Once Steve had settled onto the couch, the pills making him sleep again, Jessica made the calls she'd been so worried about before eating.
She called Steve's parents first – well, she called the hotel they were staying at and the front desk patched her though to their room. Steve's mom answered, which was good because Jessica didn't like talking to his dad.
She explained what had happened – or some of it, anyway, even though she didn't mention Billy's name. As long as Billy kept up his end of the deal, she was going to keep hers as well.
"We had to take him to the ER and they need his insurance information. He has to stay out of school for a week, so . . . he needs someone here with him. I can't stay with him all the time. I have work and school, and he's been getting sick and sometimes gets dizzy when he's up walking. He could hurt himself further if –"
"Jessica, I'm coming home. Can you stay with him until tomorrow morning, though?"
"I, uh – yeah. I'll either stay at your house with him or take him to mine."
"Thank you for taking care of him."
"Of course," she said. "I – I love him."
"I'll try to be there as early as I can in the morning."
The next person she called was her own mom., who asked how Will was doing.
"Uh, a little better but still not a hundred percent."
She hadn't actually been able to see or talk to Will, but she knew he had to feel at least a little better since he'd gotten that thing out of him.
"Mom, I need to stay with Steve today and tonight . . . at his house. He – he got into a fight and he's really hurt."
"Well, what's he fighting for?"
"He was – he was standing up for some kids. Some jerk was messing with them and Steve stepped in."
"Oh. I guess that's a good thing to fight for. How bad is it?"
"He has a pretty bad concussion. He was in the ER earlier. I'd bring him home with me, but he needs the quiet and I don't know if he'd get that there. His mom is coming in in the morning, so I can still go to school and all."
"Well, you are eighteen and you guys haven't slipped so far. It sounds like you won't be getting up to much with him having a concussion, anyway, so just make sure he's okay. Call if you need anything."
Jessica hated when her mom made subtle comments like that about her sex life with Steve, but she knew it was her way of reminding her to be safe if they did get up to anything, which they wouldn't be for a while.
"I will. Thanks, mom. Love you. I'll make sure Dustin gets home later today."
Jessica didn't have time to call Joyce because Dustin ended up calling her first. He mostly wanted to check to see how Steve was, but he also wanted to know when she was going to come get him.
"Steve is sleeping right now and I'm washing a load of clothes, but I can be there in a couple of hours. I have to go pick up my stuff from the house. I'm staying with Steve tonight at his house."
"Oh. Why can't he just stay with us?"
"He can't be around noise and stuff, so it's better for him to be at his house."
When she told Dustin the extent of the damage Billy had caused, he surprised her by saying, "Jess, not that I think violence is the answer, but you should have hit Billy with that bat."
"Yeah, maybe." She waited a few seconds before asking, "How is Will?"
"He's sleeping too. From what Jonathan and Ms. Byers said, they had a hard time getting the Mind Flayer out of him."
"What happened there?"
"Well, they used the space heaters that they took. Will – well, the Mind Flayer, but you know what I mean – attacked Ms. Byers and Nancy had to use a fire poker on him. It got the thing out of him, though."
"Yeah. Uh – we told Hopper what happened down in the tunnels and all. He told us what happened with El and the gate. Once the gate was closed all the demodogs died. They just – they just fell down dead."
Jessica couldn't even express how relieved she was about that. There had been so many that if they hadn't all died when the gate had closed, they would've been fighting them off for years, she was pretty sure, and she didn't want that.
"Hey, so tell Ms. Byers that I'll be there in a few hours, okay? I'll call before I come get you."
"Okay. Uh – I told Hopper that you told mom the reason we were here is because of Will not feeling well and all, so he said we could just use that story for everyone – just in case someone asks."
"Okay. Mom knows about Steve, but she doesn't know about Billy, in case she asks. She knows that Steve stood up for some kids, but she doesn't know it was you guys."
"Got it. I'll let the others know."
"Good. See you later, Dusty."
Steve was thankful that he wasn't nauseated when he woke up the second time that day, but his head still throbbed when he sat up. He couldn't take anymore pills for at least two hours and he didn't want to go back to sleep anyway, so he just decided to sit as still as he could.
He didn't know where Jessica was, but she wasn't in the living room. He couldn't call out for her without making his head hurt worse, so he just waited patiently for her. He knew she wouldn't have left him there alone, not without waking him up first, so he knew she was somewhere around the house.
After a few minutes of waiting, Jessica came down the stairs and stopped at the bottom when she saw he was awake and sitting up. He noticed she was holding her back and was a little out of breath. She was wearing her own clothes now, so he knew he'd been asleep long enough for the clothes to get done washing and drying.
"Yeah. I just got done making your bed, if you want to go back up . . ."
"I'll stay down here for a bit. Your back is hurting."
"A little. It's fine."
"Can I see?"
She came over to him and sat down beside him. She lifted her shirt up and turned her back to him. There was a huge bruise that pretty much covered the whole of her lower back. He ran his fingers over it gently and noticed there was a small lump in the middle, probably where she'd made contact with the edge of the table the night before.
"Does it hurt when I touch it?"
"Not like you're doing. It probably would if you pressed. It just hurts because I had to bend over and stuff to make the bed."
She put her shirt back down and leaned back against the cushioning of the couch.
"Your mom is coming in in the morning."
"Yeah. I can't stay with you the whole time because of school and work, so . . ."
"Aw, you mean you can't play nurse all week?" Steve teased.
"Sadly, no, but I'm staying here tonight and I'll wait until she gets here to go to school in the morning. I figure I can come over after work tomorrow, Wednesday, and Friday to help with homework and stuff. And Tuesday and Thursday I can come over right after school."
"Okay, but, like, don't overdo it. I know you're busy on the days you have to work."
"It's only for a week. I can handle it."
She leaned over and up to kiss the side of his mouth that wasn't split and let it linger for a second before pulling away.
"So . . . Hopper told Dustin that all the demodogs are gone. They died when the gate was closed."
"Well, at least that went right."
"Yeah. I'm glad we don't have to deal with them anymore."
They sat there in the relative silence until Jessica got up to fix them lunch – macaroni and cheese from a box – and then they ate there on the couch with the TV on low so it didn't bother Steve.
After lunch Jessica made sure Steve had everything he needed there on the table so he wouldn't have to move around much if he didn't have to and then left to go pick up Dustin and take him home. She also had to pick her stuff up from her house. She seemed worried about leaving Steve alone, but he thought he would be fine and he told her that.
"I won't be gone too long," she said. "But, you know, call my mom if you start feeling really bad or something, okay?"
"Okay. I'll be okay."
He kissed her this time, gently because of his wounds, but it still lasted longer than their first one had.
When Jessica got to the Byers' house she got out of the car and walked up to the door. Joyce had long ago told her that she didn't have to wait for anyone to open the door for her, but she did knock before going in.
The boys were all in the living room, Jonathan included. Joyce was in the kitchen, washing dishes. Jessica went to say hi and see how she was. Even though she'd gotten Will free from the Mind Flayer, she'd still lost someone else. She'd lost Bob, and Jessica knew that couldn't be easy.
Joyce told her to tell Steve that if he needed anything to let her know, and Jessica let her know the same. She wanted to be there for Will in any way she could – if that meant babysitting when Jonathan and Joyce both had to work, then that was what she would do.
She went back into the living room where the boys were, Will sitting on the couch with the others. He was pale, but he had a small smile on his face. It reminded her of the time they'd gotten him back from the Upside Down and she'd visited him in the hospital.
"Hey there," she said as she reached Will.
"Hi," he said quietly. "Mike said you're mad that we didn't let you know what was going on."
"I'm not mad," she said. "I was never mad. I was hurt, and maybe a little confused because I helped a lot last year. Mike told me why you didn't want anyone knowing what was going on and I get it, but you don't have to worry about that with us. We haven't been through exactly what you've been through, but we've been here and know what happened. You should be able to talk to us about anything. We wouldn't think you were a freak or crazy. Okay?"
Will nodded, seeming relieved that she wasn't going to get after him for not telling her. Even if she had been mad about being kept in the dark for so long, she wouldn't have gotten after him yet. Not after what he'd been through. He needed time to recover and return to some kind of normalcy – whatever that was for their little group.
"I have to get Dustin home and I don't want to leave Steve alone for too long. We should all get together soon, though, and talk."
Dustin had been ready to go since she'd gotten there, so she didn't have to wait to leave.
"Why can't I stay with you guys? You can take me to school in the morning."
"Well, for one, Steve needs it quiet and you're not exactly that. And two, I don't know if I'm going in the morning. I'm going to wait for Steve's mom to get home first."
"He's that bad?"
"He threw up when he woke up earlier. And he's still getting dizzy. He can't go to school for a week."
"But his mom is coming in tomorrow?"
"You'll still be over there a lot this week, though?"
"Yeah, I will. You can probably come over some of those times, just give him a day to rest first."
There was only a moment of silence before she asked, "So . . . are you okay? I know I didn't sleep well until the sun came up."
"We all slept in the living room last night, so it was okay. None of us were alone."
"You gonna be okay at home with mom? I mean . . ."
"It's just one night, right? Steve needs you there for reasons other than maybe nightmares."
If she hadn't been driving, Jessica probably would've reached over to ruffle his hair, but she was and so she didn't.
"Hey, so mom doesn't know I stayed with Steve last night. She thinks I stayed with you guys at the Byers' house."
Jessica was glad she had such a cool younger brother; some younger siblings would have used information like that as blackmail material.
"Did you get that demodog out of Joyce's fridge?"
"Yeah." Dustin sounded a little disappointed. "She asked why all the food was out on the floor. She was a little angry but mostly cool about it. We had to bury it in the back yard."
When they got home, Jessica said hi to her mom and talked to her for a few minutes. She hadn't found Mews, which . . . yeah, because Mews was dead, but her mom didn't know that.
Jessica went up to her room then to pack up what she needed for that night and for school the next day, groaning when she remembered all the homework she still had to do. The last couple of days she'd had way more important things on her mind than school and homework, but normal every day things were starting to come back to her.
Once she was ready to go she apologized for not being able to stay longer, but she left quickly anyway.
She needed to get back to Steve.
Steve hadn't moved much since Jessica had left him there on the couch. He'd gotten up once to use the bathroom, but other than that he just relaxed. Moving made his head hurt worse, which caused him to feel sick more often. Moving made him dizzy as well, so he figured it was best to stay put.
Jessica had her bags with her when she got back, and she placed them on the floor beside the couch before sitting down beside him. Her skin was a shade lighter than it usually was, and the skin was dark under her eyes. He knew she hadn't gotten much sleep the night before.
Jessica nodded. "I took Dustin home. He asked about you, and mom said to call if we need anything when I talked to her earlier."
She sighed and slumped further on the couch.
"I'm so tired."
They ended up turning the TV on, mostly just for background noise since they couldn't really hear it, and settled on cartoons. Jessica laid out on the couch with her head on Steve's lap and he began playing with her hair. It didn't take long for her eyelids to start fluttering shut even though she shook her head a little to wake herself up each time.
"You should sleep for a little while," he said softly and she hummed.
"You might need me."
"I can wake you up. It's fine."
"Mm. I gotta do homework later."
"More reason for you to sleep now."
They kept going back and forth like that until she stopped responding to him and her breathing evened out. Steve knew his neck was going to regret it, but he fell asleep too, his head leaned back against the top of the couch.
When Jessica woke up, she saw that Steve was asleep, his neck at an awkward angle, and felt sorry for how it was going to feel when he woke up. She grabbed her school bag and took it into the kitchen so she could use the table to lay out her work and not bother Steve.
She started with her math homework, deciding to leave her English homework for last because she knew Steve would need help with it. They were still working on Othello and Steve had trouble with the odd language used because of how old it was.
They'd worked on it together since they'd started reading it and all he knew was that he didn't like Iago; he caused too much trouble and was clearly the villain of the play.
Once she was done with her math, she got up to make some chicken noodle soup. It was something easy to fix and she liked it, so it was win-win.
She woke Steve up once it was done, and she fixed two bowls to take in the living room. They watched The Outsiders while they ate, but they didn't really have to pay attention to it because they'd both seen it before – many times in Jessica's case, because it was one of her favorite movies.
Now that Steve was awake, she didn't mind doing the rest of her homework in the living room while the movie was still playing. Steve tried to do some of his as well, but his vision was still a little blurry and it hurt his head to even try to focus enough to read. She ended up reading the fourth act of Othello out loud to him and explaining some of it.
He still didn't like Iago, thought the guy needed to go somewhere and just leave everyone alone, but that was the point of Iago's character. He was all up in everyone else's business so he could manipulate everyone to do what he wanted, so he could get what he wanted.
"Well, at least you know what your topic could be if we have to do an essay on this thing," Jessica said.
"Don't even mention essays right now. My head already hurts."
Jessica grinned and shook her head. She was glad Steve could still joke around right now. He'd been seriously injured; if he'd been in a bad mood, she would've completely understood.
As it was, he was mostly silent while she read to him and then they watched another movie before heading to bed. She knew she couldn't leave the light on because of it hurting Steve's head, but she worked around it by leaving the hall light on and cracking the door so light could come in. She hadn't had a nightmare the night before because she hadn't really been able to sleep much, but she knew if she had one that night, the light would ground her more quickly than if she woke in complete darkness.
Steve pulled her to him and she placed her head on his chest. She hoped sleep would come to her more easily than it had the night before. She had to get up to go to school the next morning, even if she was going to go in late.
Okay, so this was basically just them taking care of each other and being soft with each other. I'm not sure exactly what will happen in the next chapter, but some of it will take place at the school. There will be more Billy and more Tommy at some point.