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A Glimpse Beyond the Illusion

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The cries of a child unmade.

“Kid, hey, stay still for five goddamn seconds, can you?”

Though the tone could be produced in a form that was anything but kind, genuine even, there was nothing more prominent than that of the sheer concern ridden within. The continued shakes, the epileptic-like motion that were taking over his (other) little girl were all terrifying, all consuming.

“Elle - Jane,” he would have to get used to that, “hold on just another minute, okay? We’re almost there.”

Her frame is light, too light in his protective embrace, resting against his chest and thudding gently to and fro as his pace of light jogs transform into a harsh, desperate run. Overwhelming, drowning alarms accompanying the scarlet smudges upon the walls, the grounds, the halls – he promised (learning the true meaning of the word from she who practically slumps within his arms) to return for the fallen superhero later.

When it was safe to do so – it’s what Joyce deserved.

He really didn’t have the time for that in the moment, without anything to be completed, redeemed for the man who’d undoubtedly drawn them all to safety and allowed departure from the laboratory. Bob was a good guy, and Hopper cannot cease the sickening tune in his gut at the thought of his horrid end. But he couldn’t focus on that, not now. Not when a far more pressing matter, a matter that could be helped and changed sits in front of him. Desperately and with so much virtue.

Without an inclining notion on how to properly help the child before him, though, it did not take long to realise attention was needed solely against her wilting frame; he needed to get her home. Between the deep smudges, the endless crimson, and the standing (though evidently fading) veins coursing her young embodiments: the child’s face was a complete mess – no two ways about it. As though a portrait had been granted to a youngling no more than the age of three, a paintbrush in hand and had been told to do with it what they liked. Almost like scribbles, untamed though slowly dispersing; veins against her forehead, her cheeks and surrounding faint chestnut hues.

Irises that now lean back in an alarming state, small frame shaking in unison with the males frantic steps. His leaps. He couldn’t believe this was happening; as if the child has not had more than enough upon her ever frail shoulders. And yet, unsurprisingly, she more than pursued. Though with the haunting notion of secrecy within the town of Hawkins and her unwanted involvement, there was hardly a shock – and he should have been more prepared.

Upon the gravel roads, the parking lot of Hawkins Laboratory rests beneath desperate tumbles and the rush of two feet, unaware as the male rips open the passenger’s doorway, more or less shoving the child inside. Unable, though desperately desiring to silence, or even block out the fragile whimpers and struggles that excel the powerful girl’s bodice.

Hopper couldn’t begin to explain it even if he tried; the illuminating expressions witnessed no more than a half hour prior, the resonating abilities that she held in the palm of her hands – but more so in the apple of her eye.

“Jane, hey, I need to strap you in, okay? I prom- ah, shit!”

Jim relents and falls against the open door, the passenger side holding his brief weight. Cradling his cheek, (merely upon reaction, not the fact that she has stimulated pain) after her dismayed flail and uncontrolled actions. A simmering slap to his nose, his cheek, guilt pangs at his heart when he is forced to hold her hand down.

“I’m strapping you in, kid, we need to get home and you need to be… I need you to just let me get you home. We need to go home.”

The repetition is quickly thought, with grave emphasis that he believes it could stand. Safety and love crowds their destination and she needed to know that.

Her muscles relax momentarily as the heated palm against his own relaxes its tense pull, like she is listening to the plea and abiding it against the unknown forces circling her brow. It doesn’t last long, but the memory is held and Jim begins to think he could handle this. He had to; especially when he’d failed the last time.

I thought I knew, with Sara. What I was doing – when it got bad like this.

When the seatbelt is clicked into place (surprised he can hear it over the swarming inclinations in his mind, the roaring wind in his ear) and the door slammed shut behind him, he all but leaps to the opposing side. Shoving his key into ignition – under such rumbling stress that he misses it three times – he speeds out of the premises he wishes to never see again, and focuses on the sheet of darkness before him… in predominant vision.

He knows that both hands should be upon the steering wheel; that his concentration should only be upon the dimly lit dirt path that lies outside the slightly dusted windshield. But only his left hand remains situated, the other assuring the presence, the living expressions of the child. He couldn’t lose her, too. He wouldn’t.

She had grown so much in the past year, even more in the limited time that he had missed out on. When this was all over, when they were able to move on and heal together, he would go to the extent to take her to see Terry, or formulate the simplicity of adding an extra Eggo to the dessert plate. He would do anything.

The dotted stars above – though he pays little attention, mind drawn in too many places at once – issue a pathway of whispered benevolence and a light that he didn’t know existed in the time. In memory, the streets of Hawkins is a blur, but with an orientated destination that he could recite the directions if need be; the forest is near… safety so very, very far.

Fingers interlock tighter in each passing moment, brushing against the touch of Jane’s palm; at least a simmer of quiet and a sign of improvement pulsates the ragged air. The occasional twitch and exhale of bubbly breaths sounding from his right push his foot upon the accelerator even more so.

“Nearly there, Jane, nearly there, just –”

His words die in his throat, for while he wished to provide the comfort she so clearly needed to hear, to be soaked in – he knows it’s not doing any good. And rather than direct unnecessary forms of coddle, potentially losing sight and direction of the road before him, Hopper silences himself. Peaking in his posture, pushing down a tad harder upon the gas.

Sooner than later, between the scurrying animals making themselves scarce in the haste and overwhelming surroundings, the destination is met. Twisting to release his secured belt, he needs not to pursue such action, as within the compassing rapidity and action of simply getting there, he’d forgotten the procedure that now seems so silly, so unnecessary.

How the hell was a strap, a minuscule invention supposed to protect lives, with everything he’s seen? Everything he’s done? It certainly provided perspective, if nothing else.

He decides quickly, that to form path around the vehicle and approach through the passenger’s side would be unnecessary time to waste. Reaching with shaken yet determined fingers (he’d remembered her buckle – of course he remembered hers) her clasp is released, and Jane reacts with it.

No- I- ugh-”

In proximity, there was easily an overpowering base in which he could perform upon; physically take her inside, figure out how to help her, or simply wait it out. But a clench in his heart and a distaste in his hue stops him from doing so – he physically can’t. In her hallucinated state, or whatever it was coursing her veins that placed a harsh distortion against him, and his seeking aid forbade him.

“Come on, kid, let me help you, I need to get you inside.”

Rough, coursed fingers attempt a gentle trickle against her covered arm (he needed to get that damn jacket off her; she was burning up) – even with his best intentions in mind, it proves not to be the best idea.

An enlarged, dramatic “NO!” is suddenly barked from the child’s lips, she who had been cowering in on herself, protecting herself like a wounded animal, now reaching the complete opposite. With the wind knocked out of him, his back is cracked harshly against the slightly soiled grounds beneath, taking a moment to discover his sudden change in scenery. The confinement of the metallic hot box consisting only of Eleven, and the (what he so desperately wished) former life she struggles to maintain; to control.

A repeated, purposeful thud of the back of his head against the ground below, coursed from frustration, from annoyance.

“Joyce!” he screams from the tip of his tongue, preaching the name twice as he climbs to his feet, an idea compact in his head – with only high hopes that it could possibly pertain. Discarding his initial attempt to save time in the failed course to pull her over the centre of the front seats, he instead pivots himself off a differing tone.

The steps are not taken lightly as the woman descends from the rickety stars of the cabin; her eldest following close behind. A “Hopper?” sounds in the dusky air, gentle irises squinting back in the grave attempt to gaze through the night. The ever poorly lit sky providing exactly what was expected: darkness and an enveloping lack of clear vision; not unlike any endurance already faced against the young child. He would do anything to change that.

Joyce, as expected with such motherly virtue and a stain of an ever comforting presence approaches the car, led by the light from its interior. Promoting such a spirit that Hopper could never provide to the child. What he had denied her from, belief he was protecting her from something she couldn’t understand or deal with.

Yet she’d seen Terry, on her own two feet without what should have been simple guidance of an adult. He’d underestimated her again.

“Hey, sweetie, you’re okay – can you look at me?” Bent below her, Joyce’s pant legs are becoming dirtied in the ground beneath, left hand gripped upon the door beside in order to simply maintain balance. She holds little awareness to this, simply second nature; her focus is entirely upon the young girl. Her voice is loud but ever soft, soothing as the woman brushes a hand amongst Jane’s fingertips, producing an aroma holding the same tenderness as a parent breaking their child from the mists of a nightmare. Which in an undisclosed sensation: this was exactly that.

Jim and Jonathan, in unison, strain their necks and vision in order to take a glance to the females in the dirty air, but still not daring to step a foot closer. A male’s identity the last thing Jane needed in her confused (though rightly so) state of mind; betrayal of their hands and deeper tones than what Joyce could provide. The younger had initially burrowed his path directly behind his mother where Hopper had declined him of completing this, physically pulling him back.

Hopper is sure that Mike, perhaps the other boys of the claimed ‘party’ were the only ones of the gender whom she truly trusted – who bore her promise and heart.

“That’s it, I’m here, it’s Joyce,” she responds to the gentle mutter that embarks the child’s shivering, shaking lips. Tones are pushed by all weights upon the girl, comforting her, eventually, with an expression and daunting question so quiet that the two men fail to even hear a whisper of it.

“Can I take you inside, Jane? I need you to trust me, no one is going to hurt you. No one is going to touch you unless you want them to.”

Little is to be seen, apart from the mere knowledge that Joyce knew just what to do, what to say to a child she surely saw as one of her own. Jonathan had returned whence he came in the conflict of supporting the chief and falling back by his brother’s, and Nancy’s own frazzled state throughout the entire nights brace, he returned inside. Hopper simply standing, waiting, helpless within the chaotic yet eerily hushed atmosphere as he waits for something, anything to happen between the two he loved so; hands in fists by his side at the factual information set in front of him in clear, disturbed ink: there was nothing he could do.

His very spirit was enough to set his own child into a state of fear, he –

Flesh upon flesh, Jane has clearly given in, or better yet come to trust, as silently (though ragged breaths still cloud the surrounding, from who he cannot decipher), Joyce breaks the barrier between man and woman. Hopper gains a relieved sensation within his veins as they round the corner of the car previously blocking his view of them. Hand in hand, like a parent taking their descendant to the park for the first time, hurried and excited – only it’s far more morbid.

There was no need to pry the girl from the passenger seat, if there was then the elder would surely be carrying her in open arms, just as he had to in the escape from the horrid laboratory she’d called home for too long. Instead, he is offered with the sight that was beginning to seem impossible in the stretching night, perhaps it was morning now. Side by side, far from comfortable as Joyce is more or less upon her knees to reach a similar height to the girl. Right hand enveloped in Jane’s left, the mother’s opposing (awkwardly stretched) resting upon the girl’s back- protective and guiding.

A fade to Jane’s eyes, though bettered in the state that it’s clear she knows where she is going – support is somewhat her own and not padded upon her without allowance. Skin almost blemished as it is such a great hold upon Joyce’s own, “get the door, Hopper”, she instructs with an arched back as she guides Eleven – crouched and tight gripped in assuring a safe path. Whimpered noises with every step taken, the sound not unlike a dying creature hanging onto its last limbs and breaths of air.

“It’s just one step up, dear, and another, yeah – oh you’re doing so well, Jane, you can sit down in a second I promise.”

With a needed form of rest, a hardly peaceful but nonetheless coping sleep composes the youngest Byers’ boy, only to be mercilessly woken by the door being flung practically from its hinges, accompanied by the complete opposite (and a curse; clearly the door opened far harsher than the intention). As tired optics glance upon the pair slowly, cautiously entering the small wooden housing, Will glances up to his brother, Nancy rushing to the tap with a glass beneath the water stirring to life.

“She closed it?”

Eleven is quickly, though still smoothly steered towards the couch in front of the blanked television screen, small frame shaken in contortions that cannot find its cease no matter how hard the determined mind wishes. Like she was out in frigid weather, unsheltered and exposed, but the touch of her skin expressed a differing aspect.

"Mike... is...?"

The first fully comprehensive words of the night, a Hopper feels the already placed knife in his heart twist. He should have taken her to the Byers' house. Should have followed her heart rather than his own.

"Mike's not here, sweetie, you can see him really soon."

Knelt in front of her Joyce remains, both hands planted around the girls left, proof they weren’t going anywhere. Curious, watching as Eleven's eyes dart back and forth, back and forth and its consistency does not go unnoticed.

“There’s too many people in here – it’s just going to freak her out.”

By surprise, it’s Jonathan that embarks the words that were less kindly about to spill from Hopper’s own, as he closes the door behind them to properly enter the scene. Joyce leans forth with the glass in hand once passed down from the teen, the previous suggestion apparently forgotten; Jane showed clear signs of comfortability, of a safe annotation. She failed to exercise the same reactions that had been previously revealed.

From the erratic, unbalanced tone that she expressed in the beginning of the nights unbearable journey – perhaps she was aware that friends surround her.

Better yet, her family.

Brushing dainty fingertips against the boiling forehead, she smooths back the slowly softening locks that continue to grow in the days (pulled back from a practical ton of grease and hairspray, and even a tad of dye); her hand a whisper of a touch should she need to pull back quickly. Eleven had every reason to despise a touch of confused comfort – even if this was all Joyce, and Hopper slowly sitting beside her were trying to offer.

The mere company (despite Jonathan’s warns that perhaps some should leave), seeming to settle into her heated bloodstream.

“Is…” her words begin slowly, startled, and she takes a tight hold upon Hopper’s hand that ghosts upon her own, unsure if he should have reached for it or not; Jane confirms that the former was indeed the correct option in the odd decision. He had never hesitated in a touch, not after those first few weeks when she stopped cowering from his hand, and even initiated a few clasps of his aged skin as opposed to her stolen youth.

Throughout all this, though, he could never quite tame the idea as to whether she placed trust in him. Within the current course, improvement was indeed present in her core, while her hand is a bite of heat upon his own – she was settling in a development he hadn’t expected. It’s only now that the idea swarms his conscious; a quick glance in the movement of Joyce’s comforting hand that he realises the almost implanted veins have run their course of misery. At least she is freed from the physical hold – he was curious about this. Worried some form of scarring would forever possess her, just like that damned tattoo on her arm.

“Is Will oka-y?”

“Take this, Jane, slowly.”

Joyce, in a vision that Jane was relaxing against Hopper’s figure and the plush of the couch, holds the glass up to the chapped lips, what seemed like a thousand miles away. And yet she was slowly dawning back to them – like something they had fished for and were able to finally draw in.

The gulps seen from the harsh yet strangely gentle bobble of her throat release Joyce’s own sigh of timid relief; at least she was getting some fluids into her clearly drained form. When the glass is emptied (pleasantly surprising) in clear exhaustion Jane more or less collapses against the man beside, evidently drawing Joyce’s hand away, combing through somewhat sticky locks.

“Did you want another drink?” Before she can even attempt an answer, Will, new glass in hand forms presence beside his mother and hands it down to the girl – not quite following in the elders action of holding the glass upright to her lips. Shaken hands take it, balancing slowly as the water inside quickly stills, and Eleven gains a tight grip upon it. Another good sign.

“Thank you,” she murmurs, with a hint of almost shyness, like she wishes to cower further into Hopper’s arm. Instead, she arcs her spine so it’s straight against the back of the couch and places upmost focus into Will – into his eyes, his figure, everything he can possibly offer to her. A quiet conversation, a gentle thanks from both ends and Will subtly replaces Jim’s positioning against Eleven’s side, more one sided as the boy mumbles gentle, soothing words that both Joyce and Jonathan gaze upon with nothing but a proud mannerism.

Words mumbled however, as the two adults direct slowly, softly to the far edge of the kitchen, occupied by the teens as the situation is practically deduced in their hands. Will and Jane needed rest – surely they’d be in the arms of sleep within minutes. That was the high hope of the rest of the evening, at least.

“She’ll be okay, Hopper,” Nancy speaks first, in clear memory and indication of the brief, albeit admired endurance with the younger.

Her name was Eleven.

“They both will be,” hues turn quickly to Joyce, a littered smile gracing her thin features, speaking in such fondness as though the children were her own. Soon enough, between Hopper informing them of The Gate, the asset that the child beyond her years not only wielded, but pursued in such raw strength, and Joyce relieving the experience of her son’s heated endurance – the night passes between the four as time has no meaning. Comprehension of their surroundings are more or less dimmed until Jonathan takes note of the time (ten past three) and asks if Hopper wished for them to stay.

“Whatever you need, whatever she needs.”

“I think I should deal with this on my own – there’s… some things we need to work out.” Gruff and stubborn, but so incredibly thankful to the trio who surpasses him in every way possible; perhaps it was selfish he wanted the girl all to himself as the morning rises. He is about to argue the thought if they are too tired to drive in the mists of the morning air that they can stay; “I can drive” Nancy retorts quickly, triggering the leave of absence.

“If you need us Hopper, just call,” Joyce doesn’t forget to mention, the words probably stuck on her tongue in all different ways throughout the night. Now it’s my turn to be here for you and your child.

As Will is gently pried from Jane’s somewhat overlapping figure (her torso sliding slowly against his), the faint snore which continues to part the boy’s lips is a grand sign. Proof that both children fail to be disturbed even in the unconscious movement from those around them. Despite the worriedly gentle, benevolent turn of the night before the six cooped within the cabin, and the assured relief of the other occupants involved in the lurking world beneath, the plain eye of what was to be seen is hardly that of the truth.

A rushed, erratic hurricane behind the currently closed lids of the young female would be set off, that the aroma of the night’s pleasantries wouldn’t stand for long within aching memories and outbursts. Closed with the force of her own strength, The Gate and its occupants upon the alternate side hardly promoting a sense of defeat, a finish. The calm before the storm in its finest sense.