Okay, so I don't have any real medical knowledge. Everything I learned about concussions, I learned from the internet and from the time my cousin fell and hit her head and had a concussion. The effects lasted over a year for her.
The first thing Jessica did when she went back into the house was go to the kitchen to check on Steve. Hopper was no longer leaning in front of him, but he was seated near him, and when Jessica walked in they both looked her way.
"Steve definitely has a concussion. His pupils aren't responding to light."
"So . . . hospital?"
"Jonathan is going to let you have his car when he gets back. It shouldn't be more than a few minutes."
Jessica sat down at the table with Steve and Hopper and they just sat in silence for a minute or two before Steve asked what she and Billy talked about. When she told them, she was kind of hesitant because she didn't know what Hopper would think. She was surprised that he seemed to agree that she'd gone about it the right way.
The truth was that Billy was still 17 and since Steve had thrown the first punch, he could potentially have gotten in trouble for it. Billy had scared Lucas, but he hadn't hurt him. If Billy had, then it wouldn't have mattered if Steve had thrown the first punch. It was stupid, because Steve hadn't been the one to try and kill someone with his fists, but that was how it was.
"Billy said he and Max really need to get home. I think he's in trouble already for letting her sneak away from the house earlier."
"I'll take care of it after Jonathan gets here. I don't wanna leave the kids alone."
When Jonathan and Nancy – no Joyce or Will - finally got there Steve and Jessica left almost immediately, Dustin deciding to stay behind with the others. Billy was still on the porch, surprisingly, his head leaning against the railing. He seemed to almost be falling asleep. They just walked on by him.
Steve and Jessica sat there for a minute before starting the car.
"How bad is it?" she asked.
"My head is still killing me – like throbbing. Noise and lights still bother me. The noise makes my head hurt worse, and the light makes my eyes hurt."
"You still feel nauseated?"
"Only if I move my head too fast. My vision gets kind of blurry too . . . sometimes."
"Okay. You probably should've mentioned that earlier. That can't be good."
Jessica started the car and backed into the yard so she could start driving down the driveway. Steve should've been at the hospital hours ago, but it was what it was. He'd been helping do something important.
She just hoped waiting hadn't caused more damage than had already been done to him.
The ER wasn't busy when Steve and Jessica arrived – there were only a few people in the waiting room – and they walked up to the registration desk to get the paperwork for Steve to get the help he needed. The receptionist gave them a clipboard, pen attached at the top, and let them take it to fill it out in the waiting room.
"I, uh . . . I can't read this," Steve said. "It's too blurry."
Jessica had noticed that he'd started squinting as soon as they'd walked into the ER, so she knew the lights were probably getting to him. She took the clipboard and pen from him and began filling the forms out for him. It was basic information: name, birthday, reason they were there. She was so tempted to put "look at his face" as the answer, but she didn't.
"What's your social security number?" she asked, and he quietly told her. "Okay, they'll probably want insurance information once we get back there. If you don't know it, you'll just have to give them the number to wherever your parents are right now."
"Great. Dad will love getting that call."
"He can deal. You need a doctor."
Once the paperwork was done and turned in, it didn't take long for them to call Steve back. Jessica was allowed to go back with him, which was good, because she would have thrown a fit if she hadn't been.
They visited the triage nurse first, a younger woman who asked Steve a bunch of questions to put in the file for his visit. She needed to know everything – how he was feeling, his pain level on a scale of one-to-ten, if the light hurt his eyes, if noise hurt his head, if he felt sick or if he had been sick, if he was tired, finding it hard to stay awake.
She warned them that since some kind of violence had obviously taken place, she would have to alert the police. Since Hopper already knew what had happened neither Steve nor Jessica made a big deal about it.
They were led to the back where the actual ER was and were placed in a small room with a bed and a chair in it. The triage nurse said it wouldn't take long for a doctor to get with them, and they didn't mind waiting. Jessica took the chair and Steve sat on the edge of the bed.
Jessica placed her elbows on her knees and leaned over to place her face in her hands. She felt like it was the first time in a while that she could actually take the time to breathe properly. Now that she and Steve were away from everyone else and not at the Byers' house, she could really believe it was over. She'd seen El, exhausted but still alive, which meant the gate was closed for good, and now they could relax.
Sure, they still had to make sure Steve was okay, but he'd been doing pretty well. He'd been great, actually. She was just scared that his being able to function and stay awake had been due to adrenaline and that his injuries would hit him worse now.
It must've hit Steve too, the fact that everything was over, because he was allowing his body to relax. He was even slumping forward a bit, letting his eyes close. If he wasn't careful, he was going to fall forward off the bed.
"Steve, don't you fall asleep. I don't think you're supposed to if you have a head wound."
"Already been asleep."
"You've been knocked unconscious. That's not the same thing." She got up and stood in front of him, put a hand under his chin to tilt his head up. "Please stay awake. For me."
She stayed there in front of him to help distract him enough to keep him awake even though he began complaining about the light being too bright to keep his eyes open. The doctor came in soon after she'd gotten up from her seat, though, and she had to move away from him.
The doctor introduced himself as Dr. Brown and shook hands with both of them before beginning to examine Steve's face.
"We will probably have to do an x-ray or a cat-scan to be sure nothing is broken, but let me just take a quick look."
The doctor touched him gently in some areas, less gently in others. When he pressed on Steve's nose, blood almost gushed out.
"Hey!" Jessica exclaimed as Steve jerked away.
"The cartilage in his nose is damaged. He may have nose bleeds for a few days, especially if he touches it or has to blow his nose." Dr. Brown reached for a tissue box that was on the counter in the room and handed it to Steve. "You will probably have sinus problems until the cartilage heals."
Steve held a tissue up to his nose as the doctor began checking the rest of his face.
"The lip will heal on its own. Just keep Vaseline or Chapstick on it, so it doesn't get too dry and then crack open again."
Dr. Brown pulled the Band-Aid off of Steve's chin and seemed sure the cut there would heal as well without any medical attention. When he pulled the Band-Aid off of Steve's head, however, he had to take a longer look at it.
"What happened here?"
"Someone hit him with a plate," Jessica said. "A ceramic one."
"Ah. Well, it's stopped bleeding on its own, so it probably doesn't need stitches. I do want to make sure the bone wasn't chipped or anything like that, so I will definitely want an x-ray done."
Dr. Brown seemed worried about Steve's cheekbone as well, once he was able to check it over just by feel alone. He said there may be a small fracture.
"I have to call in for the x-ray and cat-scan. There will probably be a 20-minute wait. Someone will come get you when the room is available. You're free to wait here while he is having those done, Miss Henderson, or you can wait in the waiting room and someone will get you once he's out."
"Okay. Thank you."
The doctor left the room and Jessica took her place back in front of Steve, who was still holding the tissue under his nose.
"Let me see?"
She grabbed his wrist and pulled gently. Steve held the tissue away – just a bit – so she could see if he was still bleeding. No blood came out right away, so she figured he was good for now.
She brought his hand up and kissed his knuckles before looking up at him.
"I really want to kiss you, but I don't want to hurt you," she admitted.
Steve wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer so he could place his head on her chest. She embraced him as well and rubbed his back as she stood there holding him.
They were going to be fine. They were there together and everything was going to be fine. The doctor would take care of everything and then they could go home – or at least go somewhere – and finally rest.
Jessica didn't feel like sitting by herself in the room while Steve was off getting his tests done, so she ended up going outside to the waiting room and pacing around. She'd been doing that, going back and forth, for about fifteen minutes when Jonathan, Nancy, and Hopper came through the ER doors.
Jessica stopped when she saw them and kind of sagged into a chair when they reached her. She explained that Steve was with the doctors getting and x-ray and cat-scan done at the moment and she was just waiting for them to call her back.
"We just wanted to check on you guys," Nancy said, voice soft and hesitant. "We . . . we won't stay long."
"I mean . . . you don't have to leave."
"We also came to get the keys to the Bimmer," Jonathan said. When Jessica looked at him with confusion, he said, "I need the keys to Steve's car so I can go get it. Hopper will take me so I can bring it here."
She'd brought Steve's jacket with her out to the waiting room and she'd been walking around with it and was still holding it. She could feel the keys in one of the pockets, so she pulled them out and handed them to Jonathan.
"What happened with Max and . . . and Billy?"
"Billy was able to drive home," Hopper said. "I followed behind him with Max in the car. If he wanted to put his life in danger, I couldn't really stop him, but I wasn't going to let him drive with a kid in the car."
"Good call," Jessica said.
"Look, we'll be back soon, okay? Once we get the car."
Jessica nodded. "Yeah. If I'm back with Steve, just let the front desk know and they'll tell me you're here."
"I . . . Can I stay?" Nancy asked.
Jessica's throat burned and she quickly agreed. "I'd appreciate that."
She watched as Jonathan and Nancy hugged each other goodbye, but once Jonathan and Hopper were gone Nancy sat beside her.
"I don't wanna not be friends with you," Nancy said quickly, almost spewing the words out. "I just – we deal with things differently and . . . and that's okay. We're different people and we want different things. But you were right. That doesn't mean we can't be friends.
Jessica nodded slowly. Honestly, so much had happened since she'd last talked to Nancy that it almost didn't matter. Yes, her feelings had been hurt from Nancy being a bad drunk, but given the fact that Steve could have died earlier, Jessica was barely even worried about whether or not she and Nancy could work things out at the moment.
"What happened after Steve and I left?"
"The kids told us all what happened, and we can't really talk about it here, but we know you guys helped El out. We'll all have to talk once everything settles."
"Yeah. Definitely." Jessica leaned back in her chair. "You and Jonathan?"
"I slept with him." Again it was blurted out, like she couldn't keep it in.
"I – okay. I really didn't need to know that, but . . . okay."
"It sort of just happened while we were away. We weren't going to share a bed and then we did, so . . ."
"Ah. Well, I mean, you like each other. You have for a while. And you both have been kind of skating around that fact, so at least it's out there now and you guys can just get on with it."
Nancy looked like she was trying to bite back a smile, but it eventually turned into a laugh.
"You and Murray would get along great."
"He pretty much said the same thing – only in a more in-your-face kind of way."
"Oh. Okay." Jessica shook her head. "What were the kids doing when you guys left?"
"Mostly figuring out sleeping arrangements. Hopper is going to take El back to the cabin, but everyone else is planning on staying with Joyce, I think."
"Oh, well, I'll probably just take Steve back to his house then, after we get done here. He needs to be able to relax without the kids around. I'm gonna stay with him, and I'll pick Dustin up tomorrow."
Before Jonathan and Hopper was able to get back, Jessica was called back to the room Steve had been in. Since Nancy was still there, Jessica asked if she was able to come back as well, and she was allowed since she was going to leave once Jonathan and Hopper got back.
The doctor let them know that the results from the x-ray and cat-scan would take about forty-five minutes to get back from the radiology department, but he was sure Steve had a concussion. They just needed to figure out how bad it was before deciding on what to do.
Once Jonathan and Hopper got back with Steve's car, they went back to the ER for a short while – Hopper held some weight there because there weren't supposed to be more than two people back with Steve at a time. They mostly wanted to make sure that Jessica was okay to drive and to see if they had gotten the results back.
They hadn't gotten the results back, but the doctor had come back with a packet of papers that explained what they should expect from the concussion. Steve having a constant headache for a while – a few days at least – wouldn't be unusual. He was going to be prescribed a pain killer for that. The fact that he'd lost consciousness hadn't been unusual either, but they should've gotten him medical attention sooner than they had.
They couldn't really explain why they hadn't, but it didn't surprise Jessica that they'd waited too long.
"Who is going to be with him the most over the next few days?" Dr. Brown asked.
"That would be me," Jessica said.
"All right. You'll need to look out for dizziness and nausea. It will come and go with the headaches. The blurred vision and the sensitivity to light and sound should go away in a few days. He still needs to see his family doctor."
Jessica nodded and looked at Steve pointedly to make sure he knew that she meant for him to actually do that.
There were other symptoms that might pop up in the future, but the doctor had explained the ones that were most common in people who were suffering from a concussion.
"As soon as we get those images back, you should be free to go home. I'll have someone come in and get your insurance information soon. If you don't have it on you, you have twenty-four hours to bring it in. You can call us with it, if it's more convenient."
"Thank you," Jessica said. "We'll get his parents to get in touch."
Once the results came back - the bone was not chipped where Billy had hit Steve with the plate, but he did have a hairline fracture on his cheekbone. It would heal itself but it would take ten to fourteen weeks - and the financial department got whatever information they could from Steve, Dr. Brown came back with the release papers and an excuse for missing a whole week of school.
"I can't miss a whole week," Steve said. "Do you know how hard it'll be for me to catch up after that? Jess –"
"I'll help you. You know I'll help you. I can bring you your assignments every day and we can work through them together. You just need to get a little better before you go back."
"The bruises will still be there," Dr. Brown said, "but the nausea should be gone, and you should be able to handle the noise and light by then. If you still have trouble, you'll need to make an appointment with your doctor."
Steve agreed, mostly so they could just get out of there, but he was still worried about the missing-a-whole-week-of-school thing. It really was going to make him fall behind for a while, no matter what Jessica said. He knew she would help him when she could, but she had to work every other day, so even if she did bring his assignments to him, he would be lost on those days. The homework didn't include whatever quizzes or tests he would miss and he usually only did okay on those when he was there to pay attention to what he was supposed to be learning. His grades were going to suffer from a week of missing school.
After getting all the information they needed from the doctor, they had to go to the hospital pharmacy to pick up the pain pills Steve would need and then they were gone.
Getting to his house was pretty much a blur because Steve dozed in the passenger seat while Jessica drove. He'd closed his eyes against the street lights and that had been it – he'd fallen asleep. He woke up to Jessica gently shaking his shoulder. The movement still jostled him and pain shot through his head.
"Sorry," she said. "We're at your house."
Steve opened the car door and pulled himself out so he could follow Jessica up the porch steps to the front door.
"Here, just sit on the couch for a minute. I'll bring you some water so you can take your medicine."
Steve didn't tell her that he felt if he sat down on the couch, he wasn't going to be able to get back up. He was so tired, and the dozing in the car hadn't helped, had actually made him even more tired, so the fact that he'd almost fallen asleep by the time Jessica had gotten back with water and pills didn't surprise him.
He took the pills and drink the whole glass of water, which may have been a mistake because he started feeling sick afterwards. He had to sit there a while to let his stomach settle.
Before they even made it off the couch, Steve heard sniffling sounds coming from Jessica. He couldn't really see her because she hadn't turned the living room light on and the only light was coming from the kitchen, but he knew she was holding back tears.
"I'm okay. It's just – it's over and – and we're safe."
"Yeah. Yeah, we're safe."
Steve brought his arm up and around her to pull her closer, but she resisted, which was something she normally didn't do, not with him.
"I'm not gonna – I won't hurt you?"
"You're not gonna hurt me," he said. "Come 'ere."
She let him pull her to him and she leaned against him carefully. Steve had to admit that his body was sore, but she wasn't making it any worse by being that close to him.
"We need to get you to bed," she said, voice quiet. "We need to get us to bed."
"That should be interesting. I don't even feel like moving."
"Well, I mean, you could sleep down here, but you probably won't be as comfortable."
Steve knew she was right, so he was eventually able to get up with her help. They struggled up the stairs, mostly because they were both so tired they were dragging their feet, but they did make it to his room.
Steve was already seated on the bed before he realized they were filthy from being in the tunnels earlier. He couldn't bring himself to care, really. They could shower in the morning and he could run a load of laundry for the sheets.
They made themselves comfortable, Jessica settling against him carefully. She placed her hand on his chest over his shirt and he grabbed it with his own so they could tangle their fingers together.
As the pills began to take effect, the pain faded from Steve's body and he just felt tired and floaty, relaxed, and he was able to drift off to sleep.
Jessica was glad that Steve was able to sleep even if it was helped along by the medicine he'd been given. She, however, didn't get to sleep until the sun was almost up. Part of it was because she wanted to make sure Steve was okay while he was sleeping. The other part was because every time she began to doze off some kind of noise would wake her up.
When she finally got to sleep, she didn't sleep for long – only a few hours. Steve wasn't beside her when she opened her eyes, but his side of the bed was still warm, so he couldn't have gotten up that much before she'd woken up.
She wanted to try to go back to sleep, but she heard the sound of Steve being sick. He must've woken up nauseated and headed for the bathroom.
She got up to go to him and was glad that he'd made it to the bathroom. She hadn't wanted to start the day cleaning vomit off the floor. He was kneeling over the toilet, almost hugging himself against it, as she made her way to his side, where she put one hand on his back and one in his hair. It was long enough she needed to push it back for him.
She noticed he was mostly dry-heaving because there was nothing in his stomach.
She rubbed his back soothingly until he began to relax into the floor, breathing heavily and groaning.
"Did I wake you?"
"No. I wasn't sleeping well anyway."
Steve moved away from the toilet, continuing until he could lean against the wall. Jessica noticed that there was bile in the toilet as she flushed it. She wondered if she should've had Steve eat before going to bed.
"This sucks," he said. "I swear, I've had hangovers that feel better than this."
"Yeah, well, hangovers don't cause concussions, last I checked."
"I woke up and I – I felt fine until I stood up to come here. I started walking and got dizzy, started feeling sick."
"I'm sorry," she said softly. "I hate that you feel this way."
"Hey, better me than you or one of the kids."
Jessica sat there with him in relative silence for the next few minutes before suggesting they take a shower since they hadn't when they'd gotten to the house.
Steve took a deep breath and let it out slowly before nodding.
"Just a quick one, though. I don't think I should be on my feet for long."
Steve and Jessica didn't get to bathe or shower together very often, but when they did they usually washed each other off. This time, however, Steve just wasn't up to it, and Jessica realized that. Her hands still felt good on him, but there was no hint of the usual arousal behind it. It was just soothing. She was quick about it, as he'd said he needed it to be, and when she took her turn under the water he leaned back against the far wall as exhaustion hit him again.
Once they were done Jessica helped Steve dry off because he got dizzy when he bent over. It was irritating feeling so helpless when he was so used to doing for himself, but he tried to let it go. It wouldn't last forever, and he knew Jessica didn't mind doing it. It would actually hurt her feelings if he tried to do it for himself when she was right there to help him, so he let her help.
"Can you make it to your room to get dressed or do I need to bring you some clothes?"
"I think I can make it."
They had no problem making it to his room. He put comfortable clothes on – it was Sunday and he had nowhere he needed to go – and Jessica raided his drawers for a pair of boxers for herself and then his closet for a T-shirt. She didn't have any extra clothes at his house since she never stayed over. Even though they had been together for almost a year now, they stayed at her house if they spent the night together. It was sad that the first night she'd spent with him in his house was because she had to take care of him.
"I'm gonna run a load in the wash. Our clothes are filthy. So are the bedclothes. We can set you up downstairs until they're done."
Steve didn't get to appreciate how Jessica looked in his clothes, but he still felt a small rush of possession – she was wearing his clothes. It was the same feeling he got when she wore his jacket when she was cold. The fact that she was wearing something of his just solidified the fact that she was his girlfriend.
Jessica helped him down the stairs, which was an interesting experience because he got dizzy and nauseated halfway down. He thought he was going to have to go back to the bathroom, but once he stopped walking everything settled again. He felt even better once he was on the couch and able to let himself just be.
"Do you need more pills?"
His head did hurt – it had been throbbing ever since he'd been sick earlier – so he nodded.
Jessica walked into the kitchen, was in there for only a minute before she came back out with a full glass of water and two of the pills.
"I'm gonna go get the stuff from the bed, but I'll make you something to eat once I get done. Okay?"
"Mm." He took the pills and sipped the water. "I love you."
She smiled a little before patting his hair. "I love you too."
Getting the clothes from the bed didn't take long, but it did make her back hurt. It wasn't a constant ache, but it hurt when she moved a certain way.
Once the sheets were in the wash, Jessica fixed Steve some toast with butter and jelly. She had to wake him up to eat, but he didn't seem to mind, though he frowned when he noticed she wasn't eating with him.
"I'm going to," she said. "I just feel like I have so much to do first."
"Well, call Joyce and call your parents and then call my mom."
"They'll still be there if you take a few minutes to eat. You haven't had anything besides chocolate since yesterday morning." He handed her a piece of his toast. "Here. I'm not even hungry, I'm just eating because I know I need to."
She took the toast and bit into it, appreciating the fact that even though Steve was really hurt he was still looking out for her.
Besides, Steve was right. Everything she needed to do could be done after taking care of herself for a bit.