A/N its short but its something I've been toying with to occupy myself until S3 hits.
Saturday, November 12, 1983.
Jim Hopper was no stranger to hospitals. Between having lost Sara and his parents and taking on shifts sitting with the families of officers injured in the line of duty, it seemed to him that he'd spent a disproportionate share of his life in some waiting room or another. Waiting for test results. Waiting for news. Waiting for the world to come crashing down around him. When Will Byers woke up and the wait turned into a happy reunion, Hopper felt like a third wheel (even if he was actually the seventh wheel) and he quietly slipped outside. He'd barely lit a cigarette and begun to contemplate the events of the last week when a car pulled up behind him. He knew before the balding man in a dark suit emerged that it was meant for him. Resigned to the deal he had struck, Hopper cast his lit cigarette to the ground and got into the waiting car.
The two men driving the darkly tinted vehicle didn't say a word as they drove Hopper past the edge of town to the twisting road that led to Hawkins National Lab. When the vehicle stopped, he waited for the door to open, knowing without needing to be told that he would not be able to open it from the inside. Hopper followed the first dark suited man into the building while the second man remained in the driver's seat. Uniformed soldiers flanked each doorway, standing guard as Hopper was led into the bowels of the building. He mentally prepared himself to be returned to an interrogation room and was mildly surprised to instead be deposited into a wood paneled conference room.
"Wait here," the dark suited man told him finally speaking the first words of the evening.
As the doors closed, Hopper could see a pair of soldiers resume their position on either side of the door and he knew he would be sitting in that conference room until whoever it was who sent for him decided to release him. Hating the knowledge that he was under someone else's control, Hopper decided that the most rebellious thing to do under the circumstances would be to not perform for the cameras he assumed were watching. He poured himself a glass of water from the carafe placed at a wet bar at one end of the room with forced casualness and made himself comfortable in the chair at the head of the table before lighting a cigarette as though this was his meeting and he was the one patiently waiting for everyone else to get their shit together and show up.
He was only halfway through his cigarette when an older man with walked into the room as though Hopper had been invited out to lunch instead of practically kidnapped. "Chief Hopper?" the question was so utterly unnecessary that not even the man waited for any sort of answer or acknowledgment, "Dr. Sam Owens. Pleasure to meet you."
That was his first of many encounters with Dr. Owens. Unlike his predecessor, the good doctor was affable, at least on the surface, but he was also a government man through and through. He was there to execute a cover up, to erase the events of the preceding week at whatever cost. This was not Hopper's first experience with a government sanctioned cleaner and in his experience, their methods weren't markedly different than their mafia counterparts. He certainly knew enough to know that the men who did that sort of work could make anything...and anyone for that matter...simply disappear for the convenience of the greater good.
The deal Owen's put to him was simple: Owens would put Brenner's genie back in the bottle, Hopper would keep things nice and quiet.
"And keep an eye out for her," Owens cautioned Hopper as he slid an open file across the table with a picture of a child with buzzed hair and a haunted expression clipped to it. Subject 011. Their little science experiment. "She doesn't look like much, but that kid's got one hell of a body count. As a matter of public safety, she needs to be recovered."
Saturday, December 17, 1983
Hopper lost track of how long he'd been sitting on the floor, holding Eleven to his chest and stroking her shorn hair. Long enough for his legs to fall asleep and his back to ache.
"Ok, kid," he finally told her, "I'm gonna make you a deal."
"Deal?" she asked uncertainly, looking up to meet his eyes.
"Yeah, a deal. Like an agreement? You know what an agreement is?"
"You can use the TV to go visit Mike as often as you want just so long as you don't let him know. You don't want to put him at risk, do you?"
She shook her head.
"Good girl. Now, how about you and me have some dinner?"
She nodded obediently and gave her cheeks a final wipe with the back of her hand. There was something so innocently childlike about the gesture that it pained Hopper even more than the effort it took to pull himself up off the floor. Hooper lumbered into the kitchen, stretching his back as he pulled out things necessary for a basic dinner.
"You wanna help?" he suggested when he noticed Eleven staring at him.
She didn't respond, but ventured into the kitchen with him, placing herself in closer than normal proximity to him. Hopper mentally celebrated this as a win and proceeded to show her how to light the gas stove and boil water for the pasta. She jumped a little when the blue flame popped up and even smiled at her own reaction. He showed her how to brown some ground beef to add to the canned tomato sauce and stepped back to admire the tranquility of the domestic scene he'd just set.
Maybe that little bit of contact with the Wheeler kid was just what she needed, he thought to himself. Maybe she wasn't beyond saving. Maybe this could all work after all.
And then Eleven brushed a dish towel too close to the gas stove and it caught fire.
Eleven didn't really register the exact words Hopper used, but they were loud and sharp and his hands on her upper arms were large and restraining. After he'd successfully moved her out of the way and safely extinguished the dish towel, he turned to find Eleven frozen in place, trembling and staring up at him with huge eyes that brimmed with unshed tears.
Hopper sighed. One step forward, two steps back.
"Talk to me, kid," he told her gently, desperate for information that would help him get through to her. "Tell me why you're afraid."
Eleven's desire to appease Hopper through obedience warred with her reluctance to say anything about the lab and she finally settled on, "You're mad."
"I'm not mad," he assured her, "You scared me and I shouldn't have yelled. I'm sorry, okay? But I'm not mad."
"Promise?" her voice cracked a little and Hopper cursed himself.
"I promise," he reassured her. "Look, kid. I need you to tell me something, ok? I need you to help me understand. When the bad men got mad at you, what happened?"
Eleven's trembling increased and she closed her eyes and balled her fists tying to get control of herself.
"Dark room," she whispered as though she was afraid that speaking the words aloud might lead the bad men to her.
"They put you in a dark room? What, as some kind of a punishment?" Hopper asked her.
Eleven responded with only a slight nod. Her eyes still closed, her fists still clenched.
"What did the dark room look like?"
She opened her eyes and looked around her for something to compare it to. When she gestured with her arms to show it was a room roughly the size of a closet, he realized why she didn't want him to close the bathroom door."
"How dark was it?" Hopper hoped he wasn't over playing his hand, but the more he knew about her past, the more he could help her. "Was there any light?"
She shook her head with the barest possible movement.
"How long would they leave you in there?"
She shrugged because, in truth, it wasn't possible to tell how long you were in a place like that. She merely answered, "Long. Hungry."
Hopper struggled to contain his reaction lest Eleven think his anger was directed at her. He'd seen the effect solitary confinement had on hardened street thugs, using it to control a small child was a form of psychological torture.
"Ok, kid," he got down low and very softly tipped her chin up in order to make eye contact with Eleven. "There's no dark room here. And rules are important - especially our don't be stupid rules - but nothing like that is ever going to happen to you here, ok?"
She considered the man standing before her. Large like Papa and the bad men, but so very different. And Mike said she could trust him, so did that make him a friend? If he was, she could trust him because friends don't lie. That's what Mike has taught her.
"Yes," she whispered in agreement. Still leery but transferring her absolute trust in Mike to Hopper.
"That's why we have to keep you safe," Hopper explained thinking about Owens and wondering how, if ever, he could bring the man around to thinking of Eleven as anything other than the secret weapon she'd been raised to be. "So that no one can hurt you again."