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By your side

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Hopper tossed the remains of his cigarette on the ground, crushing it beneath his foot and pulled out another from the pack. He lit it, took a puff and then handed it to Joyce.

She took it between her fingers, stared at it for a moment and then handed it back. “I can’t. I need to quit.”

“Will getting onto you about quitting too?”

“Doctor’s orders actually.”

A cold chill passed over Hopper as he dropped his cigarette on the ground, crushed it, and thought about all the reasons she might have for going to the doctor.

“You okay?” He finally asked.

Her answer was so quiet that at first Hopper assumed his ears were playing tricks on him. Then Joyce said it again a little louder as if the gravity of the news was finally hitting her, “I’m pregnant. “

Hopper let his first thought slip out of his mouth before he even realized what exactly he was saying, “Are you keeping it?” He instantly started to backpedal, “That—. I didn’t mean—“

“You’re fine,” Joyce let out a long sigh and leaned against her car. “I wasn’t. I’ve got two teenage boys, I’m working a job that only barely pays the bills, I’m in no place to have a baby. But…” she trailed off.

“It’s Bob’s.” Hopper nodded his head.

“It’s Bob’s,” Joyce whispered. “He was so good with the boys. He would have been so excited.”

She began to cry again and Hopper wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close.

“I don’t want to have to do this alone again,” she cried into his jacket.

“You won’t. You’ve got the boys, you’ve got me. I’m there for you, day or night, if you need anything.”

“I can’t ask you to do that.”

“You’re not. I’m telling you, as your friend, that I am here for you. Anything you need I’m here.”

“Thank you.” She pulled away and wiped her eyes. “I must look a mess right now.”

“No. You look positively” Hopper pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. “glowing.”

“Jesus.” Joyce chortled. “Well if you’re going to be here for this pregnancy you can never refer to me as glowing ever again.”

Hopper smiled at her. “Ok. What about gleaming? Luminous? Effulgent?”

“Effulgent?” Joyce laughed a real body shaking laugh. It had been to long since Hopper had seen her do that.

“I do know words that are longer than four letters. Not a lot, but some.”

“I’ll remember that.” Joyce leaned up against him, resting her head on his chest. “And thank you.”

“Don’t mention it,” Hopper whispered, kissed the top of her head and they stood like that for the rest of the night.