They had been at this for hours.
Joyce had gone upstairs, leaving Hopper downstairs with Murray and Smirnoff. Smirnoff was watching the television, a shit eating grin stretched across his face. Hopper shook his head at the sight and knew that there was no point in trying to get anything out of the man when everyone was this tired. They had walked for God knows how many miles in the heat. The sweat was pouring off his body just thinking about how hot it was, not to mention all the bugs that seemed attracted to him and only him. Hell, when he sat back against the couch and thought about it, that was just the tip of the iceberg for how insane their day had been. He felt a soft smile tug a his lips as he thought of how Joyce had lost her temper at Murray when they first arrived.
“What’s got you smiling?” Murray asked, coming from the kitchen and handing Jim a drink before plopping down on the couch.
“Hm? Nothing,” Jim replied. He gave the man a nod and glanced down at the drink in his hand. He frowned, realizing it wasn’t alcohol.
“Spare me, Jim Hopper,” Murray glared at him, taking a swig at his drink. “You haven’t so much as cracked a smile until now.”
“Well, forgive me if recent events have kind of soured everything.”
Smirnoff let out a fit of laughter at whatever he was watching, causing Hopper to roll his eyes and gesture to his obvious annoyance.
Murray ignored him, pushing his glasses up. “I think a certain little lady upstairs is the cause for your sudden spike in giddiness.”
Hopper set his drink on the counter and shrugged. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I don’t? Joyce goes upstairs to do whatever she is doing, maybe taking a shower? And I can only imagine the explicit direction your thoughts have most definitely taken.”
“Woah!” Hopper felt his voice getting loud, catching the attention of Smirnoff. The Russian merely glanced at them and then turned his attention back to the television. “That is not at all what I was thinking about!”
“Really?” Murray laughed. “Then please tell me how you weren’t thinking about Joyce.”
Hopper glared at him. “Fine. I was thinking about her. But, Jesus Christ, cut me some slack. I wasn’t thinking about her in your shower.” Hopper grimaced as saying the words brought a mental image to his mind. Joyce’s naked body standing underneath the showerhead as hot water cascaded down her body. The steam from the heat rising around her. Her hands rubbing up and down her body, the soapy water dripping down her skin. The way her breasts would look as the water-
Hopper suddenly shifted in his seat, attempting to hide his growing arousal. “I was thinking about how she bossed you around earlier.”
Murray considered his words. “Yes, she’s rather bossy.”
“Yeah,” Hopper said slowly, wondering where his friend was going with this. “She is.”
Murray gave him a long look. “Despite her screaming at me when you all first arrived, I can see that she’s a kind person.”
Hopper nodded slowly. “What makes you say that?”
“Well, for starters, it would take someone incredibly kind to help heal you.”
Hopper sucked in air and found himself choking uncomfortably. What the fuck? Why would Murray even say something like that?
“I see the way you both look at each other,” Murray continued, watching with indifference as Hopper recovered from his little choking bit.
“We aren’t looking at each other like anything” Jim said, his tone serious.
“Oh, come on. You mean to tell me that you two aren’t a thing?”
“Not even just hooking up?”
“Jesus, Murray. Shut up.” Hopper said, glancing up at the stairs. “Drop it before she hears you.”
“Ah, I see, I see! Something must have happened to cause all this turmoil between you two.” Murray reasoned, clearly not worried about Hopper’s fear of Joyce overhearing them. “That's the second indication that led me see how kind she is.”
“What?” Hopper found himself speaking lowly. He knew he had a dangerous look in his eye. He could feel Smirnoff gazing between the two of them with interest, his annoying show forgotten.
Murray leaned forward, stating it like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Kind people are kind because they know the world isn't.”
Hopper looked at him, bringing his hand up to rub his beard. He wasn’t appreciating where this conversation was going. It was entering sensitive territory. He considered what Murray said and almost found himself laughing bitterly. He swallowed down the anger as he thought of what Joyce had gone through with Lonnie. He had seen the marks. He had seen some of those fucked up scars that she kept hidden so well under long sleeves. He had seen the cigarette burns and the scared look in her eye when he gazed upon them for too long. The physical pain that fucker put her through was what made her kind? Not to mention the emotional pain of having to try and live with verbal and physical abuse. That made her kinder?
Everything she went through losing Will and having everyone think she was insane. People making jokes. People thinking she had lost her mind as she told them her son wasn’t really dead? Everything she is still going through with the loss of Bob. She had watched her boyfriend get ripped into by those dogs. Watched his bloodied hand reach out to her. All that fucked up shit made her kinder?
Hopper felt himself clenching the edge the couch. As he thought of everything, he realized how much an asshole he had been the last few hours. He was hurt from being stood up. He really liked Joyce and was embarrassed from everything that happened. But as he thought about everything that had happened, he found himself getting less angry and a little bit more guilty. She had been so worried about those magnets, so worried about having to relive everything they had already gone through with Will...It was no wonder that she stood him up. Yeah, his feelings were still hurt, and he was not really sure of how Joyce felt for him, but he felt a lot of his anger towards her melting away.
She really was kind. But, Hopper didn’t think she was kind because of her past. No. Joyce was just one of those people that was inherently nice.She saw the good in people, maybe even people who didn’t deserve it. Maybe that’s what Murray meant moments ago. It would take someone incredibly kind to help heal you. Hopper knew he was a broken man. He knew that his past was something that had deeply hurt him, and that because of that he wasn’t able to open up like he should, and still, Joyce was always standing there with him. She never made him feel like less. She never made him feel broken.
She made him feel whole.
Joyce knew what it was like to suffer, and perhaps that alone didn’t make her kind, but it made her understand. She understood how fucked up the world could be and how fucked up it could leave you feeling. It didn’t matter who you were either. She had been nothing but kind to this dumbass Smirnoff. He thought back to how she had been trying to communicate with him about her magnets and fought the urge to smile at how absurd everything was right now.
“Yeah, um,” he cleared his throat. “Joyce is tough.””
Murray gave him a look. “I mean, I know she has been through because her kid told me some, but-”
“No, you have no idea.” Jim growled out, suddenly becoming defensive. He knew how private Joyce was, and she already seemed rather wary with Murray, considering he had in fact pointed a gun in their faces. He had no idea what all Jonathan and Nancy had told him when they came for their visit, but he would bet they didn’t cover everything in detail He didn’t want Joyce to feel like he was betraying her trust.
“I’m just saying, Hopper, you don’t seem-”
“No,” he hissed out. “Stop. Joyce has been through some shit you can’t even imagine. That’s all you get to know. That’s all you deserve to know. Your job isn’t to try and analyze her, or me, or our god damn relationship. Your job is find out what Smirnoff here knows about the Russians and their weapon. So, I think you will kindly back off. And seriously, you better not say a word to Joyce. If you say anything to her, and I mean anything, it won’t be pretty.”
Murray gave a sigh and shrugged. He could tell Hopper was in love with this woman, that much was obvious. He could also tell there were a lot of issues stemming from something they haven’t discussed, because their incessant bickering was starting to get on his last nerve.
“Did you guys figure anything out?” Joyce’s voice broke their tension as she walked down the stairs.
“Oh, um…” Hopper stuttered, looking at Joyce. He shifted on the couch again and seemed to be at a loss for words. He seemed utterly flustered, like a kid who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
Murray rolled his eyes. “We were just talking about how kind you are.”
Joyce scrunched her nose and looked at them skeptically. Hopper’s face was a bright shade of red, a mixture of embarrassment and what was predictably anger.
Murray let out a laugh. “Kidding. We figured out that we’re all really hungry. Hopper is going to go to Burger King.”
Hopper gaped at Murray and then opened his mouth to protest when Joyce cut in.
“Hmm, that sounds nice,” Joyce gave them a small smile, clearly recovering from Murray’s previous statement. “Did you ask Alexei if he wanted anything? We should probably get him something. I’m sure he’s hungry.”
Hopper shot an irritated glance at Murray, who simply gave him a quick wink.