Fandom: Stranger Things
Category: Gen. Family. Hopper and Eleven with a side of Mike. Holiday fic.
Time Frame: Probably between seasons two and three, or a bit later.
Spoilers: General series knowledge.
Summary: A wise man once said that you will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly up our own point of view. Eleven, as she becomes more and more integrated into society, gets a lesson in that very thing.
Word Count: 1674
Jane had taken a while to understand the whole Santa thing.
At first, she'd assumed he was like her. Just someone with powers who used them a bit differently.
But when she'd realized he was a myth, she's shrugged it off as yet another weird idiosyncrasy of the world she now found herself in.
So when Holly asked her what she wanted Santa to bring her, she started to answer the only way she could - honestly.
"Nothing," she replied.
Holly gaped at her. "Nothing?!"
Jane shrugged. "Well, since Santa's not.."
Suddenly, Mike clapped a hand over her mouth.
"Not going to visit her because she's been naughty!" finished Mike, giving Jane a glare.
Jane answered with a puzzled look of her own as Mike plowed on.
"What about you?" he asked Holly.
Holly grinned. "I want a Barbie. The one with the red dress. And the purple My Little Pony."
Mike smiled. He'd already gotten her the purple pony. It's been a guess, but he was glad he'd been right.
"But..." said Jane as Holly continued.
Mike shot her another glare and she shut up, but she was clearly confused.
"Later," hissed Mike.
Jane shrugged as Holly finished up her list with a Care Bear and a Chipmunks record.
Mike nodded at her. "That's a good list," he said. Then he thought for a minute and gave her a shrewd look. "But it's awfully late. Santa might not bring you all that stuff if you don't get to sleep."
Holly sucked in a breath at that and her eyes got big. Then she ran off to get ready for bed.
Mike smiled widely.
"And that," he said, "is how you get your little sister to bed on time."
As soon as Holly was out of earshot, Jane rounded on him.
"Why did you do that?"
"I didn't lie."
"You did. Santa's not real."
"Sh!" said Mike. "She might hear you!"
"So she's still young enough to believe in Santa!"
"What happened to 'friends don't lie'?"
Mike blinked at Jane.
"I didn't lie."
"But you did."
Mike sighed. "No, I didn't! Well, yeah, I did. But only a bit. Sort of."
"There's no sort of lie. Something is either true or not," said Jane.
Mike sighed again.
"Well, yes. No. I mean, sometimes it's ok to tell a little lie. Look, it's complicated, OK?"
Jane stared at him intensely and spoke plainly.
Mike ran a hand through his floppy hair.
"OK. So, um, you shouldn't lie. Except sometimes when it'll hurt people's feelings or upset them. If it's a little lie. It's called a white lie."
Jane looked unimpressed.
"Like, a surprise party. If someone asks you about it, you say you don't know. So you don't spoil the surprise."
Jane's look softened a bit, and Mike continued.
"Or Santa. Kids believe in Santa. It's fun. They learn pretty soon that he's not real, but when they're little, it's like magic. So you don't ruin the fun. You let them believe for a few years."
Jane's forehead wrinkled up. She was thinking hard about Mike's words.
"So..." she said. "It's ok to lie a little when it makes people happy?"
Mike shrugged. "Well, yeah. If it's a little lie. Not something big."
"What about..." Jane started, then stopped.
"What about what?" prompted Mike.
"What about if the lie is mostly true, but not all the way true?"
"I dunno," said Mike. "Would depend on the lie. If it's mostly true, it's not a big lie, so it might be OK."
Jane nodded absently, then more firmly. Then she stood up decisively and made for the door.
"Where are you going?" asked Mike.
"Almost time," answered Jane, reverting back to her old pattern of clipped, short answers.
Mike glanced at his watch and realized she was right. Still, it wasn't like her to be so rushed.
"You OK?" he asked.
Jane nodded distractedly as she pulled on her shoes.
Jane nodded again. "Yes. No. I don't know."
Jane looked down at the floor for a moment, then swallowed.
"What?" Mike was floored. He'd never heard anything about Jane's mother. Ever.
Just then, an engine rumbled in the drive and a car door slammed.
"Never mind," said Jane, giving Mike a quick, chaste kiss on the cheek and bounding out the door.
She met Hopper halfway to the house with a fierce hug. Hopper returned the hug, then pulled away and looked into her face.
"Hey, you. What was that for?"
Jane smiled cryptically as she disengaged from him.
"Santa," she said, as she walked to the passenger side of the blazer.
Hopper stared at the back of her head for a moment, then shrugged. He'd long since learned that he'd never understand what went on in Jane's head most of the time, so he didn’t bother to ask what she meant. As he climbed into the truck himself, he caught sight of Mike in the doorway of the house. The kid looked how he felt: completely lost.
The two shared a look and both shrugged again.
Hopper chuckled and started the truck as Mike went inside.
The drive home was silent, as usual.
It wasn't until a week later, at the Wheeler's Christmas party, that the men were let in on the mystery. It happened by chance, when Mike and Hopper found themselves alone in the kitchen.
"So," started Hopper, grabbing a handful of chips and piling them onto a paper plate.
Mike's head jerked up and he looked a little nervous, which made Hopper smirk.
Good, he thought. Aloud, he said, "Nice party."
Mike nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess," he said, getting his own chips.
Hopper nodded while putting a burger together.
And that would've been the end of it if Holly hadn't suddenly run through the room screaming at the top of her lungs.
Hot on her heels was Karen, "Holly Wheeler, you come back here this instant! You behave or Santa won't come this year!"
Both Hopper and Mike laughed at the spectacle as Holly and Karen disappeared again.
Then Mike shook his head. "Good thing El didn't let that cat out of the bag," he muttered.
His daughter's nickname (that's how they explained it when someone slipped, anyway) got Hopper's attention.
"Oh. Jane. She almost told Holly there was no Santa."
Hopper's eyebrows went up.
"Yeah. Exactly," said Mike. "I'm just glad I stopped her."
"No doubt," agreed Hopper. "Bet that was fun."
Mike snorted. "Yeah. Especially when I had to explain how sometimes it's OK to lie. "
“You did what now?" demanded Hopper leaning slightly into Mike’s personal space.
Mike physically backpedaled. "I mean, like, little lies. Like for birthday parties and Santa and stuff! Or, like, if someone has on an ugly shirt how you don’t tell them!”
"Yeah," he drawled, thinking of how tactless Jane could be at times. "That's not a concept that's on her radar."
"I think she got it eventually," said Mike.
Hopper started to nod, then suddenly his eyes narrowed and he put his plate down. He took a long, hard look at Mike.
"What?" asked Mike nervously.
"Was this last week? The night she came over?"
Mike nodded. "Yeah. Why?"
Hopper grunted. "Cuz when I picked her up, the only word she said to me was Santa."
"Well, at least you got that," complained Mike. "All I got was 'mama'."
"What did you just say?"
"That was her last word on the subject. Just 'mama'. "
"What, exactly, did you say before that? Last week, I mean."
Mike gave Hopper an anxious look, puzzled by his sudden intensity.
"Um... I was saying it was OK to tell a little lie if the truth would hurt someone's feelings. And then she asked me what if something was mostly true but not all the way true and I said that would probably be OK too but it would depend on the situation."
"Huh," said Hopper. Then he grabbed his plate, turned on his heel, and left.
Mike watched him go, then shrugged.
Like father, like daughter, he thought.
Later, as the party wound down, Hopper found Jane playing a card game with the boys and Max.
"Ready to head out, kiddo?" he asked.
"Can I finish this hand? We're almost done."
Hopper nodded, pleased with the normal interaction and speech. "Sure. I'll meet you outside."
Two cigarettes later, Jane let herself out of the house and she and Hopper headed home.
Halfway there, Jim broke the usual silence.
"I heard you nearly spoiled Santa for Holly a while ago."
Jane nodded. "Didn't know how it worked."
"No," said Jane, shaking her head. "Lying."
Hopper took a deep breath.
"Yeah, that's..." he started.
"Complicated?" finished Jane.
Hopper nodded. "Yeah. Complicated."
"Sometimes it's OK?"
"Sometimes. For little things."
It was quiet for a minute, then Jane spoke again.
"Like with mama."
Hopper swallowed. "No. No, kid. I shouldn't have lied to you about that. That was a big thing. "
Jane hesitated, then spoke slowly.
"Except not. It was only a little lie."
"How do you figure?"
Jane swallowed as Jim pulled into the drive. "It was mostly true. You said mama was gone. And she is... mostly."
Hopper shut off the truck.
"Yeah," he muttered. "Yeah, she is. I'm sorry."
"She won't come back."
"So you didn't lie. Not really. Well, you did, but…”
She met his eyes then, and her tears were mirrored by his own.
"I just thought..." he said, then he trailed off, not sure of the right words.
Jane smiled sadly at him.
"Like Santa," she whispered.
Hopper chuckled. Leave it to Jane to put something so complicated so simply.
"Yeah," he said. "Like Santa."
Jane opened her door and went in the house. Jim followed a moment later.
And despite the fact that she didn't believe in him, Santa sure was good to her that year. This entry was originally posted at https://jackwabbit.dreamwidth.org/844055.html. Please comment there using OpenID.