Fandom: Stranger Things
Rated: PG-13 (language)
Category: Gen. Vignette. Family, Friendship. Entire Party.
Time Frame: Shortly after Season Two.
Spoilers: Stranger Things, Season Two.
Summary: Usually, it’s three strikes and you’re out. But things are a bit different in Hawkins.
Word Count: 910.
Hopper hadn't even met the kid.
But he didn’t need an introduction to know that the young man standing in the doorway of the Byers’ residence was the infamous Billy Hargrove, older stepbrother of Max, the newest member of his crew of juvenile monster hunters.
And from the looks of it, thought Hopper from his place at the kitchen table, he’s a total dick.
Still, the kid wasn't currently doing anything wrong, so Hopper let the slime factor go and waited to see how things would play out.
"Max!" yelled Billy. "Let's go!"
From deeper within the house, Hopper heard Max answer.
"Hold on! I'm coming!"
Billy sighed. "Now!"
"Yeah, yeah," said Max, emerging from Will's room with a small entourage behind her.
Hopper couldn't help but smirk as he saw Will, El, and Mike trailing Max like ducklings. With Dustin down with the flu and Lucas out of town, the other kids were even more inseparable than usual. They seemed younger than they were most of the time, and Hopper honestly thought they were adorable - when they were quiet.
But his smile didn't last long.
As Max reached the door, Billy pushed her out onto the porch ahead of him.
"Come on, dipshit," he muttered as Max stumbled. "I don't have all night."
Hopper barely registered the look of pure rage on Eleven's face before he moved.
"El!" he bellowed, causing her head to whip around to him as Billy landed face first on the porch.
Then he was out the door and helping Billy up the only way he could, given the situation.
He grabbed a fistful of jacket and bodily dragged the kid to his car.
When he got there, he pushed Billy up against the door and got right in his face.
"Let's get one thing straight," he said. "You will never touch that girl again. Are we clear?"
Billy had the nerve to snort. "Or what?" he sneered.
Now it was Hopper's turn to snort - only his turned into a low, dark chuckle as he heard small footsteps behind him.
It was more effective than words. Billy's eyes grew wide in the dim light from the porch and he eyed Hopper warily.
"Never again," growled Hopper, meeting Billy's eyes with a glare. "You got it?"
Billy nodded, audibly swallowing as he did so.
"Good," said Hopper, with a curt nod. "Now go home."
"But..." started Billy.
"Oh, right," said Hopper. "Hey! Mad Max!"
Max came up beside him slowly. "Yeah, Chief?"
Hopper nodded toward the car. "You go on home with your brother now. And keep in touch, okay?"
He gave Billy a meaningful look as he spoke.
Max nodded and got into the passenger side of the car.
Once she was inside, Billy started to open his door, but his motion was stopped by a big hand on the doorframe.
"I mean it, punk. I hear one complaint, and you'll wish I hadn't."
"She's just a kid," muttered Billy.
And again: that low, dark chuckle from Hopper.
It had the same effect as before.
"Okay, okay. Whatever," said Billy.
Hopper let go of the door and stepped back.
A moment later, Billy and Max were on their way home. Hopper watched them go, then turned to go back into the house.
As he did, he saw that he had an audience. Mike and Will were beaming at him from the doorway. Joyce was watching through the window, looking like she wasn't sure if she should laugh or cry.
And then there was Eleven. She was standing just behind him in the driveway, and she was actually pouting. Her arms were crossed over her chest, her lower lip was stuck out, and she was glaring at him.
He chuckled again, but this time, there was no darkness in it.
"Sorry, kid," he muttered, giving her a light punch on the shoulder as he reached her. "Not this time."
"I wasn't going to hurt him."
Hopper just looked at her, eyebrows raised.
"Much," added El.
Hopper sighed and pulled her into a one-armed hug as they started back toward the house.
"We talked about this."
Eleven mirrored his sigh.
"I know," she said.
"And?" prompted Hopper.
El heaved a bigger sigh. "No using powers unless someone's life is in danger."
"There you go," said Hopper.
El stopped walking, causing him to stop and look at her.
"But he deserved it!"
Hopper considered this, then nodded.
"So why’d you stop me?"
"You know it's not safe," Hopper said seriously. Then, with a grin, he added, "Besides, can't let you have all the fun."
Eleven looked annoyed until Hopper spoke again.
"How about we consider it a warning shot?"
El's brow furrowed. "Warning shot?"
"It's a... A shot that misses on purpose."
Eleven's look of confusion grew. "Why?"
"It gives people a chance to fix things before the real shot."
El thought this over for a minute before asking for clarification.
Hopper smiled, remembering when he'd taught her about baseball - and metaphors.
"Yeah," he said. "A strike."
El thought some more, then met Hopper's eye. There was a slight gleam in hers.
"Does he get three?"
Hopper's smile turned mischievous.
"You know what? I think two is plenty in this case."
"So if he does it again..."
Hopper shrugged. "Have at him - gently."
Eleven's grin was positively wicked, and Hopper almost felt sorry for the Hargrove kid.
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