worry building with every passing second. “I’m ok, nevermind. I shouldn’t have called in the middle of the night. I’m sorry. We’ll talk tomorrow, good night.” Will whispered, but Mike could easily hear how upset he was. “Don’t be stupid Will, you know you can tell me what’s wrong. I’m always here for you.”
Mike wished he was there with Will, to hold him and help him no matter what was wrong because he cared about him so much. Maybe even too much sometimes, he felt. “It’s nothing really, I just… had a nightmare is all. I was back in the upside down. I kinda just wanted to hear your voice. You know, to assure myself you’re still here.”
Mike felt his heart break just a little knowing that Will still, almost a year after Jane closed the gate, had nightmares about what happened. “I’m here, and so are you. I’m never ever letting you fall back into that-that place.” Mike said.
They fell silent for a little while, both boys having so much they wanted to say, but neither having the courage to say it. Will’s heart swelled hearing what Mike was telling him, and he immediately felt comforted. “That’s really all I wanted, Mike. Thank you so much. I’m sorry to wake you.” “Don’t be!” The other replied. “Wake me anytime Will. You know I love you and want you to be OK. So anytime.”
Their conversation ended not long after that, and Mike fell back into his bed with a big smile painted on his face. After Will’s nightmare, he was the person Will wanted to hear the voice of. He was the one Will had wanted to comfort him. He knew it was probably just ‘cause they were such good friends, but Mike couldn’t help but hope there was more to it than that.
Will, Mike, Lucas and Dustin were stood onstage, looking nervously out at the small crowd. The winners of this year’s science fair were about to be announced, and they were all a little jittery. They knew they had a good shot, but they also knew the group of kids stood to their right did. The judges were whispering amongst themselves, throwing them glances every now and then.
They knew it wasn’t really all that important, but Mike couldn’t help but feel a little nauseous with anticipation. Without giving it a second thought, he grabbed Will’s hand in his own and squeezed. It took him a few seconds to realize what he had done, and suddenly he felt a wave of panic surging through him. Was this weird? Did Will think this was weird? Should he let go and pretend nothing happened? Or just hold on?
Time seemed to slow down as he felt Will squeeze his hand in return. Did that mean Will didn’t think it was weird? Mike really couldn’t read the situation, so just to be sure he grabbed Dustin’s hand as well. Now, if anybody asks, he just wanted to support his team, not hold hands with Will.
After what felt like hours, the judges stood up from their stools and the one in the front grabbed a microphone. “Now, after careful consideration, we have decided upon a winner. In third place, Sophia Smith, Louis Carson and Julia Hansen!” A cheer erupted from the far end of the stage, and the three students ran to fetch their trophy. “In second place, Alex Lopez, Samuel Dale, Joshua Richardson and Leia Brown!” Again cheers erupted, this time from behind, as the students ran forward to collect their prize.
“It’s gotta be us, right? They can’t possibly let Thompson win, can they?” Lucas whispered. Mike turned to look at Will and gave him a small, reassuring smile. When Will smiled back, Mike felt his stomach fill with even more butterflies.
“And in first place, the obvious winners, Michael Wheeler, William Byers, Lucas Sinclair and Dustin Henderson!” Dustin had started cheering right after having heard “Wheeler”, and soon they all joined in.
“I told you! I flipping told!” Lucas exclaimed, embracing Dustin. “Oh my god, yes!!” Will screamed, throwing his hands in the air, dropping Mike’s in the process. “I love you, man! This is awesome!” Mike responded, pulling Will in for a hug. He regretted saying it immediately, what if he’d made Will uncomfortable? What if Will realized Mike meant it in a different way than he might want him to?
He didn’t say much more after that, trying to play it cool. They took their photos with the trophy, and eventually headed home to eat some celebratory pizza. All that was spinning through Mike’s head was the feeling of holding Will’s hand, and images of what they might become if Will did realize how Mike felt. He didn’t get much sleep that night either.
It was the morning of the 22nd of March 1986. Mike stood in front of the mirror by his front door, running his fingers through his hair for what felt like the hundredth time. He didn’t know why he was fussing so much about how it looked, it was gonna get messed up when he rode his bike anyway, but he still felt like it had to be perfect. He straightened his crisp white shirt, and picked up his backpack from the floor, opening the door slowly.
He and the rest of the gang were surprising Will with a birthday breakfast. It was hard to believe he was fifteen already. Time had flown by, and Mike worried they would grow apart eventually. He dreaded the day Will would tell him he’d gotten a girlfriend. It might even drive a wedge between their friendship because Mike was almost certain he wouldn’t be able to bear listening to Will go on and on about anybody that wasn’t him. It was strange, because even though Mike had practically admitted his feelings for his best friend to himself, he was still convinced it was just some sort of a phase.
Outside Dustin, Lucas, Jane, and Max were leaning on their bikes, waiting for him. “Hurry up, would you?!” Lucas yelled once Mike emerged from his house. “For shit’s sake, we’re supposed to catch him before he wakes up!” Dustin said, starting to pedal down the road. “I’m sorry, coming!” Mike replied with a heavy sigh, following the others. Jane looked down at his clothes and then shot him a knowing look. “You look nice. I’m sure he’ll think so too.” She said. Mike felt a blush creep to his cheeks, but he smiled politely in return.
Jane and Mike had broken up two months earlier, but no one else knew the real reason why. They had told their friends it was just because they loved each other more as friends, and although that was partially true, Jane had also said she felt that Mike cared more about someone else than her. He hadn’t understood what she meant at first, but after she stared at a photograph of him and Will before leaving, he understood. Thankfully, they had remained close friends, and Jane had reluctantly promised not to tell anyone about Mike’s crush.
The group biked along the road, singing and laughing with each other, enjoying the surprisingly nice weather. Lucas and Max were upfront, Dustin and Jane following close behind. Mike was in the back, distancing himself from the others. It didn’t take long to get to Will’s house, and they all ran up to the door. Dustin knocked carefully, and Joyce opened up with a bright smile. “Hey everyone! Come on inside, he’s not up yet, but he might be awake.” In the kitchen, she had set the table for them all and returned to cooking the bacon. She waved at them as they made their way down the hallway to Will’s bedroom.
Mike pulled Will’s present out of his bag and smoothed down his hair again. “Let’s just barge through and yell happy birthday,” Max whispered, and they all nodded. She counted quietly, and when she got to three they all jumped into his room. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!” Will was lying, asleep in his bed, and was jolted awake. He looked confused for a few seconds, before grinning largely.
They gathered around his bed, and put their gifts on his lap. “Thank you so much, you guys are the best!” Will laughed, looking up at Mike. “No worries dude, I love you. I mean, we all love you. Let’s get you some breakfast!” Mike’s cheeks flushed again, and he dragged Will out of bed, trying to move along the conversation. He realized a little too late that telling Will he loved him wouldn’t have sounded as weird if he hadn’t instinctively corrected himself. It wasn’t weird to say I love you, but it was weird to pretend he didn’t mean it.
Everyone gathered around the kitchen table, eating and having a good time. The rest of the day was spent celebrating, namely at the arcade and at the movies. It all went by in a blur, but Mike still thought about that morning. God, he just couldn’t stop making things weird between them, could he?
I was a warm April afternoon, and school had just finished. Mike and Dustin were leaving their English class, heading for the AV club. “You’re ok, right?” Dustin asked. Mike shot him a confused look, “of course I am, why would you think I wasn’t?” “You’ve just been kinda distant. I figured it was ‘cause of the breakup or something.” They walked in silence for a little while. Mike wasn’t sure what to reply. “Yeah, sorry. Didn’t mean to do that, it’s just been a lot I guess.” He thought his answer might have been too vague, but Dustin said, “I get it, I do. Just let us in on what’s happening, we’re your friends!”
Another silence fell between them, and Mike felt grateful that Dustin didn’t push him for answers.The truth was that ever since he realized how he felt, he had tried to avoid Will when he could, but considering they were best friends that hadn’t gone unnoticed. He was so angry with himself. It was so stupid to let a little crush ruin his longest friendship. He needed Will, no matter what. And avoiding him was not making his feelings go away, if anything it had made them harder to ignore.
They met up with Lucas and Max by the clubroom, but Will was nowhere to be found. “Where’s Will?” Mike asked, a little worried. “Oh, didn’t he tell you? His dad’s picked him up, they were going to some football game.” Lucas said. “Oh.” They entered the room and began their meeting as usual.
Two and a half hours later, everyone was heading home. They walked out toward the main entrance when Mike realized he had left his bike on the other side of the school. “Go ahead, you guys. I came through the back, gotta get my bike.” “You sure you don’t want us to wait?” Dustin asked, but he told them to go.
Mike walked out through the back door and strolled down the steps to his bicycle, when he saw someone sat on the curb. He hadn’t expected seeing anyone else here, considering how long they’d stayed behind. He walked a few steps closer and immediately recognized the striped sweater the boy was wearing. It was Will. His backpack was slumped next to him, and he sat with his head in his hands.
“What’re you still doing here?” He asked carefully, sitting himself down beside his friend. Only then did he notice Will’s sniffling, and he looked to see Will’s eyes red and puffy. “Will! What’s wrong?” He asked, putting a hand around him. “Lonnie didn’t show.” He whispered, pulling himself closer to Mike’s chest. Mike wasn’t sure what to say, so he just stroked his arm.
“I don’t think he loves me.” Will said after a few minutes of silence, and Mike’s heart ached. “Who fucking cares what he feels?” he said, “he’s never mattered, he’s a dick!” Will laughed a little and looked up at Mike’s face. “You think so?” “Yes! The only thing that matters is the people who do care about you, not some ass who doesn’t even try! Jonathan and Joyce love you, Max and Lucas love you, Dustin and Jane love you, I love you. That’s what matters.”
They sat on the curb for almost twenty minutes, talking about nothing in particular. Eventually, they had to leave, and Mike followed Will all the way home. Will had said he didn’t need to, but he insisted, saying Will would have absolutely done the same.
“You should tell him,” Jane said, putting down her book and looking up at Mike. It was Saturday night. The gang had just watched a movie in Mike’s basement and everyone else had gone home. He sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Isn’t Hopper coming to pick you up soon?” Jane rolled her eyes at his attempt to change the subject. “Actually, I’m biking home. Talk to me, Mike! We’re friends.” “There’s nothing to say!” Mike replied. “Mike, friends don’t lie.” She looked him dead in the eyes. “How are you so sure that I like him?” “Not like, love. And it’s not hard to see.” She stared at him, waiting for an answer, but one never came.
He fell down onto the couch and let out a light sob. Jane immediately ran to comfort him, asking what was wrong. “I love him, that’s what’s wrong!” He hugged her back and started crying into her shoulder. “Why is love wrong?” She asked. Once again, there came no reply, just Mike’s ragged breathing.
“He feels the same, it’s not hard to see that either.” Mike’s heart jumped in his chest, but he shot her a confused look. “You’ve gone mad, Jane.” “You’re the one that’s mad, crying over a boy who loves you.” He asked how she could be so sure, and she laughed. “Mike, I think everyone knows how he feels, apart from you. He talks so much about you, and the look in his eyes when he sees you, it’s the look of love.” For the third time that day, Mike had no idea what to respond.
The situation was a little odd. Here he was, lying in his exes arms while she gave him advice about his crush. He let out a soft giggle. “What?” She asked. “It’s just kinda funny. Us, I mean.” She laughed as well. “Yes, I suppose it is funny.” Mike thought back to when he first met Jane, how he’d been the one to kiss her first. Why couldn’t he be that confident now? Why was he wasting time being sad about this thing he wasn’t gonna get over? If Will didn’t feel the same way, at least Mike could stop wondering, maybe then he’d finally get over him.
“I’ll follow you out.” He exclaimed, pulling himself off the sofa, and rubbing away his tears. “Are you ok?” She asked, and he replied, “I’ll let you know tomorrow.” They stumbled up the stairs, and Mike called out to his parents, “I’m just gonna follow Jane home!”, running outside before they could reply. “Thanks, Jane. I think I really needed that. See you tomorrow.” He pulled her in for a hug and then jumped onto his bike. “Wait! Where are you going?” She yelled at him as he biked away. “I’m going to Will’s, obviously!”
Usually, Mike would consider the ride to Will’s house long and tiring, but this particular night it felt like no time at all. Once he got to the Byers’ driveway he threw down his bike, and ran around to Will’s window. Looking down at his watch, he saw that it was almost midnight, so Will was probably asleep. He knocked carefully on the glass, and waited for a response. He heard some shuffling and the window was pulled up.
“What the hell Mike! It’s the middle of the night!” The young boy exclaimed, looking slightly annoyed, but suddenly his facial expression changed. “What’s happened? Are you alright?” Mike pointed up at the window, and asked, “can I come in?” Will quickly moved away from the opening and helped the taller boy inside.
Once he stood in the bedroom, Mike suddenly felt his nerves catch up with him, and he lost all the confidence he’d built up. They sat down on Will’s bed, and Will stared at Mike with big, worried eyes. “Uhh, I kinda should have planned this before storming over here.” Mike laughed, mostly to himself. “You wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t important. Spill it.”
“Ok, I will, just give me a sec. Uhh, you’re my absolute best friend. You know me better than anyone else in the world. You’re funny, smart, talented, caring, and not to mention gorgeous. And I really, really care about you. What I’m trying to say is that, uhhhmm. There’s a reason Jane and I broke up. There’s also a reason I’ve kinda been avoiding you at times. I–uhh- I love you, Will. And not just in the way I always have, in a, uhh, romantic way. ”
Will’s eyes widened, and he sat completely still. He looked at Mike with a confused expression and then, after almost a whole minute, opened his mouth to reply, “I, uhh–” “I’m gonna go home. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything.” Mike interrupted Will quickly, not wanting to hear his rejection. He felt tears stinging at his eyes, so he ran back out the window as fast as he could, leaving Will sat alone in his bedroom, staring at the empty space he’d left behind.
Come Monday morning, Mike and Will hadn’t spoken to each other at all. Will had wanted to call him, and tell him he felt the same way, but it seemed like something he should say in person. He tried going to the Wheeler’s house, but they had said Mike wasn’t home.
Will met up with the gang at the entrance, but Mike wasn’t there. No one had seen him all morning. Will’s stomach dropped, and he felt guilty. He should’ve just stopped Mike from leaving that night, he’d just felt like he needed a bit of time to process what he’d said. It wasn’t every day your best friend confessed they were in love with you.
“Let’s just head inside, I don’t think he’s coming.” Lucas said, and the others murmured in agreement. Will followed them, and they made their way to the first lesson.
Will kept his eyes open for Mike all day, but there was no sign of him anywhere. During lunch he kept his eyes on the door, waiting for him to walk through but he never came, and during every class they shared he would stare at Mike’s empty seat in anticipation.
After school, he knew he had to head straight to Mike’s and when the others asked why he wasn’t staying for AV, he said he had urgent business to attend to. It didn’t take long to get to his house, and he noticed Mike’s bike lying on the front lawn. Will rang the doorbell, and waited for a reply. Ted Wheeler opened the door, looking tired. “Hi, Mr. Wheeler. I need to talk to Mike.” Will said, smiling politely. Ted sighed, and replied, “Mike’s sick, I’m afraid. Goodbye, Will.” He went to close the door, but Will trapped his foot in the opening. “I’m really sorry, sir, but I need to speak to your son now.”
Ted didn’t question him further, not bothering to, he let him in and said that Mike was in the basement. Will threw open the basement door and jogged down the staircase. Mike was lying on his couch, reading a comic-book.
“Hey.” He smiled. “What’re you doing here?” Mike asked, a surprised look on his face. Will could tell he’d been crying, from his red, puffy cheeks. “I came to see you, obviously.” Will joked, walking closer. Mike stood up from the sofa.
“I’m gonna talk now, while you let me finish. Got it?” Mike looked confused, but nodded. “I’m sorry I didn’t say anything that night. The truth is I just didn’t know how to put my feelings into words, but now I think I do. You’re my best friend too. You’re the only person I feel 100% comfortable around, you make me laugh at things that aren’t really that funny, and you give me butterflies just by looking at me. Michael Wheeler, I love you too.” Before Mike had the chance to reply, Will pulled him down for a kiss.
It was short, and sloppy because Mike was unprepared, but it was amazing. They pulled apart and stared at each other in awe for a few seconds, before Mike pulled in for another kiss. This one still awkward, but gentler and sweet. Will’s head was in scrambles, as if his mind couldn’t process what was happening. Mike’s hands made their way to Will’s waist, while Will ran his fingers through Mike curly hair. They had no idea how long they were stood like that, in the middle of the basement making out, but they knew it didn’t matter. Now they had all the time in the world.