It had been only three days at the station since he had been back before something called him out to the field. He had taken a week off to make sure Eleven was recovering well after the Demodog situation and to take some time for himself. Eleven had exhausted herself to the bones closing the gate and he didn’t want to leave her alone just yet. Once he was certain he could leave her alone again, she managed to persuade him to go back to work. Now he was driving off to the woods, hastily trying to look for a familiar Beemer.
Hopper sighed when Flo came in explaining how Steve Harrington had gotten into a fight with Tommy H. causing a public scene in the neighborhood. Harrington fled to the woods quickly afterwards, looking worse for wear, Tommy was worse. He kept screaming profanities and slurs about Harrington when Hopper came to question him. When he quickly realized this kid wasn’t going to calm down, he begrudgingly drove him back to the station so he could be questioned properly. He took off to go make sure Harrington didn’t hurt himself stumbling in the woods with some nasty injuries. Powell said Tommy apparently had a firearm on him and that’s why Steve got the hell out of there.
Hopper was just glad Steve didn’t get scared enough to use his bat on Tommy. That would cause so many problems for too many reasons. After searching throughout the night for the kid he finally found a Beemer parked near the quarry around 10 something. Hopper wasn’t bothered to care as he parked his car near it and started trekking up the hill. He pulled out his flashlights and flickered it around, calling out his name. He made up near the cliffside, hoping the kid came to think or some shit. He continued to call out as he trekked uphill and noticed a light in the near distance. He felt some relief and grumbled, going faster so he could finally yell at this stupid kid. He got up to the top, opening his mouth to call out to him when he froze. The source of light was from a lone lantern resting near the edge, next to a figure. Someone who was dangling their legs on the edge of the cliff, staring down into the quarry.
He saw the hair and felt the air leave his lungs; he knew it was Harrington. Hopper felt himself question in that moment when was the last time he had seen or even heard from Mrs or Mr Harrington? Hopper didn’t know if he was reading the situation wrong or not but he knew he still had to tread lightly. He didn’t want to scare the kid and cause him to fall, god he’d never forgive himself for that. He decided to make sure his presence known by purposely stepping on frosted leaves and twigs, and aiming his flashlight at him. The kid’s head lifted up but he made no move to acknowledge him, staring straight in front of him.
“Kid? That you?” Nothing. He slowly stepped closer, being very cautious.
“Hey, maybe you should back up kid, the quarry won’t save a fall from up here…” He tried again. Okay, he should have said something better than that.
Still nothing, not a word, not a sound, not a single move. The kid just sat there listening but not moving and it was making Hopper worried. Last time he’d seen Steve, the kid had been concussed on the couch at the Byers house after getting into that fight with that Hargrove kid. This seemed worse than that, sure Steve had been bleeding, loopy and exhausted as hell but here he looked small as he stared at the vast woods below. It was unnerving.
He slowly edged closer, making his steps loud and clear as he cautiously made his over. Any wrong move and this kid goes over. He sat down a foot away from the kid and the edge, leaving his light on next to him. “Kid?” He tried again; voice unnaturally soft. Hopper was the greatest with kids but he tried his damn best. Steve had turned his head away from him as he got closer, looking down sideways at the quarry. He can see some cuts and bruises forming his pale skin and he has to suck in a wince. The kid didn’t look nearly as bad as his last shuffle but he’d need to be cleaned up.
Hopper sighed and shifted to get comfortable, he wasn’t going to leave the kid up here alone on the edge of a cliffside, especially banged up. Hopper looked up at the dark sky and let himself relax for a moment, while keeping some alertness incase Harrington felt the need for a high dive. The stars looked absolutely beautiful from up on the cliff, so bright and far away, you could even see galaxies. No city could compare to this view, it was breathtaking. Hopper wondered when he last time he just sat down and looked at the stars. He should buy a telescope and take Eleven up here to star gaze, she’d love it.
A shift in movement catches his eye and he immediately focuses on it. Harrington is moving around a bit, shifting back almost nervously. He still refuses to acknowledge Hopper head on. Hopper didn’t mind, he could wait all night, whatever the kid’s going through must be tough. It takes Steve ten solid minuets before he speaks up.
“What do you want?”
“Excuse me?” Hopper is caught off guard by the question. He swears his heart breaks bit at the utterly exhausted, tired and sad tone in his voice. His posture changed from being ridged to slumped over, his head hanging low below his shoulders. He looks so small.
“I said, what do you want Hopper? Why are you here.” He says again, his voice quiet and muffled. Hopper just sits there for a second, blinking at him. “Why am I here? I’ve been looking for you kid.”
“Its because of the fight with Tommy, isn’t it? Don’t worry I won’t be starting any fights no more.” Hopper feels a chill run up his spine at the statement. Its firm and harsh, his voice breaking halfway through.
“Well, that’s part of the reason, yes. But I’m also worried about you kid.” Wrong choice of words.
Steve’s head snaps up and whirls toward him, as he sneers. “Worried? Worried? That’s rich Hopper! Since when is anyone worried about me? I’m Steve Harrington, no one’s worried about me.” He barks out, scoffing at him.
Hopper nearly reels back at his tone, about to get defensive but, he doesn’t. The raw pain and emotion in Steve’s eyes stop him, this kid looked hurt, he looked nothing like the rich kid whose parties he had to stop due to a noise compliant. His face still has bruises from Hargrove with fresh ones coming in, dried cuts littering his face, tired bagged doe eyes. What the hell happened?
“Come on kid, let’s just, just talk to me alright?”
“What is there to say?” He snapped.
“Jesus, uh, let’s start with why you started a fight with Tommy.”
Steve freezes, and looks back at his shoes which are still dangling off the side of a goddamn cliff! Hopper waits a bit, letting the kid take his time with it. Steve lets out a defeated sigh, shaking his head. “It’s all Tommy’s fault,” Hopper opens his mouth but Steve quickly interjects. “And I don’t mean that like I won’t admit when I’m wrong. He showed up to my house and started shit in my own home.” He defended. Hopper quickly shut his mouth and made mental notes.
“He banged on the door till I opened up and he shoved me aside so he could sway his way in as if he owned the place. He started messing with things and breaking my stuff. I got pissed cause that’s not cool, I kept asking him and eventually yelling at him to leave..”
Steve scoffed. “If he did, I wouldn’t look like this.”
Hopped nodded and urged him to keep going.
“He started saying some bullshit on how my ex was a slut and how Billy kicked my ass like it was nothing, but he, he took it to far when he mentioned Barb.”
“Barb Holland?” He nodded.
“He kept saying things like, like how the world was better off now that she was gone… and he kept saying that her death was my fault.”
“How could it ever be your fault?” Hopper interjected.
Steve stared at his shoes, shoulders slumped heavy as if he carried a mountain of guilt, Hopper hated it.
“She died in my pool. The Demogorgon dragged her under and took her to the upside down.” Hopper tensed. Tommy H. of course did not know about the stuff that went down that night, but to seriously blame a person who only housed a party was messed up. Hopper wasn’t even aware of the fact that barb had died due to that monster, nor the fact that it had happened at Steve’s house.
“He kept calling me heartless since I never mourned Barb, he kept calling me names. As if I don’t lie awake a night, feeling like the world’s biggest asshat. Sometimes…” Steve started up again, voice low and vulnerable and It hurt. “And sometimes, I can hear her screaming for help… I should’ve paid more attention…”
“after that I, I punched him and he screamed, probably getting the neighbors attention, before he tackled me.” He said weakly. Hopper wasn’t focused on the fight anymore, more on Steve’s feelings on Barb’s death.
“Kid you cant jus-“
“Well I do, so don’t. Her death happened because I kept pressuring Nancy, Barb didn’t even want to go.” He snapped.
Hopper sighed and ran a hand over his face. “Kid, so many people die on the force all the time. What I wouldn’t give to go back and find a way to prevent it. I could have done something but, we don’t control life or death.”
Steve seems to look up at that, but, not at Hopper. He’s staring straight ahead and his shoulders shake twice as a wind sweeps over them. “That is not always the case.” It’s a numb whisper, but it fills Hopper with panic. Fuck, this was something he was worried about. He didn’t want to assume the situation was like that, but of course it was.
“Kid, please sit back.”
“Because it’s dangerous for you to be sitting that close- Christ! Just, lean back a little at least!”
“ Why? Hopper why shouldn’t just lean forward and let the waves embrace me?” His voice is shaky and Hopper is getting ready to haul the kid back himself if he has too.
“Who would care? Tell me one person who’d care what’d happen with my body?” He asks, voice cracking.
“I would, kid.”
He expects Steve to laugh bitterly, say ‘you don’t know me enough to care’, lash out, something harsh or just jump. He doesn’t, Steve physically freezes and his breathing catches in his throat and he chokes on it. He turns slightly to him, eyes watery and mouth agape. “What?”
“Steve, I care. If you jumped right now, I’d never forgive myself. You’re a great kid who’s just made some mistakes. You deserve to live and fix those mistakes and be a real person.” He said genuinely, he can’t count how many of these situations he’s been in that hadn’t ended well.
Steve just stares with wide glassy eyes, looking so surprised by his answer. Jesus did this kid seriously have no one else? Hopper sighs and he feels angry at his parents, where the hell even where they? He hasn’t seen those two in years- Oh shit.
“I don’t know the relationship you have with your parents,” he hates how the kid tensed up at that. “or the wheelers or byers. But I want you to know that I do care, I wanted to take you to the hospital for your head to get checked up after what Hargrove did but you had left before I could and I had to take Eleven alone. Hell, if you would’ve stayed any longer and refused, I would have dragged you to my cabin to check you up. You were pretty banged up.” Hopper paused.
“Speaking of, did anyone check up on you? At all?” The pained look gave it away. Jesus Christ.
“No one? Henderson? Byers? Hell, Nancy Wheeler?” He tried, Steve just looked down at the ground, shrugging weakly. This kid really had no one, no one from the group of survivors checked up on him, didn’t spare him a second thought. Guilt weighed heavily as he realized he was also someone who just forgot about him, he was too worried about El.
“Jesus kid, that’s bad.” He says and Steve snorts. “Look, I know it’s not much, but if you need to talk, kid, I’m right here. I care, but don’t tell anyone.” Steve chuckles at that, breaking off into a broken laugh, his shoulders start shaking as it turns into sobs. Hopper sighs, sets his flashlight aside and pulls Steve into arms. He’s ready for some resistance but the kid practically melts into his arms, clinging to him as he sobs. He pulled him away from the edge and the kid follows willingly, letting himself get rocked in the chief’s arms. He pulls the teen close, tucking his head into his chest as he rubs circles into his back to comfort him. Hopper can’t bring himself to care about how wet his shirt is getting; at least the kid was safe.
It takes twenty-two minutes for Steve to calm down, he’s reduced to sniffles as he hugs Hopper tightly. Hopper just lets him, who knows the last time he had a hug. After a few tense minutes Steve finally moves out his arms rubbing at his red eyes. Hopper watches him as he sits there, looking way smaller than a 17-year-old should. Hopper sighs and stands, helping Steve up, dusting off his uniform.
“Come on kid, let’s get down off this cliff.” Steve grimaces.
“Do I have to go to the station for questioning?"
Hopper shrugged. “Not if I haven’t found you.” His face twisted up in confusion, he cocked his head at him. “Come on kid, it’s late and your in no condition to do some questioning. Let’s just save that for a later date okay?” Steve nods and follows Hopper into the woods and down cliff without another word, carrying his lantern with him. When they make it to the cars, Hopper stops him before he could get in. “Nope, your riding with me.” He was met with a groan
“C’mon Hop, I don’t need a ride home.”
“Did you seriously think I’d leave you by yourself after that? Kid your coming to the cabin with me and El for tonight.”
Steve whirls around quickly, nearly knocking into him by surprise. “What?” Hopper rolled his eyes. “Steve, you almost jumped tonight, I meant what I said. I care about you and I do not feel comfortable leaving you alone. Plus, El would love the company.” Steve looks down, kicking at the dirt with his battered sneakers and Hopper nearly scoffs at the sight. Teenagers.
“Yeah… okay, I’d like that…” He says softly and Hopper nods, ushering the kid in front of him and into his truck. The drive to his cabin is quiet but Steve seems to enjoy it so he doesn’t start small talk. He just turns the heater up all the way to make sure the kid doesn’t break some bones with all the shaking he’s doing. The get there quickly, the quarry not far from his place and they both got out and shuffled up to the door.
Hopper does his secret knock, putting up to signal Steve to wait. He waits for a few minutes before relief floods him with the door clicks open and furious El is standing in it’s place. Oh no.
“Sorry, I had to save Steve.”
Eleven’s anger quickly dissolves as she turns to Steve with wide eyes. “Bad men?” She asks quietly. Steve shakes his head, not meeting her eyes. “No, I almost did something stupid… bad stupid.” She looks confused but Hopper doesn’t let him explain. “We can continue this inside, El move over its freezing and Steve might catch hypothermia. Eleven fires with life and moves out the way immediately dragging Steve in by his arms. She makes him sit down and quickly goes to find some blankets and pillows. Hopper shrugs his coat off and makes his way to the kitchen to make hot chocolate while El takes care of Steve.
Eleven stops in front of Steve with her arms full of blankets, holding them up to Steve with determined eyes. “Warm.” Steve accepted her offerings and spread them out and doesn’t complain when she joins him in the warm heap of blankets. She turns to him with big curious eyes and Steve feels dread creep into him.
“How did Dad save you?” She asks.
He sighs, and looks away. “um, have you ever felt like things would never get better?” He glances up and sees her nod. “Have you ever felt like no one cares or gets how you feel?” He asks again and she sadly nods. “Sometimes, sometimes those feelings are too much, they um, they overwhelm you.” He pauses, sucking in a gulp of air. “It makes you sad, like really sad. So sad you don’t want to be here anymore, cause you can’t feel happy anymore.” He tries, not knowing how should phrase this. She’s fucking 12, he shouldn’t be having this conversation with her, but to be fair she’s seen more death than he’d could imagine.
“So sad, you don’t want to be here? Like move?” He shakes his head.
“Leave the world.” He replies shakily.
“Death?” She asks after a quiet moment and he nods. She pauses, thinking over what he’s said before placing her small palm on his shoulder. “Here., I understand, I care, I’m here.” Steve just stares down at her, did she really understand? “I bad things before, make me sad, feel bad, want to, disappear. Dad made it better.” Her words wash over him sadly, as he considered her choppy words. She really did understand.
“Yeah, Hopper manages to make things, better doesn’t he?” He says weakly, smiling softly. She smiled back giving him a nod. Her grip tightens a bit on his shoulder, gaining his attention. “Together, make things better?” She asked and felt his chest tighten as he nodded. “Hop won’t let me leave so yeah, together.” She smiles and holds her arms out for a hug and he accepts it and embraces her. “I won’t let you leave either.” She mumbles into his chest and he barked out a surprised laugh.
Hopper comes back with three mugs of cocoa with broken halves of eggo’s in them with whipped cream and cinnamon. He sets on the table and smiles at the two who were engrossed in a happy conversation. The two seemed to bond easily, drinking their drinks and laughing genuinely the whole night. Hopper leans back with his own mug and smiles to himself; maybe two kids wouldn’t be so bad.