It was very late when they got home, the lights were on and it was full of noise. The kids, Jim and Eleven were all there. They were all okay (except Bob, but she couldn't think about him in that moment, because if she did she was going to break and she was not ready to do it just yet). So, they were all okay. And suddenly it was like the nightmare was over, at least for that night, and Joyce felt like she could breathe again.
She hadn't even open the door when all the kids came out running and went to hug Will. And she found herself trap in the hug because she was the one helpining Will to walk. He was okay, but he was exhausted. She was exhausted too. Maybe they were all exhausted she thought when she saw how Hopper gave her a tired smile as he watched her from the door.
Finally she convinced everyone to go back inside. All the kids crushed in the couches and started talking about everything that had happened. She sees Eleven and she's glad the little girl is okay, although she looks as tired as Will. But she let them have a moment, they deserve to have a moment with their friends after everything they went through.
And that is how she suddenly saw Steve's bloody face.
- What happened to you? - She asks him.
- Had a fight. - He looks embarrassed and like he doesn't want to talk about it.
- He did it for us, he saves us from my step brother. - Max explained, somehow she had been able to listen even if she was in the other corner of the living room with her friends.
- Come on, we'll clean it and put it some ice. - She says to Steve and make him follow her.
Steve tried to stop her. He said that is not that bad, that he was okay and he didn't need ice. But she knew better and she was not gonna let him be a mess and suffer in silence infront of her. So she opened the freezer and that's how a body part of a demodog fell on her. She kinda jumped back and screamed, she couldn't help it.
- What the hell is this? - She asked, as everyone started to enter the kitchen. Hopper was by her side in an instant. He checked her to see that she was okay and then he examined the body part to see that there was nothing alive in it.
- Sorry, i told Dustin is was not a good idea. - Steve apologized.
- Dustin? - Hopper asked looking the boy for any explanation.
- Is for science Ms Byers. - He answered like it's the most obvious thing in the world. He directed his answer to Joyce, because the chief was looking really pissed and that couldn't be good.
- I don't care about science. - She said feeling angry. Was this boy real? She could see the exact moment that Dustin felt that he made a mistake on thinking she wouldn't be angry. She kinda felt sorry for the boy because she knew that he only did it for curiosity, but after everything that had happened she couldn't find any good reason to keep something from the Upside Down.
- But… - Dustin, Lucas and Mike started talking at the same time trying to give a good reason to keep it.
- Stop! - She didn't let them talk. - I don't want that thing in my home, and neither should do any of you. It's dangerous. - She gave them her best mum look that said they can't fight her on this.
- Don't worry mum, i'll take care of it. - Jonathan said and grabbed what's left of the demodog.
- Thank you sweety. - She gave a smile to her older son, because she didn't know what she did to deserve such a great one.
- No more troubles, Joyce is right. - Hopper ordered the kids giving his best cop attitude. - I'm gonna go help him. - And then he was out following Jonathan and Nancy.
She gave some ice to Steve and helped him clean his face. The kids didn't fight anymore about the demodog, instead they asked if they could stay for the night. She was not sure how everyone were going to fit in her home, but she was too tired to fight and the noise was good; knowing that they were all okay in her home gave peace to her trouble mind, so she said yes. All the boys accomodated in Will's room, and Max and Eleven in her room. After she made sure all of them were settle, she went outside to smoke a cigarette. A minute later Hopper was at her side, and she passed him the cigarette used to them sharing.
- We burned it. - He told her, referring to the demodog.
- Good. - She sigh feeling relieved. - Is El okay? - She asked, worried about the girl who looked as tired as Will.
- Yes, she's tired but she's okay. She was really great. - He answered feeling proud of how the girl closed the gate with her powers and grateful that they were okay. - Will? - He asked.
- He's okay too, just tired. Wherever was inside of him we took it out. - She assured him.
They stayed in comfortable silence for some minutes as they finished the cigarette. They were good with that, the silences were always comfortable between them. They not always needed words, sometimes with simply just being side by side they were okay.
- Is it over? - She asked with her voice shaking because she was scared, but she needed to know.
- I think so, she closed the gate. - He said. - But i guess we can never be sure. - He was worried and he was always going to be, so he will keep watching to make sure the monsters stayed in their dimension.
- We'll keep looking just to be careful. - She said like she could read his mind. He nodded and lighted another cigarette. - So, you've been hiding her? - She was still in shock to find out that he had been hiding something that big from her.
- Yes. - He confirmed. - I'm sorry i didn't told you, but i didn't told anyone. I was just trying to keep everyone safe. - He explained feeling nervous because she's giving him one of those intense looks that says "you better not lying or messing with me or i will punch you".
- I get that, but i could've help. And even if you were trying to keep everyone safe, i don't think insulating her was the best. - She said feeling frustrated. - Is this why you kinda disappear? - She was hurt when he started acting strange. He was never around when she called to his trailer or the police station, he was never there. He avoided her most of the times they cruce paths, so she started doing the same. If he didn't want her around, she was not going to insist. But maybe now she could know the reason, maybe she hadn't been the problem, maybe he did it just because he didn't want to lie to her.
- I did? - He knew he did, but he didn't thought it was that bad. But seeing her now, really seeing her he realized maybe he had hurt her. Not that it was ever his intention. He knew he could have done things a better way, but he really did all he could and thought it was the best at the moment. - I'm sorry, i never meant to do it. Is just with taking care of El and trying to stay sober, i really didn't have time and i didn't wanted to trap you into my problems. - He said being sincere.
- You always help me with Will, i could have help you with El. - She said after taking some time to think about everything.
- You're right. - He knew she was right. He knew she would had helped him if he asked her and he knew he could trust her because she was the best mum he knew. But he hadn't been honest with her in a long time about it, so maybe now was the time. He had to stop lying to her even if was not the best moment to do it. It was never going to be a good time, he had to stop looking for excuses and accept that she probably was going to be angry and hurt with him. He hated hurting her, but there's nothing he could really do now to change it. - The thing is after everything that happened last year i felt culty, so i keep looking for her. And when i found her i thought hiding her was the best to protect everyone. I didn't like hiding her, but i really thought it was the best. - He explained.
- Culty? Why? - She asked. Of course she was going to catch that, he said that because he knew she was that perceptive.
- The reason why they let us go to the Upside Down to look for Will, it was because i gave them Eleven's location. - He admitted. He felt the pressure leaving his body. That was what had him worried all the time, worried that Joyce and Eleven will never forgive him for that.
- What?! - She couldn't believe what she just heard. - You change Will for Eleven?! Why did you do that?! I would had never agree to that! - She felt stupid and angry. She thought that he trusted her, but it seems that he didn't, he had been lying all this time. She thought that he trusted her because when everyone thought that she was crazy, he believed her. She thought that he trusted her because that's what friends did, and they were friends, right? And she was not sure why, but she felt her heart breaking.
- I know you would never had agree to that, that's why i didn't tell you. We didn't had time, if we didn't got Will when we did he would have died. I had to protect who i know it was in more danger, and Eleven… I knew she was powerful enough to take care of herself. - That was his truth. He could see her crying, although she was avoiding looking at him, she just stayed with her eyes focused on the floor. He hated seeing her cry and more when he knew it was his fault. He wanted to hug her so bad, but he knew it would be wrong. He needed to give her time. She was right to be angry with him. So he just passed her the cigarrette again and they stay smoking in silence. He didn't know what to expect, but that was definitely the first time in a very long time that the silence they shared felt wrong. Kinda made him remember to high school, when he started dating Chrissy just because he was going to Vietnam and he thought the best way to pushed Joyce away and not hurting her was dating other girl. Even if the only kiss they have shared was enough to let him know that he loved her. Why did he always had to make so many stupid decisions?
- I understand your intentions, but i don't agree with your methods. I think we could have find a better way together in both situations. But what's done is done. And i might be angry, but i can see you've been doing a good job with El. She looks good - She gave him her opinion as she finished the cigarette. She dried her tears with the back of her hand before confronting him again, because she was angry and she didn't want to cry in front of him. - Does she knows? - She hoped Eleven knew everything, because she had seen how they had hug each other. The girl looked so comfortable in Hopper's arms, she looked at him like he was a safe place, like he could protect her of everything even when she didn't want it. And Hopper looked at her with so much emotion and love, he looked at her the way she looks at her sons.
- No. - He answered feeling ashamed. That was another of his worst fears. What if El finds out and never forgive him? What if she scapes again and doesn't want to see him ever again?
- You should tell her, she should listen it from you. - She advised him. She could feel his sadness and insecurities running high, so she grabbed his hand to let him know that they were okay (and will be okay) no matter how angry she was. He made some big mistakes, but he was human. He was apologizing now and saying the true. She might have choose different than he did because she didn't like the way he did it, but he saved Will and he kept Eleven safe. That had to count for something, right? - I'm going to bed, you can stay in the couch if you want. - She said.
- Okay. - He didn't know what to expect, but he was glad she was letting him stay. He didn't know how to make her feel better about everything he had told her, so he let her go.
- You know you didn't have to give them the exact address where El was, right? You could have give them another one. And if they blamed you for not finding her there you could told them it was not your fault she had left the place where you last saw her, you couldn't control her from distance. - She said in a very sad voice. Then she was gone, she left him outside with his mind.
She went to check on Will. Once she saw he was sleeping peacefully surrounded with his friends and free of nightmares, she went to check on Jonathan. She would have like to sleep with his son, after everything that happened having him by her side was probably the only thing that would help her sleep. But she had to let him be, he was okay and was with his friends. She needed to learn to control her anxiety and not panic everytime one of her sons weren't near her. She knew she had good reasons to panic and they couldn't blame her for it, but she was always trying to do her best for them. And this was doing her best in that moment, letting Will sleep out of her side, even if it wasn't the best for her sleep. She took a deep breath and went to Jonathan's room, he and Nancy were sleeping in his bed, and Steve was sleeping on the floor. She took the ice from Steve's hand and put it on the night table. She turned off the lamp and closed the door so they could sleep better. She went to her room ready to sleep on the floor, but Eleven called her insisting that she should sleep with her and Max in the bed.
- I missed you. - Eleven said happy that Joyce lied down next to her.
- I missed you too and i'm very happy to see you again and that you are okay. - Joyce hug her showing her all her love. They may not knew each other very well, but Joyce had love her since the first moment that she had met her. And it was not just gratitude because Eleven helped her twice to save his younger son, it was because she could recognize herself in some part of the little girl. She didn't know how to explain it, but she was starting to accept that maybe there were lot of things in her life that didn't make sense and this was one of those. At least this one was a good one, love was always good. And this girl needed love, she deserved to know and feel it. And she could do that for her, she already did, she loved her. - Good night. - She kissed the head of El.
- Night. - Eleven murmured hanging to her with lot of strength, making sure Joyce wasn't going to leave the bed to go to sleep on the floor like she first have tried to.
Eleven fell asleep almost an instant later. Joyce didn't think she could sleep that night after everything, but she stayed in bed hugging El.
Jim stayed a long time outside thinking. Joyce was right, he should had give them another address. How could she come out with that idea in less than some few minutes? He didn't have any idea how she did that, but she was always surprising him. Maybe it was her mother instincts? No, he shaked that idea out of him. Joyce sayed mother's instincts didn't exist, that it was just an invent from macho men. Joyce was right, he should had never made a deal with Brenner because he was a monster. But although he was regretting that decision, he could never regret saving Will. He thought about Eleven as well, he imagined thousand of different ways she would react if she found out about it, and they were all bad. He needed to stop his mind, he had enough for one night. He went into the Byers home and lie down on the couch covering himself with a blanket that Joyce left for him.
The next weeks were hard. Joyce avoid him. He understood why and didn't push her, so the distance between them hurt. It hurt so much that sometimes he felt he was going to suffocate. What also hurt was knowing that she was grieving Bob's death and he couldn't be there for her. He just hoped she knew she could call him for wherever she needed, he would always be there for her. He gave her time and space, he showed her that he respected her decision. But when Eleven asked him to go to the snowball and he knew he couldn't say no, he knew he needed Joyce's help. Thank god Joyce agreed to help him and bought a dress like Eleven wanted.
After he left El in the snowball, he went looking for Joyce knowing she probably would be waiting around. He found her outside the school, leaning on her car. When she agreed on smoking together and she let him comforted her, he knew things between them were alright, that somehow she had forgive him. And as he kissed her head he promised himself that he would not lie to her again because he couldn't lose her.