Is she going to be okay, Dad?
She just needs more rest, kiddo. She’ll be okay.
She hasn’t moved since you came home from the hospital —
Just give her a few more days guys. Can you head over to Mike’s for dinner?
She wanted to go out into the hallway and talk to them. She wanted to leave this bed and give her youngest boy a hug and reassure that scared little girl that there was nothing to worry about. She wanted to have a shower until the water heater turned cold. She wanted to go into her kitchen and start on dinner, maybe prepare some sort of pseudo casserole as her partner made fun of her chopping skills.
Joyce Byers wanted all of these things.
Hey, darlin’ I’ve sent the kids off to the Wheeler’s for dinner.
Joyce wanted a lot of things.
I thought tonight we order in pizza and put on one of Jonathan’s shitty ‘scary’ movies?
The problem was Joyce wanted all too much.
Nothin’ beats ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’, in this old man’s opinion.
He was still here. Of course, he was still here. He wasn’t Lonnie, he wasn’t going to run away and leave her to pick up the pieces alone. He’d been with her every minute at the hospital, gripping her hand tightly as she sobbed and righteously telling off the nursing staff who dared to comment or judge her tears.
I think we saw that one at the drive-in back in high school. Do you remember that?
She did remember that. She remembered everything about James Hopper and growing up together in Hawkins. She’d been in love with him since middle school.
And now he was hers. Life wasn’t getting in the way anymore.
And then their daughter died.
How about this? I’ll draw you a bath and while you relax I order the food. I’ll even be fancy and put the slices on paper plates.
She hadn’t really moved in six hours and Jonathan’s digital clock was flashing 6:30 pm in a garish red that felt like it pierced through her eyes into her skull.
Joyce couldn’t remember leaving the hospital. Maybe it was three days ago? They’d given her a lot of pills.
Come on sweetheart. The doc said we have to use that pump.
She would still lactate, the doctor had said. She would need to expel it otherwise she could get an infection or a blocked duct. He’d said all of this to Jim of course.
The doctor didn’t have time for Joyce’s painful cries and he made the nurses sedate her. They wouldn’t let her hold the baby anymore.
That’s it. Come on, let me take care of you.
Sitting up in the bed made her dizzy, the light from the sun setting outside was flooding through the gap in her curtains. Joyce grabbed onto Jim’s collar, resting her forehead against his neck in exhaustion. He was warm and smelled like cigarettes and cedar and it was all she could do to hold back more tears as he stroked her back soothingly.
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, ran through her mind as she clutched him tighter.
He had already lost a daughter, a beautiful little girl whose death had almost killed him. And now here Joyce was, barely two years together and she was already bringing him more pain.
You need to stop saying that Joyce. I won’t hear it.
Now her selfish thoughts were escaping her mouth without permission.
You deserve better, you deserve to be happy.
That’s enough. Now, look at me.
She felt his throat growl against her temple and knew she sounded pathetic.
Maybe she needed more of those pills.
Pills later. You have to eat and you have to wash and damnit I’m making sure you look after yourself. Because you are everything to me.
She heard the tremor in his voice and felt him cling tighter to her nightgown. He needed her right now and she’d been too caught up in her own misery to notice. In typical Jim Hopper fashion, he powered through the best way he knew how in order to keep their family together. He wasn’t going to make the same mistakes he did before.
If he could get out of bed then so could she.
You make me feel stronger.
It’s all an act, my love. But if it works.
Not many people got to see this side to him. When they were younger he only reserved vulnerability for her and his mom. The act of needing someone was something that was drilled out of him by his dad. Self-reliance and survival were things Tom Hopper valued above all else, especially from his son. The man terrified Joyce when she was a kid.
Jim tried that path and in the end it still led him back to Hawkins and back to her. They had bonded again when Will disappeared and he was now a permanent part of her life. He was the best thing to happen in El’s life and he picked Joyce up and loved her even when she was mourning Bob.
Now he was doing it again. She didn’t know what she did to deserve him in her life but it was a second chance at happiness she was grateful for every day.
I love you, you know that right?
Never been more sure about anything else.
I don’t know if I can do this again. It hurts.
Does it feel like you’re being consumed by a black hole?
It was the perfect explanation for her overwhelming grief. And it terrified her.
This baby was a surprise but the past few months have been the happiest of my life. Our little girl just wasn’t ready yet.
She looked like an angel. Our girl was perfect.
Joyce held onto him tighter, sobbing into the collar of his shirt and as they held each other she felt her own shoulder dampen with tears. She wished she could cry them all for him.
Something I told the kid - right now we’re halfway happy. We get up and try to live out the day and it’s a compromise. But one day it will get easier.
Halfway happy. I can do that.
I can too, Byers. I’ve got you.
And just like that, she's seventeen again and Jim Hopper is leaning against his dad’s Oldsmobile with a smoke between his teeth. He’s got that crooked grin and a knowing look in his eye that tells her that everything may be shit now but there’s a promise of good things to come.
When she finally gets out of bed she finds he’s already run the bath for her and she eats off a paper plate and lets the noise of the movie drown out her thoughts.
Every day it would get easier.
The red of the alarm clock told Joyce it was 6:00 am. When she sat up she found her family in bed with her. Will and El were coiled at the foot of the bed and the sounds of Jim making coffee in the kitchen rang through the house.