That was a shot, right? Had he heard right? When he saw all the reactions from the kids he realized that he in fact had heard right. Fuck! What if Joyce...? No, he couldn't think like that, he had to be react quickly. He couldn't think in the worst way because that would destroy him and the kids didn't need to see that, he needed to hold on. He could still shouts coming from inside the house, so that was good, that meant they were still there fighting, alive. He saw Jonathan going to the front door at full speed, but he stopped him, he couldn't let him got into the fire.
- You are not going anywhere. - Hopper said pushing Jonathan out of the way.
- You can't tell me what to do! She's my mum! - Jonathan argued angrily.
He couldn't let Jonathan into the house, into a probably crime scene. Joyce would never want any of her sons to put himself on danger for her. And it was not just about doing what he thought Joyce would want, it was that he really cared for Jonathan and Will too. He loved those kids and he realised he wanted to protect them, just as much as he always wanted to protect Eleven.
- And i'm the chief, so let me handle it! - Hopper argued back. - I promise i'll let you all in once everything is clear and she's okay. - He assured to try to calm him down.
- I'm going, i can use my powers to stop them. - Eleven said interrupting them.
- No way, those men are not the kind of people i want them to know about your powers. - Hopper said .
- He's right, we can't trust them. - Will said holding Eleven's hand.
- Fine. - Eleven accepted.
- Nancy you still know how to use a gun? - Hopper asked.
- Yes. - Nancy answer.
- Good, then you're coming with me. - He said giving her his second gun. - Steve stay here and make sure no one enters the house until i say so, okay? - He gave his last order.
- Okay, i'll do. - Steve assisted.
The first thing he saw when he got inside the house was glasses all over the floor, and then he saw Joyce. She was alive and that made him feel like he could breathe again. But not for long if he didn't do anything to stop what was happening. Lonnie had her stuck to the wall and was strangling her, and Liam was pointing them with a gun as he said words of encourage for Lonnie.
- This is the police, Lonnie stop and Liam put your gun down! - He ordered loudly so they could heard him.
The moment of surprise made Lonnie stop, so Joyce pushed him away from her and punched him in the face with all her strengths. He felt proud of her in that moment, that she still could find strength in the situation to keep fighting. He saw that Lonnie's nose started bleeding and for the way he was cursing he hoped his nose was broken. He went to him, pushed him to the floor and handcuffed him.
- Are you okay? - He asked, turning to Joyce because she was all he cared about.
- Yes. - She answered in a broken voice, still trying to catch her breath.
- Put your gun down. - He ordered getting back to confront Liam. Nancy had been pointing him all the time with the gun he gave her, and he felt glad that he chose her as backup because she was holding the situation really well.
- Hi Jimmy. - Liam greeted him with a teasing smile.
- Don't call me like that. - Hopper said.
- I was surprised when i found out you are the chief of police, i thought that you didn't wanted to be like your father. - Liam said as he look at Hopper upside down.
- Just because i have the same profession he had doesn't mean i'm like him. - Hopper argued. - Now put your gun down. - He repeated his order.
- Don't be so dramatic, is not like i've hurt somebody. - Liam said laughing. - Or maybe i could. - He said pointing Joyce.
- Put your gun down. - Hopper said standing between Joyce and his father. - Don't make me repeat it again. - He pressured.
- Fine, here you have. - Liam accepted, he put the gun on the floor and kicked it to where Hopper was.
- What the hell? - Hopper asked when he grabbed the gun and realized it wasn't actually a real one.
- It's just a toy, a very good imitation of a real gun, even sounds like it, don't you think? - Liam rumbled.
- Oh my god! That's hilarious! - Lonnie said laughing.
- Shut up! - Nancy said disgusted with all that was happening.
Hopper went to Liam and handcuffed him too. As he was dealing with him the kids got into the house, Jonathan and Will went running to their mum and hug her. He wanted to schooled all of them for not waiting him to give the okay, but he didn't. Liam and Lonnie where still there and he didn't wanted to do that infront of them, and also he could understand the anxiety of the kids, the need to know that Joyce was okay.
- Joyce do you need me to take you to the hospital? - He asked. She was his priority, so if she thought she needed to be check by a doctor he would take her to a hospital first, and then he would deal with Liam and Lonnie.
- No, i'm okay. - Joyce answered, still wrapped between her sons. Eleven had joined the hug too.
- Are you sure? - He insisted because he could see her arm was still bleeding.
- It's just superficial. - Joyce said following his thoughts.
- I'll take care of it, mom had teached me first aid. - Nancy offered. Her mother had studied nursery, so she had learn some tips from her.
- Okay, i'll take them to the station and then i'll be back. - Hopper informed.
- You don't need to do that, she won't press charges. - Liam said triggering him. Of course he would said that, that was he said when they were teens eveytime Hopper tried to convince Joyce that she didn't deserve to be mistreated by her father.
- I'm pressing charges for damaging my house, and hurting Will and me. Also i want restrictions orders for both of them from my sons and me. - Joyce said with confidence.
- Woow, i didn't know you have that in you. - Liam said faking admiration.
- Go to hell, i don't want to see you ever again. - She said sharp.
- This house will be mine and there's nothing you can do to stop me! - He shouted as Hopper pushed him out of the house.
Only when Liam and Lonnie were out of her home, Joyce could finally let herself releaf all the pression and the tension. She felt herself start shaking. God, she was a mess. She felt she could break at every moment, and she didn't wanted to have a panic attack infront of all the kids. So, to distract herself and stayed focus on the present, she started picking up the glasses with her hands. But the kids stopped her, and before she could fight about it she found herself being guided by Nancy to the bathroom. Nancy made her sat in the toilet lid and then started looking for what she needed to clean Joyce's bound.
- This is going to hurt. - Nancy warned.
- Is okay, i've had worse. - Joyce said.
Why the hell did she say that? She knew she was a mess, she knew that she never gave the best impression, but this was another level of failure. She didn't wanted people to feel sorry for her. Her life had been definitely hard on her, but she had hold on, she was still holding on, and she probably will keep holding on. Her life was a constant holding on. However she never used that as a excuse for anything, because she didn't wanted to be defined by it.
She started thinking about Liam and Lonnie, and she got lost in her head, lost in all the bad memories she had with them. She felt like a black hole was sucking her and she needed to stop it, so she focused on Nancy. Nancy was good. She watched as the young woman cleaned her bound softly.
- How long has been since you and Jonathan are dating? - Joyce asked, trying to distract herself.
- Six months. - Nancy answered.
- Is he good to you? - Joyce asked, feeling curious about how his older son was in a relationship. She had tried to teach his sons to be good and respectful with women, so she can only hope they did.
- Yes, he is. - Nancy noded. - He's probably the best guy i know in this town, he and Will, they are both really good persons. You did good. - She flattered with a smile.
- I don't know about that. Specially with Jonathan, i wish he hadn't have to grow up so fast, i wish i could have done better for him. - Joyce rambled.
- What you did and what you do is good enough. - Nancy assured.
- You are good to him, he's so happy with you. - Joyce said looking at the other with intensity. - Thank you for making him happy. - She expressed her gratitude.
- Well he's good for me too, we make each other happy. - Nancy said honestly.
When Nancy ended treating her bund she thanked her and then went to change her clothes. Her shirt and her jean were stained with blood and she didn't feel okay with keep wearing them. When she left her room to go to wash her clothes she found her living room all cleaned, the kids had done that for her and she felt overwhelmed with gratitude. She thanked them. And she thanked them again when they didn't let her wash her clothe, Jonathan took them from her and said he would handle it. The kids convinced her to watch a movie with them, so she let them dragged her to the couch and watched Stars Wars for what it felt like a million time, they really were fans of that movie.
Hopper took Liam and Lonnie to the police station and put them behind bars. He made sure of processed them and made the papers needed to present so Joyce could get the restrictions orders she asked for. Once it was all ready, he went to buyed some pizza and then drove back to the Byers's house. He found everyone watching Star Wars. He looked at Joyce and he felt happy as he saw her surrounded with so much love. She was sitting in the coach between Will and Eleven, both of them had their heads resting in her shoulders, and Jonathan was sitting on the floor. with his back resting on her legs. Is like all of them needed to be near her to made sure she was okay. He could understand them perfectly, because he felt the same. He watched them for a moment and appreciated his little family. He never thought that he would love again and so much, but here he was, full of love for all of them that he actually thought he may explode sometimes. He was good at hiding and denying his feelings, but with them he was starting to realize that maybe it was okay to not to.
The moment was lost when Dustin realized he was there. They all went excited to get the pizza. He was ready to follow the kids to the kitchen, but Joyce got his attention asking for a cigarette first. So he went with her outside to share a cigarette. They smoked in silence. He watched her and thanked all the gods in the world that she was alive. It had been hard to think in the possibility that today he could had lost her forever. He wanted to tell her he love her, but she had said she was not ready to hear it yet. He was following her lead, he just needed to be patient.
- How are you holding on? - He asked, breaking the silence.
- I don't know, i just keep holding on, not sure how, but here i am. - She answer sincerely. - Did you left them detained? - She asked.
- Yes. - He answered.
- I don't know what i'm gonna do, i don't have money for a trail and i don't have anywhere else to go or money to get a new place. - She confessed, letting out her worries.
- Hey, we'll figure it out. - He assured her, trying to calmed her. - I have a friend that is a lawyer, maybe she can help if i asked her. - He suggested.
- I can't pay her. - She remembered him.
- Is okay, she owes me some favors. - He explained.
- Okay. - She accepted.
When they ended the cigarette he found himself invading her personal space, he caressed her neck with his hands. The marks of Lonnie's fingers were starting to show on her skin and that made him angry, so he caressed them so she could know that his touch would never hurt her like that. She joined his front and nose with him, putting herself in tiptoes to do it, which he found really cute. For a moment he thought she was going to kiss him, but she didn't, she hug him instead. He hug her back, glad he got her there with him. He kissed her head trying to show her his love, and that with it comes protection.
- We should get inside before they ate all the pizza. - He said making her laugh.
He took her hand and guided to her kitchen. Nancy gave them both plates with three pieces of pizza in each one. Will asked Joyce to sit next to him, so she did. Hopper smiled when he saw Eleven leaving her place and putting her chair in the other side of Joyce, because of course she also wanted to sit next to her. Jonathan complained making everyone laugh. Joyce's eyes were sparking again and there was a little but honest smile on her face. He realized how screw he was as he watch them, he love the kids so much and he loved Joyce so much. He loved how the kids made Joyce happy. She was the happier version of herself with them and that made him soft. He admired the strength she had for letting them made her happy in that moment, even after all the mess she had been through that day. He loved how happy they were all together.
The next day he met with Joyce in the police station to have a reunion with Emily, the lawyer. He could tell she was nervous,
- Are you sure this is a good idea? Did you sleep with her? - She questioned.
- Hey don't worry about it, is not like that, we parted in a good way. - He answered.
- Shit, this is gonna be so awkward, won't be? Maybe we should go. - She rumbled.
He could read all the frustrations writing on her face. Her cheeks turned red and he found that kinda cute. Was she scared, jealous or just nervous? He probably will never know because that was the moment Emily chose to appear.
Luckily Emily and Joyce got along pretty well, and he could see how Joyce finally relax when she realized Emily was serious about this. Joyce told her all her story with Liam and Lonnie. Emily said that if Liam had the title of the house by his name there wasn't much they could do. The restrictions orders and making Lonnie pay for child support were possible. Emily said she would call them when she had studied everything to propose what Joyce's best options were. Joyce thanked them both and left because if not she was going to be late to work.
She kissed him on the cheek goodbye and that made him smile like a fool. He should learn to control his emotions, he was the chief of police for fucking sake.
- She's good for you. - Emily said after Joyce had left. - Maybe too good, she's probably out of your league. - She joked, but at the same time she was being honest.
- Is not like that, we aren't together. - He said feeling frustrated.
- But you love her. - She stated.
- I do. - He confirmed. He didn't know why, but he had the need to let that clear.
- So what's stopping you? - She asked with curiosity.
-She's been through enough bullshit in her life, had suffered a lot. And she's dealing with lot of staffs. I don't want her to pressure her, i want to wait until she's ready and sure. - He explained the best he could. He was not comfortable talking about his feelings with anyone.
- Like i said, she's good, love's good for you. - She said.
Yes, Joyce was good for him, he knew that. But love? He had been thinking a lot about it lately. He didn't think love was going to be good, because love had only made him suffer, love had only made him fall in a black hole. Maybe Joyce was not the only one who needed to get ready, maybe he needed too. Being a dad figure to Eleven had made him open his heart again, but was he ready to open it to a couple relationship again? He knew he love her, so there wasn't anything he could do to avoid it or denied it, he was way past over that. He loved her and the realization of that love surprisingly made him want to try again. Then yes, maybe he was ready afterall.