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"I can't stand you sometimes, you know."

Chapter Text

"Jim!"

There was a grunt from the office next door.

"Jim."

Nothing. The woman groaned, pushed some curly auburn-brown hair out of her eyes, and pushed her chair out from where it was behind the desk.

"Jim!" she barked and rolled toward the door.

"Ji-im," she sang and rolled into the hallway.

"Ji--" she started when the door in front of her face opened.

"What?" he cried, almost infuriated by the person grinning in the rolling chair.

"You got anything yet?"

"No," he rolled his eyes and started back to the desk. The girl followed (without removing herself from the chair, of course) with her feet barely able to reach the hard floor to propel her. "And I can't make calls and stuff if you're screaming all night."

"Oh, I'll scream all night, if that's what you want."

"I can't stand you sometimes, you know."

"Yeah, I know."

By now he sat back at his desk and lit a cigarette, offering her one (which she accepted). "The only reason I'm helping with this case is 'cause I got nothing else to do tonight. Overnight shifts are even more dead than the daytime."

"Yeah, yeah. I know. You doing anything after you get off?"

"Yes."

"It's funny how that's always your answer."

"I sleep, you know. Humans need that."

"Hmm, or you're secretly always doing something. Or someone," she raised and eyebrow, propping her feet on the large desk. "You got a secret lover, Romeo?"

"No, and if I did she wouldn't be a secret. Or any of your business. Get your feet off my fuckin' desk."

She pursed her lips and removed the boot-clad feet. "You still on those anxiety meds?"

"Why, looking for a dealer?"

"Hell no. If I was gonna take anything I'd go back to college. Wanna go to your place and have a beer or something when your shift is over?"

"Can't."

"Why?"

"Because I'm busy."

"With what?"

"Sleeping. You're like a kid, dear lord."

"Not even for one beer? A joint?"

"No."

"You seem stressed."

"Because you stress me out sometimes, Evelyn," he shot a look.

"Alright, alright," she backed her chair away. "I'll leave you alone then."

"Thank you."

Evelyn gave him a nod before propelling herself back toward her own office.

It was different in Hawkins. The two had known each other for as long as they can remember. Sure, she was a few years behind him in school but your older sister dating the guy for while in high school gets you familiar. Well, they didn't date. They were very close friends with some nice teenage benefits. Everyone sort of got the picture.

Once he left for God-knows-where (Evelyn vaguely remembers someone saying Vietnam? She just remembered her sister handing her letters that were signed -Hop.) and ended up in New York, while Evelyn ended up in college somewhere in Indiana.

She got some stupid psychology degree and got out of there, finding work as a psychologist in the local juvenile detention center. She'd always hated the idea of working in the system, but at least with that she could help some kids. Whether it meant through talking them through their problems when they were going stir crazy or performing research on the children they put in solitary, she felt like she was making a difference.

Then Hopper came back into town after however long and noticed how good she was as solving problems. Even if it was just finding all the places kids stash 'forbidden' items, she had it solved quicker than anyone else in the department. Hopper became chief and practically begged her to be a detective. Not a cop, she clarified, but a detective. She had to carry a gun to protect herself and had a slightly different uniform, but she was the first female Hawkins Police Department Detective and was damn proud of it. Plus, he said just to piss off the assholes and because she had extra qualifications, she was the Head of Juvenile Justice.

"What's that even mean?" she asked with a scowl. "It sounds like your job for kids."

"It means whatever the hell you want to it mean. I'm the chief, I think we need someone who can specialize in how kid cases are handled. That's you and you get to decide what you do other than the detective stuff."

"Alright," she sighed. "Deal."

The rest was history. Not a lot happened in Hawkins, sure, but it was something. And her position was convenient enough that when she wasn't busy on a case, she still got to help the kids locked up in the larger town nearby like before.

"Hey, Ev. Ev."

Suddenly she felt her face smack against the wood desk and let out a loud groan.

"Jesus, you're sleeping the way you did in middle school."

"I was tired, leave me alone."

"Your sister always complained about you sleeping during school. Then she said you'd never sleep at night. Like you were a bat."

"Yeah, because I was worried about covering your asses when she sneaked you in."

"You know you didn't have to."

"I know. I'm a nice person." Hopper snorted. "What? I help kids. That makes me a good person. What time is it?"

"Seven AM. I'm off for the rest of the day. You are too."

"No, technically I need to be here at 9, so I'll probably just nap until then."

"I'm forcing you to take a day off."

"You can't force me to do shit, Jim." He could tell she was serious because of the use of his name.

"I will literally drag your ass out of here. Come on."

"I guess you're going to have to drag me," she sighed and folded her arms across her chest.

"Alright," he sighed stepping toward her. "You told me to, though."

Suddenly Evelyn was lifted up and Hopper threw her over his shoulder. "Hop, I wasn't serious!" she yelled, not actually mad since she hadn't used his first name again.

"I'm driving you to your house and I'll pick you up Monday for work."

"You're insane!"

"Maybe."

 

Hopper caved and took her to pick up her car on Saturday when she said she needed it in order to entertain her niece and nephew for the weekend. She wasn't a kid, she couldn't bike the two children around town. Hell, she didn't even have a bike. Plus, she really needed the freedom of her car.

"Morning, Flo," she smiled when she walked into work on Monday.

"Morning, Ev. Good weekend?"

"Yeah, you could say that," she sighed and grabbed a mug of coffee. "Tiring. Had the niece and nephew for my sister and brother-in-law to get a break. It was fine, though. The kids are a hoot."

"That sounds nice."

"Got anything new for me this morning?"

"No, nothing much happened while you were out Friday. The usual. Phil Larson believes kids are stealing his garden gnomes again."

"That unsolved mystery is at the top of my list, believe me," Evelyn rolled her eyes.

"Seems like a lot happened for you, though," one of the guys already in the office commented from his mug. Evelyn could never remember his name. Calvary? Definitely not, she told herself. I'll figure it out later.

"What the hell does that mean?"

"It means we saw Hopper fireman you out of here when we got here Friday morning," Powell cocked his head at her.

"So? He was just making me leave. I'd been here, what, 24 hours?"

"You're telling us that you didn't go back to his house and--"

"No," she cut the man off. "Absolutely not." They raised their eyebrows. "I have not slept with anyone in this office! Well, maybe Flo," she sent a wink to the woman. Flo grinned at her.

None of the men quite knew what to say, being saved by the door opening and someone frantically rushing in.

"Hey, Joyce," Evelyn smiled and walked over. "What's up?"

"Is--uh, is Hopper here?"

"No, not yet. He's usually late in the mornings. Come on into my office and talk. Do you want a cigarette?"

"Sure, thank you," Joyce smiled nervously and sat down.

"So what's going on?" Evelyn asked and lit both of their cigarettes.

"Will didn't come home last night and me and Jonathan couldn't find him this morning. I think he's gone missing and something bad has happened to him or--"

"Alright, Joyce," Evelyn looked at her. "Are you sure he didn't just stay at someone's and skip class today?"

"Yeah, Mike's mom said he left last night. He never made it home. And I know Will, he wouldn't do this."

"Well, you never know. My mom believed that my sister was in the book club when she was fucking the hell out of Hopper in his dad's car. Listen, we technically cant even file a report until he's been missing 24 hours."

"Technically it has. He left yesterday morning. I haven't seen him since. And I like Karen and all but Mike could hide a lion in that basement and she wouldn't know until it died and stunk up the house." Joyce sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "Listen, I just really, really want to talk to Hopper. I want you on this case and I want Hopper on it too. I trust you two the most. And, I'm sorry--I just know something is wrong. I have that gut feeling that something is wrong."

"Don't apologize, I understand. Okay, I don't because I don't have kids. But I can imagine how frustrated and worried you are. I'm going to call him and tell him to get his ass out here and we can talk to him."

"Thank you, Evelyn," Joyce sighed.

"Yeah, of course. We'll find Will. Hopefully he just got convinced into skipping school and you can ground his ass for eternity."

"Yeah," Joyce laughed a little. "You never realize how much trouble you gave your parents until you're a parent. Makes you wanna go apologize because, shit, if my kids did the same stuff I did as a teenager?" Joyce made an exasperated noise.

"I hear ya," Evelyn smiled and took a sip of coffee. "I watched my niece and nephew for the weekend and holy shit. I thought I was still pretty young but I guess not. Those kids could trampoline for eight hours a day if I let 'em." Joyce laughed at that. "Go ahead and let yourself into Hopper's office while I call his house."

"Okay. Thanks for everything, Ev."

"Of course." The women smiled at each other before Joyce softly closed the door behind her. Evelyn picked up her phone and dialed the phone number for Hopper.

"Get off my ass, I'm on my way."

"You had no way to tell that it was me."

"Only someone from the station would be calling me right now."

"Just get out here ASAP. We have an issue."

"Yeah," he sighed before hanging up.

 

"I have been waiting here for over an hour, Hopper!"

"And I apologize. Again."

Evelyn was staring daggers into him from where she was leaning against a filing cabinet in the corner behind him.

"I'm going out of my mind!"

"Hop, let's get this moving. You're going to ask her all the same stuff I did so let's get them checked off the list."

"You don't know that," he narrowed his eyes.

"Actually, I do. Because I'm good at my job. And I show up to work on time."

Hopper gave her a look before looking at Joyce again.

"Look, boy his age, he's probably just playing hookie, okay?"

"Check," Evelyn muttered from behind Hopper.

"No! Not my Will. He's not like that. He wouldn't do that."

"Well, you never know. My mom thought I was on the debate team when really I was just screwing Chrissy Carpenter in the back of my dad's Oldsmobile."

"Check," Evelyn rolled her eyes.

"He's not like you, Hopper. He's not like me, he's not like Evelyn. He's not like... most," Joyce finally spat the word out.

"Would you shut up?" Hopper shot a look at Evelyn. She shrugged.

"He has a couple friends, but, you know. The kids, they're mean. They make fun of him, call him names. They laugh at him, his clothes--"

"His clothes?" Hopper gave her a look of confusion. "What's wrong with his clothes?"

"I don't know! Does that matter?"

"Maybe."

Evelyn scoffed. "For God's sake, Hopper, just--"

"Hey! I let you do your job, now you let me do mine!"

Joyce rolled her eyes and got their attention again. "Look he's... he's a sensitive kid. Lonnie used to say he was queer, called him--" Joyce sighed and got softer, "called him a fag."

"Is he?"

Evelyn kicked Hopper's chair, causing the chair to swerve away from the desk and she had honestly hoped he'd fallen out of it. It was close.

"He's missing is what he is!"

"Jim, if you're not going to take this seriously--"

"When was the last time you heard from Lonnie?" He chose to ignore the woman behind him.

"Last I heard he was in Indianapolis. That was about a year ago, though. But he has nothing to do with this!"

"Why don't you give me his number?"

"Hopper, trust me. He has nothing to do with this."

"Joyce, 99 out of 100 times, kid goes missing, the kid is with a parent or relative."

"What about the other time?"

"What?"

"You said 99 out of a 100, mathematician," Evelyn scoffed. Sometimes Hopper really got under her skin. Stroll in whenever you want and then half-ass a high school friend who's worried about her kid?

"What about the other time?"

"Joyce, this is Hawkins, okay? You wanna know the worst thing that's every happened in my 4 years working here? It was when an owl attacked Eleanor Gillespie's head because it thought her hair was a nest."

"Okay, fine. I will call Lonnie. He will talk to me before he talks to--"

"A pig?" Hopper finished.

Evelyn snorted into her mug of coffee.

"A cop!" Joyce shook her head at him.

"Is there much of a difference?" Evelyn murmured. She knew it was a dick thing to say and she really didn't believe that all cops are awful, but Hopper was getting under her skin and he deserved it, in her eyes.

"You know you're a cop, right?" Hopper stared back at her.

"No, I didn't. I'm a detective and head of the Juvenile Department. No where in there is 'police' or 'officer.'"

They shared a heated look before Joyce grabbed the desk. "Just find my son. Find him, please!"

"We will, Joyce. We're going to search high and low for him," Hopper put a hand over hers and promised.

Once she left Evelyn went to her office and sat at her desk to start getting her ducks in a row. "I can not believe you, you know!" Hopper scoffed from the doorway.

"Don't you have, like, work to do?" she asked and clicked her pen at him, as if to shoo him away.

"'What's the difference?'" He mocked. "You know you work with officers, you're friends with them and you're friends, possibly more, with the chief of police."

"Possibly more?" the woman rolled her eyes.

"Friends don't usually sleep with each other."

"We have benefits. We are friends. I think I'd end up murdering you and then killing myself if we were anything more."

"Thanks."

"You know what I meant."

"Yeah."

"Hop," she sighed as he turned. "I'm sorry, okay? Cops and me just... we've got a bad history."

"Yeah. I know," Hopper sighed and looked at her. "Just frustrates me when you say shit like that."

"Oh, my God!" Evelyn cried, almost amazed-like.

"What now?"

"Jim Hopper just...admitted he felt something?!" SHe continued and stood. There was a laugh from one of the guys playing cards.

"Alright, I'm leaving."

"I can't believe this! This is some kind of miracle! Are you going to ask me for a hug next?"

"You're--"

"You want a hug, don't you?"

"I do not want a hug."

"I think you're craving a hug but are just too manly to admit it," she said walking toward him.

"I'm going to go work now."

"Not before... this!" she cried and wrapped him in a huge hug. Well, as big as she could. She was about five feet tall and while she had some pretty good muscle, Hopper obviously weighed more in general and did have at least an extra foot over her. But she noticed that he could have shoved her off, but didn't. And that was a breakthrough in her brain.

 

"Write everything down," Evelyn gave the young officer with them a look.

"Yeah, of course," he nodded. "I'm not an idiot."

"Well..." she shrugged slowly.

"I'm not an idiot. I made it here, haven't I?"

"That literally doesn't mean anything."

"Are you two done? Because I have a couple kids we should probably talk to," Hopper chastised them. The guy (whose name Evelyn still couldn't remember for the life of her) gave a small apology which made her mentally roll her eyes. "Alright, go one at a time," Hopper said to the children.

All three started talking at once.

"Okay, okay," Hopper rolled his eyes.

"Stop!" Evelyn yelled over them.

"I said one at a time," Hopper repeated and gave Evelyn a nod. "You said he takes what?"

"Mirkwood," Mike nodded.

"Mirkwood?"

"Yeah."

"Have you ever heard of Mirkwood?"

"I have not. That sounds like a made up road to me, sir."

"That's not a road, Mike," Evelyn leaned forward. "Not here, at least."

"No, it's from Lord of the Rings," Lucas commented.

"Well, The Hobbit."

"It doesn't matter!"

"He asked!"

"He asked!" Lucas mocked Dustin.

"Hey," Evelyn shouted over the quarreling kids. "What did he say? He said one at a damn time. You, go."

"Mirkwood is a real road," Mike explained. "It's just the name that's made up. Its where Cornwallis and Kerley meet."

"I think I know--"

"I know exactly where that is, Hop."

"We can show you if you want--"

"I said that I know it!" Hopper told the kids.

"We can help look!"

"No. No way," Evelyn swooped in. "You come to school, you go home. Repeat that routine rigidly until we find Will."

"No biking around for your friend, no investigating, no nonsense. This isn't some Lord of the Rings book."

"The Hobbit," Dustin corrected. Evelyn stifled a laugh behind her hand.

"Who's side are you on?" the young cop furrowed his brows at her.

"Not the time or the place, Rookie," she shot him a look to shut him up. "Do you understand us?" Evelyn turned to the boys. "Putting yourself in harms way will do nothing to help. In fact, it would make everything worse. I need verbal confirmation that you understand what we said to you."

"Yeah," the kids all agreed in their own way.

She waited until they were fully outside of the school and walking toward Hopper's truck to confront what's-his-name.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" she slapped him hard on the arm. "'Who's side are you on?' I'm on the side of finding this lost--" --she hit his arm again-- "--fucking--" --hit-- "--kid!"

"Yeah, but giving those kids any reason to not respect you works against us. For all we know, because they feel a little bit of power, they're now going to go out and get themselves killed!"

"Oh, yeah. Right. Sorry, forgot it's standard to treat kids like second-class citizens. You know you're supposed to be working with them, right? Wait, forgot again, silly me! You're just one of the cops who lives on their power trips and would cover up his fuck-ups instead of owning up to them."

"Yeah well at least I'd be smart enough to--"

"Who went to college here? Who here has a degree in psychology and worked with kids her whole career? I forgot that it doesn't matter because I have a vagina--"

"Hey!" Hopper moved between them, mostly to keep Evelyn from actually ripping the kid's head off. "Both of you need to chill out. Evelyn, he didn't fucking mean it like that and Callahan, she didn't mean that at all. She's just angry."

"Yeah? Well maybe she should've thought about that before becoming a cop."

With that he got into the truck, Evelyn taking a deep breath to keep from exploding.

"Alright, you need to work on that," Hopper warned her. "Your mouth is going to get you in serious trouble one day combined with your anger."

"Whatever," she rolled her eyes, climbing into the truck in front of Hopper.

 

"So I looked at these dumb-ass notes Celery took--"

"Callahan," Hopper corrected while opening a small pill bottle.

"Whatever. I'm looking at these notes and, yeah, this is around where they said he took home."

"Yeah, I think I found something," he muttered and looked into the distance. Evelyn put the notes into her pocket and followed him.

"That his bike?" One of the men asked.

"Yeah."

"Crashed," Evelyn exhaled, waiting for the frosty breath to dissipate before she started writing on a new sheet of paper.

"Think he got hurt in the fall?"

"Not so hurt he couldn't walk away," Hopper shook his head.

"Bike like this is like a Cadillac to these kids," Hopper and Evelyn ended up saying at the same time. They shared a weirded out look.

"He would've walked it home," Hopper finished. The two officers gave the other two a strange look.

"It's something," Evelyn sighed and scribbled on the note pad. "Let's make sure we don't find any scraps of clothes or... or pocket litter or anything."

"Pocket litter?" Powell asked.

"Like, the stuff you'd keep in your wallet. When you look at adults it's credit cards, drivers license, pictures of kids or a significant other, whatever. In kids... it's a little harder but is still useful. Jut look as you walk and kick up all the leaves. If you hit something stop and check. Probably will be a rock but better safe than sorry."

After maybe a half hour of searching, they gave up and headed to Joyce's house.

"We found his bike," Evelyn informed Joyce.

"It was just lying there?"

"Yeah," Hopper replied once they got into the house. "Cal?" he pointed to the other room.

"Did it have blood on it?"

"No," Hopper said a few times.

"We couldn't find anything else either."

"So why are you here?" Jonathan asked. Evelyn gave him a bit of an 'I'm sorry' look. That kid had it rough and this was the icing on the cake.

"He has a key to the house right?" Evelyn asked and made her way into the kitchen.

"Yeah."

"Well, maybe he came home," Hopper explained and Evelyn continued looking around.

"What, like I didn't check my house?"

"I'm not saying that."

"Has this always been here?" Evelyn asked and pointed at a small hole in the wall.

"I don't know, I have two boys. Probably, I mean look at the place."

"But you're not sure?" Evelyn clarified as hopper opened the door to show her how it lined up with a doorknob.

"I didn't know you had a dog," she commented as they heard barking outside.

"Hey, what's up?" Hopper asked the barking dog to try to calm it.

"He's probably just hungry," Joyce sighed and started to lead him away. Hopper and Evelyn looked at each other for a moment then out where the dog was barking.

"You wanna check the shed and I'll check the surrounding area?"

"Sure," Hopper nodded. "Meet me back in the house."

Finding nothing, Evelyn made her way to the back yard to wait. "Where's Hopper?" Callahan asked.

"In that shed looking. Did you check under everything?"

"Yeah, I'm not an idiot."

"I meant, like, crawlspaces and stuff."

"Oh. Well, no."

"Well check that." The guy groaned and walked away. "Hop!" Evelyn called out. "You find anything yet? Hop?"

Now it was her turn to groan and go find the man who selectively went deaf. She opened the door loudly and made him jump. "You okay?"

"Yeah. I'm fine."

"We've been calling you. Did you find something?"

"I need you to call Flo, get a search party together. All the volunteers possible with flashlights tonight."

"You think there's an issue?" one of the men asked on their way into the house.

"Maybe."

Evelyn started to radio to Flo and met the guys out at the truck.

Chapter Text

"Hi, Scott," Evelyn smiled at the teacher while searching for the missing boy that night.

"Hi, Detective Carpenter."

"Evelyn."

"Right, sorry. Evelyn. You know, I think it's really freaky how much your niece and nephew look more like you than their own mom."

Evelyn laughed lightly. "It's an interesting look they've got. I tell my sister she should be grateful they haven't turned out like her yet," the woman winked at him.

He chuckled in response. "Do you know Will? Personally, I mean."

"Yeah, I do. I was friends with Joyce when we were kids. We were always in the same grade so...yeah, I know Jonathan and Will fairly well. I'd babysit them when she needed a sitter when they were young."

"That's really neat. I never realized you went to school with her. Will is a good kid. Smart too."

"yeah," she nodded. "He'd try to talk to me about different science and fantasy stuff when he was young and even then I was so lost. I guess I'm more of a social science person, you know?"

"Definitely. I get it. I find the social sciences very interesting like the natural sciences. It's a bit complicated though."

"More complicated than math-related sciences?"

"Well, yeah. Math gives you an equation and you're either right or you're wrong. With people it's a bit sitckier."

"I guess," she sighed, watching her breath float in front of her. "Listen, it's great seeing you again, Scott. I need to get a little ahead, though. I'll see you around, okay?"

"Yeah, sure," he smiled as she jogged off into the woods a bit more, scanning. 

While she loved talking to the guy and felt bad for leaving, she had a job. Morally and because this literally is her job. And the more she talked about Will the more she felt guilty they hadn't found him yet.

 

"We've been waiting here six hours," Joyce sighed.

"I know."

"We came as soon as we could."

"Six. Hours."

"A little bit of trust, alright?" Hopper asked.

Evelyn put a hand on Joyce's shoulder. "We've searched literally all night."

"Went all the way to Cartersville."

"And?" Joyce asked teary.

"Nothing," Hopper shook his head and fiddled with the hat in his hands.

"Um," Evelyn swallowed hard. "Flo told Hop you got a phone call."

"Yeah, right," Joyce sighed and moved to the phone.

"Storm barbecued this pretty good," he picked it up then handed it over to Evelyn.

"The storm?"

"What else?"

"Hop, storms don't do that," Evelyn shook her head. 

"Then what does?"

"I don't know, but storms just don't do that."

"You're saying that's not weird?!" Joyce cried, frustrated.

"No, it's definitely weird."

"Well, can we trace the call or..." Jonathan offered.

"That's not how it works," Evelyn sighed and rubbed her hands over her face. "I wish it was. Flo said you heard breathing?"

"You're sure it was Will?"

"It was him. It was Will. And he was scared and something--"

Evelyn wrapped a comforting arm around Joyce. "It was probably a prank call, someone wanting to scare you--" Hopper started but had a look full of venom shot at him by his partner.

"Who would do that?" Jonathan asked.

"Well, it's been on TV. And it brings out all the crazies. You said it yourself kids are cruel."

"It was him," Joyce insisted.

"Joyce."

"Come on! How about a little trust here? You think I'm making this up?"

"No, he's not," Evelyn sighed and let go of Joyce. "He's not saying that at all."

"I'm not. All I'm saying is this is an emotional time for you."

"You think I don't know my own son's breathing? Wouldn't you know your own daughter's?!" She cried. Evelyn rested a hand on her shoulder to ground her and hopefully keep her from getting more worked up. Hopper turned and went a few paces away.

"You heard from Lonnie yet?" Evelyn changed the topic.

"No."

"It's been long enough." Hopper turned to the door.

"We gotta go check him out, Joyce."

"Come on!" She cried as they walked out the door.

Evelyn lit a cigarette and hopped into the truck as Jonathan called after them. Hopper eventually climbed in and sat there for a second.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine."

"Really? 'Cause you don't seem fine."

"Well I am."

"You know you can talk to me, right?"

"Yeah, I know."

"Not everything about her has to put you in a bad mood--"

"It doesn't!" he snapped at the woman in the passenger seat. "It doesn't. It's other people talking about her. None of you knew her or anything about my life in the city. It's no ones place to talk about, okay? That's what pisses me off."

"There's more to it than that."

"Yeah, I guess."

"Which is...?"

"We need to get back to the station," he grumbled before shifting gears and pulling out of the Byers' driveway.

"You're being hostile."

"How? By not wanting to talk about my sick and dead daughter while I'm working? Fucking excuse me!"

"Hop, I didn't mean to--"

"Yeah. I'm sure you didn't."

The ride back to the station felt longer than usual. Probably because of the fact you could feel tension building a brick wall between the two's seats.

 

They'd had a chance to go home, shower, eat, and take a power nap before going back out to look for the missing Will. Hopper seemed to be in a little bit of a better mood, but that was just as concerning.

Come on, she thought to herself, he wouldn't drink a ton then come back into work.

"Ev, come on," a voice pulled her out of her thoughts as she scanned the area.

"What's up?" She called from against a tree.

"We're going to Benny's."

The two cops, the chief, and the detective made it there in record time. Hopper kept refusing to tell her why they were going to the diner.

"Jesus," one of them muttered walking in.

Evelyn started writing notes and dodging the flies that littered the place. "Suicide?" Someone asked.

"Not a chance," Evelyn shook her head as Hopper nodded his. "What? You've all fired a gun like this, correct?" They all nodded. "Then you agree there would be enough of a kick that would make it--never in a million years--land this neatly. And," she pointed to the space around them, "If he shot himself in the head, how is there no blood anywhere?"

"There's no exit wound," Callahan pointed out.

"Still, he wouldn't flop forward unless he shot himself in the back of the head. Which, like, is almost impossible and as you can see, never happened."

"Okay, who killed him?" Powell asked.

"I don't know."

"We have no reason to think anyone would kill him," Hopper sighed. 

Evelyn sighed in frustration and continued scratching down notes as the guys kept talking.

That night they started on another search with more volunteers when Evelyn heard a whistle blow. It was far, though, there was no way her and her volunteers she was semi-leading could get over there to see it before someone took it away.

"Hop, you got that? Over."

No response. Evelyn sighed in frustration.

"Chief, whatcha got? Talk to me. If it's evidence I need it ASAP."

There were a few moments of the volunteers staring at each other before they got a response. "We need you over here. Now. I've got something for you."

With that, she took off in the direction the whistles came from before they started moving again. "What's going on?" She asked as she was catching her breath.

"Here. This is for you to keep track of," Hopper stated and pressed a piece of fabric into her hand. "It looks like part of a hospital gown or something. Not sure what else it'd be. Follow me. We found this pipe, think Will might've crawled in and through. We've followed it but it goes under a fence into the Lab. We might be able to get in some time but we can't now unless you want to get arrested for trespassing on government property."

"I thought you were police chief, you can do what you want," she teased and walked back to the entrance of the pipe.

"This is not something I could talk my way out of. Some of the guys think Will would be too big to get through there."

"Let me check my notes. I have his profile in here somewhere," she muttered nearly incoherently with the end of the flashlight in her mouth. "Here," she pointed and released the flashlight into a now free hand. "Read his profile. These are obviously guesses but they seem about right. Ballpark, I mean."

"Height: five-foot-one," Hopper read. "Weight: roughly 80 pounds. I don't know, that seems a little thin, don't you think?"

"Think about it. Roughly my size, hasn't really hit puberty yet. Lanky. I even rounded up to the nearest ten with my guesses. His mom agreed that this seemed as accurate as we can get without getting medical records from his doctor, which could very well take weeks."

"I'll be damned," he sighed. "We may just have had some sort of breakthrough."

Evelyn smiled up at him.

 

"Hey, Hop. Wait up."

Hopper stopped and took the cigarette out of his mouth when he heard the familiar voice.

"Hey, are you heading home?"

"Yeah. I think most of the volunteers have already gone. We should call it a night. I think we got everything out of tonight that we could, you know? And we should all go get some sleep and then meet in the office tomorrow morning. Get some rest, come back with our heads screwed on tight."

"Yeah, totally. Hey, can I hop a ride to your house and grab a bite to eat? I can eat and leave, if you want. I just--this is embarrassing. I'm a grown woman but I don't have any food in my house worth eating because I've been so preoccupied with this--" she stopped herself. "I forgot to grocery shop because I've been tearing through that file time after time. It's like I'm obsessed. Can I literally just stop at your place for a bowl of cereal or something?"

"Yeah, sure. No problem. You can stay the night if you want. You left some clothes last time you stayed over so you won't have to stay in uniform all night. But, yeah. Whatever is there you can eat."

"Cool, cool. Thanks," she nodded, already heading for the passenger side of his truck.

Once they got there Evelyn instantly shed layers of clothing and changed into the pajamas she'd left there for this exact reason. She ends up crashing there every so often that it just made sense. "Jesus," she sighed when she looked for milk in the fridge, "how much a month do you spend on booze?"

"It's called none of your damn business," he called back. "I was going to offer you a beer but I guess I won't."

"I'm not drinking, we work in the morning."

"Pussy."

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me."

"Fuck you," she gave him a middle finger that he swatted away. "I'm not a pussy."

"You are sometimes."

"I am not!"

"Prove it, then."

"Make me," she challenged, taking a step closer to him. They both knew exactly what she was doing. They were both stressed and needed something to distract them for at least a little bit. This wasn't new, of course, and neither of them had serious significant others. And there was a reason Evelyn planned on spending the whole night there.

 

When she woke up, the space next to her was empty and cold. The whole house was cold (Evelyn found this out when she looked for one of Hopper's old t-shirts and wrapped a throw blanket around herself. She found him looking out over the lake, smoking a cigarette.

"It's kinda cold out here, you know."

Hopper didn't turn back to look a her.

She stopped a few feet behind him and waited. They both knew this routine. She wouldn't ask what's wrong because that only made him not want to talk about whatever he's feeling. That is, what he was feeling other than the guilt of sleeping with one of his closest friends. He understood that she's an adult and strong enough to say no if she didn't want to. Hell, she wouldn't initiate it 9 times out of 10 if she didn't want to. But something about it made him feel...gross. As if having sex with an almost stranger and her leaving the next morning would be better. 

"Do you ever feel like you're cursed?" When she was silent, he took it as a cue to keep going. "You know, the last person to go missing here was in the summer of '23. The last suicide was fall of '61."

He turned around and took in how she looked in the moonlight like this. In an old rock t-shirt, her soft features clear but shadowed by a strong jawline, big eyes with an expression that if you step on her toes too hard she'll beat the hell out of you. Yet, somehow they looked compassionate. Hopper wasn't sure where they stopped being forceful and started looking kind, but he wondered if this was one of the few times the kind and thoughtful was seeping through more than anything else. That the wall was breaking down.

Which was scary. Was his wall breaking down too?

"Yes," she replied, snapping him out of his daze. "I do. Feel cursed, I mean. The minute I think we have something on this case it gets thrown out the window and I'm back to square one. So yes, sometimes I do feel cursed. How about we go feel cursed inside, though, so we don't feel like frozen curses for someone to find at the bottom of the lake Indiana Jones style or something."

"Yeah, give me a second," he sighed and took another drag from his cigarette.

With that she turned, deciding to rummage through the fridge for something to eat. 

Chapter Text

Hopper's day certainly didn't start great, but at least he wasn't hungover. However, he woke up with Evelyn standing over where he was laying on the couch.

"So do you only use that bed for fucking whatever woman walks into this house or...? Because if so that's kind of gross that you let me just stay there and sleep the rest of the night."

"No, that is not the only thing I use it for," he rolled his eyes. "I just figured you'd want to sleep by yourself."

"Because I'm a cold-hearted bitch?" she teased.

"The one and only. If you're going to shower, go. Because I'm one minute away from getting in there and using all the hot water."

"I called it first last night," she shrugged and headed in that direction. She was quick and left plenty of hot water. When Hopper got out, he found her in the kitchen, her hair still wrapped up in a towel, and back in pajamas. She was over the stove making eggs.

"I just brewed coffee, too," she noted. "It's in your best interest to be hungry because I'm not eating all these myself."

Hopper slid by her and got two plates, her dishing out an even amount of scrambled eggs onto each. 

"You look startled. Are you okay?"

"Hm?" he looked up at her. "Yeah, I just haven't sat down and had breakfast with someone in...forever."

"It's pretty nice, isn't it? I try to make it tradition when I have my niece and nephew that we sit together as much as possible when we eat because they're getting older and I want them to feel like I treat them like adults. You learn a lot about people over meals."

"Yeah? Like what?"

"Crushes in school, what teachers they hate, you can really learn a lot. Like how much it can mean to someone to just sit down and talk to them over breakfast."

Hopper looked down at his plate and smiled a little.

 

"I ride shotgun," Evelyn declared once they got to the station and her, Hopper, Powell, and Callahan piled into Hopper's truck.

"You're childish."

"No, Hopper is my right-hand."

"Is that because--"

"Shut the fuck up," the two in the front seat said simultaneously. The two in the back shared a look.

Eventually they pulled up to the lab and Hopper tried to talk his way in. And it worked, dropping the chief of police and head of Juvenile Justice certainly helped.

"You think the missing boy crawled through there?" the man asked.

"That was the idea."

"I don't think that's possible.  A hundred cameras, my guys cover every square inch of this place. No one breaks in."

"You keep the tapes?" Hopper questioned. With that they were gone.

"You stay one step ahead of the Russians, huh?" Evelyn asked as they walked through the maze-like building. 

"Something like that."

She and Hopper exchanged  look. 

"Who's in charge?" he asked.

"Dr. Brenner."

"He builds the space lasers?" Callahan asked with a bit of a grin.

"What?"

"Ignore him," the two sighed. They were led into a very small room with TVs showing camera footage.

Evelyn was immediately suspicious, and she could read that Hopper was too. "This is the night of the 6th and 7th?" Hopper asked.

"Yep."

There were no storms on the cameras and they were shown maybe a minute of footage.

"That's it?" Evelyn questioned.

"We would have seen him."

In the parking lot, Ebelyn was showing her anger a bit. "We had a search party on the 7th," Hopper explained to the two men.

"You remember?"

"Yeah there wasn't much, there was a lot of rain," one of them commented.

"Kinda suspicious there was absolutely no rain on the tape and I can't force them to show me more than a minute and a half of footage," Evelyn bit her lip.

"What're you thinking?" Powell asked Hopper.

"I think Carpenter knows what the hell she's talking about."

"I'm just saying!" she groaned in frustration in  the car, "they are covering something up. I just need to find out what."

 

They dropped Callahan and Evelyn at the station and the remaining went to the library for research purposes. Evelyn immediately locked herself off in her office, pulling the scrap of fabric out and putting a vinyl on her record player. She couldn't work in silence.

Hospital gown. Torn. Pipe was written, circled, underlined, then circled again on her page. She'd seen everything, she thought. She hadn't seen this. It seemed impossible to crack without more information. 

"Calvin, get in here!" she called.

"It's Callahan."

"You still answered!"

"Dammit!" he hissed and made his way to the office. "What's going on?"

She threw the piece of fabric down on the desk. "What is this?"

"We found it the other night and decided it was part of a hospital gown."

"Right, but how does this relate to Will?"

The guy stammered for a second. "I don't know. Maybe someone found him and took him to the hospital."

"Maybe he got scared he was going to be in trouble and ran away. But--still," she sighed and put her hair up into a messy bun. "It just doesn't explain anything. He could've frozen to death by now if he was out there in just a hospital gown."

The two teamed up and brainstormed everything possible until the sun had set and it was getting increasingly later.

"Callahan, Carpenter!" Flo called.

"Yeah?" the two asked, grabbing their keys for safe keeping when they walked out of the room. 

"We've got a situation for you to respond to. Need an officer and a detective."

 

Evelyn drove to the quarry while the passenger called for Hopper through Powell, knowing his radio would probably be off. An ambulance was following them at the speed of light, it felt like.

They stood at the shore while rescue worked on finding Will and getting him out of the water. As much as they didn't want it to be, who else could it be?

Callahan excused himself to go wait for Hopper. She didn't blame him. He was young, worked for Hawkins PD. He probably never saw anything like this. This was definitely the first dead kid he'd ever seen. As much as she hated it, Evelyn wished it had been her first time too.

"Tell me it's not the kid," Hopper breathed behind her. She didn't move as they floated the body to shore. Evelyn took her keys and pressed them into Callahan's hand, nodding to him it was fine to take her car.

When they finally put Will in the ambulance, she chased after Hopper.

"Hop, wait," she pleaded after him. "Stop!"

"What?" he turned to ask her. "What?"

"Just, hold on a minute, okay? Hold on."

"We don't have a minute, Evelyn. We have to tell Joyce."

"Hopper, stop!" she shouted as he turned to his car. "Stop, it's only going to make things worse if you're upset too."

"I don't really see how this is going to get worse."

"Just--please. Let me do the talking, okay? I can do it."

"Fine. Get in the car. I'm driving."

Evelyn swore she saw him take a shaky breath and wipe his eyes before getting in.

 

"Our theory we're working on is that Will crashed his bike, made his way over to the quarry and fell in. Maybe the Earth gave way. BUt we don't have anthing concrete right now. I'm sorry, Joyce," Evelyn sighed. "Joyce. Joyce, are you processing what I'm saying?"

"No. Whoever you found... it wasn't Will. It's not my boy."

"Joyce," Hopper cut in. 

"No, you don't understand. I talked to him--what, a half hour ago?"

"What?" Evelyn encouraged her to go on.

"He was here," she nodded and pulled out a ton of Christmas lights. 

"Talking?" Hopper asked lightly. Nearly everyone in the room could tell he was getting frustrated but also felt bad.

"Uh-huh," Joyce nodded. "One blink for yes, two for no. And I made this so he could talk to me. He told me he was hiding from that... thing."

"That came out of the wall to chase you?" Evelyn asked for clarity.

"Yeah."

The detective scrawled as she described the creature Joyce talked about. She continued writing down details while Hopper calmed her. Or attempted to. 

"Wait for me in the car. Talk to Jonathan or... something," she murmured to Hopper as he walked by. Evelyn took a seat next to Joyce of the couch and wrapped an arm around her in a hug. Joyce silently accepted and leaned in, allowing the smaller to wrap the other arm around.

"It's okay, Joyce," she tried to soothe. "I believe you, I promise."

"You do?"

"I do. I believe that you saw what you saw. But I don't know what that is, none of us do. And it sounds so terrifying on top of having a missing kid that we can't comprehend it. Hell, you can't even comprehend it. Understand? But you're not alone and I believe you."

"Thank you," she whispered.

"Can you do me two simple favors though?"

"If you think it will help, yes. Anything. Anything to help figure this out."

"I need you to do two things for me," Evelyn stated clearly and grabbed Joyce's shaking hands. "Okay, three. One: you need to understand that you will get through this. You're hurt, I can only imagine. But I need you to know that no matter what, you will be okay. Two: I need you to go see his body for us tomorrow. You can confirm or deny that it's him, that's up to you completely. But we can't do anything else if you don't also work with us. You can think it's stupid, but we have to do it. Okay? And three: are you able to draw what the thing in the wall looked like?" she asked and offered the notepad and pen.

"I don't--I'm not an artist."

"That's okay. I just want a rough idea. Hell, you could draw me a stick figure and if that's what it looked like, I'll be happy with that. I just need a visual."

Joyce nodded and with a heavy sigh started sketching. "While I do this, will you go talk to Jonathan? He knows you and he will talk to you. I--"

"Yeah, of course," she nodded. 

When she lightly knocked on the door in the hallway there was a slight "come in" from a teenager who had obviously been crying but was trying to hide it.

"Hey," Evelyn said lightly.

"Oh--uh, hi. I'm--I'm sorry about my mom."

"Don't be. She's grieving, you're grieving. Hell, I'm grieving, too." 

"You are?"

"Yeah. Of course. I babysat you for as long as I can remember. You guys are like family to me. But be easy on your mom, okay? And be easy on yourself, too. This was no one's fault, and we are doing our best to solve this as fast as possible. You two will be the first to know everything. And that's a promise."

"Thank you."

"Of course." She stood from the bed and took a few steps but was stopped.

"When your parents--I'm sorry it's just... When your mom died, were you sad?"

"I was mostly angry at first. I didn't get sad until months later. Which are you feeling?"

"Sad, I think. I think it's mostly sad."

"That's okay. You have my phone number, right? And I'm always either home or at the station. You can call one of those places. Just tell them you're returning my urgent call and they'll get you to me ASAP. Got that?"

"Got it. Sorry I just--I don't think I can talk about it now. I'm sorry--"

"Don't be. That's natural. For once in your life you're doing things the normal way. Which, normally I'd tell you to cut it out. But really there's no wrong way to go through this. You're going to feel what you feel and that's okay. Just never hurt yourself, got it? If you ever want to, please call me."

"Yeah, yeah. I definitely will if I do. If I just need to, like, talk to keep me busy can I call you?"

"Of course. I'm always going to have time to help you."

"Thank you."

She lit a cigarette once she was out of the house and lifted herself into Hopper's truck. "Take me back to the station, please," she sighed and stared out the window while he put his hat back over his head. "Jim, come on," she slapped his arm.

"I'm not asleep," he sighed at her. She could tell that he genuinely wasn't. "I'm just--"

"Defeated. Tired. Exhausted. Feel worthless."

"Yeah."

"Tell me about it. Just please take me to the station."

"You're going home, right?"

"Yeah, probably." After a moment of him staring at her she continued. "Listen, I don't know. What I know is on one hand we have the body of a child, Joyce is insisting it isn't Will, Jonathan is trying to help his mom and deal with having a dead brother, and I have so much to figure out. If we found Will in the clothes he went missing in, why the hell do we have that scrap of hospital gown? And clearly, his head was not shaved. So who the fuck is this kid running around with no hair and a hospital gown that no one can place? And Barb Holland is officially missing so I have to figure that out too. I'll probably start with Nancy Wheeler and go from there but these kids are going missing, a new one shows up who looks 12 but maybe has the social functioning of a five-year-old, and on top of that Will is dead."

"Ev, I get it. I do. But you're not going to get anywhere exhausted. Just go home, meet me at the morgue in the morning, alright?"

"If I tried to sleep right now, I wouldn't be able to. Not in good conscience, anyway. No way."

"I get it, but you at least need rest. I mean, shit, the bags under your eyes are going to eat you alive if you let them get worse."

"Thanks."

"You need sleep."

"I need to work."

"You will work. Tomorrow."

"Just forget about it, dude. I'll meet you in at the morgue tomorrow morning. Probably closer to 8."

"Yeah, sure," he sighed and put the car into drive.

Chapter Text

Evelyn had gotten maybe a couple hours of legitimate sleep before the clock hit 6 AM and Evelyn decided to call into the station.

"Hawkins Police department."

"Hop?"

"Yeah. What's up?"

"I'll need Callahan today to help me with the Barbara investigation. He's got a day shift, right?"

"Yeah, I think so," Hopper replied. "Don't worry about it. I'm going to send him with Powell to do what you said. Start with asking Nancy Wheeler since you think that was the last person who saw her."

"I don't know, man. I think I should--"

"Ev, stop. You can not handle every case thrown at us. You need help. Let go just a little."

"Fine," she groaned into the receiver. "Just--I'll meet you at the morgue in, like, an hour."

 

Evelyn sighed and listened to the receptionist and Hopper talking about the autopsy and everything else. She was across the room from Hop, brainstorming ideas on... everything. Barbara, Will, the mysterious kid. Everything was piling on at once and it just was chaotic.

"That is NOT my son!" Joyce yelled and stormed out the door suddenly, breaking Evelyn's thoughts.

"Ah, Jesus," Hopper groaned as Jonathan suddenly bolted after her.

"Hop, leave them," the woman rolled her eyes. "They have their own shit to work out. I'm going back to the station."

"I think I'm gonna ask Gary to stop in the station to talk." he informed the woman and followed her to her car.

"Gary? Why Gary? Please, please do not add more onto my case load. Jim Hopper, if you so much as think about giving me more cases I will--"

"They sent him home last night. State guys took over for the autopsy. I don't understand why they'd take over on this case specifically."

"I don't know either," she sighed and lit a cigarette. "I don't know. Listen, just come talk to me in the office when you're done with him, alright?"

"Yeah," he sighed as she turned her car on and drove away.

Back at the office she heard them talk, sure. But she just waited for Hopper to come relay information, working on anything and everything possible with that time. He gave her all the information she expected, which was very little.

"I think I'm going to try to find the guy that found Will this afternoon. Question him."

"He won't talk to a cop."

"I know. I'll just dress normal and act normal."

"Yeah, okay. If you get anywhere let me know. Remember the quarry is run by the Sattler Company. Not state. They'll try to say it's state run. Don't fuck that one up."

"Have a little faith."

"I do. Call me right after, okay? You gotta give me everything you have."

"I will."

So Evelyn waited... she lost track of time, really. Trying to crack literally anything. It was driving her crazy. Finally the phone blared and it took less than a second for her to pick it up.

"Talk to me."

"I talked to the guy who called in the body and he said he was told to call it in and not let anyone get too close. Which means there's something wrong with it. Wouldn't tell me who sent him, said he didn't know. There was someone watching us and they took off like a bat out of hell but..."

"So bring the asshole in, this is great!

"I can't."

"Why not?"

"He got away."

"You let him go?!"

"No, I was trying to see who was watching and... he ran."

"You didn't keep a hand on him?"

"No I was waiting to see if that guy in the car was going to try to kill me, Evelyn."

"You're being dramatic."

"I'm not. The guy even said 'you're going to get us both killed.' I don't know what this is, but we're in some deep shit already. Alright? I promise I did what I could."

"God dammit, this could've given us exactly what we need," she sighed more to herself than Hopper.

"I know, I know. I think I know what to do, though."

"Okay, give it to me."

"I can't. Not over the phone. I sound paranoid but--just let me get back to the station and we can go over this, alright?"

"Alright, fine. Where are you?"

"Just outside of town. I'll be there in ten tops."

"Alright. get over here because this is--"

"I know."

With that, she hung up and put her hair into a high ponytail. What the hell did he have planned?

 

"Let's go down to the morgue. See it for ourselves."

"What?!" Evelyn cried at the pacing man. "Are you crazy?"

"Not any more than you!"

"That's so illegal."

"Yeah, well, so is faking a kid's death. Listen, we can sneak in and out, no one needs to know."

"You're too punch-happy when things don't go your way. You need to let me do the talking, then."

"I'm not promising anything. Listen, if people get hurt it's because I didn't have another option."

Evelyn knew that was a bit of a fib but at this point, she'd rather use a few punches than try to figure out all the lies that are being told. The two had a stare-down for a moment. "Fine. But if we get caught I'm telling whoever that you made me."

"Fine."

So they were in his truck, in the morgue parking lot. Hopper left his hat on the dashboard.

"Hi, Patty!" he greeted the woman.

"Need something, Chief?"

"I just left my hat, ya know."

"We only need a minute," Evelyn pressed a smile. "You're an idiot, you never talk to people that friendly," she chastised once they were away.

"Well, it got us through, didn't it? Hey, I love that book!" he greeted an officer around the corner. "Nasty mutt."

"You guys can't be back here."

"Yeah, I just got off the line with O'Bannon," Hopper shrugged. "He said he needs to see you at the station, it's an emergency."

"What the hell are you talking about? I don't work with O'Bannon."

Nice one, Evelyn rolled her eyes.

"Did I say O'Bannon? I meant... yeah..." he said lightly before punching the guy straight on in the face.

"You are insufferable," Evelyn sighed as she grabbed the man's keys.

"Yeah, well, I got us in here."

"It's a morgue not a prison."

"Sh," he hushed when they moved into the actual area with bodies. "Stay, like, on watch out there."

"Uh, hell no. You stay on watch."

"Evelyn!" he hissed

"Jim!" she hissed back.

He gave a defeated sigh before she started looking in each little freezer. "I got him," he finally announced and pulled out the body.

"It... doesn't even look like him," she murmured over the table.

"Yeah."

"Here," she said and handed him a knife.

"Why do you carry a knife?"

"Why do you?"

He sighed and put a hand on the body's chest. "This doesn't... feel right."

"Hop, if you don't just do it, I will."

"Just, hang on--" he exhaled and held his hands out. "We need to be sure we want to do this--"

"Oh, Jesus Christ!" she exclaimed, taking the knife and starting an incision at the belly button.

"What the fuck?" the woman asked slowly as he pulled stuffing out. "God fucking--" she sighed and turned away for a moment. "I can not believe this."

"Yeah," he agreed. "We need to get into that lab."

"Let's go."

Chapter Text

"Have you been in there?" Evelyn asked carefully.

"Only when we saw those tapes."

"Cool. It's a fucking maze."

"Yeah."

"So--"

"Just stop talking. We need someone to come out so we can get in."

So they waited and eventually slipped in. They decided to sneak around in their street clothes, both being thankful Evelyn had brought a change of clothes to the office today. Evelyn was walking backwards every so often to make sure no one came up behind then when someone grabbed her and put a hand over her mouth.

"Stay quiet," Hopper breathed in her ear. She looked around at the tiny room he pulled her into before noticing how tight he was holding her. I wasn't romantic-thriller tight, it was the I-will-die-of-lack-of-oxygen-if-he-doesn't-let-me-go-in-two-seconds type.

When he released her, she let him exit first, deciding to still cover their backs while walking. 

"You up for this?" he asked carefully while looking at the zipped sheet with bio-hazard signs on it.

"Yeah. Totally. I've been ready since this started."

With that, they went in And they made it pretty far, too, before there was a locked door that they wanted in through. 

"Hands up. Hands up!" A voice demanded behind them. They were cornered. Evelyn obeyed and elbowed Hopper in the side. He eventually did too. "You forget about all the cameras?"

Evelyn had a mental I-Told-You-So moment. She didn't need to say it, Hopper heard it anyway.

"Look," Evelyn sighed. "Dr. Brenner asked for us specifically. Alright?"

"How else would we have gotten in here?"

"What was your names again?"

"Jim Hopper. Chief Jim Hopper," he said and nudged Evelyn.

"Chrissy Jones, head of Juvenile Justice."

The guy pulled out a radio and clicked the button. "I have a--"

Evelyn took her gun out and knocked his small gun away, going for his radio with the other hand and backing him against the wall with her gun. Hopper took the cue and ended up taking the other guy's gun, swiping his badge. "Grab his gun," Hopper nodded to the gun on the floor. "And the radio."

"I'm not an idiot."

"Well, you never know," he retorted.

Evelyn looked at the balding man in front of her, completely against the wall. In a split second she punched him in the face, knocking him to the floor.

"Come on," she breathed and grabbed everything, letting Hopper unlock the door. They waited for the door to lock before Evelyn stared at the key card reader for a moment. "Are you crazy?" she gaped at the man next to her when he shot it.

"Possibly."

"Don't waste bullets."

"Don't be uptight."

"Will?" Evelyn called as they cautiously wandered. "Will, we're here for you buddy. It's Ev, you know me. I'm with Hopper from the station. You can trust us."

"Will!" Hopper called and searched a room. Evelyn took the left side of the hallways and he took the right. 

"Anything?"

"No. WIll?"

"Will, come on," Evelyn called. 

"Will, you're not in trouble!"

"Will!"

"Ev, get in here!"

"You got him?" she asked breathlessly and ran to him.

"No. But you're going to want to write this down."

"Fuck, this is morbid," she sighed and took out a notepad. "Hold my flashlight, please," she more ordered while writing every detail possible. 

It was like a solitary cell, that she recognized. There was a camera in the corner aimed at the bed which was neatly made and a stuffed lion was on top of it. On the wall was a drawing made by a child. There was a table with a cat on it, it looked like, and there were two stick figures. A child labeled "11" and an adult labeled "Papa".

"What the hell is this?"

"I don't know," Evelyn sighed and kept scrawling. "Come on, we need to keep moving, though. Whatever this is--" an alarm started blaring, "--it's morbid. And we only have so much time."

The two ran out, constantly calling for the child. There was yelling further back, so they'd found a way in.

"Come on!" Hopper grunted and grabbed her hand. They bolted down the hallway, checking for any path to follow when Hopper pulled her into an elevator. She put her notepad away and kept the gun in her hand cocked, Hopper searching every square inch with his flashlight.

"WHat the hell?" he murmured when they stepped off into another dark hallway. There was... something... floating around. Particles, they looked like. Almost like dust, but it definitely wasn't dust. Evelyn let out a rough cough. Next time, bring masks of some kind, she noted. If there was a next time. 

"God," Evelyn groaned slightly when she turned a corner. "What is this?"

"I don't know," Hopper replied and let go of her hand finally. She had't realized how tightly they'd been holding each other's hands until just now. When she looked back up he was walking toward the... thing... on the wall.  

"Don't touch it--we don't know what it is. Hopper!" she exclaimed when he got even closer. "Jim." She said, more forcefully. "Do. not. touch. that. We don't know what it is."

"Yeah," he said softly. "Exactly."

"You are actually infuriating, you know," she scoffed when he actually put his hand in it. He was going to turn around and tell her not to be dramatic, but there was a sound of something hitting the floor. Gun out, he turned to find Evelyn face down on the floor and a man walking toward him.

 

Hopper knew his eyes were open. If he knew he was awake and he knew they were open, why was he only seeing a slip of purple paper?

Where was he?

Hopper snatched the slip and turned it around. Do not talk. I'm the only one here. Stay silent.

He knew it was Evelyn, or someone who could seriously imitate her writing. Though, her chicken scratch was so close to bordering illegible that he thought there wasn't a way to fake this. So he stood, realized that this was, in fact, his home, and looked around. There were light bulbs all over the floor, a panel on his TV was laying next to the couch, the phone was torn apart, it looked like, and nothing was where it was when he left yesterday.

He heard a shattering sound of a light bulb and a groan from the bathroom and went to investigate. Evelyn held a finger up to signal for him to be quiet, consequently flinging blood onto herself and the wall near them as the gash on her hand moved. She just held out a hand for him to stop. He watched as she took her shirt off, wrapping it around her the length of her palm so cover the wound. He almost told her to stop being stupid and get the first aid kit, but was too freaked out to actually say anything. Eventually he started helping as she logically and purposefully moved through the house o dismantle everything. Hopper was a little less organized, slicing open the couch and literally almost destroying the place. Hopper found the one bug in his home. He, without saying anything of course, left an went to destroy it and throw the pieces in the lake out in his back yard. 

When he entered, Evelyn had a beer in hand and was sitting against the fridge.

"You're good now. Did you find any?"

"One. It's in the lake. Crushed to a billion pieces."

"Good."

"Was your place--"

"To high heavens. I think I found five in total. I ended up cleaning up a bit for you."

"Ha-ha," he said sarcastically, nudging her out of the way with his foot for him to get something to drink, but ended up with just a glass of water. 

"This is weird."

"The fact that we were drugged and brought back?"

"I'm drinking a beer first thing in the morning and you have a glass of water."

"Alright, very funny."

"Seriously, though. I just--"

"Yeah. I know."

"What were all those newspapers in your living room? Are you a secret kleptomaniac from the library?"

"No. It's possible... I don't know. I thought I had a lead for a while. I'm gonna give 'em to you so you can analyze."

"Yeah, sounds good. Hey, if it makes you feel more comfortable you can stay at my place for a few nights. There's... not a lot left but I do have an air mattress. I'm going to have to use the next few paychecks to get it back in order."

"Thanks," he offered a weak smile. The two sighed together when there was a banging on the door. "Stay," he shook his head, knowing she probably wouldn't listen.

She stayed in the space between the door frame and the window and listened. Listen to Callahan and Powell talk to Hopper about a bunch of different things. They had no idea and it needed to stay that way. The only people that should be in danger is the two of them, Evelyn thought. No one else.

When they left, Evelyn collapsed to sit on the floor and Hopper sat against the wall across from her. She hadn't noticed he picked up the phone and started taping it back together. Honestly, she didn't care much because she was already half asleep. There was a theory she had that she woke up earlier than meant and she's still fighting the drugs, but she's also exhausted

"Hey," she heard. "Yeah. I know, I just wanted to... hear your voice and... I just wanted to say, um, that after everything happened..."

Evelyn tried tuning out. It was obviously Diane he called (for some god-knows-why reason Evelyn never understood) and it was something he kept relatively private. He must've either thought she was really out or just really trusted her.

Was he saying these things because he thought they'd die? Ev's mind was absolutely racing. 

She heard the phone clink down on the receiver and lifted her head. "Are you--"

"I'm fine. That was stupid. Do you not have another shirt here?" he asked wearily and looked at the woman in her bra.

"I don't know. I haven't looked. I feel like shit."

"You look like shit."

"Thanks."

"Don't die on me until this is all over, please."

"I'm gonna do my best, dude."

He gave a dry laugh and got up, leaving for a couple minutes and coming back. Evelyn's eyes were close when he tossed a first aid kit and a shirt in her lap.

"Thanks," she put in half the effort for a smile and started to peel the shirt off of her hand. "It's mostly done bleeding, I think. Oh, no--shit," she hissed as blood started to pool in her palm again. "Help--please. I don't have the energy to do this with one hand."

Hopper scooted over before gently taking her right hand in his and pushing the gauze down on it. "Hold this while I wrap," he said quietly and started to wrap up her hand. "Hope no one breaks in while I leave, this place looks like I murdered someone and chased them around," he joked and pointed to the blood on the floor. "Plus it looks like I just splattered some in the bathroom for fun."

"Listen, I'll clean it--"

"I didn't mean it like that." She gave him a knowing grin.

"We should go check Joyce's."

"Yeah. Yeah, you're right."

"I usually am," the woman yawned. Hopper gave her a look. She shrugged in response. "Are you going to get that?" she nodded at the phone and put the spare shirt on. He pulled the cord out of the wall in response. 

 

"That should be it. I think we're good," Evelyn murmured. 

"Can't guarantee it, but we should be okay."

"What is going on?!" Joyce cried.

"Hop, can you explain it?" Evelyn looked at him. He noticed the bags under her eyes were significantly darker, her face seemed like she was always ready to fall asleep, and she just looked--as Hopper had pointed out--like shit.

"Yeah," he nodded and went into the whole thing with Joyce and Evelyn rubbed her hands over her face and laid her head on the table. 

Chapter Text

The three were sitting at a table, Evelyn's notes spread out. She had had about four cups of coffee and five cigarettes in the span of probably three hours and was a bit more awake now. She recognized it probably wasn't good to smoke that much in such little time, but right now she didn't particularly care.

Hopper had told her mostly everything, with Evelyn contributing every so often. They explained the kid's room again and described the picture.

"The kid's drawing--was it good?"

"It was a kid's drawing, Joyce, it was stick figures!" Hopper shook his head.

"Then it wasn't Will," she shook her head and showed them a picture.

Evelyn scratched something out on her notepad and followed the two to the living.

"Earl," he stated.

"Excuse me?"

"The night Benny died, Earl said he saw some kid with a shaved head with Benny. I pressed him, he said it might be Will, but maybe..."

He sighed and Evelyn wrote more.

"Look," he showed the women a paper. "This woman. Terry Ives. She claims to have lost her daughter Jane. She sued Brenner, she sued the government. The claims came to nothing but what if... What if his whole time I've been looking for Will I've been chasing after some kid?"

"Are these those the newspapers you were going to give me?"

"Yeah."

Evelyn scooped them up, almost manic, scanning them. "Listen," she sighed after a moment. "Even if this kid isn't Will, he or she still needs help. Yeah, we're focused on Will right now but we need to end up looking at this, too."

"Okay, so, what're we going to do?" Joyce questioned.

"You guys should go find her."

"We could talk to her, find out more. Maybe this kid really is hers and it'll help us find Will..." Hopper rubbed his face.

"I'm going to go back to the station, start sifting through these articles. Keep me updated on anything you find, alright?"

"Yeah, of course."

 

Evelyn sat at her desk, back to her routine of coded symbols, underlining, highlighting, circling, scrawling and wanting to just force a concussion on herself by slamming her head into the desk. This was mind numbing after a certain point. At some point the words stopped looking like words and the whole page turned black, the print and pen looking exactly the same.

"Hello?" Evelyn answered when her phone rang.

"We need someone to answer this call to the supermarket. They said there's a little girl who stole Eggos and broke all of the windows--"

"Flo, I can't. I'm not a cop, make Callahan or Powell do it. I'm way too busy--"

"They are saying she broke the windows with her mind--at least without touching them. I figured this was more up your alley."

"Thank you, Flo," Evelyn sighed and hung up. With that, she was taking off toward Big Buy with her lights on the top of her car.

"You're a cop?" the man questioned her. Probably because of her street clothes. Usually in uniform she didn't have issues.

"Detective Carpenter," she shook his hand. "You said she stole boxes of Eggos and left?"

"Yeah and she broke all of the windows. She didn't touch them or anything it was--crazy," he finally spat out.

"How old do you think she was?" Evelyn pulled out her beat up notebook.

"I don't know. Middle school, probably."

"What was she wearing? Any identifying marks like birthmarks, tattoos..."

"Well, first of all, she had a shaved head."

"Like no hair?"

"Like a buzz cut, almost."

"Okay, keep going," she encouraged.

"She had a pink dress and I don't remember what color her shoes were."

"Was she white?"

"Yeah."

"Alright. Did she say anything to you?"

"She just called me a mouth breather before stealing."

"Alright. What way did she go?"

The man pointed her in a direction, she handed the case over to a cop that she didn't remember the name of, and took off after lighting a cigarette.

Evelyn got into some wooded area when she thought she saw a flash of pink in the distance. Stubbing out the cigarette, she quietly and stealthily moved toward it. She could see a girl with next to no hair sitting and eating Eggos right from the box. She was eating them cold.

"Eggos taste a lot better warm, you know," Evelyn said softly from about ten feet away. The girl flinched, grabbed her boxes, and looked at the woman with huge eyes.

"Woah, woah woah," she put her hands up in surrender. "I'm not gonna hurt you. I'm here to help you." The girl stared at her again and took a couple steps away.

"I'm here to help. I promise. I won't lie to you. What's your name?" she took a couple steps forward. "Alright, I'll stay here. I won't move, promise. What's your name?"

"Bad guy," she said quietly.

Evelyn was taken aback. "No, I'm not a bad guy. I'm a good guy. Here to help. I--"

Then her radio went off and scared the poor kid who was already terrified enough. She could tell it was Powell. The child's eyes went even wider and when Evelyn tried to soothe that it's okay, the kid started backing up more.

Suddenly there was a searing pan in her left shoulder that took her to the ground with a yell. She hadn't even seen the kid run away.

"Ah, shit!" she hissed to herself and touched the shoulder. No blood. How the hell did that happen? The pain subsided for a few second which allowed her to satnd, but forced her against a tree when it went from 0 to 100 in a second.

Eventually, she found her way back to the Big Buy and her car. It wasn't going to be that hard to pop her arm back into place, right?

 

"Hey, what happened to you?" Callahan questioned when Evelyn came in with her hand cradling her arm at the elbow. "You never came back on the radio--"

"Yeah, I was a little fuckin' busy!" she called through the reception window, moving back to where they were sitting. "I'm gonna need--Jonathan?" she stopped dead in her tracks where Nancy was holding a thing of ice wrapped in a cloth on his face.

He sighed and hung his head. "Hey, man, what happened?" she asked and moved toward him.

"Steve got into a fight with him," Nancy answered.

"So where's Steve? Usually if two people fight they bring in two people."

"One of the guys chased after him but I don't think they caught him."

Once the officer left the room she leaned in. "Which one was it?"

"I don't know his name--"

"Kinda dorky, weird, wears glasses?"

"Yeah."

Evelyn rolled her eyes. "Listen, just... chill out here, okay? Why'd you get into a fight?"

"It doesn't--"

"Steve was being a dick," Nancy answered. "I don't blame him. Steve... he crossed the line."

"What happened?"

"He mentioned Will," Nancy said quietly.

"Of course he did," Evelyn moved to rub her face but cried out when her shoulder screamed at her.

"Hey, are you okay?" Jonathan asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine. I fell. Hurt myself. That and on the other hand I cut myself this morning. It's been a wild day, you know?"

"Did you dislocate it?" someone in the office asked.

"Yeah. I'm just going to have Hop set it when he gets back. He knows how to do it."

"That shouldn't be a normal thing, Carpenter."

"Well, it is!" She exhaled and moved closer to the teenagers sitting. "Listen, off-record here, I do not blame you one bit. Kid probably had it coming. Just chill here until you get processed okay? You'll probably be let go, especially if Hop gets here soon."

"Here, I got you some ice, too," Flo said quietly and handed Evelyn a cloth full of ice. She took it, set it down and lit a cigarette. Any pressure on it would hurt like hell right now.

Chapter Text

Evelyn was leaning against a desk with an ice pack to her shoulder when Callahan and Powell walked in. "Hey, can we see you outside for a second?"

"Yeah," she groaned quietly and exited with them. "What's up?"

"Uh..." Callahan said and opened the trunk of a car. "This is Byer's car and... just look."

Evelyn saw all the weird shit, handed her ice pack to Powell, and started digging through it. "Why the hell...?"

"We don't know. Figured we'd wait until Hopper got back to say anything."

"Yeah, sure," she ran a hand through her hair and exhaled. "Yeah, that's a good idea."

So they went back inside and waited until the door opened and the couple walked in.

"Hey!" Joyce cried out. "Jonathan, what happened?"

"I'm fine," he sighed.

"Did you dislocate your shoulder again?" Hopper looked at Evelyn. "I left for a half hour, what the hell is going on?"

"I'll explain it in a few, alright?" she murmured.

"Why is he wearing handcuffs?"

"Your boy assaulted a police officer, that's why," Callahan said, somewhat annoyed that she even asked.

"Take them off!"

"I can not do that."

"Take them off!" Joyce yelled.

"You heard her, take them off."

"While I am all for removing the handcuffs, you guys should see something first," Evelyn sighed.

"What is this?!" Joyce cried and looked into the box Hopper brought in.

"Ask your kid, it was in his car," Evelyn rubbed her face with the cut hand.

"Why were you going through my car?"

"Is that really what you should be asking right now?" Hopper looked at him.

"I wanna see you in my office," Evelyn muttered and balanced the ice pack on her shoulder. "You too," she pointed at Hopper. When he gave her a look, she continued. "You are going to set my shoulder back in place, then Jonathan is going to explain why he has all this in his car. Understood?"

"You're not going to believe me," he said quietly.

"Try me. I've seen a lot of crazy shit in the past week."

With that, she went down the hall to her office, taking a seat on the desk and sighing. Hopper walked in and sat Jonathan at the chair facing her desk.

"Jonathan, stay put for a minute," she sighed. "Hop, can you?" she pointed to her arm and gave a shaky sigh. "I literally can't get it out of my sleeve myself."

"Yeah, it's going to hurt like a bitch."

"That's fine. I don't really have a choice, do I."

He carefully helped her take the jacket off, revealing her white, long-sleeved shirt with a few spots of blood on it from that morning. This had been one long day.

"Alright, easy," he murmured and helped get her arm out.

"Oh Jesus Christ, Jim, just get it over with! Just take my arm out of the damn shirt."

"You're mean when you're hurt, you know that?"

"Yeah, and we're wasting time."

Hopper quickly took her arm out of her sleeve, attempting to ignore her yell in pain. All during this, Callahan also thought it would be a good time to remove Jonathan's handcuffs.

"Alright," Hopper prepared, Evelyn holding her shirt that was lopsidedly pooled at her neck, only covering the right half of her body. "This is gonna hurt."

"Yeah, I know. Just do it."

"Alright... 1..." he started to count.

"Fucking do it--" she tried to say while biting down on a towel Flo had given her.

There was a loud crack and the sound of Evelyn yelling. Jonathan cringed and everyone outside of the office definitely heard everything.

"Thank you," she breathed, lightly putting her shirt back on properly. "Sorry, Jonathan. That needed to happen. Ah, shit that's sore. Alright, explain everything to us."

And he did. He started at the beginning and ended up giving Hopper a picture. Evelyn decided to bring in Joyce and Nancy at this point.

"And you're saying blood draws it?" Evelyn asked, wiping her eyes with her sleeve. Damn dislocations always made her eyes water for a while after it was fixed.

"It's just a theory," Nancy sighed.

"Let us talk to Nancy real quick, guys."

"Of course," Joyce nodded, practically dragging Jonathan away.

"You're agreeing with everything Jonathan says?" Evelyn questioned, digging through a drawer until she found something to wrap around her shoulder.

"Yes. Completely. It sounds crazy and we're kids but--"

"Nancy, stop," Hopper pinched the bridge of his nose. "It's fine, you don't need to justify it."

He began to flip through Evelyn's notebook before coming along a drawing that looked exactly like what was in the picture. "Holy shit," he mumbled. "Ev, who drew this?"

"Drew what?"

"This," he pointed at the notebook.

"Joyce, the night we found the fake."

"Look," he put it next to the picture.

"This is good. We're getting somewhere," she nodded, a little giddy with this breakthrough.

She was writing something down when there was someone yelling out where the reception was. "I want an apology!" the woman cried.

"Good God," Evelyn sighed before following Hopper out the door.

"An apology for what exactly?"

"Where is the chief? I want to talk to him.

"Stay here," he motioned to the Byers and Nancy.

"What the hell is going on?" Evelyn cried next to him when they walked in. She had to say, everyone has taken her a bit more seriously since all of this started and was happy about that. Apparently the chief of police wanting you as their right-hand-man wasn't enough until now.

"These men are humiliating my son!"

"That's not true," Callahan exclaimed. Evelyn shook her head at him.

"There was some fight, Chief," Powell started.

"A psychotic child broke his arm!"

"A little girl, chief. A little one."

"That tone! Do you hear that tone?"

In any other circumstance, Evelyn would be eager to prove that someone small and female can easily break his arm but she was just too damn busy right now.

"We don't have time for this!" she hissed at Hopper.

"Will you please take a statement and get her out?" he asked and mouthed the last part. The two then turned to leave before they heard the kid.

"She had no hair and she was bleeding from her nose," he started. Evelyn grabbed Hopper's arm. "Like a freak!"

"What'd you say?" she rushed back.

"I said she's a freak!"

"No!" Hopper clarified as his partner rolled her eyes. "Her hair. What about her hair?"

"Her head's shaved," the kid looked up at them. "She doesn't even look like a girl. And..."

"And?" they encouraged.

"And she can... do things."

"What things?" Evelyn pushed.

"Like... make you fly. And piss yourself.

"Was she alone?" Hopper questioned.

"No. She always is with those losers."

"What losers?"

"Mike Wheeler and Dustin Henderson."

"Hop. that's her. She's the one who dislocated my shoulder."

"What?!"

"Yeah. I was gonna tell you after this but--here we are."

"Where was this?" Hopper asked both of them.

"Mine was in the woods."

"It was just outside of the woods, near that cliff."

"Hopper, we need to go. Now."

"Finish taking the statement," he told the officers. "Go grab Nancy, we gotta go."

That's how Nancy ended up in the car with Jonathan, Hopper, Joyce, and Evelyn, watching as people walked out of the Wheeler house with boxes.

"My parents are there."

"They'll be fine. You can't go there yet, though. You gotta stay."

Hopper had to stop her from leaving while Evelyn stretched her arm.

"Mike is over there!"

"They haven't found him yet!"

"Nancy," she walked over and held the arm Hopper didn't have gently. "He'll be fine. He's smart, he'll be fine."

"Ev. Come on, get in the car."

He dragged the both of them back to the car as Evelyn spotted the helicopter overhead.

"This is fun," Evelyn sighed in the backseat. "This is a lot of fun. This is great."

"Chill out!" Hopper yelled at her from the backseat.

"I'm trying!" she yelled back. "Sorry, that was right in your ear," she apologized to Jonathan.

"We need to find them before they do. Do you have any idea where they might have gone?"

"I don't know."

"Nancy, think."

"I don't know, we haven't talked a lot lately."

"What about a place your parents don't know that he could go? He'd probably be there."

"I don't know!"

"I might," Jonathan nodded quietly. "I don't know where he is, but I think I know how to ask him."

Hopper took off like he was rushing someone to the hospital. They got into Will's room, Joyce finding the radio. The group pulled the antennae up and handed it to Nancy.

"This is an emergency, Mike!"

"Ev, you're good with kids," Hopper nudged.

"They might have that other kid with them. She thought I was after her. That's why she hurt me. She'd recognize my voice, it'd hurt more than help."

"Jesus," he sighed and took the radio. "Listen, kid, this is the chief. If you're there, pick up. We know you're in trouble and we know you're with the girl. We can protect you and help you, but you've gotta pick up."

It took a minute, but there was a response.

"Mike?" Hopper spoke into it. "Where are you guys?"

They found out about the bus the kids were hiding in and Evelyn and Hopper left. Hopper held up a finger to stay quiet as they saw three men going toward the bus.

"Hey!" Evelyn yelled at one, hitting him in the face with the butt of her pistol (using her good arm, of course) and knocking him to the ground. She managed to knock him out while Hopper took care of the other two guys.

While he did that, she hopped on the bus.

"C'mon guys."

Hopper heard the silence and followed her on. "Let's go!" he shouted. They all grabbed their stuff and followed the adults.

"I told you I wasn't a bad guy," Evelyn looked in the rear view mirror at the girl.

"What's your name?"

"We call her El," Dustin informed.

"That's great, but that doesn't tell us what her name is."

"Eleven," she said quietly.

"Okay," Evelyn exhaled and looked at Hopper. He gave her the same 'I don't know' look back. "Well, that's Hopper, he's the chief of POlice. I'm Detective Carpenter, we work together. You're safe with us, okay? We are going to protect you."


By the time they got back to Joyce's house, it was way past dark. Mike took on explaining the acrobat metaphor thing to the adults and teenagers.

"The gate," Hopper commented. "Is it underground?"

"Yes."

Evelyn was a little slow on it, but she figured out what the gate all meant and all the science-y shit they were talking about.

"Near a water tank?" she leaned forward.

"Yes."

"How'd you two know all that?" Dustin asked suspiciously.

"They've seen it," Mike realized.

Evelyn took a shaky breath and lit a cigarette. She really needed to kick this habit, she realized. But this wasn't the time. They moved to the table where the poor kid tried to talk to Will and Barbara. The lights flickered and the radio static gt faint before the girl opened her eyes.

"I'm sorry," she shook her head. "I can't find them."

The poor kid looked like she was going to cry. Evelyn wasn't sure how she'd react, but went over anyway, starting with a hand on her shoulder. The girl actually leaned into it. Evelyn wrapped an arm around her securely and hugged her.

"It's okay, it's okay," she murmured to the kid. "it's okay, none of us are mad at you."

By what she'd known about the girl's history, she really needed to hear that.

"Hey, come here," she led the kid to the hallway. "Here's the bathroom. Feel free to pee, take a few minutes to yourself, okay? I'll be right out here to wait for you. It's okay." Evelyn could faintly hear them talk at the table.

Before she went into the bathroom Eleven reached out to touch her. She recoiled a bit before letting the girl do ti. "Sorry," she said quietly and touched Evelyn's injured shoulder.

"It's okay. You didn't know me, I shouldn't have come up on you like that."

Eleven nodded before heading into the bathroom.

"Bath."

"Sorry?"

The girl was standing in the doorway and looking at the adult.

"I can find them."

"Come here," she led Eleven to the others. "Mike! She said she can find them she needs--a bath or something. I don't know."


"Mike and Nancy, Jonathan and Hop, Joyce and El, Dustin, Lucas, and me. Team A, B, C, and D," Evelyn split them up. "A, you go get supplies for us to fill the pool. B, you're on salt duty. C, get El ready and rested to go. D, we're getting the pool and stuff set up."

"We can handle it if you want--"

"No, sorry. You need an adult with you."

Everyone split out, Evelyn and the two boys heading to the gym.

"How does this even work?" One of the asked.

"Son of a bitch!" Dustin cried.

"Aren't you two a little young to be swearing?"

"We're almost 13," Dustin clarified.

"Plus, I feel like this situation we've been put in warrants it, too."

"Fair," Evelyn nodded. "Here, get on each side like a triangle so we stand it up. See, this is why I said we needed three people. Honestly, ideal would be four."

Eventually Nancy and Mike got there with the hoses and everything, Lucas holding the thermometer in the pool. Evelyn took her knife and started opening bags of salt and dumping them in.

"This is fucking crazy, right?" she looked at Hopper.

"For sure."

"Wanna go out for drinks after this is all over?"

"Yeah, sure. i might pass out for a week, though."

"Fair. Me too."

"Yeah, you need it."

"More salt!" Dustin cried. The two went back to dumping.

All of them were crowded around the tiny pool, watching as the lights dimmed and Eleven disappeared into her own world.

"Gone, gone," she kept murmuring, almost crying.

"Hey, hey, hey, we got you," Evelyn said loudly for her to hear as she and Hopper each grabbed a hand. "I got you, you're okay. We're here.

"Don't be afraid, I'm right here," Joyce murmured as Eleven floated into her own space again.

"Castle Byers," she said. "Will?"

Joyce gasped. "Tell him I'm coming. Mom is coming."

"Hurry," came from the radio.

"Tell him we're coming! To hold on just a little longer."

Suddenly the girl whipped up and took the goggles off, letting Joyce embrace her in a hug. Damn, Joyce has this mom thing down, Evelyn thought to herself.

Someone brought a towel and the boys went and sat with Eleven. "Where's this fort?" Hopper asked.

"The woods behind our house. He used to go there to hide."

Hopper and Evelyn shared a look before walking out with their coats in hand.

"Go back inside!" he told Joyce and Jonathan.

"Are you insane?" Joyce looked at them.

"Look if something happens to either of us, we don't make it back--"

"Are you crazy? He's my son. I'm going."

She had a point. Evelyn knew she and Hp had the least to lose of anybody. They didn't have families and they were adults. But Will is her kid. Ev could only imagine what she would do in Joyce's situation.

Evelyn and Hopper walked to the truck. They were determined whether or not she was coming.

"Joyce!" He yelled at her. She climbed into the truck and Hopper took off.

 

Chapter Text

Evelyn knew she'd probably die doing something dumb, but god damn. She did not expect to go out listening to Jim Hopper ramble off his bullshit when the three of them were caught outside of Hawkins Lab.

Evelyn groaned as she got hit with the stun gun again and it took her to the floor in the corner of the cement room.

"What do you know?"

Evelyn started laughing, getting cut off into another scream as they hit her again, but this time just under the armpit.

"What do you know?"

"I mean," she started laughing at them again. "I know that you fuck with kids' heads. And I know you keep them hostage here until they learn to fear every adult that comes near them. And I know you fucked up and you didn't cover your tracks well enough. And I know for damn sure that my friend out working for The Washington Post is going to have a fucking field day with this sto--"

She got cut off again by the stun gun to her injured shoulder which was just rubbing salt in the wound. She had no idea how they knew that shoulder was in the worst condition, but she knew why they did it on that pressure point under her arm.

"What else do you know?"

She took a few moments, threw up onto the concrete floor, and looked up at them.

"I know you faked Will Byers' death. And you killed Benny Hammond. I mean, Jesus, you guys can't even fake a suicide which is pretty damn pathetic if you ask me. His place was almost spotless other than the flies when we got there. Suicides are pretty messy, just so you know. And that stupid dummy? Jesus, what'd you spend on that? Two whole dollars?"

They hit her in the neck this time with the electricity.

"Alright, who are you working with?"

"The Post, I guess. Though, they're not involved in it yet."

"Your partner. What's he know?"

"He thinks he knows a lot but he doesn't. I'm you're only hope, and I'm not going to give you shit."

They hit her with the electricity again and moved her to a chair.

"You're a small town detective who's had a bad week. A workaholic who ended up taking a few too many hits of her drug of choice over the weekend," A man told her.

"You've made a mistake coming back with your friend," another man stated.

"No. I wouldn't say mistake. I'd say it's a mistake on your part that you didn't get rid of us while you had the chance, 'cause now we're not going away," she tried to back away from the people. Obviously, it didn't work.

"Stop!" someone cried and opened the door quickly. "Stop, don't do anything. We need to move her and I'll update you on the situation."

"Come on," a woman ordered and put a bag over Evelyn's head.

"Really? A bag? Classy."

"Shut up and walk," a man behind her said and gave her a shove.

"I'm going," she grumbled with a bit of a limp. Evelyn wasn't sure where she'd gotten the injury, but it was there. Maybe it was the exhaustion from being shocked an ungodly amount of times.

After a few more seconds she was thrown down and heard a door close. Awesome. A downgrade.

"Your mouth is going to get you in serious trouble one day combined with your anger."

There are very few times in her life Evelyn would admit Jim Hopper was right. This was one of them.

She backed up until she could feel a wall behind her, them moved along it. Eventually she found some sort of ventilation grate.

"Where is the girl?" a distorted voice asked. She could smell cigarette smoke coming through.

"You gotta give me your word that you won't hurt the boys. Nobody will ever find out about this. Then I'll tell you."

Evelyn listened, trying to find anything to focus on other than the absolute searing pain in her shoulder. She'd rather have them cut it off with a rusty saw and leave her at this point rather than this pain. A dislocation then have god-knows how much electricity put through it? Awful.

"Hawkins middle."

Evelyn let out an audible gasp, instantly shutting herself up. He did not just do that.

Will was the ultimate goal here, yes. But this child trusted them and had allowed them to help her and she helped them. Evelyn was pissed, to say the least. Actually, make it infuriated.

It felt like forever she was sat there seething before there was a loud bolting noise, then another, then the door clunked open. Someone ripped the bag off her head, her eyes were refusing to adjust to the fluorescent lighting. After a moment she could make out Hopper's figure and the handcuffs were released.

"Come on, we're leaving," Hopper held a hand to help her get up.

She pushed it away and got up herself.

"I can not believe you," she muttered through gritted teeth while they walked down a hallway.

"I got your ass out of trouble, didn't I?"

"Do you not see a problem with what you just did?"

"I'm getting Will back."

"Well, if she dies, it's on you," Evelyn spat at him before they unlocked the door to Joyce's room.

"You don't understand, now drop it," he said lowly and held her by the arm tightly. Evelyn did her best not to wince, he hadn't realized he grabbed her bad arm.

"I don't understand," Joyce said quietly as they walked.

"We came to an agreement."

"What?"

"Look everything that's happened here and everything that's going to happen we don't talk about. And ignore pouty back there."

"I'm not pouty."

"You're being childish. Grow the hell up and just focus." He looked at Joyce again. "We want WIll back? This place had nothing to do with it. THat's the deal. Got it?"

"Yeah," the women both said quietly. Evelyn was pissed, yes, but she realized that what's happened is done and she can't do anything. But they can save will.

"What's this?" Evelyn asked as they were given huge suits.

"Protection. The atmosphere is toxic."

And just like that, they were in the huge suits of protection and in the 'upside down.' Hopper and Evelyn both had guns and Joyce was equipped with a flashlight.

It was creepy, that's for sure. And it was cold and dark.

"Joyce, relax, okay?" Evelyn put a hand on her shoulder when she noiced Joyec was breathing crazily, like she could hyperventilate or something.

"Take deep breaths," Hopper guided her.

"I'm okay," she reassured after a minute.

"Hop," Evelyn called. "Look at this."

"What is it?"

"Like... and egg or something."

Hopper was almost touching it when Joyce started yelling for Will. Evelyn ran to her, calling out for Will as well. Her flashlight was attached to her gun so she was really hoping she wasn't the one to find him.

"Will!" Evelyn cried out with the other two adults.

"Is that my house?" Joyce asked and walked toward it.

"One way to find out," Evelyn sighed as they walked in.

"It gt hurt," Hopper said and watched Evelyn follow the blood trail.

"Mom? Is that you?" they heard Jonathan. Evelyn whipped around.

"He can't be in here--" Evelyn shook her head. "Joyce, we gotta keep going."

They left and kept searching. "He's gotta be around here. I mean, he's a kid. He can't have gone too far."

"Come on," Joyce led them into a scary looking version of town. They walked in silence for a bit before settling on going into the library.

"I've got nothing," Evelyn announced from one side of the library."

"There's blood. Ev, watch my six."

Evelyn ran over, walked backward behind Joyce. They could never be too careful.

"Oh, Jesus."

"What, Hop? Hopper, what is it?"

"I found Barb Holland."

Evelyn whipped around, going to the girl and looking at her. "God," she whispered. There was no way she was going to be alive.

"Will!" Joyce yelled.

The two other adults rushed to her, seeing the boy with some kind of tentacle in his mouth or something.

"Hop, you get that thing in his mouth. I'll make sure we can get him out," Evelyn ordered. She looked at the wall he was on and worked on detaching him from it. SHe heard gunshots, knowing Hopper was shooting that... thing.

"Alright, alright, alright," she leaned the boy forward and set him on the ground. "I'm starting chest compressions. Hop, take his pulse."

"I can't with these glove on."

"Then take them off!" she shouted while taking her own helmet off. "Come on, Will, come on!" she groaned as pressed down on his chest multiple times.

"Let me know when you get tired and I'll take over. Don't be stubborn about it, this is important."

"Yeah. I know."

"Joyce, do CPR. Now!"

"Okay," she whimpered and Evelyn resumed compressions.

"Come on!" Evelyn cried and took a really shaky breath. "Hop I--I need you to take over."

Hopper switched out with her, allowing her to count compressions.

"Joyce, mouth-to-mouth. Now. Come on, Will! Will, come back to us, Bud. Please."

Finally hopper hit him hard. Multiple times. Finally Will sat up and coughed a shit load.

"Will!" Evelyn cried and wiped her eyes while Hopper put a gas mask on him. "Oh, thank fucking--" she exhaled, putting a hand n Will's back and rubbing. "Good job, hun, good job. Keep breathing."

Evelyn looked at Joyce and then Hopper. "We're not done yet, okay? We still need to get him out of here. ASAP. As soon as we reach that gate I will radio for an ambulance to take him to the hospital. Come on. Someone has to carry him. Let's go."

 

Evelyn sat carefully in the chair next to Hopper.

"We did it, Hop. We really did it."

"Yeah. Yeah, we did," he exhaled shakily. Evelyn grabbed his left hand with her right, not even caring how much it hurt the cut through the bandage. "Are you okay? Maybe we should have that looked at while we're here--"

"I'm fine. Really. I'm just tired. And I want to see Will for a second then go home and sleep."

"He's up!" she heard Mike scream and the three boys ran out of the waiting room with Jonathan. Evelyn smiled after them.

"Will you drive me home tonight and take me to get my car tomorrow? I am beyond exhausted right now. And I can't fight tonight. Okay? I'll argue with you tomorrow."

"Sounds like a plan," he groaned and leaned toward her so she could rest her head on his shoulder.

"Hey, why don't you go get that cleaned up and see Will? I'm going to go have a cigarette outside real quick, alright?"

"Yeah, sure. I guess, since I'm here I should."

"Yeah. You should," Karen agreed across the room. "I don't even know the cut but You've bled through the bandage."

"Alright, I'm going," she sighed. "Just come back here and wait for me, alright?" He asked.

"Yeah. Of course," Hopper nodded before the woman turned and walked out.

"Thank you, Chief," Karen looked at Hopper. "Thank you so much for keeping Mike safe. And if I don't see Detective Carpenter, please thank her for me too. I don't know what I would've done if..."

"Yeah," he nodded to her. "Yeah, of course. I'll let her know you said that."

"Are you two a thing?" Mike's father asked.

Hopper looked at him a little shocked. "She's basically my right-hand-man at the station. I trust her more than I trust myself sometimes."

"No I meant--"

"I know what you meant. And, no, it's... not like that."

Hopper got up to leave, knowing he'd be back, and could hear the man say something along the lines of "could've fooled me."

Chapter Text

"Hey, were here," Hopper shook Evelyn awake. "Ev, come on. We're at your place. I need to make sure you get in okay."

"Fine," she groaned and got out of the car.

"Change into clean clothes. Yours smell funky."

"I threw up, asshole."

"Doesn't mean you don't smell like vomit. Give it here I'll put it in the wash."

She did and changed into a tank top and shorts, laying on the messy bed.

"At least cover yourself up, man."

"I'm too tired."

"Alright," he sighed and covered her up. "Do you want me to stay for the night?"

"Yes. I don't want to be alone right now. You're all I've got, Hop."

"Alright, I'll take the couch."

He looked back and she was almost asleep. By the time he got to the couch she was standing in the doorframe of the hallway.

"You good?"

"I want food," she yawned.

"Go get some."

"Do you want any ice cream?"

"Sure, what do you have?"

"Uhh," she thought and moved to the connected kitchen. "I know I have cookie dough. It looks like I also have vanilla."

"I'll take the cookie dough."

"Good choice." She scooped the ice cream, bringing the two bowls to the couch and sitting across from him. The two sat with their legs on the couch, Hopper laughing lightly at how long his legs looked compared to hers. "God, I feel like a teenager again," she giggled.

"How?"

"Exhausted, sleep deprived, eating ice cream on my couch. Except we're not in the basement and my sister didn't just kick you out of her room. And this place is a hot fuckin' mess."

Hopper laughed a little and took a bite of the ice cream. "You saved my ass, your mom would have murdered me. Well, she probably would've offered me some apple juice and killed your sister."

"My mom loved you!" Evelyn laughed nostalgically. "Literally. You could've beat the crap out of me and she would've been all like 'well, what did you do to instigate the fight?!'"

"I don't know why! I think she just thought I was a good influence on you and your brother."

Evelyn snorted into her bowl. They sat in a comfortable silence together. "Hey, do you remember--" Hopper looked up and stopped when he saw the woman asleep with her head leaning back. "Ev, you should go to bed."

She wouldn't budge. Hopper sighed, taking her bowl to the kitchen with his before coming back and looked at her. She was really out. He shook his head a little before picking her up and taking her to the bed.

 

"Evelyn! Evelyn get up, it's Jimmy!"

She could feel someone shaking her and trying to move her. The yelling kept going going. It was frantic and scared. 

"Come on, mom and dad aren't here and you need to get up!"

The girl got up and felt... not normal. 

"He's in the garage."

Evelyn followed her teenage sister outside and saw her brother laying on the concrete floor. THe garage was small, but it felt huge at that moment when Evelyn saw her skinny, blonde brother sprawled out. "Is he okay?"

"Obviously not!"

"What'd he take this time?"

"I don't know. I haven't checked."

"Well check!" Evelyn snapped and knelt down, grabbing a handheld mirror on her way. "He's breathing--a little," she exhaled in relief when the mirror fogged up. "What was it?"

"I don't know. The prescription is scratched out."

"Have you called 911?"

"No."

"Well hurry up! God, how do you not know this?"

Evelyn jumped when her brother started taking very ragged breaths and her sister was crying into the phone.It had felt like hours before an ambulance got there and they stopped doing chest compressions.

"I'm sorry, he overdosed," one of the men looked at the girls. "I'm sorry, where are your parents?"

"They're out of town," Evelyn sighed, feeling everything let go and all the tears coming out.

"Ev," she heard some voice she couldn't place.

It almost echoed in her ears as everything turned black and she was falling. She was falling with no parachute, no harness and rope, nothing. Something had hold of her and was dragging her down even faster. There was no bottom and she just kept falling and falling, screaming for help while everyone stared at her from the top of the pit. Her brother was dead and now she would be too, she was sure. No one was going to pull her up.

"Evelyn!" someone shouted at her. She jumped up, causing their heads to slam together. "Ah, shit!" Hopper groaned. "Are you okay? What's going on?"

"I'm fine," Evelyn shook her head and wiped her eyes. "I'm sorry--I'm fine."

"Nightmare?" he asked and sat on the edge of the bed then scooting back next to her.

Evelyn stayed silent and stared out her window.

"Do you want to talk--?"

"No."

"Okay."

There was a small silence where Hopper looked at his hands.

"Was it about--?"

"What don't you get about 'I don't want to talk about it'?" she snapped and whipped around to face him. When they made eye contact Hopper was pretty startled that she burst into tears and hunched over, as if that would shield her face. 

"Hey, hey, hey," he soothed and guided her to lean into him rather than near the edge of the bed. She essentially collapsed into his arms and let the tears flow. "Shh, it's okay," he tried to calm her. "Hey, you're okay. It's okay. Hey, you're having a panic attack and you need to regulate your breathing so that you don't hyperventilate. Look, breathe in and out, in and out. Good," he smiled at her as she started breathing with him. 

"I need--" she searched for the word.

"What?"

"The phone. It's taped up but it should work."

"Who do you want me to call?" 

"My brother," she nodded after a moment and shouted the number as he moved toward the red phone. After a few rings, the line picked up.

"Hello?" a groggy male asked.

"Hi, is this Jimmy?"

"Who's asking?"

"I'm Jim Hopper. I'm a friend of your sister's--Evelyn. She, uh, asked for me to call you."

"At--" it was obvious he looked at the time, "--3:22 in the morning?"

"Ask him if he's okay!" Evelyn shouted.

"She wants me to ask if you're okay."

"Yeah, I'm fine. Tell her to stop calling me in the middle of the night. And to fuck off with all her cop buddies."

Hopper was met with a dial tone.With a partly defeated, partly confused sigh, he moved to the kitchen and grabbed the woman a glass of water. He didn't expect the bedroom to be empty when he reentered. "Ev?" he called then heard something fall in the bathroom. "Evelyn, are you okay? What's going on?" he questioned while setting the glass down and practically getting to the bathroom in two large steps. He wasn't sure what he was expecting, but it wasn't her hunched over the toilet vomiting. "Hey. Hey, it's okay," he knelt next to her and rested a hand on her back. She was having trouble holding her hair back, he noticed, so he quickly wrapped her hair up in the blue elastic around his wrist.

"Sorry," she croaked when she was finally finished. "I didn't mean to--"

"Jesus. It's fine. It really takes you being sick for you to be nice?"

"Hey!" she laughed lightly and slapped him on the chest, holding her stomach with her other hand.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine--don't give me that look. Don't ask if you don't like my answer you knew I was going to give. Really, I'm fine."

"Really? 'Cause you look like hell."

"It's called anxiety, asshole. I believe you know a little about it."

"Yeah, but I've never--"

"Thrown up because of it? Or do you blame that on the alcohol."

"Alright, you're being a dick again."

"Sorry. I'm just..." she trailed off before hunching over and vomiting again, then looked back at her friend and said, "stressed."

"I hear you. What was that all about?"

"Te vomiting?"

“Literally everything before that. I get you had a nightmare. But you freak out, have a panic attack, and have me call your brother who tells me to fuck off? What’s going on?”  

“I hate him,” she rested her head in her hands.  

“Ev, what’s going on?”  

“I had a nightmare about him. Of when me and my sister found him, like, dead when I was in early high school. He wasn’t dead. He almost died, but we called for paramedics and they kept him alive long enough until he was stable. But every so often I get a nightmare where we don’t do something right and he ends up dying. Every time I  do  I have to call him because it makes me  positive  that it means he had died or is in the hospital or something.”  

“Have you ever been right about it?”  

“No. Because I call and make sure.”  

“That’s not how that works.”  

“I know, okay? I don’t know what else to do, though.”  There  was a small  silence  where she leaned against the side of the bath combined with a shower and Hopper moved next to her. After a moment she leaned and rested her head on his shoulder. He wrapped an arm around her, knowing she needed  someone  right now. “What did he say?”  

“I told you.”  

“Specifically. What did he say?”  

“He said--” Hopper sighed. “'I’m fine, tell her to stop calling me in the middle of the night, and to fuck off with all her cop buddies,’” he listed.  

He could tell it stung by the way she exhaled like her chest was caving in on her. “I’m sure he doesn’t mean it,” Hopper tried to comfort. “I know your brother and he  appreciates  people looking out for him. He’s probably just crabby.”  

“I know,” she sighed. Hopper reached over and wiped a tear off her face. “Thank you. For all this.”  

“Yeah, of course.”  

“Sorry that I’ve kept you up.”  

“Stop apologizing. It’s fine. I’d rather do this than let you sit alone and suffering.”  

“It’s nice having someone here with me for this.”  

“I agree.”  

“I’m... exhausted,” she sighed and took the ponytail holder out of her hair. “Thank you,” she gave him a smile and slipped it back onto his wrist.  

“Come on, you should sleep some more,” Hopper groaned as he stood up.  

“I don’t want to move. I’ll sleep here.”  

No  you’re not,” he rolled his eyes and started to pick her up. “Does everything have to be a fight with you?”  

This made her laugh a little as he gently set her on the bed. “You sleep here. I’ll be on the couch if you want anything,” he informed and flung the comforter over her.  

“Wait, Hop--” Evelyn spoke quietly as he got to the doorway.

“Yeah?” He turned.  

“Stay. Please,” she added after a moment.  

"Yeah, sure," he nodded and walked over to her. She lifted the edge of the blanket for him to show that he was more than welcome to sleep next to her and under the blanket. Hopper crawled in and laid on his back. Evelyn backed up until she was laying against him which led to him wrapping a protective arm around her. He had his eyes closed but could feel her finally let out the stressed breath she'd been holding in her chest all week. Evelyn didn't mind this, she realized. She really didn't mind letting herself be vulnerable sometimes, even if it made her nervous.

 

Hopper woke up with his arm  still  wrapped around Evelyn, groggy enough to not remember that they were definitely going to have a fight today. He decided to let the peace sit until Evelyn woke.  

“What time is it?”  

Hopper was startled at the voice and checked his watch. “It’s five.”  

“In the morning?”  

“Night.”  

“Shit.”  

“Yeah. My sleep schedule is fucked. I think I’m going to have to take Monday off.”  

“Yeah, me too.”  

“Are you okay?”  

“Yeah. I’m fine. Doctor told me to let my stitches stay in for a week before I go get them taken out.”  

“That sound s right.”  

“Yeah,  because  it’s what the doctor  said . :  

“You’re being really hostile,” Hopper rolled his eyes and sat on the edge of the bed.  They were definitely back to normal and he could almost see her encasing herself under a protective concrete layer.

“Am I? I didn’t notice.”  

“Alright, I’m going to leave,” he sighed and started to get up.

“No, you aren’t.”  

“Yeah, I am. You can't make me stay.”  

Evelyn sat on the edge of the bed while Hopper put his shirt on from the previous day.   

“I just—I want to talk. Please.”  When  Evelyn was met with silence and no signs of movement, she sighed and continued. “You’re all I’ve got right now, Hop. Chrissy is an hour away, my brother... just, please. Why’d you give her information up like that?”  

Hopper paused, looking over his shoulder to see her not looking at him either. He had to admit, in some sick way it made him feel powerful and in control when she said that.  Though , he’d never admit that she was all he had too. He didn’t even have siblings that were out of town, he legitimately had no one.  

“We’re not supposed to be talking like this.”  

“Like what?” she rolled her eyes.  

“About...  them . They had nothing to do with this, remember?”  

“I’m not telling anyone anything. If we talk about this, we can drop it, alright? I  promise . I just need to know so I don’t look at you and think you’re disgusting for giving up a child like that. You’re  really shitty  sometimes—a lot of times—but I know you. You wouldn’t just put a kid in danger like that.”  

“We needed to get Will.”  

“We could’ve figured out a different way, though.”  

“They weren’t going to get her. I knew that.”  

“But you didn’t!”  

“But I did,” he exhaled and stood up.  

“Stop! You don’t get to leave just because I’m frustrated.”  

“I’m not leaving, chill the hell out. I’m walking over to you. I knew they wouldn’t get the kid because she’s powerful. I mean, Jesus, you know that better than me.”  

“She was exhausted, Hopper. She’d just helped us find Will. You had no idea what she could or couldn’t do.  Plus  the boys, I mean—you had no idea they’d stay true to their word.”  

“We  were  either going to get out of there with Will or they were going to drug us and bug our houses again. I didn’t have an option, Ev.”  

“But you did!” she shouted suddenly and stood up, almost running into him. It caught h im  off  guard  so it probably would’ve knocked him on his ass, too. How’s that for feeling like you’re in charge. “ We  did! God, I hate this about you!”  

“What about me?” he asked defensively.  

“Everything! You’re arrogant, stubborn, get tunnel-vision on one thing and that’s all that matter! Yeah,  Will  is  pretty important , Hop, but you put  four  other kids in serious danger. Four! How guilty would Will have felt if one of his friends died because you wanted to save him?”  

“Those kids knew what they were doing, Evelyn. And they were all willing to make that sacrifice if they needed to!”  

“They are  twelve years old , Jim!” Evelyn scoffed, getting louder with each word and pushing him away from her. “They are not old enough to make those decisions. This didn’t have to be a life or death situation! They don’t have the brain capacity to make those decisions, and you doing that showed how fucking irresponsible you are!”  

“I’m irresponsible? You’re the one--”  

“What? I what?” she accused. “I plan, I execute the plan. I take the least messy way out, unlike you. You hit and beat the shit out of everything when you could easily lie.”  

“That shows what kind of people we are. I don’t lie to get out of everything.”  

“Bull shit !” she cried. “You lied  so  much this past week to get what you want. You just also left  physical evidence . That the chief of the freaking police, for God’s sake! You should know this.”  

“Evelyn, did I get us out of there or not? Did I let them beat the shit out of you any more? Did you help us find Will? Then my mission was completed.”  

“You didn’t have one mission! You had many. One was to get Will, one was to not put other children in danger, and one was to not be a dickhead to Eleven.”  

“Why are you  so  attached to her? She’s not your kid, she’s not your niece. You have  no  connection to her.”  

“Does she not remind you of Sarah at all?”  

“Shut the hell up about Sarah, okay?” Hopper got closer to her.  

“Why? Because you’re mad you hurt someone that reminded you--”  

“Just shut up!” Hopper yelled and shoved her, causing her to fall back on the bed. Evelyn’s shoulder screamed in pain.  

“Because she trusted us,” Evelyn propped herself up on her elbows after a moment. “You asked why I was so attached to her. Are you that blind? First of all, she trusted us to actually leave with us. Second, she helped us without skipping a beat.”  

“She dislocated your arm.”  

“Before she knew me. She is—or was, I should say—a scared kid. Yet she trusted us, and you completely betrayed her! God, I hope she tears you apart if you ever see her again and she’s not dead. You completely violated her trust in you. You knew about her bad men, you  told  Brenner was she was knowing  damn well  what he was going to do to her, and you expect this to be okay? Yeah, we got Will back. But at what cost?!”  

“Are you saying we should’ve left Will?  ‘Cause  that’s real shitty, Evelyn.”  

“No, I am not--” the woman gaped and stood again.  

“You said yourself the Byers were like family to you. You watched those kids grow up and—what—we're supposed to just leave him?”  

“Why are  you  so attached to Will?” Evelyn questioned, trying to get the topic  off of  her. She knew she was going down a bad  road, but  did it anyway. “You don’t even know Will. You know his profile what you heard on the news, that’s it. So why do  you  care?”  

“I care about--”  

“What, getting into Joyce’s pants?”  

There an  intensely  long silence.  

“You’re being a dick about this.”  

I’m  being the dick? At least I can say I never put children in more danger than they were already in!” she yelled after him as he stormed out of the room.  

“God, you’re such an asshole! And you wonder why your sister moved away and your brother doesn’t talk to you.”  

“You’re one to talk, Jim. You’re really one to say shit. At least I own up to my fuck-ups,” she called, moving to the living room where he was staring at the front door. “At least I  know  I fucked up, and I know what I said was real fucked up--”  

Enough  with the fucks, Evelyn! Jesus.”  

“Fuck, fuck fuck!" she shouted at him. Evelyn then realized how childish that was. "At least I own up to my mistakes. Not like you. Not like perfect Jim Hopper, having sex with whoever he wants whenever he wants, getting  whatever  he wants by flashing his badge and his name. I don’t even think it’s anything but  you  that pisses me off.”  

“Yeah, alright,” he scoffed and moved to the door.  

“You’re not even fighting it?” she laughed at him. “Because you know how fucking  good  your life is here until you hit one little bump and then you actually need to  care  about your job?”  

“A good life?" Hopper actually laughed at her. "I didn’t  have  anything to care about!” he continued lowly and turned around to face her. “Until this, there was  nothing . Tell me, what did I have to care about?” Hopper yelled at her and pushed her away from him.

“I don’t know, the people who were trying to be your  friend?  Like me, like Joyce--”  

“Weren’t you the one who said I just wanted in her pants?”  

“She still attempted, Jim. We tried.  And  that’s a hell of a lot more than you can say, right?”  

“Maybe I was shitty and I’m still not perfect but, God dammit, at least I’m changing.  And  I’m going to keep the change, not go back to my old self like you will. Because that’s what you always do. You freak out, you go through something, rinse and repeat. It’s been like that since you were a kid.”  

“I don’t even—we're not even arguing about anything useful anymore. God, you stress me out.”  

“Yeah, back at you. I’m not your biggest fan.”  

“Get out,” Evelyn murmured through her teeth. “Get out.  

“What?”  

“Get out of my house!”  

“I thought you wanted to talk--”  

“I don’t want to talk to you anymore! I don’t want to see you or talk to you until—I don’t know!” she yelled, a wave of anger suddenly coming out again.  

“God damn,” Hopper murmured and turned to the door. Evelyn was facing away from him, leaning on the coffee table and lighting a cigarette. “You know, you wouldn’t get so angry if you--”  

Hopper was cut off by an ashtray hitting the wall near him (but also not even close) and shattering.  Evelyn realized she could go from 0 to 100 with the snap of the fingers. She wondered how ironic this was. She got a whole degree in psychology but couldn't figure out why she could get so impulsive, aggressive, and mean sometimes.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Hey,” Evelyn sighed and sat against a headstone. “I don’t know if you’re here. I don’t know if you ever have been. I just... I need to talk through my problems. I can’t tell you too much because... a lot has happened and it's not safe to. And I promised not to talk about it with anyone. But a lot of crazy shit happened.” 

Evelyn brought her knees up to her chest and looked up at the trees. “I got into a fight with Hopper. He made a dumb decision, in my opinion at least. And yeah, we saved Joyce’s kid but... we lost a different one. And we— he --” she corrected. Evelyn shook her head and paused. “Hopper made a decision. I think it was dumb, but I don’t know. But, anyway, we got into a fight and I said some shit that I  definitely  shouldn’t   have. He did that too, though, and I can’t be the first one to apologize.” 

Mike Wheeler popped into her mind.  'If you draw first blood, you have to initiate the handshake,’ he explained to her at some point.  

“But I don’t know that I did draw first blood. I don’t know who did, the fight happened so fast. And, I don’t know if I told you, but Chrissy moved about an hour out last month and Jimmy is... himself. He can’t kick his pill problem and I’m scared. He’s going to get hooked on...you know, eventually doctors are going to stop writing prescriptions for him and he’s going to turn to hard drugs. Like the  bad  bad ones.”

“I don’t know, Mom. I just don’t know what I should do. I wish you were here so you could tell me to suck it up, push down my pride, and stop being mad. But you’d also tell me not to cave if I didn’t think I needed to apologize. But I do, I just don’t want to do it first. ‘Then don’t,’ you’d tell me,” the woman made a high pitched voice as if to mock her mother with a smile. “I still miss you. I thought eventually it would go away, but it hasn’t. Yeah, I remember all the shit you did that made me mad but... I'd deal with it if it meant you were still here.” 

Evelyn pressed the heel of her palms to her eyes and wiped them. “Sorry about bugging you so much. It’s been... insane. And sorry I haven’t gone to church since you died. I know it was important to you. I just... I never really got it.” 

Evelyn sat for another moment, as if waiting for some dismissal or a voice or  anything  but nothing ever came. The woman exhaled and moved back to her car. 

She practically slept all Monday after calling the station and telling them she wasn’t coming in that day. 

“Alright, I understand,” Flo told her. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” 

“Hey, Flo—wait,” she said quickly into the phone. “Did Hopper call in today?” 

“Yes, he said basically the same thing you did.” 

“Gotcha. Okay, thank you so much. I’ll see you tomorrow. Yeah, bye.” 

Evelyn laid on the torn up couch and was asleep within minutes. 

 

The phone was ringing in her ear and Evelyn groaned. “Hello?” she picked it up and lit a cigarette. 

“Hey, Ev--” 

“Jim, I don’t want to talk to you.” 

“Wait!” he cried as if he could sense she was going to hang up. To be fair, the dumbest person Hopper knew could’ve guessed that. “Please, just listen to me.” 

“You have until my cigarette is gone,” she murmured. 

“Just listen to me, okay? Eleven is out there. I know she is and I want to start leaving food out in case she doesn't have anything to eat."

"Okay. And why are you telling me this?"

"I wanted to see if you wanted to go with me."

"I don't want to go anywhere with you."

"Evelyn, please."

"Why do you want me to go? What's the point?"

"What if she's there, Ev? What if she's around and we leave food and she knows it's us--"

"Or we're leaving food out in the wilderness for animals to get and get closer and more aggressive to people's houses."

"Please."

There was a long silence.

"I'll go twice. I will go once today, once another day to see if the food gets eaten. If the food gets eaten, I will believe you. But if I'm right, you need to grasp the idea that she's just dead. That she's gone."

"Yeah, okay. Okay, yeah. I'll--uh, come to my place and we can find somewhere to leave it. Okay?"

"Fine," Evelyn sighed before stubbing out her cigarette.

 

"You're just going to leave it on the ground?"

"No, that would be stupid."

"That would be stupid."

"I brought this box with a latch on it. I'm gonna set it up, put the food in, and we'll leave."

"Fine," she agreed and took a drag off her cigarette.

"You could at least pretend to be interested," he scoffed and led her to a secluded spot.

"I am interested, it's you that I don't want to be around."

"You know, I wouldn't be out here doing this if I didn't care about her."

"I'm not saying you would."

"Then what's your issue?"

"You."

"Can you be a little more specific?"

"I don't want to argue out here with you."

"Then don't. Just answer the damn question."

"It's how you don't care until you have to."

"That's not--"

"It is. You didn't give two shits about being decent at your job until Will went missing. You didn't have this idea to help Eleven until I yelled at you about it this morning. I mean, what, am I gonna have to yell at you before you clean up your house too?"

"That's not true."

"It is. I'm not going back and forth like this out here. Can we leave?"

"Yeah, sure," he shook his head and closed the on the box. "Hey, what's wrong with you?" he furrowed his eyebrows and saw her grabbing her side with a pained look.

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine," she coughed and leaned against a nearby tree. "They looked at me in the hospital and said I fractured a rib. It's bruised to all hell and it hurts to breathe, but that's okay."

"Must've been fun to do all that yelling yesterday."

"I was so mad that I didn't even notice. I'm regretting it now, though."

"I'm sure."

"Can we just go, Hopper?"

"Yeah. Sure. We should come back tomorrow and see if the food is gone, though."

"Sure. After work, maybe."

"Yeah, okay," he nodded and got in the car. After he started driving, he cleared his throat and saw her just staring out the window. "You called me Hopper."

She gave him a look. "Yeah. 'Cause it's your name."

"Yeah, but... when you're mad at me you call me Jim."

"Yeah, so?"

"So are you mad, still?"

"Yeah, I am. I'm going to be mad for a while."

"Oh."

"What, you think bringing some food into the woods fixes everything?"

"No, I never said that--"

"Can you just stop talking to me?" Evelyn snapped.

"No!"

"Excuse me?"

"You don't get to just... shut down!"

"I'm not shutting down."

"You are. On me, at least. Yeah, this is difficult but we can--"

"We," Evelyn scoffed, then laughed. "We? We're not some old married couple, you know that right? There is no we, there is you and there is me. We work together, I learned some about what you are, and that's all I need to know anymore. We will be working together, after work we will both go home to our respective houses, and we won't be seeing each other. Alright? Because that's how this is going to work."

Hopper exhaled heavily and stared at the road.

"Ev, I still want to be friends."

"Maybe you should've thought about that before you hurt a kid."

 

Evelyn unlocked her front door and was slightly startled at the mess. She really needed to clean. But not before lunch, that's for sure. The issue with that was she still hadn't gotten groceries, so she was leaning against the kitchen counter drinking orange juice out of the only clean wine glass, eating slices of lunch meat out of the bag and occasionally taking a slice of shitty American cheese off of the place on the counter and rolled it up in the slice of meat.

She was about halfway through that bag and the cheese when a knock at the door interrupted her mid-bite. She really disn't want it to be Hopper, but the knocking continued.

"Hop, listen--" she rolled her eyes as she swung it open. "Oh, Chrissy. Hey!" she smiled at the sister. "Oh, and you brought Jason and Michelle. Hey, kids!"

"Yeah, hey," the older sister nodded and peered into the house. "Hey, kids, why don't you two go play in the backyard? I think the trampoline is still up and it hasn't snowed yet. It's probably your last chance before the winter."

The kids gave the women hugs and ran off.

"Hey, uh, come on in," Evelyn opened the door wider and moved to the kitchen.

"What is wrong with you?" Chrissy asked and stared at the younger staring out the kitchen window at the kids. "Hey, is there some reason that I need to worry about the kids suddenly? What the hell is going on?"

"No, it's fine--I promise," she wiped her sweaty palms on her jeans. "I, uh, I've been busy."

"Yeah. Obviously. You haven't picked up any of my calls in the last week. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Everything's fine."

"Is that why it looks like a dog two bites out of everything you own? I mean, Jesus, there's glass everywhere. What happened?"

"You honestly wouldn't even believe me if I told you half of it."

"Ev, you need to see someone, I think."

"No, I'm fine. Do you want coffee? I think I still have a little," Evelyn said absentmindedly and dug through her cupboards. "Really, Chris, I'm fine."

"Evelyn," she snapped. "You know you can talk to me."

"Yeah. There's nothing to talk about, though."

"So you don't mind if I look around?"

"I don't care, I've barely been here the last week."

"Why not?"

"Work."

"It's Hawkins, what could have possibly kept you at work all week?"

"Did you hear about the kid that went missing?"

"Vaguely, but I kept it away from the kids. I didn't want them freaking out about that."

"Okay, that's what I've been busy with."

"Is that why...?"

"I can't tell you anything," Evelyn took a shaky breath and started brewing the coffee.

"Why not?"

"Because I promised I wouldn't."

"Promised who?"

"The right people so we could find Will."

"Ev," Chrissy turned her sister around. "I'm not going to tell anyone."

"I know."

"So you can talk to me."

"It'd put you and the kids and Frank in danger. And I can't do that."

"Ev, are you on...?"

"Drugs? No. God, no. If anything, I could use them."

"Evelyn."

"Sorry." She paused and poured two cups of coffee. "I talked to mom today."

"She answer yet?"

"No, she's giving me the silent treatment. I think she's still mad about that time I yelled at her in middle school."

"She's mad at me for always sneaking Hopper in," Chrissy joked with a smile. "Hey, how is he?" she asked the woman while sitting down.

"He's...fine."

"That's all? Fine? Don't you literally work with him every day?"

"Yeah it's..." Evelyn ran a hand through her hair, "it's complicated."

"You two fighting again?"

"Something like that."

"Why? Let me guess, you can't tell me?"

"Right."

"I'm worried about you, you know."

"You don't need to be--"

"I really think you should see someone. You know dad has that manic depression or whatever and it can be genetic--"

"No. God, no, it's not like that. It's not like that at all."

"Then tell me!" Chrissy grabbed Evelyn's hands and let the silence sit for a second. "Evelyn, I won't tell a single soul. I promise."

"You won't believe me. It's insane."

"Give me a shot, huh? You never know."

Evelyn looked at the floor for a moment before physically biting her tongue and deciding.

"I'll start you with the lab bugged my house. That's why it's torn up like this. I had to get rid of all of them. I think there were five."

"Why would they spy on you?"

"Because I knew they faked something really important."

"Like?"

"Chris, I can't put your kids--"

"The kids won't find out. Whatever you say will not leave this house. I swear to God."

"They faked that kid's death. And it lead to everything else that's happened."

"Are you hurt?"

"Not really. I mean my shoulder got dislocated--Jim put it back in place, I'm fine. I got some stitches on my hand while I tore our places up looking for wires, and I mean I'm pretty sure I fractured a rib. Well, I didn't, but it was kind of my fault. I was stupid."

Chrissy stared at her sister. 

"You still alive in there?" Evelyn raised an eyebrow.

"Yeah, yeah. I'm just... surprised. I mean, first of all: who dislocated your shoulder?"

"It doesn't--"

"Who dislocated your shoulder?"

"A kid."

"A child."

"Probably Jason's age."

"Okay, believing that and believing that your place was bugged, who the hell fractured your rib? Are you okay?" the woman asked and reached out to touch her side. Evelyn flinched away. "Evelyn, what have you gotten yourself into? And Jim? When did you start calling Hopper Jim? You only ever did that when you were mad as a kid."

"I know it's crazy, alright? And yeah we're fighting, you know this."

"Have you two gotten together yet?"

"Excuse me?"

"Dated. Been in a relationship."

"No. Not a chance."

"You two are way too similar."

"We wouldn't work."

"I'm giving it a year max."

"Is there a specific reason you came here today?"

"I told you. I was worried."

"I'm fine. I'll be fine. Let me get my place cleaned up and I can take the kids for a weekend or for a few days over Christmas break. I just need to get everything straightened out."

"Are you sure? Do you need money? Help?"

"No, no. I'm fine. I'm okay."

"You haven't talked to dad lately, have you?"

"No. God no. Listen, I sound crazy, but I haven't gone off that deep end."

"Good. That's good. I'm here for you, you know."

"Yeah, I know. I just need to get this place cleaned up and get back to normal."

"Promise me you'll call me if anything is going on, okay?"

"Yeah, of course."

"Thank you. And for the love of god, take a shower. Your hair looks so gross."

Evelyn rolled her eyes but couldn't help smiling at her sister teasing her.

Chapter Text

Evelyn was dreading work that Tuesday. It was tense with her and Hopper, to say the least. They were back to their quiet lives and Evelyn went back to her normal office self around the others.

"Yeah?" she called to the light knock on her office door.

"It's just me," Hopper announced as he walked in.

"Perfect timing. I'm leaving."

"No, Ev. Just hang on a minute," he stood in front of the door.

"I have children to go help," she gave him a look. "Which means you need to get out of my way."

"Just give me five minutes."

"I'm working."

"Evelyn, come on. It can wait." She looked at him with a blank stare that bordered on exhausted by the idea of him. "I just--forget it."

"This is going to be difficult if neither of us cave and start an apology. You know that, right?" she scrubbed her face with a hand and leaned against the desk.

"Yeah. That's what makes it so damn frustrating."

"Agreed."

"Can neither of us do it and we just move on?"

"I don't think it's that easy."

"Right."

Hopper was defeated to say the least. There was nothing to apologize about, in his opinion. Neither of them were wrong. Okay, he definitely thought that he was right. But there was no way he'd get Evelyn to think that.

"Hey," she snapped her fingers in front of him. "I've got work to go do. If you'll excuse me," she motioned for him to move.

"Right, sorry. Hey, Ev," he stopped her before she opened the door. "Are we heading out to that spot after work?"

"I think we should give it a couple days. Maybe a week."

"Oh," he nodded. "Yeah, alright."

The door closed and Hopper was left in the office alone. He knew he was in deep shit when he leaned against his desk and realized just how badly he'd fucked up their friendship. And he realized how much he didn't want to admit that he wanted a relationship with her. It was much easier to just pretend not to feel anything.

 

"Hey, Carpenter," Evelyn heard one of the guys in the office call.

"Yeah, what's up?" she looked back while taking her coat off.

"Hey, tonight a bunch of us are getting together at my place. Just, like, a couple drinks, card games, the usual. Kind of like a celebration for the crazy week finally being over. I just wanted you to know that you're more than welcome to come."

"I will keep that in mind. Thanks," she smiled at the man before heading back to her office. In all honesty, she knew she was going to go. She wanted to hang out with someone, but a group would be nice, and needed to get out of her own head for a couple of hours. And that's how she ended up at Charlie Green's house at 8 PM with a handful of cards and a plastic cup in hand with whatever drink she poured into it. It was nice, she thought, and it was good to be around people.

"Keep your paws off my cards," she swatted one of the guys' hands away from her cards. "I know how to play just fine."

"Alright, Princess," the guy raised his hands in defense. "Just tryna be nice."

"I don't need nice," she commented and lit a cigarette.

"No need to be a bitch about it."

"If that's what makes me a bitch, you obviously don't talk to enough women in your daily life. Doesn't surprise me."

The group at the table made a noise of amusement and shock combined as one of the guys offered to refill her drink, which she accepted. She had only had one drink, she wasn't going to get drunk or too buzzed to drive home in a few hours. That was the last thing she remembered.

 

Hopper didn't expect his Friday night to consist of taking care of a drunk friend like he was in high school again. Especially one that seemed like she hated his guts right now and wasn't talking to him outside of work except to make plans to see if the food had disappeared that weekend. He also assumed that he wouldn't have to undress her so that he could clean a bunch of cuts and scrapes on her legs while she was passed out in his bed. If someone had told him even five years ago that he'd be in Hawkins keeping his best friend who hated him from being raped, he'd have asked you if you were insane. But here he was.

Hopper was trying to organize the last little bit of his house that needed to be fixed up since the week from Hell, as he'd called it. Obviously the couch was still torn up and he'd have to get a new one eventually, but the glass had gotten cleaned up and he was working on making sure his house didn't look like a dried up murder scene. Along with replacing all the light bulbs Evelyn had broken.

He was in the bathroom scrubbing the lats bit of blood off the wall when his phone rang in the living room. "I'm going," he grumbled to himself and reached the taped up phone. "Hello?"

"Hopper!" he heard a voice cry excitedly.

He furrowed his eyebrows. "Ev?"

"Yeah, duh!"

"Ev, what's going on?"

"Nothing, I'm just wondering why you aren't here. It's a lot of fun and you're missing out."

"Where?"

"Charlie's, duh! You should come over."

"Evelyn, is everything okay?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Because it's pretty late and you're calling me."

"Can't I just like talking to you?"

"Are you drunk? Where are you again? I'm coming to pick you up."

"Fine," she scoffed. "I told you: Charlie's."

"Oh, Jesus. Don't move, I'm on my way," he hung up and was already putting his coat on and rushing to his car.

 

Hopper considered knocking on the front door but decided against it, seeing his friend passed out on the couch right when he walked in. He shook his head and went to go pick her up.

"Hey, Jim! I'm glad you made it," one of the guys clapped him on the shoulder coming out of the kitchen. "Oh, she's been out for a few minutes, not long really. If you want, there's a guest room upstairs. She's pretty out of it. Someone spilled something in her drink," the guy elbowed him lightly.

"Are you shitting me?"

"What?"

"I'm taking her home," Hopper shook his head. 'Where's her purse? Hey, jackasses, I asked where her purse is."

"Come on, man. Leave if you're going to be a dick about this."

"Oh, I am," Hopper scoffed. "Thanks for nothing. Don't bother coming into work Monday, Charlie. Or you," he pointed at the person he didn't recognize in uniform. "Fuck all of you, by the way." He found the coat and purse and snatched them on his way out. "Come on, get in the car," Hopper encouraged Evelyn once they were in the driveway.

"Get off of me!" she slurred at him.

"Evelyn, knock it off. I'm taking you home."

"Don't touch me!" she yelled and moved to hit him. He was surprised she was actually able to wind up to do it, too. But he caught her wrist before she actually did anything.

"Just get in the damn car."

The woman yelled something else incoherently at him before bringing her foot down on his. Once she realized they were his boots he wore for work and that really didn't do anything, she brought a knee up to his groin. "Shit!" he hissed and let go, letting her fall to the gravel. After a moment he took a deep breath and looked at her. "Are you ready to go now?"

"Yes," she said softly and reached a hand out. He helped her up and into the car. It took her longer than it should to get buckled. "My knees hurt," she murmured and wiped her eyes.

"Yeah because you fell and you're bleeding."

"I'm bleeding?!"

"Just shut up about it, you're fine. I'll clean the scrapes and everything back at my place."

"I thought we were mad at each other. Which means we don't go to each others houses."

"Yeah, well, that was before you got drugged so I don't really have a choice anymore."

"You could take me to my house, genius."

"I'm not leaving you alone. For all I know you'll choke on your own vomit and I'm not going to be responsible for your death. Just stop, okay? We'll be there in a minute."

"Fine," she grumbled and folded her arms across her chest.

"Alright," Hopper wrapped one of his arms around her waist to support her. She was bordering on asleep and awake while watching which wasn't good. "Alright, come inside. I'll clean up those scrapes and you can go to sleep for the night."

"I want to sleep now."

"Well that sucks, sit down," he let go of her on the bed and then went to get a first aid kit. "Take your pants off before you fall asleep!"

"You're not sleeping with me tonight, I'm mad at you!" she called back. He wanted to do this quick before she passed out or became completely disoriented and he couldn't understand her anymore.

"I meant to clean your cuts!" he explained loudly and went to grab a large mixing-like bowl from the kitchen. "Evelyn, come on," he tossed the supplies on the bed and nudged her ankle with his foot. "Come on."

"I want to sleep!" she shouted at him.

"Well I want to clean your goddamn scrapes. Just take your pants off and I'll give you some sweats to wear."

"Make me."

"I can't deal with this tonight," he muttered to himself. "Ev, come on. You're going to stain the pants if you let yourself bleed on them any longer. Just take them off and I'll give you a pair."

"I'm too tired. I can't lift my arms. Can you do it?"

"You're being a baby, you know that?" Hopper shook his head at her and moved to unbutton the jeans. She nodded with a light "mm-hmm" and he swore she was already passed out. Hopper was really glad in moments like this that he lived alone. He could only imagine what it would look like to walk into the room and see an almost half-naked woman half-on the bed with Jim Hopper of all people on his knees on the carpet wiping her knees with disinfectant and putting bandages on them. He shook the image out of his head and pulled her so that she was on the bed and under the covers (on her side, of course) with the bowl near her head. He looked at her one last time before turning the light off and heading for the couch.

 

"Shit," Evelyn muttered to herself and covered her eyes with her arm. The light coming through the window was too bright. It only lasted a moment before she grabbed the bowl nearby and vomited.

"Morning," Hopper greeted from the doorway once she was done. Se just looked up at him from the bowl and noticed the glass of water and pills in his hand. "Brought you meds."

"Thanks," she took a heavy breath and traded the items in their hands. Evelyn buried her face under a pillow as heard the water running in the bathroom. "Can you grab me pants?" she asked as he was walking back. He tossed a pair of sweatpants at her. "This is going to sound weird, but what happened last night?"

"One of Green's dickhead buddies drugged you last night. Or it was him. I'm not sure. What all do you remember?"

She thought for a moment. "I remember playing cards and having a drink. I made that one myself. Then one of them offered to get me another, and I said yeah."

"That's what you remember?"

"Yeah, the next thing is being here and waking up. What time is it?"

"It's closer to 11. You're sure you don't remember who it was?"

"No. Why do my knees hurt? Oh, God, did I--?" her eyes got wide.

"No!" he cried over her. "No. I'd never let that happen while you're drugged. You kept trying to fight me when I was bringing you here so I dropped you in his driveway and you scraped up your knees."

"Will you take me to get my car?"

"I had one of the guys working last night bring it here."

"Why am I not wearing pants?"

"I needed to clean the scrapes and make sure you didn't get shit in them. You were being a baby. I tried to clean the blood out of your jeans but..."

"Just leave it. I can try tomorrow or something." She gingerly sat up, clutching the bowl as a wave a nausea rolled through her. "How'd you know where I was?"

"You called me and were talking nonsense."

"Oh. Well, thanks for coming and getting me. You had no reason to. I've been really shitty to you lately and you could've just ignored me and left me there."

"You know I wasn't going to. I'd never let those guys do that to you."

"Listen, you have every right to be pissed at me for everything that's happened."

"Yeah, I haven't been the nicest either."

"I was probably a dick last night."

"Yeah," Hopper chuckled then noticed her grab the bowl a little tighter. "Yeah, you were."

"Sorry," she groaned and looked at the bedding. "Thanks again, by the way. Who knows what would've happened if you hadn't."

"You know damn well what would've happened," Hopper scoffed and leaned against the dresser. "You need to be more careful."

"I am careful."

"Obviously you weren't."

"What are you, my dad? Get off my ass."

Hopper gave her a look and noticed how awful she looked. "Do you want food or anything?"

"No. God, no. Thanks, though."

"You should get up and moving around so that you can wake up. You've slept for a good twelve hours."

"I feel awful."

"You look awful."

"Thanks."

"Go take a shower or something, just make sure you put my shower head where you found it. Whenever you shower you always make it aim, like, straight down."

"I'm short, leave me alone."

"It's annoying."

"I gotta make sure you clean your dick somehow," she retorted. Hopper rolled his eyes but couldn't help smiling. They were getting better. "Hey, do you want to check that box today?"

"Yeah. Yeah, of course. We can go whenever."

"Just let me shower and get some caffeine. Can you make me a cup of coffee?"

"Yeah, sure."

Chapter Text

A month was going by and November quickly turned into December. Hopper and Evelyn's relationship had mended quite a bit and Evelyn actually would admit she enjoyed being around Hopper. The two heavily berated each other and did almost everything but physically fist-fight, but they enjoyed it that way.

Hopper had just decided that he wasn't going to feel anything anymore. At least not intensely. He could go back to normal, shut himself off, and do his job a little better. That was until a hunter came into the station one day talking about a kid. Then he was sat in Hopper's office talking to the two about some kid who knocked him out and stole his hat and coat.

"I told her I wasn't going to hurt her and... I was just knocked out. Like she did it with her mind or somethin'."

"Is it possible you were dehydrated, she took you off guard and you blacked out from moving too quick?" Evelyn asked.

"I mean... I suppose so. Just... just promise me you'll look into it, okay?"

"Yeah, of course," Hopper assured. "We definitely will. Thanks for bringing this to us." After the guy left Hopper put his head in his hands. "You think that's the kid?"

"What else would it be?"

"I don't know."

"So she's out there."

"Yeah, she must be. I mean, it makes sense. Maybe we should go out and put some more food out..."

"Finally comin' around."

"Yeah, yeah. Let's go after the Christmas party, alright?"

"Sounds good. She's gotta be getting cold."

"Well, at least now she has some actual clothes."

That night the Christmas party was... awkward to say the least. The last thing Evelyn wanted was to be in a room full of people who let some asshole drug her or had no idea about the situation and thought the guys were totally fine people. Hopper had noticed her tension and stayed at her side the whole night like her personal bodyguard.

"What's going on here, Chief?" Callahan raised an eyebrow. "Worried something's gonna come after her?"

"I just like her more than you dickheads."

"Hopper, we should get going," she turned to him.

"We?" Powell grinned.

"Drinks, since we're not supposed to have them here. Get your mind out of the gutter."

The men shared a look while Hopper packed a small container with cookies.

 

 "This is crazy," Evelyn stuffed her hands in her pockets.

"Yeah, I know. I'm hoping she stays around here and stays safe."

"You mean like there?" she pointed to where a child in a coat was standing.

Hopper sprung up and took his hat off. "Hey, kid," he nodded.

"Hey," Evelyn crouched down to her level. "Hey, do you remember us?"

The girl nodded.

"Do you remember our names?" Evelyn asked and was met with an unsure stare.

"I'm Hopper."

"Evelyn."

"Eleven."

"No, Ev-uh-lyn."

"Ee-lev-en," the girl pointed at herself. "Ev-uh-lyn," she pointed at the woman.

"Right. Sorry, I'm an idiot. Evelyn Carpenter. You're Eleven, El for short." Eleven nodded.

"We should get you out of the cold," he told the kid and started leading the two to his truck. The snow was falling pretty hard and combined with the wind it was the perfect Midwestern snowstorm. The classic movie snow that looks pretty but it feels like absolute hell. Evelyn offered a hand to Eleven and led her to the truck. Once in the truck, she buckled the child in and took her own coat off.

"Here, you're freezing," she sighed and covered El with it.

"Where've you been?" Hopper asked as they drove.

"Hiding."

"Where?"

"Outside."

"Christ," Evelyn exhaled. "It's been snowing nonstop for two weeks."

"We'll make sure you're healthy and everything," Hopper assured.

"Better?" Eleven asked.

"Sorry?"

"Better," she pointed at the previously injured shoulder. 

"Oh, yeah. I'm fine now."

Eleven grabbed her bandaged hand. 

"Friends don't lie."

"I'm not lying," she assured. "It's just a cut that was healing. Besides, you didn't do it, you don't need to worry."

"How?"

"I was being stupid. It was healing and I opened the cut back up while cooking."

"Stupid?"

Evelyn looked to Hopper for help. How was she supposed to explain stupid? She was good with kids and could explain what felt like anything, but even the most challenging kids she worked with knew words like stupid.

"Like not smart. Doing careless things, things that could hurt you or other people."

"Stupid."

"We're not stupid," Hopper glanced at her and put his truck into park.

"Where are we?" Evelyn asked.

"My granddad's old cabin. Used to bring me up here to hunt as a kid. He ended up living her until he died. I mostly use it for storage now," he explained while the girls got out of the car. 

"I forgot you went hunting as a kid."

"It's Hawkins. Everyone hunts," he rolled his eyes and unlocked the front door.

"I didn't."

"You were a hippie right out of the womb."

"You're not wrong," she shrugged and hung her coat up somewhere. "Lot'a history here, huh?" Evelyn asked and poked around while Eleven carefully explored. She opened the lid of a box and peeked inside.

"Yeah. There is," he snatched the box away from her hands. When he shoved it under some cloth or something Evelyn noticed it had 'Sara' scrawled on it. "So, what do you think?" he asked Eleven. "It's a work in progress but... but once we fix it up it's going to be nice.This is your new home," he smiled at her.

"Home."

"I think if we're fixing this up, we need some music," Evelyn announced.

"Oh, I'm on it!" he cried and ran to the record player. Evelyn leaned against the wall closer to Eleven. "This," he pointed to the vinyl he picked up, "this is real music."

Evelyn rolled her eyes and took Eleven's coat and hat from her. "I'm warning you, he's going to dance. And he's terrible at dancing."

"Terrible?"

"Bad. Really bad."

To say the least, Evelyn wasn't surprised when You Don't Mess Around With Jim came on. Eleven seemed startled at the volume of the music since there was nothing that it was coming from. The adult realized there was a lot they were going to have to teach her.

But they noticed El smile a little after a moment of Hopper's dumb dancing and they got to work on the house. Evelyn started by running to a supply store in town and getting a variety of locks, screws, and whatever else they might need for security. When she got back Hopper was teaching the child how to sweep and some basic cleaning skills and Evelyn worked on the door. Hopper got the electricity working and before the day was over the house was livable, Hopper was teaching El Morse code, and the two adults had created ground rules.

"Me and Ev are going to go get you some real food to eat. We won't be long, but when we get back you'll hear this knock. Let's call it our secret knock." He knocked a pattern onto the table. "Lock all of the locks on the door and only unlock it for us. Okay?"

El nodded and the two were off to the store in town.

"People are going to question why we're grocery shopping together," Evelyn sighed. "Should we split up?"

"No. We should do it together. Who cares, anyway? Let people talk."

Evelyn nodded. "After, do you want me to take you to your place?"

"You kicking me out already? Shit, I thought you'd let me stay for pizza."

"I didn't think you'd want to stay."

"That's presumptuous. No, I'll help you unload groceries and all that. Teach El what pizza is."

"You just always seemed to be mad at me about Eleven stuff."

Ev sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Listen. She's okay. But this could've been so bad. If she'd died, you'd be beating yourself up."

"But she didn't. You need to trust her."

"I do, but you need to get that she's a kid, Hop. And you had no idea that she'd be recharged enough to fight them."

"it had been hours."

"How'd you know that? I for damn sure didn't have a clock in my holding room or whatever at the lab. And I can almost guarantee that you weren't watching the time while they tased the shit out of you."

Hopper paused and his eyes never left the road. Evelyn was leaning against the window exasperated. 

"How'd you know they were tasing me?"

"What?"

"You said they kept tasing me. How'd you know?"

Evelyn bit one of her finger nails and watched the trees out the window.

"You're shitting me."

"Nope," she admitted quietly.

"Was it bad?"

"Remember how you told me I smelled like vomit the night you stayed at my house?" Hopper bit his lip and nodded. "Yeah. It wasn't great. They kept hitting me here on my neck," she pointed, "but, good lord, that was nothing compared to--" she suddenly stopped herself.

"Compared to what?" He was met with silence. "Ev. Compared to what?" When she shook her head he pulled to the side of the dirt road and looked at her. "Ev. Just tell me. I won't tell anyone."

"It's really not that big of a deal, it's just--" she sighed and turned her head to him. "They kept hitting me in the pressure point under my hurt arm. Right here, you know," she pointed where it would be on him.

Hopper grimaced. "Jesus Christ..."

"I think it ended up leaving a scar."

"It what? Those shouldn't leave scars unless they use high powered stuff."

"Here," she sighed and pulled her arm out of her shirt sleeve and coat. "It should be here, but I obviously wasn't watching."

"Yeah, it definitely scarred. Jesus, Evelyn, how much did you piss them off?"

Evelyn flinched when he ran a finger over the scar. She put her arm back in the clothing and Hopper started driving again. "Seriously. Mine wasn't that bad, how shitty were you?"

She chuckled. She actually was laughing and Hopper couldn't believe that. "I, uh," she scratched her nose and sighed. "I may have laughed at them."

"You laughed at them? What's that even mean, like, you made fun of them?"

"No, I laughed. Like, full on laughed."

"You're something, you know that? You're batshit crazy."

"Yeah, I know," she looked at her hands. 

"Did they hit you anywhere else?"

"Not with electricity, no."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"You really think they kept me handcuffed with a bag over my head and they said 'hey, let's not treat her too bad, though,'?"

"Are you okay now?"

"Yeah, obviously."

"Obviously," he scoffed. "You literally never talk about what's wrong. Seriously. Are you good? Like, is there any part of you that didn't get hurt?"

"I'm kickin' from the waist down."

Hopper snorted. 

"Hey," she looked at him.

"Yeah?"

"You really have a soft spot for that kid, don't you?"

"Yeah. I guess I do."

"Why?"

"I see how it is. I'm not allowed to not like her, I'm not allowed to like her."

"I'm just curious."

"She's been dealt a shit hand. She deserves a place to live."

"Hm," Evelyn hummed in agreement. She side-eyed him, noting to watch him open up more with time.

 

"You knock, I've got food."

"Watch for that tripwire," he cautioned. They carefully maneuvered toward the house in the duck and Hopper did their knock on the door with grocery bags in hand. the two could hear the locks unlock and the door opened. "We brought you pizza because neither of us want to cook."

"Pizza?"

"Yeah, it's really good. We even went to the best place in town. See, come here," Evelyn opened the box for her. "I wasn't sure what you'd like so we got cheese and pepperoni."

"Pep...eroni? Peper...oni. Pepperoni."

"Right. It's meat on the pizza. Here, try the cheese," Evelyn offered and handed El a piece. The girl looked confused and tried to support the whole slice. 

"You just take a bit, nothin' fancy," Hopper started putting groceries away.

El took a bite, took a minute to chew and swallow, then looked at the adults. "Good."

"Right?" Evelyn smiled and gave her a plate. "I love pizza."

"Hey, I'm thinking that bedroom is going to be yours. That sound good to you?"

El nodded and practically devoured the food she had. "That bed's comfy enough?" he asked.

El nodded again and pointed at Hopper. "Eggos."

"Yeah, I got these for you," he smiled. "Not tonight, though. You shouldn't only eat crap. You have to eat healthy, too."

"Hey, El," Evelyn sat down across from her with her own plate. "I'm thinking about getting you some books so we can teach you stuff like math, reading, and science until we can get you into school."

"School?"

"Yeah, the place kids go to learn things."

"Mike. At School?"

"Yeah, he goes to school," Hopper confirmed.

"You can't go there right now, but hopefully you will soon."

"Soon."

"Right. Until then, me and Hopper will teach you what we can. I think we should have a system. You should learn one new word a day. Hopper has a dictionary somewhere around here, but I think today we should have it be left and right. Like the directions. Do you know what directions are?" The girls shook her head. "Like, if I asked where is the bedroom?" Eleven pointed. "Right. So it's in that direction. So there are so many directions. First is forward and backward, you know those?" Eleven nodded.

Hopper helped finish explaining left and right, Eleven clearly proud she'd learned something for the day. "So you'll have a new word every day. It' getting pretty late, though, and you look tired. You should sleep for the night. Me and Hopper don't work all weekend so we can help you get adjusted here. Do you have any other clothes?"

Eleven shook her head.

"Here, I'll get you some," Hopper announced and led her to the bedroom. Evelyn moved to grab a beer, turned the local news on, and sat on the couch. "Hey, thanks," Hopper murmured and took a sip of her beer. 

"Dick, go get your own!"

"I don't want a full one, I just wanted to harass you."

She gave him a middle finger. "El in bed?"

"I gave her some of my older clothes to change into. I figured I could run into town tomorrow and pick some actual clothes up for her or something."

"Yeah, I can help you if you want. With, like, sizes and stuff. And so you don't pick out the ugliest shit."

"I have impeccable taste, thank you."

Evelyn snorted before they heard someone behind them. "Bed."

"Right," Hopper clapped his hands together and went into the bedroom with her. Evelyn continued to watch the news until it ended maybe 20 minutes later and Hopper still hadn't come out. Curious, she moved to the doorway and peeked in.

"Chapter Two: Matthew Cuthbert is surprised. Matthew Cuthbert and the sorrel mare jogged comfortable over the eight miles to Bright River. It was a pretty road, running along between snug farmsteads, with now and again a bit of balsamy fir wood to drive through to a hollow where wild plums hung out their filmy bloom The air was--oh, hey Ev."

"Hi," she said gently. Eleven was half asleep and Hopper could see that. "I was just checking on you guys."

"Yeah, I think El should get some sleep now," he patted the edge of the bed and stood. "We'll be here if you need anything, okay?"

Eleven nodded and the two left.

"I can take you back to your house tomorrow," Hopper exhaled and sat on the couch. "God, I'm old."

"I'll leave if you want me to, obviously. But, you know, it might be a good idea to have someone here with her over the weekend until we legitimately have to leave for work."

"We?"

Evelyn sighed and brought her leg up and laid it along the couch. "I'm not saying I want to move in or anything, I just want to be able to help with her and everything."

"That'd be cool," he nodded looked over at the friend. "You can be here as long as you want. Help out as long as you want. I'll be honest, I know nothing about pre-teenage girls. And I don't have anything other than the couch and that bed in the corner. I'll take the couch."

"I'm not putting you on the couch in your own cabin."

"Technically--"

"I don't care about technically. Besides, you're tall as hell and aren't going to fit on most couches. I lay down with room to spare. It makes the most sense."

"I'm only letting you do this because I don't have the energy to fight."

"Whatever, believe what you want."

"I'm going to sleep, then," Hopper yawned and stood. "Here's a blanket and pillow," he tossed extras over to her.

"Thanks," the woman yawned in reply and turned the TV off. Once the two were settled the house a silent, save for the outdoors noises like owls and crickets, Evelyn stared at the ceiling. "Hey, Hop?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm proud of you. For taking her in and stuff. You've become a little less closed off. It's nice."

She almost said 'it's almost like you're a dad' but quickly caught herself. She was a dick, but she was actually trying not to be right now. It was true, though. He broke out the bad and embarrassing dancing, he was getting protective, he was becoming his old self again.

"Yeah," he sighed. "It is. Nice, I mean. I can really tell you like working with kids when you're around her. You're patient."

"I literally got a degree in it," Evelyn laughed a  little. "I just wanted to tell you that. Goodnight, Hopper."

"Goodnight, Evelyn."

Chapter Text

If it were some movie, there would be some montage of Evelyn trying to handle clothes shopping with Hopper. But, alas, there were no cameras to document the struggle.

"Ev!" Hopper quietly called to the woman on the other side of the rack. He raised his eyebrows and looked for approval.

"That's hideous."

"I thought it was cute."

"It's something my grandma would have worn."

Hopper looked at the shirt in confusion before putting it back and standing next to her. "You really think she would like this?" he asked as Evelyn handed him a shirt.

"Definitely. Kids today love this stuff."

Hopper looked confused but kept it anyway. "We don't need a ton," Evelyn clarified. "We just need some clothes that fit her. I have a ton of flannel she can wear."

"Is it 'cause you're gay?"

Hopper found this remark hilarious. Evelyn slapped him forcefully on the chest with the back of her hand. "Yeah, sleeping with you turned me that last time."

"Ouch."

"You deserve it. Come on, let's get to my house so I can take some stuff to the cabin."

 

"You really cleaned this up nice after..."

"Yeah," Evelyn scoffed and searched a drawer for something. "My sister had stopped by and kind of kicked my ass into gear to turn around."

"That's good."

"Yeah, I needed it," Evelyn shrugged while pulling out a seemingly endless amount of board games. "I figure we could take these back, teach them to El. Poor kid is going to be so bored there."

"Hey," he pretended to take offense.

"She's a kid who's not allowed to leave the house. She's going to get bored. That TV is going to be like heroin to her, though."

"Those workbooks you grabbed will be good for her. Develop those skills that she barely has."

"I agree. Poor kid."

"Yeah," Hopper breathed and found a box to carry the games in. "Hey, I'll get these. You go get those clothes you wanted."

"Right. Thanks."

Evelyn packed up a good amount to take (for both Eleven and herself) and came back out to see Hopper holding a picture frame.

"Your niece and nephew look so much like you."

"I've heard," she laughed lightly.

"Is this recent?"

"Yeah. Last Christmas."

"Your sister looks crazy different."

"I hear you, peaked in high school. I tell her that every day."

Hopper laughed and shook his head at the woman. "You're awful."

"Only to the people I like."

She saw Hopper's eyes go to another picture where a piece was torn off.

"You see your dad lately?"

"No."

"Is that a good thing?"

"Yeah. At least I think so. I think I've seen him a couple times since I moved out of the house. And that was, what, right after high school, I think. So, yeah. It's been a while."

"Sorry I wasn't here."

"What?"

"When your mom... I'm sorry I wasn't here. Chrissy had wrote and told me when it happened. She said you had a really hard time."

"Yeah, I did. It was my Sophomore year of high school."

"Shit, really?"

"What?"

"You were young when it happened."

"Yeah, you knew that."

"I just forgot that I was a senior when you were a freshman. You never seemed that much younger when we were kids."

"I was mature," she shrugged. "Kind of."

"Kind of?"

"Yeah. I was over the kids here, but I still went out and dropped E most nights and did LSD on the weekend. It was stupid."

"Is it true?"

"Me doing drugs as a stupid kid?"

"That your dad got it covered up and got a job as chief of police in the next town over after you were out of high school."

Evelyn stared at the floor for a moment. "Yeah," she replied quietly.

Hopper set down the frame and moved toward her. "Sorry I didn't believe you."

"It's fine, Hop. Can we just stop talking about it? It's done, it's over."

"I still feel bad."

"Well you don't need to. You didn't do anything."

"Right," he nodded.

"We should go. El is probably getting hungry."

"Yeah, you're right," Hopper picked up a box to take to the truck.

 

The week came and went, Evelyn was practically living at the cabin. Though she would never admit it. Eleven was seeming more and more comfortable there as she realized that she was safe, the adults were helping her. The group had made it a habit to play board games every night, eat dinner together, watch some TV, and whatever else Eleven thought was entertaining. A couple more days passed and her and Hopper were at his house, moving some things out to his car to move to the cabin.

"So, are you gonna just move into the cabin?" Hopper asked as they were trying to move a desk through the space.

"What?"

"The cabin. Are you officially moving in?"

"You're asking like we've talked about this before. We haven't. Am I missing something?"

"You're just always there. I figure it'd be easier for you to just live there, we can keep one of our places for when you want to have your niece and nephew over or whatever."

"Hop, there's no room."

"There's plenty. And it works now. Why wouldn't it work?"

"I don't know," she shrugged and maneuvered them out the front door. "I don't know."

"What's holding you back? it's not like it means we're getting married or anything," Hopper sighed once they put the desk safely in the trunk.

"I know," Evelyn sighed and pulled out a cigarette from her flannel shirt pocket. "And I don't want to hear a word about my shirt, by the way. I'll think about it. Just give me time."

"Yeah, sure." Hopper agreed, taking a cigarette she offered and lighting both. "Have you been seeing anyone lately?" He asked casually and pocketed the lighter. "I realized we kind of had a setback right after our fight. I don't know, we didn't seem as close."

"I felt that too. And no, by the way. Not really. I've been busy and..."

"And?"

"And most women I'd be with aren't around here--this place is conservative as hell--and most of the guys here are all asses. Besides, lesbians tend to think I'm sick because the guys I sleep with might be sick."

"Right," Hopper looked at the grass. "I forgot about that. I'm sorry."

"It's fine. I mean, it's not but... there's not much I can do."

"What's it called again? GRID?"

"AIDS now."

"AIDS. So it's not just gay people who get it?"

"No, straight people can get it too. That's how women started getting it, I think. I guess you can get it through blood, too. I don't really know a lot, though."

"That sucks. Is there a way to prevent it? Like a vaccine or something?"

Evelyn shook her head and stubbed out her cigarette. "No. Other than safe sex, no."

"Do you...?"

"No. No, I don't have it. Thankfully."

"Do you know anyone who does?"

"Yeah. A lot, actually. With everything that's happened I haven't been visiting them. I try calling them regularly but it's not really working."

"Don't let me and El eat up your whole life. Please. Go visit your friends while you can."

"I know, I will. I might go to Indy next weekend."

"What's in Indy?"

"Bars, clubs, people. It's real lonely out here. There are plenty of us at the hospital here but moved out of town since it's dangerous to be out publicly. A couple kids you and me went to school with are in the hospital in town right now. And then some I went to college with. But we can't all be out in the public. Those who do..."

"And it's less dangerous in Indy?"

"No. But there are other people. People like me."

"Yeah. I can imagine it's frustrating. We should finish packing up," he added after a moment.

"Right," Evelyn nodded and moved back into the house.

"You thought any more about moving in?"

"Ha-ha," she mocked and started putting dishes and food into a box. "We should really figure out what we are before I decide. Let's not confuse the hell out of El."

"Okay. What are we?"

"I don't know, what do you think we are?" she shook her head.

"Last time I had heard, we had benefits. And those were your words, not mine."

"Really, now?" Evelyn squinted her eyes at him across the room. "Well, we probably shouldn't have benefits in the house with a kid that possesses the only bedroom."

"Yeah, I agree. That'd be awkward."

Evelyn rolled her eyes and crossed the dining room. "You're an idiot. You know that, right?"

"You've told me before. Never shown proof, though."

"Well, you are," she scoffed and grabbed a fistful of his shirt, pulling forward and down while going up on her toes to meet his face. Hopper was taken a little off guard when she was so forceful about it, but that wasn't a bad thing. The issue was that they were both sluts for power, as Evelyn once eloquently put it.

Evelyn wrapped her legs around him as he lifted and supported her by holding her thighs. One of her hands rested on his shoulder and the other combed through his hair a few times before grabbing some in her fist and tugging on it hard. Hopper, startled, let out a moan and started walking toward the couch. Hopper fell back onto the couch with Evelyn straddling his lap, already moving to take her own shirt off then taking Hopper's and throwing it on the floor. 

Evelyn let out a shaky breath when Hopper that one spot on her neck and leaned into him. "Oh, come on," she groaned when he pulled away.

She felt his hands under her moving to undo his belt and unbutton his jeans then unbutton her jeans when she slid to the floor in front of him, pulling everything down to mid-thigh as Hopper wrapped a hand in her thick hair and tightening his grip as she took him into her mouth. He let out another moan as she fully withdrew and bobbed her head back down, the warmth a surprise within the otherwise cold air.

"Jesus, Ev," he breathed and forced her head down more. This was nothing new to either of them, it was all a power-play they went back and forth with.

She pushed back against his hand and removed herself, moving away and toward his bedroom.

"You're going to follow me. You're going to pray that you have condoms somewhere in this joint," she called behind er while unclasping her bra, "and you are going to fuck me like there's no tomorrow because I don't know when we're going to have a chance like this again. Understood?" She called behind her to the man who was, now almost frantically, searching through the drawer of his bedside table. "Hey," she grabbed his wrist and turned him toward her."Do you hear me?" she asked again lowly.

Hopper stared down at her with wide eyes for a moment. He'd seen her get dominant before, but never like this.

"I--uh--yeah. Yes," he stammered.

"Good," she scoffed before throwing her bra to the ground and backed onto the bed. She saw him toss something onto the nightstand and was in front of her before pushing her so she was laying on her back and yanked her jeans down. Their lips collided again and Evelyn put her hands on either side of his face to keep him there. Suddenly she felt her hands be forced onto the bed and above her head which casued her to push against the large hands holding her there.

"Come on," she moaned and pushed against him again.

"Chill," he mumbled onto her lips and pressed a thigh against her, a cruel reminder to her about the fabric that was still there.

"I'm--impatient," she grumbled to him. 

Hopper let out a scoff and pulled away from her. "That's the understatement of the year."

"This better be good."

"Just let me do my thing, alright?"

Evelyn rolled her eyes at him playfully as he grabbed her wrists again. "You're seriously going to roll your eyes at me right now?"

"I'm grown, I'll do what I want."

"Really?" he gave a dry laugh.

"Yeah--"

Evelyn was cut off by his face slamming down onto hers and he thrusted into her. 

"Shit," she moaned into him.

"You talk a lot, you know that?"

"It's not an accident," she replied just before the two flipped and there were a pair of hands on her hips and she was holding onto Hopper's shoulders.

"Just try shutting up for a second, yeah?" he asked with a grin.

"Not on your life, buddy," she grinned back.

 

"You go head to the cabin. I'll help unload and unpack when I get there."

"Is everything okay?" Hopper asked and started putting on his belt. Evelyn took the cigarette out of his mouth and took a drag.

"Um, yeah. Yeah, I guess. I just have to go visit my friend Steven. He's in the hospital."

"Right. Take your time, I'll make El some dinner and save you some."

"Thanks," Evelyn smiled before grabbing her keys and heading to her car. She clipped her radio on her belt loop before actually walking into the hospital and searching for a specific room.

"Look who finally showed up!" the skinny red-haired man called as the door closed.

"Yeah, yeah," Evelyn waved a dismissive hand and sat on the edge of the bed. "How're you doing?"

"I'm doing. Alive, but I'm here, ain't I?"

"What got you in here?"

"They're saying pneumonia this time."

Evelyn didn't ask how bad it was. It looked like he'd been in pain every time he took a breath in. "You're probably pretty popular, huh? I bet they put out the velvet rope in front of your door."

He laughed lightly which turned into a coughing fit. "Yeah, that's exactly what happens. You know me, popular in Hawkins for being the only out kid in school."

"Your family visit?"

He shook his head. "No. They don't want the kids to get sick."

"What about when you're not in here?"

"They don't want the kids sick."

"Oh. I'm sorry."

"It's whatever. How're you doing?"

"Pretty good. The usual."

"You still boning dickhead?"

"Hopper? Yeah. Kind of."

"Kind of?"

"Kind of. I don't know anymore, really."

"Back up. What happened?"

"We have to figure out what we are because..."

"Because...?" his sunken face urged her to keep going.

"I can't tell you. I shouldn't have said that."

"You're a tease, you know that?"

"So I've been told. You never wanted my ass anyway, so it's fine here."

"Speaking of men," he leaned forward toward her. "Tell me you're seeing other people than Chief Brickhead. Or do you still have an awful taste in men?"

"Ha-ha. No, I don't. My taste is fine."

"I'm gonna ask Chrissy."

"Chrissy used to be with him, you know."

"Oh, I know. So she knows how shitty he was."

"Alright. Enough about me. You seen anyone lately?"

"No. No one wants to fuck a dying guy. Unfortunately." Evelyn rolled her eyes.

"You're sure it's not that you're just an insufferable ass?"

"No, cause this insufferable ass got laid before he got sick. You know, I think your awful taste in men would be solved if you just sucked it up and had more than a one night stand with a woman."

"I've had more than one night stands--"

"I mean a committed relationship, genius."

"Man, I hope you know that once you're out of here I'm going to beat you in the parking lot. It'd be a bad look to beat on a guy in a hospital gown, though."

"You're going to look just as bad beating on a corpse."

He laughed and coughed as Evelyn shot him a look. "Don't say shit like that."

"Come on, it was a joke."

"Yeah, well not a funny one. Just because your family doesn't put up with your shit doesn't mean I won't. So get used to it."

He smiled genuinely at her before the door opened and someone knocked gently.

"Mr. Knoll? I'm sorry, visiting hours are over and only immediate family can stay."

"Oh, right," he coughed and reached for Evelyn. She gave him a hug and scrawled a number on a slip of paper. "What's this?"

"Call this number if you need me. Like if you're really sick and you want someone here or you just need someone. It's the station, but leave your message for me and they'll get it to me ASAP. Okay?"

"Yeah," he said softly and took the paper. "Yeah, thank you."

"Of course," She smiled, gave him another hug, and left.

 

Evelyn knocked six knocks and waited for one of the people to unlock the door. "Hey," Hopper pressed a smile to her. "How's Steven?"

"Doesn't matter," she sighed and set her purse down. "I'll tell you later, okay?" she nodded toward El at the table. Hopper nodded in understanding.

"We saved you some lunch. I made El PB&Js. Which is..." he pointed at the child and smiled.

"Peanut Butter and Jelly!" she announced.

Evelyn cheered and threw her hands in the air. "Is that three words of the day?"

"Yes," she nodded. "Sandwich."

"Holy shit, you're a walking dictionary."

Eleven smiled at the adults and went to grab a board game. "Guess Who," Hopper called. She nodded and quickly brought it over.

"Help?" she looked at Evelyn.

"Sure. Let's crush Hop."

Eleven smiled as the man ruffled her growing hair and she started setting up.

About twenty minutes later Hopper was still going easy on the child and Evelyn was helping her with descriptions.

"Does your person have glasses?" Hopper asked.

Eleven looked at Evelyn. "Glasses," she pointed at a character with glasses.

"No."

"Alright," Hopper flipped a couple portraits down. "Your turn."

"Man."

"What?"

Eleven sighed and concentrated. "Are you...man?"

"Yes." Eleven flipped some portraits down. "Do you have red hair?"

"No."

Evelyn smiled and watched Eleven gain some confidence, asking for help only with a couple features. After Eleven went to go watch some TV and the adults cleaned up.

"Have you figured out what we are yet?" Hopper asked quietly.

"No. I haven't thought about that, really. I've been busy."

"Yeah. By the way, I'm forcing you to sleep in that bed tonight."

"You can't-"

"You can't sleep on that couch every night."

"I'm fine."

"Just--at least take the bed every other night. Please?"

"No."

"Bed," a voice said behind him.

"El, it's not even--"

Eleven looked frustrated.

"Both fit on bed?"

Evelyn looked at the bed, realizing Eleven had almost no sense of just how much space Hopper took up and he barely fit on that bed now as it is. But instead of explaining that to her, Hopper got all flustered and panicked.

"We don't sleep in the same bed," Hopper clarified.

"Why?"

"Because we're not..." Hopper attempted to explain. "We aren't--"

"What he's trying to say is usually friends don't sleep in the same bed as adults. They're usually dating when they share a bed."

"Dating?"

"D-a-t-i-n-g. Like what people do before they get married."

Eleven gave them a confused look. "Not dating."

"Right. Friends."

Eleven looked at them confused for another moment before turning and walking away into her bedroom.

"So who's giving her the sex talk?"

"Evelyn, don't even joke."

 

"El's asleep, finally," Hopper yawned and sat on the couch. He accepted the cigarette that was handed to him. "So, are you moving in?"

"I don't know, Hop. I don't know."

"What's stopping you?"

"Us. We need to figure out us first."

"Okay, what are we?"

"Good God," Evelyn groaned into her hands and took the cigarette back. "I don't know."

"What do you want to be?"

"I don't know." Evelyn thought for a moment before smiling sweetly at him. "I think if we're going to want anything more than friends, you're going to have to wine and dine me. I'm a classy woman," she joked and got up to get some food.

"Wine and dine after..." he pretended to get lost counting on his fingers.

"I'm only trailer trash sometimes, you know."

"Okay, seriously though. That little Italian joint in town sound good?"

Evelyn scoffed. "When? It's not like either of us want to leave El home that long."

"How about Monday, lunch. We aren't leaving El home alone longer than usual. Nothing happens here, so we could take as long of a lunch as we want."

Evelyn hummed and thought for a moment while staring into the fridge and grabbing a pudding cup. "I suppose that's acceptable," she joked and jumped when she turned and he was right there.

"Good. Monday at noon. I'll pick you up at your office. I'll manage the hike."

"You're ridiculous, you know that?"

"Yeah, I've been told," he shrugged and rested his hands on her waist. "Oh, come on," he groaned when she slipped away from him and opened her pudding halfway to the couch.

"I told you, Classy Woman," she clicked her tongue and pointed the spoon at him.

"Why are you like this?" Hopper sighed over dramatically.

"Mmm, that's a good question. It frustrates you," she held up one finger, "it kills whatever boner you have," she held up another, "and it proves that you're a sucker that will do almost anything I say," she held up the third finger.

"It's called being respectful."

"It's also true."

Hopper gave her a look before wandering to the recliner with a drink. She was right, he realized. She had him wrapped around her finger.

Chapter Text

"House tree?"

Evelyn watched Hopper drag the Christmas tree into the house.

"It's called a Christmas Tree. Christmas is a holiday where you give each other gifts and spend time with each other."

"Mike."

"You'll see Mike soon."

"Present for him?"

"We can make Mike a gift, if you want. Maybe we could make him some cookies and I can take them over."

Eleven smiled and nodded. "You ready to set this up?" Hopper asked once he got the door closed.

"Let's get these lights untangled," Evelyn set a box down in front of Eleven.

 

"Hi, Evelyn," Ted opened the front door. "Uh, what can I help you with?"

"Is Mike home?"

"Ted, who is it?" Karen called.

"It's Evelyn!"

"Hi, Evelyn!" Karen greeted when they made eye contact.

"Hey," she smiled and then looked at Holly and held her hand out for a high five.

"What can we do for you?"

"Oh, I brought a little something for you guys," she explained and held up the small container of cookies.

"Did someone say Evelyn is here?" Mike yelled and there was the sound of footsteps slamming down the stairs.

"Hey, Mike," she smiled to him.

"Hey," he smiled.

"Do you guys mind if I talk to Mike for a minute?"

"Of course, come on in. Mike--"

"Come downstairs," he nodded and led Evelyn to the basement. When she got down there she noticed a little bedding area set up, like a tent.

"Is there where El slept?"

Mike nodded. "Have you found her yet?"

"No. I'm sorry."

"Oh. I try to call her every night through my radio. I haven't gotten an answer yet."

"I'm sure she's out there," Evelyn sighed. "I'm looking, I promise. I brought these for you," she handed him the cookies.

"Oh, thanks."

"How have you been?"

"I'm good. It's been nice having Will back. I really missed him."

"Yeah, I get that. You haven't been too sad or anything?"

"I guess not. It was hard for a bit, but I've gotten better. I just miss her."

"I know."

"I wanted to take her to the Snowball Dance. Did you have those in school?"

"I'm old but I'm not that old, Mike," she teased. "We had them. I never went with boys. I never really went at all. I just didn't get it."

"Me neither. But I thought it'd be fun."

"It might be--you should go next year."

"I only want to go with El."

"Maybe she'll be here by then."

"I really hope so. I miss her. I miss her so much."

Evelyn wrapped a tight arm around him as he wiped his eyes on his sleeve when there was the sound of someone bounding down the stairs.

"Nancy, get out! I'm trying to talk to Evelyn."

"I want to talk to her too!" Nancy cried as she got to the bottom. "Hey," she smiled and gave the woman a hug.

"Hey, how are you?"

"I've been doing really good."

"She's still dating that douche--"

"Mike!"

"We said we'd be honest with each other," he shrugged.

"You're still with Steve?" Evelyn asked.

"Yes, and before you lecture me--"

"I'm not going to lecture. I was just curious. Trust me, I have no room to judge."

"Because you're with Hopper?" Mike asked with a grin.

"No," Evelyn looked at him amused. "I have never dated Hopper."

Mike narrowed his eyes. "Can I talk to Evelyn for a minute?" Nancy nodded her head towards the door while looking at Mike. He trudged up the stairs.

"Are you really trying to sell that there's nothing between you and the Chief?"

"I guess I am," she shrugged and winked at the girl.

"That's bad!" Nancy grinned and slapped the woman's arm.

"It's not bad!" the woman defended.

"No," Nancy laughed a little. "Not like bad. It means, like, crazy."

"I can not keep up with you kids. I'm old, aren't I?"

"You're not old."

"I better pick out my casket now before someone picks out an ugly one for me. How've you been, though?"

"I'm really good. It's nice to have a break from school. Ugh, but Mrs. Oliver gave us homework. Over break! Like, I think she's so old she isn't even able to read the paper she assigned."

Evelyn laughed a little. "She was always a handful when I was there. I meant more about dealing with Barb and everything that happened. How you holding up?"

"Oh, I'm okay. I--you're absolutely sure you saw her body in there, right?"

"Yeah. There was no way she was alive. I'm sorry, Nance."

Nancy exhaled slowly. "I'll be fine. Okay, I mean. I'll deal with it and the fact that she's not coming back. It's just a long process."

"It is. I'm always here if you're feeling down, okay?"

"Yeah. Yeah, thank you."

"Of course."

"Nancy! Mom wants you!" Mike yelled down the stairs.

"I'm coming!" she yelled back.

"Come on, I should head up too."

The two headed up where the Wheeler family was getting ready for dinner. "Evelyn, I've set out a plate for you and made more than enough food to go around. You're welcome to stay."

"Oh," Evelyn smiled at Karen. "Sure, I'd love to! I just need to use your bathroom real quick," she excused herself and unclipped the radio from her waistband of her jeans. Once n the bathroom she hit the button on the radio five times quickly to signal for Hopper. She heard five beeps back before she signaled her message: "AT WHEELERS FOR DINNER"

"OK" came back quickly. With that she breathed a sigh of relief and went back to the dining room where Karen gave her a plate of meatloaf.

"This is so good, Karen. Thank you," Evelyn smiled from between Mike and Nancy.

"Oh, thank you," she smiled back. "How was your day, kids?"

"It was good," Nancy shrugged. Mike had a similar reply.

"Do you have any homework over break?" Evelyn raised an eyebrow at mike.

"No, not this year." Evelyn gave him a high five.

"How's the chief?" Ted asked and took a bite of the food.

"He's fine," Evelyn shrugged. "He bothers me at work just as much as usual, you know. Same stubborn son of a bitch he's always been."

Karen and Ted both gave a small laugh. "Is it busy at all over at the station?"

"No. Not at all," Evelyn scoffed. "I'm okay with that, it gives me time to go to the next town over and help kids in the justice system."

"Oh, do you specialize in kids law enforcement?"

"Well, not exactly. I have a degree in psychology with a concentration in adolescent psychology."

"So you're a kids' cop?"

Evelyn saw Mike roll his eyes in her peripheral vision. "No," she clarified. "I am not a cop. I'm a detective and head of the Juvenile Department, which means I oversee all of the cases with minors involved."

"Hm," Ted hummed. "Well, no matter what, thank you for your service to the community. Cops don't get enough credit around here."

Evelyn just bit her tongue and accepted the compliment. He didn't get it.

"Your father used to work at the police department, right?" Karen tried to shift them away.

"Yeah. Yeah, he did."

"Where's he working now? Last I heard was Cartersville."

"That's the last place I knew of," Evelyn shrugged uncomfortably.

"Is it true he's killed someone?" Mike blurted out.

"Michael!" Karen cried out.

"It's okay," Evelyn nodded. "You want the truth?" Mike nodded eagerly. "He was a cop. Yeah, he's killed someone. Most cops have."

"Has Hopper?"

"The chief," Ted corrected Nancy.

"Not here in Hawkins, I'd have chewed his ass--sorry, Karen," Evelyn tried to remember not to swear at the table. "I'd have chewed him out if he'd killed someone here without a very good reason."

"Didn't he live in New York? What about there?" Mike questioned.

"Michael, Nancy. Enough," Karen chastised.

"We're just asking!"

"I don't know," Evelyn answered honestly. "I didn't talk to him much while he was in New York. But he did serve in Vietnam, so..." Evelyn shrugged and gave the two a look.

"Wait, how are you two together if he was in the war and you were a huge hippie as a kid?"

"Was he drafted or did he volunteer?"

"Slow down," Evelyn laughed a little at them. "I don't know if he was drafted or not. And we're not together," she looked at Nancy, who smirked and took another bite.

"Were you really a hippie?" Mike asked with a sort of excited look.

"Kind of, yeah."

Suddenly the doorbell rang and Karen hopped up to get it. "Do you have pictures?" Nancy asked eagerly.

"Oh, yeah. Tons. You should come over to my place sometime and i'll show you."

"Hell yes," Nancy grinned.

"Language," Ted corrected.

"Would you like some dinner, Steve?" they heard Karen ask.

"Steve's here?" Nancy asked.

"Yeah, we were going to hang out."

"Right. I didn't realize the time."

Steve sat next to Nancy and Karen handed him a plate of food. "Hey, Carpenter," he nodded to the woman.

"What's up, Harrington?"

"Not a lot. It's break, can't complain."

"I hear you. Enjoy it while you can." Evelyn looked at her watch and took a deep breath. "Karen, I am so sorry, I have to run. I told them I'd take a shift at the station tonight. The food was delicious and I can't thank you enough."

"Anytime, Evelyn. You're always welcome here, the kids love you."

"Say hi to Hopper for us!" Mike called and received a salute in response.

When Evelyn started her car she sat there for a moment, mentally debating. After a moment she made the conscious decision to make the short drive to her abandoned house. It was probably good to keep up maintenance, like checking the mail and answering machine that Hopper had installed then told her about. "If you're not staying here you'll need to check it every so often so people know you're alive."

The mail was all junk, essentially. But the machine had a few different messages.

"Hey, Ev," Chrissy's voice greeted as Evelyn found a can of beer in the fridge. "The kids were wondering what we were doing for Christmas so just call me when you have a few minutes to get logistics worked out. Thanks."

Evelyn made a mental note to call her tomorrow when there was nothing to do at work.

"Hi, Evelyn," an unfamiliar voice started. She sounded sad. "I'm calling because my brother Richard Payne has passed away. We're having a funeral service..."

Evelyn sighed and listen to the information for the service. Eventually the next message started.

"Hey, it's me. I'm going to go to Rich's funeral, and I can only assume that you are too. I figure we could carpool or something, I don't know. Call me when you get a few."

 

"Hey, Ev," Hopper nodded from the table when she walked through the front door. "We saved you a Triple Layer Eggo Extravaganza."

"Oh," she smiled at the girl who looked happier than ever to present this food to her. "Thank you, it looks absolutely delicious."

"Mike."

"Mike is good. Enjoying his Christmas break."

"How's Nancy?" Hopper asked.

"Good. She's doing really well, I think, considering she lost her best friend. Still dating Steve. The Wheelers don't appreciate my mouth, that's for sure," she laughed a little. "They are much more formal than this."

"Formal?" Eleven asked.

"For-m-a-l," Hopper looked at her.

"It means traditional, like everything in the past."

"Is this formal?" she asked and looked at the Eggo stacks.

Hopper laughed. "No. Not one bit."

Eleven's eyebrows furrowed as if she was disappointed.

"Hey, you know what? I'd rather this than formal any day. This? This is fun. I've never seen a triple layer Eggo extravaganza before. But it's amazing," she said and took a huge bite.

"Made it ourselves," the girl smiled and looked at Hopper.

After eating Hopper went to tuck her into bed and, like usual, took longer than needed to read her some from the beat up Anne of Green Gables.  When he came out he noticed the woman on the couch with a cigarette.

"You good?"

"I want to live here."

Hopper blinked a few times and stopped. "Oh--okay. Yeah, totally."

"Thanks," she murmured and hugged the throw pillow closer to her chest.

"Are you okay?"

"Um--I'm going to be gone for a bit tomorrow. I gotta go to a funeral with Jimmy."

"Who's?"

"Richard Payne's. He was a grade above me in school and his family was friends with mine."

"I don't recognize the name."

"No one called him Richard. Everyone always called him Dick Payne or a fag."

She could tell Hopper felt bad once she said that. He was definitely one of the kids that had called him that.

"But, yeah. I gotta head to my house and get ready for Jimmy to get me."

 

The brother and sister sat across from each other in a booth in one of the local bars with cigarettes.

"It sucks that he's gone," Jimmy said quietly.

"Yeah. I hadn't talked to him too much since dad moved, though."

"I'm surprised he wasn't there."

"I'm not. Man, you've got daddy issues, don't you?"

"No, I don't. I just thought he was better than that." Evelyn shook her head and took another drag from her cigarette. "I don't really blame him, though. He died of that, what is it? That gay cancer shit."

"It's called AIDS, and it's not just gay people who get it."

"Yeah, well," the man scoffed and pushed some dusty blond hair out of his eyes. "It's only the fags that are dying."

Evelyn stared at the table. They sat in a tense silence for a moment before she grabbed his arm and laid it in the table quickly.

"What the hell is wrong wit you?" he asked and tried to withdraw. She pulled up the sleeve and observed.

"You've moved on," she said quietly.

"What are you talking about?" he furrowed his brows and pulled away.

"You're not on those pills anymore. You've moved on to--"

"You don't know shit about me," he cut her off. "And I'd stop talking if I were you."

"Jimmy, just tell me--"

"Why? So you and your cop boyfriend can arrest me?"

"First of all, I'm not a cop. Second, I can help you."

"I don't need help."

The man stood and stormed off, Evelyn quickly throwing some money down and following him.

"Jimmy!" She yelled after him once the bar door slammed behind them. "Hey, asshole. Stop!" she yelled and grabbed him by the arm.

"What?" he yelled back in her face. 

"Let me help you. Let Chrissy help you. Let us help!"

"Fuck you, Evelyn. You don't know jack shit about me. You're one of those bastards cops just like dad was. You're fucking the chief of police, for God's sake. He's one of those pigs and so are you, you just feel like because you fuck over kids instead of adults you're a better person than him. But really, that makes you worse."

Evelyn took a couple steps back, suddenly noticing all the people around them. Really, it was just people walking from shop to shop and it wasn't much, but it felt like a million of them.

"I--how did you--" she started to stammer.

"Yeah, Chrissy's got real loose lips. You should be careful what you tell her."

"I hate you," Evelyn growled and shoved him. He caught her by the wrists and held her there for a moment.

"Yeah?" He asked quietly. "I'm not to big on hypocrites either."

The two stared at each other for a second before he shoved her way harder than she'd shoved him and he stormed to his car. Evelyn knew she should've chased after him, gotten in the car, and just made him drive her home. But she didn't. She watched him pull away and then looked at the people who had stopped around her.

"Party's over, alright?" she said to them a little more defensively than necessary and stormed back inside.

Hopper and Eleven were watching some old western movie together during all of this. Well, Hopper was dozing off into a nap while El was extremely entranced with the film. That is until there were five quick beeps on the radio set up. "Hop," Eleven called over to him in the recliner. "Hop," she repeated and got up, starting to shake him. The five quick beeps didn't happen again and Eleven thought letters were being spelled. "Hop, wake up," she pushed one more time before going and seeing what was being spelled.

"S..." she murmured and looked at the chart. "O...S..." Eleven exhaled and looked at the piece of notebook paper Evelyn had written on for her. "Save our ship," she read and furrowed her eyebrows. Then she looked at the explanation: An emergency signal used when someone is in a lot of trouble. Pay attention to message if alone. If me or Hopper are home. Get us right away.

"Hopper!" she cried at the man who was stirring. With a frustrated huff, the girl put a and out toward him which made the recliner tip him over on to the floor.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" he questioned groggily.

"SOS," Eleven pointed at the radio.

"What?" he asked and sprinted over to the radio. He listened as more beeps came.

... --- ...

Hopper hit the button five quick times to signal he was there. Evelyn was on the other side in the pub sighing with relief. Hopper waited and had El write down the letters he was telling her.

....

"H."

..

"I."

-..

"D."

.

"E."

.-

"A."

.--

"W."

.-

"A."

-.--

"Y."

"Hideaway," Eleven said quietly.

"Like the pub?" Hopper asked. Eleven shrugged. It was a dumb question to ask.

-.-. --- -- . --. . - -- .

"Come get me," Eleven red aloud as she decoded the message. "Come get me."

"I'll be right back. Do not open the door for anyone except us, alright? I'll be right back and I'll signal when I have Ev and we're safe."

Eleven nodded as he bolted out to his truck, nearly knocking into the trip wire in his frantic sprint.

 

When Hopper pulled into a parking space in front of the pub Evelyn was sitting on a bench with her purse over her shoulder, the radio in one hand, and she was holding her face in the other. She was still in her black sleeveless dress that Hopper had never seen her wear (to be fair, he'd rarely seen her in any 'nice' clothes. Only her uniform and comfy clothes around the cabin) and he was in his coat from the police station and jeans.

"What the hell happened?" he asked and took long strides up to her while unzipping the jacket and handing it to her.

She sucked on her teeth for a moment before reaching out to him. He thought it was for the coat but was surprised when she trapped him in a hug and buried her face in his chest.

"All right," he rubbed her back lightly and led her to the truck. "Hey, tell me what happened," he said lightly and put the coat on her. It was comically large, he noticed as she sat down and buckled herself into the passenger seat. As he pulled out of in front of the pub and signaled safety to El she unloaded everything that had happened in the last couple hours.

"Jesus," Hopper sighed and put the truck into park. Evelyn pulled Hopper's flashlight out of the pocked and wiped her eyes quickly. "I'm sorry, Ev. I'm sorry he's being so shitty."

"I don't even care," she sighed and took a deep breath. "Really, I don't," she reassured and lit a cigarette. "If he wants to be a dickhead and die of an overdose or get AIDS from sharing used needles or the million other ways he puts himself in danger, he can be my guest. If he doesn't want to watch his niece and nephew grow up and die miserable and alone, he can. I really, truly don't care."

"Okay," Hopper said quietly, trying to diffuse the woman who was about to explode. "Alright, Ev. It's been a long day, you're tired, maybe you should just come inside and chill out for a little bit. Maybe play a board game with El or something."

"I'm just pissed off. I want to take a long shower or something, chill out, you know? Maybe watch Saturday Night Live or something after."

"Yeah, sure. I'm sure El would love that."

She handed over the flashlight and did exactly that. She got into the shower and then settled on the couch while El waited impatiently for Hopper to heat up some Eggos.

Chapter Text

"Chrissy wants to do Christmas with the kids and said you're more than welcome to come," Evelyn informed over a plate of spaghetti.

"When?"

"A couple days, that way it's before the holiday and they can spend Christmas morning with each other then go to Frank's family's. His family is much bigger, so they do it on the day."

"Yeah, should we leave El home alone that long for us to go to her place though?"

"We can do it at my house."

"Okay," he nodded and took a bite. "You have a fake tree?"

"Yeah. I never liked real ones when I lived alone. Didn't see the point when I only use it for the kids."

"Is Jimmy coming?"

"I don't know. Hopefully. He should see the kids."

"Yeah, I agree. You got any interesting cases you're working on?"

"Not really," Evelyn shrugged. "A couple kids broke into the Millers' corner store and I'm trying to pin them down. I'll figure it out by the end of the day though."

"Right," Hopper nodded. He opened his mouth to say something when his radio on the table went off.

"Hey, Chief, is Carpenter with you?" Flo asked.

"Yeah, what's up?" he replied and furrowed his eyebrows at Evelyn.

"Someone called and left an urgent message--"

Evelyn was already grabbing her things, snatched up Hopper's keys, and heading for the door.

"--Someone called and asked to give her a message that it's urgent and he needs her."

"Did the guy say anything else?" Hopper asked and put some bills onto the table.

"Just that she would understand what he meant."

"Alright, thanks, Flo."

Evelyn was sitting in the driver's seat and was impatiently waiting for him. He was barely in the truck before she peeled out of the parking lot and to the station.

"I'll be back," she called and essentially took one long step to her car.

 

"Hey, hey, hey," Evelyn said softly and burst through the hospital room's door. "Steven, I'm here," she rubbed his back as he hunched over the small basin and vomited. "I'm here for you, I'm here," she soothed and handed him another to go clean out the used one. When she came back she switched the basins out again and cleaned the other one. "What's going on, man?" she asked and came out of the bathroom.

"I'm dying," he coughed, leading to some heavy gagging but no vomit. "Please, I just--can you sit with me?"

"Yeah, of course," Evelyn sighed and climbed onto the hospital bed. Any other person she would have said no--there was no way they would both fit. But Steven was so thin and scrawny now that he was sick. He was right, but she'd never admit that. "You're going to be okay, I promise," she wrapped her arms around him and rested her chin on his head when he learned into her. "I will make sure you're okay."

"Ev, you can't--"

"I'll figure it out. You were there for me when it mattered, now I'm here for you. Just try to relax, okay? I'll call a nurse," she murmured and hit the button.

"There's nothing they can do," he groaned as another wave of nausea rolled through him. "I can't puke on you, you're in uniform," he tried to weakly get up and away from her.

She held him there firmly. "I don't care. I have more clothes at home, alright? Stop being so damn worried about me, worry about you."

"I just--I'm sorry," he looked up at her. Evelyn reached up from here his hand was resting on his chest and wiped a few tears off his face."I don't want to die alone, you know?"

"I know," she whispered and held him there while he wheezed. "Where the fuck are the nurses?" she wondered aloud and hit the button again.

"Ev, stop. Please. It's just more stressful and they can't do anything--"

"Hey, what's wrong?" a woman walked into the room.

"Nothing," Steven said firmly. "We were just freaked out."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. I'll call if I need anything. Promise."

She reluctantly left and Steven held the basin in front of him so hard his knuckles turned white. Evelyn sat there and rubbed his back and kept whatever hair he actually had left out of his face. It wasn't difficult--he'd hadn't been eating for longer than he'd tell anyone, he was incredibly sick, and clumps of hair were falling into her hands at that moment. With a deep breath, she whispered reassuring statements and switched out the tubs. "I'll go clean this--" she grabbed the dirty one but was stopped by a hand weakly grabbing her.

"Don't. Evelyn, please stay here. I'll be gone the minute you leave."

"Yeah, okay," she barely whispered and climbed back up behind him. He leaned into her like before and she could tell he was in pain. His breaths were short, barely there at all even. Every so often he'd use all of his energy to all but cough up a lung as Evelyn talked him through it. She focused on his breathing, running a hand through his hair comfortingly. 1, 2... 1, 2... she counted. Breathe in: 1, 2... Breathe out: 1, 2... She could feel tears dripping onto her hand that was laying on his chest and wiped her own face on her cloth covered shoulder. "You're okay," Steven heard quietly. "You're okay. Do what you need to, I'll be okay. I'll tell Chief Hop you say hi."

"Tell him," Steven emerged into a coughing fit that absolutely broke his friend's heart. "Tell Brickhead that if he breaks your heart... I'm going to haunt him forever."

Evelyn laughed through the tears and wiped her face on her shoulder again, feeling him laugh weakly. Of course while he was saying he was cracking jokes.

"You really haven't changed since high school, have you?"

"I guess not. But neither have you, you still have an awful taste in men."

"I'm here, aren't I?"

"I'm different. You don't date gay guys."

"They typically don't have a lot of interest in me. I'm proportioned wrong," she shrugged and continued running a hand through his hair. She felt him laugh weakly again.

Evelyn wasn't sure how long she sat there. She wasn't sure exactly when he'd left. But that's okay, she didn't really want to. She'd rather know that he was just gone and not in any more pain. The clock on the wall read 4:02.

Her and Hopper had lunch around 1. It had really been that long.

Evelyn hadn't even noticed she was crying until a nurse walked in and instantly understood. What was worse was that she recognized the woman; it was a girl she'd graduated high school with.

"Hi, Ev," she greeted sadly and closed the door. "Can I take a look at him?"

"No," she croaked and held him tightly. "He's gone--he's dead. You can take his pulse--he's dead."

"Why don't you come--"

"I need to stay. I--"

'Does he have any family you can call?"

"Just me," she whispered. "His family didn't..."

"Evelyn, should I call someone for you?"

She shook her head. No, I just--I need a minute. Please."

"Okay, we're going to have to declare a time though. Which means I'm going to go get a doctor for him."

"Right," Evelyn sniffed and got out of the bed. "Sorry--I--"

"Don't apologize. I'll be right back."

Someone ushered Evelyn out of the room while they looked at him. "Do you need help arranging a funeral service? Have you done this before?" A stranger asked.

"No, I don't need help," she exhaled shakily. "I--can he be cremated? He doesn't have anyone, no one would come to the funeral."

"Yes, of course," the man nodded before walking away.

"Evelyn?" the nurse from before asked. "Would you like to see him one more time?"

 

Evelyn was sitting in her car in the police department parking lot with her head laying against the steering wheel. She wasn't crying, it was pointless to do at this point and it did no good. She was just sitting when someone knocked on her window next to her head. She slowly looked over and saw Callahan looking a little intimidated. She rolled the window down and looked at him.

"Uh--are you okay?"

"I'm fine," she ran a hand through her hair. "You should go back to work."

"Doing what?" he scoffed.

"Tracking down those kids that broke into the Millers'. They won't get off my ass."

"You should come inside. It's cold and you don't have your car on."

"I'm okay."

"You'er gonna freeze."

"Then I'll freeze," she snapped and lit a cigarette.

Callahan sighed and left her alone, letting her prop her arm on the open window and holding her head on that hand. Eventually she saw Hopper come out the front door and watched as he walked around her car.

"Hey," he leaned so that he could prop himself on the door.

"Hi."

"You good?"

"I'm fine," she replied dryly and finished the cigarette.

"Where'd you go?"

"Get in."

"What?"

"Get in the car. We have to go get Christmas presents for the kids."

 "Hang on--Ev, wait," Hopper sighed as she turned the car on. "What happened? Where were you?"

"At the hospital, come on."

Hopper reached in, turned the car off, and took the keys. "Is--?"

"Yes, get in the car. I need a distraction."

Hopper reluctantly climbed in and they ended up at a local store. "I don't even know what your niece and nephew like," he scoffed and shoved his hands in his pockets. The cold air was currently slapping his face as they walked.

"You're really not a shopper, are you?" Evelyn asked.

"No, I'm not."

"Then shop for El. She needs Christmas presents."

"Ah, shit. I forgot that we were doing that," Hopper sighed.

"You forgot Christmas?"

"I haven't had a reason to celebrate the last few years," he shrugged. "So I didn't."

"Well pick out some stuff for El. I know Chrissy's kids want a cabbage patch doll and a Let's Dance cassette. Not too expensive but enough to show that I listen to what they like. Alright? I'll meet you after I grab those. Go pick out stuff for El."

Hopper sighed and looked at the slightly intimidating toy section. He hadn't bought toys for a child in years--let alone an almost teenager. Everything was so different and, if he was being honest, he was a little afraid he'd love it just as much as he had in the 70's. He decided that if he was the chief of police, served in a war, and was an officer in New York, he could handle this too. Frankly, those may have been easier to accomplish. The worst thing that could've happened in the city or in war was that he died or got hurt. This? This could end up disappointing a child.

The automatic doors were right there, he could make a run for it. Evelyn's car was unlocked and he could just sit there until she looked for him.

"Can I help you find something?" one of the employees asked. She was way too friendly.

"No," he snapped and grabbed a cart and walking away. What would a 12-year-old child with super mental abilities who probably hadn't even known what a toy was until recently like? Well, he knew she liked board games.

Hopper turned down one aisle determined to fine something the child would like before Evelyn showed up and laughed at him for being so "old and out-of-touch."

Evelyn. Was she okay? What the hell happened that made her so...he didn't even know. She wasn't numb, that's for sure, but she wasn't necessarily hostile either. She definitely wasn't happy. 

"Shit," Hopper grumbled to himself as he ran into some brightly colored display showing off some bright-colored bullshit stuffed animals or something. He forgot how much he hated Christmas.

"What put a stick up your ass?" Evelyn asked and threw a couple items into the cart. 

What had put a stick up his ass? He realized he hadn't been in such a bad mood until the woman--was girlfriend the right word at this point? That felt too teenager-ish--dragged him into the store vomiting rainbows and cartoon characters onto every box in the store.

"You're shit at this, you know. You managed to knock over a display and fail to find anything that El might like."

Hopper rolled his eyes and didn't say anything back. Her friend just died, for God's sake, she was grieving. But shit, she was an asshole when she's sad.

 

"Hey!" Chrissy and her kids cried as Hopper opened the front door. "Hi, Hopper," she smiled.

"Hey, Chrissy," he smiled back and noticed that though she did look way different, her eyes still crinkled up at the outside corners when she smiled just like high school and he'd noticed Evelyn's did. Though it seemed like she wasn't trying to put on as much of a hard-ass, unbreakable look like her sister usually did.

She gave him a hug and looked at the kids. "Kids, this is Jim Hopper, my friend. Hop, this is Michelle and Jason. Jason is 10 and Michelle is 8."

"Hi," the kids chorused together and then ran off to find their aunt.

"They don't always talk at the same time, I promise. It's really freaky when they do."

"Yeah, no kidding. It's great to see you again, Ev has been really excited for the kids to get here."

"Where's Evie?" one of the kids cried and slammed the bedroom door.

"Maybe she'd come out if you stopped calling her that," Chrissy raised an eyebrow.

"Or she may have to eat you whole!" Hopper heard the voice jump out of a closet and grab the youngest. The girl's scream turned into laughter and Evelyn set her down, moving to hug her sister. "Long time, no see," she grinned and hugged the taller woman.

"Frank is on his way in with gifts."

"Gifts?" Evelyn furrowed her eyebrows. "I thought this was for the kids."

"You've had a rough period. You deserve a gift."

"I hate you," Evelyn scoffed. "I didn't get you anything, I thought we weren't doing gifts."

"I know. ANd you don't need to give me a gift. I didn't need to get you a gift, either. But I wanted to. Listen, if you feel that bad, you got my kids gifts. That's basically a gift for me. You'll be keeping them entertained for the drive home," she smirked and turned to open the door for her husband.

"Hey, Frank," Evelyn smiled and leaned back against the table. "Frank, this is Hopper. Hopper, that's Frank. My brother-in-law."

"How're you doing?" Hopper asked and shook his hand.

"Pretty good, just cold," he laughed a little and left the room to go put the bag in another room.

"Your type has changed since high school, huh?" he teased the eldest sister. She slapped his arm. "Jesus, I'm gonna go home bruised 'cause of you two."

"Your type certainly hasn't," Chrissy squinted at him. "If you break her heart I will rip off your arms and beat you with them, understood?"

"Woah," he put his hands up in surrender. "Since when have I become the bad guy here? I think the only two who broke hearts in high school were the two that share a last name."

"Neither of us are that gullible," Evelyn rolled her eyes playfully.

"Ev, do you have juice?"

"Yeah, in the fridge."

"Kids!" Chrissy yelled to the living room where they were shaking gifts laid out by Hopper and Evelyn. "Do you guys want apple juice?"

"Yes!" they called.

Chrissy left, prompting Evelyn to light a cigarette and Hopper took a few pills from the bottle in his pocket. "You need to get off those," she said quietly.

"I'm fine, they're prescription. Wouldn't have 'em if I didn't need 'em."

"That's what Jimmy said."

"I'll work on it."

"Those kids are rowdy," Hopper laughed a little and watched them in the living room.

"They don't bite too hard. You can play with 'em, you know," Evelyn laughed a little and moved to answer whoever was at the front door. "I'll deal with Jimmy." She was startled, though, when it was the nurse from the hospital.

"Hi, Evelyn," she smiled. "I--uh, I just wanted to say that I hope your holidays go well. And we were cleaning out Steven's room--he'd made a whole mess out of it. We found this and I'm not sure what this is but it looks like it's for you. I also figured since I was stopping by I'd bring you his ashes. That way you don't have to worry about getting up there and getting it yourself."

The woman handed her a sealed box with an envelope on top. 

"Thanks," she sucked on her teeth for a moment before accepting them and looking back at the woman. "Really, uh, thank you. Have a good holiday, okay?"

"Yeah, take care," she smiled as the woman walked back in and closed the door. She set the items on the table and peeked into the living room where Jason was trying to beat Hopper in an arm wrestling competition. She smiled as Michelle tried to aid her brother and Evelyn lit another cigarette.

"Hey," someone said behind her, causing her to jump out of her skin. "Sorry, didn't mean to scare you. What's this? A secret admirer?" she asked and played with the envelope.

"Hey, give that back," she snapped and snatched the envelope away. "Just don't touch this, okay? It's not yours."

"Woah, sorry," she put her arms up in surrender. "What's so important about it?"

"I don't know," she admitted. "I just got it."

"What's in the box?"

"Ashes."

"Ashes? Who's ashes?"

"My friend's. He died the other day."

"Jesus, Ev!" she gasped then pulled her sister into a hug. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just going to read this later," she smiled and set the envelope down. "And I'm going to put this where no kids reach it," she sighed and set the box up on the shelf.

"Hop's good with those kids, ain't he?" the sister put an arm on her shoulder.

"Yeah, he is."

"Has he always been that good with kids?"

"Yeah. He used to have a kid."

"Oh, right. I forgot about all of that," she shook her head. "He seems like a god dad."

"Yeah," Evelyn sighed and smiled gently at the living room. She quickly caught herself, "I mean, yeah, I think he is. He was in the city when he had a kid, though. I wasn't around him then."

"Riiiiiiight," Chrissy pursed her lips and took a sip from her wine glass. "You think. Do you have baby fever?"

"What? No!" Evelyn cried quietly. "No. I do not want a baby or toddler. And certainly no birth."

"It's not that bad. By the second it's like throwing a hotdog down a hallway."

"Ew!"

"I'm just being honest with you."

"That's fuckin' nasty. I hate you," Evelyn laughed. "Hey--did you open my wine?"

"Yeah, what else're you gonna do with it? It's for drinking." The two laughed at each other and continued talking about very insignificant things.

"No!" Jason cried as Hopper put his arm to the tray table. "How'd you beat me?!"

"Hopper's pretty strong, bud. Just wait a few years and you'll get there," Frank chuckled.

"Why are you here?" Michelle asked curiously.

"Hey," Frank snapped his fingers at her. "Uh-uh, that's rude."

"Are you married to my aunt?"

"Michelle Grace!" the man shouted over her.

"Woah, what's going on?" Chrissy asked as the two walked into the room.

"Michelle is being herself. I'm really sorry about that," Frnk pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed.

"It's fine, really," Hopper gave him a reassuring smile.

"Where's Jimmy?" Michelle clung to her aunt's leg.

"I don't know. Chris, why don't you go call him?"

She nodded and left the three adults and two children.

"So, Hopper, you live around here?" Frank cleared his throat. Evelyn started playing some hand game with her niece.

"Yeah, I grew up here with those two. Now i'm chief of police here. I even hooked up Evelyn with a pretty sweet job."

"Please, I could've gotten the job way easier if you hadn't been there," she kicked her feet up onto the couch.

"Please," he mocked her, "I created a whole fuc--I created a whole department for you," he corrected himself.

"It's fine," she rolled her eyes.

"Are you parenting my kids now?" Frank pretended to be hurt.

"No, but I swear around them."

"Ev," Frank sighed and hung his head.

"Hey, Mich," Evelyn called across the room. "What was the last bad word you heard me say?"

"Uhh," she thought for a moment. "I think it started with a c..."

"Evelyn!" the two men gaped.

"Cunt," Jason gave the child a look and played with one of his toys he brought. "That's the word."

"Right!" the girl pointed.

"We don't say those words!" Frank shouted over them.

"What don't we say?" Chrissy asked and walked into the room.

"Your sister is teaching your kids swear words," Hopper informed.

Chrissy laughed from over her wine glass. This led Evelyn to laugh just as hard.

"What is so funny?" Frank shook his head.

"This," she gestured. "This whole situation. It's funny."

"Jesus, it's no wonder you two are related," Hopper put his head in his hands. "We are the only sensible parents in this house."

"I never claimed to be a parent," Evelyn raised her hands as Chrissy handed her a beer. "I said from day one I was going to be the bad influence aunt. Speaking of bad influences, where's Jimmy?"

"Overslept. I woke his ass up and he's on his way."

"Figures," Evelyn scoffed. The men looked at each other unsure what to say.

When he did get there, he was rushed by two children and almost taken out at the knees. He mumbled something and ruffled their hair before looking at the adults. "Sorry I'm late," he gave a half-hearted smile.

"Sure you are," Evelyn scoffed. Hopper elbowed her in the side.

"Let's get this party started!" Jimmy clapped his hands together, "you have beer?"

 

Evelyn was sitting at the table with Hopper and Chrissy on either side of her. Jimmy was messing with the TV in the living room.

"There's something wrong," Hopper sighed.

"Yeah, no shit. He's on smack."

"What?" Chrissy asked quietly.

"Yeah. At least, I'm pretty sure. His pupils are tiny, half the time he's talking it's mumbled nonsense, he's hostile..."

"It's almost every kid we see with a heroin dependence."

"Shit," Chrissy murmured. "I'm really glad I sent Frank and the kids home. Thanks for letting me stay the night, by the way."

"Yeah, no problem. You're always welcome here. I might go to his house."

"It's probably locked," Hopper said like she was dumb.

"Then I'll break in," she replied with the same tone.

"Jesus Christ, Evelyn, I'm not breaking into your brother's house."

"I don't need you to."

"So you're just going break into your brothers house alone that easily?"

"Yeah, I broke into my own house plenty as a teenager."

"She did learn from the best, Hop."

"Fuck off, Chrissy," he rolled his eyes.

"Plus, you've seen me on those kinds of raids where we get an abused kid out of the house. It doesn't happen much, but I've done it."

"I will drive you."

"You've drank more than me, you're not driving. Chris, stay here and keep dickwad entertained while I look around his house."

"Yes ma'am."

"I can't believe we're doing this," Hopper groaned and rubbed his face with one hand.

"We're not doing anything. I'm doing it."

"No, your not. What if one of his junkie friends is there and thinks you're a cop?"

"That's better than them knowing you're a cop? It's fine."

"It's not fine."

"Well, we're here," she pursed her lips and turned Hopper's truck off. "Just stay quiet," she whispered with a flashlight in one hand and her pistol on her hip. She tried the front door but the handle only jiggled a little. She moved to the back door. 

"It's locked, Ev."

"Yeah, dipshit, I know," she breathed and then grabbed the handle tightly.

"What're you...?"

He was answered when she stuck her boot under the door ever so slightly, kicked, and had the door open. She didn't look at Hopper who was, frankly, surprised that she could do that. Has she broke into houses like that before?

With her flashlight and gun in hand she swept the little laundry room. "Jesus..." Hopper murmured when the smell of vinegar hit him like a brick wall. "Sorry, that's just... strong."

"Yeah," she agreed and moved into the kitchen.

"Are you not bothered by this?"

"It's not new."

What did that mean? Hopper shook the thought out of his head.

"Ah, fuck!" she cried out in exasperation when she hit the living room. "He's got enough for the whole town in here."

"Jim, is that you?" someone called from the bedroom.

"Just his sister," Evelyn called back and motioned for Hopper to keep quiet.

"Which one?"

Evelyn's eyes scrunched hut and Hopper stared at her like a deer in headlights.

"Chrissy."

"The cop?"

"No, the stay-at-home mom. Is Jimmy not here?" she poked around the living room, stuffing whatever she could into the bag she brought.

"No, he said he had to go to his sister' for... something..." the woman groaned. "Something about her doing a bullshit Christmas every year. That he doesn't want to see her but the kids hadn't done anything wrong."

Evelyn hummed and tossed a few baggies to Hopper. "Did he say anything else?"

"Nah, he was too out of it. Dumb bastard shot up before he left."

"He what?"

"Who's that?" the girl asked panicky.

"My friend," Evelyn spat out.

"Stay where you are!" the girl shouted and suddenly was stood in the doorway. Evelyn turned and saw her holding a handgun. She drew hers and so did Hopper. "I'm not fucking around, stay there," she ordered. She was shaking like a leaf. "I'm not afraid to shoot you fuckers," she breathed and held the glock shakily.

"Woah, woah, woah," Hopper raised his hands in surrender. "We were just looking for her brother."

"Is that why you have guns? Mr. Chief of Police and Mrs. Cop?"

Those names weren't even clever, Evelyn remembered thinking.

"Excuse me?"

Did she say that out loud?

"I'm worried about him," Evelyn sighed. "Look, I'll drop my gun if it makes you happy--there, it's down. I'm worried about him, though. I just--" she wiped a few fake tears from her eyes. The girl (who looked like she was 18, maybe 20 if you really wanted to be generous) was too high to notice there wasn't any liquid. "I'm so scared he's going to get hurt, you know?"

"We're just trying to help him," Hopper started but shut up when Evelyn gave him a look. 

"Listen--"

"Don't come near me!"

"Hey--"

Evelyn cried out when the woman smacked her across the face with the barrel of the gun. She collapsed to the ground and tried to think of a way to get her ears to stop ringing.. Hopper pointed his gun at the woman and disarmed her by pulling her arm behind her back and hitting the back of her knees so she fell to the ground.

Hopper shook his head and took out a pair of handcuffs, bringing them around her wrists and leaving her on the floor. "Ev, you okay?" He called out and started sweeping the house for other people. "Evelyn, are you okay?"

She was on all fours in front of a coffee table, trying to prop herself up. She was dizzier then she'd ever been and almost looked like one of those baby deer that don't know how to walk. "Evelyn!" he yelled and stormed over to her once he knew the house was safe. "Hey," he said loudly and grabbed her shoulder. She grabbed his wrist and pulled him down, causing him to nearly hit his head on the coffee table. "Hey, what the fuck is wrong with you?" he asked.

Evelyn watched his lips move and knew she should be hearing something. She furrowed her eyebrows and just pointed to her ears. "I can't hear you," she tried to say. "I can't hear anything."

What came out was a bunch in incoherent, higher-than-normal pitched garbling.

"Ah, shit," he grumbled and looked at the woman crying on the floor in her underwear. After a moment he grabbed his radio, called for Powell or Callahan, and walked over to Evelyn.

He waved a hand in front of her face and tapped on the table. "STAY HERE"

She nodded at him and he walked out the front door. When Callahan pulled into the driveway he looked confused. "What's up?"

"There's a woman in there--not Evelyn, but the other one. Take her down to the station and...I don't know. She's on something, probably smack. Found an ass-load of black tar in there."

"Did you get a call out here? I never heard..."

"No, it's... it's hard to explain, okay? We were checking on Ev's brother. When you go in there, Ev can't hear. Okay? Carpenter can't hear, so don't expect her to respond."

"Alright," he nodded and went inside. Hopper followed him and sat next to Evelyn.

Every once in a while he would clap once very loudly behind her head. For probably 25 minutes he got no reaction. He did it again at the 30 minute mark.

"What the fuck is your problem?" she snapped at him.

"Your hearing is back!"

"What?"

"What do you remember?"

"Everything up to that bitch hitting me. I must've passed out or something because she hit me hard."

"Uh-huh," Hopper nodded nervously. "We should take you to the doctor, you might have a concussion," he informed and tried to look at the bruise forming on her cheekbone.

"I'm fine. Really, I am. I need to talk to Jimmy before he kills himself," she shook her head and grabbed all of the junk on the coffee table. "Seriously, are these used needles?"

"Looks like it."

"Jesus. Let's get rid of 'em. Don't touch it, let me do it."

"Why you?"

"'Cause I'm probably going to get AIDS eventually, so let me risk it."

"Ev, stop," he rolled his eyes and grabbed the syringes by their plungers.

"You're stupid."

"You've told me. Make sure you get everything."

"I am."

"Were you actually crying?"

"No, I'm a good actor."

 

"Hey, what'd you find?" Chrissy asked impatiently when Evelyn walked through the door. She sighed when the youngest opened her backpack and revealed everything before zipping the backpack back up.

"Where'd you two go?" Jimmy appeared accusingly behind the eldest. Hopper stood behind Evelyn.

"Your place," Evelyn said simply and walked past all of them.

"Why?"

"Because you're a junkie."

"I am not. I don't know why--"

"Oh, yeah. Uh-huh. Is that why I found about eight metric tons of black tar on your coffee table?"

"You're a real bitch, you know that?" he scoffed.

"Hey, chill out. Both of you," Chrissy jumped between them. "If you can't handle this like adults--"

"Yeah, I guess I do," the shorter spat while ignoring her sister.

"Ev," Hopper put a hand on her shoulder. As much as he understood confrontation and didn't shy away from it, he didn't want to have to call in Powell this time for the two fist fighting.

"You should probably go pick up the teenager we found in your bed, by the way. The one that thought it'd be a good idea to hit me with a gun."

"Where is she?" Jimmy growled and grab Evelyn's bicep. She pulled away quickly. "Did you arrest her?"

"I didn't, and Hopper didn't. I just know that when I came-to, she was gone."

"She's down at the station," Hopper murmured. "I wouldn't go there unless you want to get arrested for possession, too."

"Why are you like this?" he shouted at his sister.

"Why do I care about you? That's a good damn question, isn't it?"

"Yeah. It is. Let Just lo and this'll be easier for all of us. Give me my shit," he reached for the bag. Evelyn threw it into the living room.

"Just talk to us. Please," Evelyn pleaded and grabbed his arms. He yanked away.

"Chrissy? Maybe. Pigs like you two? Never."

"You're a dick."

"I'm the decent person in this room," he grumbled and moved to the living room.

"Hey!" Evelyn yelled at him and ran toward him. "No, you're not getting that!"

"Let go," he growled and shook her off his arm.

"You don't need it."

"Evelyn, fuck off," he shook his head and took the backpack. It was held up out of her reach.

"Hey, man," Hopper walked toward him.

"Don't," he pointed and stared at the man. "Just leave me alone--"

He cried out when Evelyn put all her weight into one foot on his foot. Evelyn then brought her knee up to his groin which caused him to drop the backpack. Evelyn grabbed it and threw it backwards to her sister who threw it into the kitchen.

"Jimmy, let us help--" Chrissy started.

"Shut up!" he yelled at them. "God, you're all so stupid. You don't understand, I do need it. It's all I've got at this point."

"You have us!" Chrissy pleaded.

"And some barely legal teenager," Evelyn scoffed.

A flash of blinding pain ran through Evelyn's face before she could even recognize the hand moving toward her face. Jimmy had managed to bring a backhand to Evelyn's face where there was already a pretty massive bruise forming. Considering his knuckles had reached every edge of the bruise (and then some) the woman fell to the wooden floor gasping for air. SHe was trying to stay calm, thinking rationally that the wind had just gotten knocked out of her. But on the other hand, she was blind with rage and pain that she couldn't think about that.

"He!" Hopper yelled the second he made contact and shoved the guy against the wall.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Chrissy yelled at him from the floor next to her sister.

"I told you guys to leave me alone! Why couldn't you just listen to me?"

"Get out," Hopper let go of his shirt and stared at the younger. "Get out. I don't want to see you in this house ever again."

Evelyn coughed from the floor and sputtered trying to get some words out. "Hey!" Chrissy yelled and snapped her fingers when he moved for the kitched.

Chrissy and Hopper watched as the brother took a shaky breath and stormed out the front door.

"Are you okay?" Hopper knelt next to Evelyn and sat her up against the wall. She was at the point of taking short, small breaths and working her way up to breathing normally.

"Yeah. I'm fine. It just hurts."

"I'll get some ice," Chrissy exhaled.

"Son of a bitch," Evelyn groaned and put a hand to her face. "Damn."

"Are you sure you're good? Your brain has got to be scrambled meat at this point."

"I'm fine," she snapped and turned her back to Hopper. She went to the table and sat in one of the chairs with her face in her hands. "I'm just frustrated, okay? Hop, go ahead and go. I'll see you later."

"I'm not leaving you here."

"Why, you think Chris is gonna kill me next?"

"That's not funny," both elders replied.

Evelyn pulled Hopper closer to her by his wrist. "Go. We can't leave El home alone overnight. I'll be there later, alright?"

"Fine," he grumbled and grabbed his coat. "If you vomit, go to the hospital."

"Yeah, whatever," the woman sighed and rubbed her aching forehead.

 

Evelyn exhaled slowly and turned her car off, making the five minute walk out to the cabin. She was exhausted, defeated, add whatever synonym to the list. Her brother hated her, she looked like a domestic abuse victim, and Christmas was in two days. When she did the secret knock it took a moment before the locks clicked open. Hopper engulfed her in a tight hug. "I'm sorry," he murmured.

"It's fine It's not a big deal. I just want to go to bed."

"Yeah, okay," he nodded and moved out of the doorway to let her through. "I've been wrapping gifts. They're pretty shitty, though."

Evelyn snorted when she saw them. "They're fine, none of us care," she rolled her eyes and collapsed on the couch.

"It's your night for the bed."

"Come on, dude."

"You have a concussion, Ev. Besides, I have the gifts there."

"You're insufferable."

Chapter Text

El turned the corner and looked at the tree and gifts under it.

"Came from house tree?" she cocked an eyebrow.

"No, they're from us. And it's a Christmas tree," Hopper explained. "Come on, they're for you."

"Sit down!" Evelyn smiled and patted the floor. El carefully sat. "See, just tear it open like this," she said and showed the child the piece of tape holding the paper down. "There you go," she smiled.

"Book!" El cried and looked over every inch.

"What book?"

"Super...  fudge..." she furrowed her eyebrows in confusion. "Superfudge?"

"Good job," Evelyn encouraged and handed her another gift. "Open this one."

By the end El had opened her gifts which included one of those stupid death-traps where you put it around your ankle and swing the ball that's attached hoping you didn't break your own ankle, Simon (the circle game with four colors that had a couple different time-killing games), a farmer See and Say (Hopper insisted it would help her learn more words and all that), a view master, and an Easy Bake Oven. Eleven seemed nearly overwhelmed with the amount of attention and love she was getting from the two who wanted to make sure she would enjoy it when she bolted to her room and came back a moment later.

Each adult was handed a piece of paper.

There was a child-like drawing with crayons of the three of them. There was a stick figure labeled 'El', a (slightly) taller stick figure labeled 'Ev', and a way taller stick figure labelled 'Hop'. They were standing outside of a cabin and the sun was drawn in he corner.

"Read it!" she cried happily and made them turn the paper over.

Evelyn read the messy letters written in orange crayon.

Ev Thank you for helping me when I needed it when you first met me. Sorry I hurt you but I was scared and you are still very nice to me and help me. I like when we play games and watch TV and you will talk to me about Mike. Merry Christmas! El

"I looked up..." El paused when Evelyn looked up at her. "I looked up Christmas," she nodded and pointed at the dictionary.

"Come here, this is wonderful," Evelyn opened her arms for a hug. "Thank you so much."

"Hop, read!" El pointed at the man before hugging the woman.

Hop I like when we make Eggos together and you help me learn words after you work. You stay calm and help me when I am frustrated and teach me the radio code. You take care of me and make me laugh. Merry Christmas! El

"Thanks, kid," Hopper smiled and moved to hug her while she was still attached to Evelyn.

"You're welcome," the child said softly.

"How about I make us some Eggos and Ev opens up those gifts for you, huh?"

"Eggos for breakfast?" she got an excited look.

"Yeah, it's a special day."

 

The day came and went with very little to note, other than the three watching movies, playing games, and playing with the new gadgets El possessed. She had interrogated Evelyn multiple times about her face and had o be reassured many times that it wasn't a big deal. Then it was time for work again.

"Hey," Evelyn knocked on Hopper's office doorframe. "You got a minute?"

"Yeah, what's up?" Hopper set down the pen in his hand.

"If you're busy--"

"No, I thought you were Flo so I made myself look busy."

Evelyn smiled for a split second before the bruise on her face started screaming at her to cut it out. She closed the door and sat into the chair in front of his desk. "You're technically my boss, right?"

"Yeah, I guess. Why?"

"I need off early today. I need to go to that little obscure bar in the corner of town, open that stupid envelope I've been avoiding, and possibly have you pick me up if I get drunk."

"Yeah, okay. Go for it. Not like there's a lot here anyway."

"Thanks," she pushed herself out of the chair and moved to the doorway. 

"Ev."

"Yeah?"

"Let me know if you need anything."

"Yeah, sure."

So Evelyn tucked herself away in a corner booth and started at the envelope in her hands. 'Evelyn' was scrawled in Steven's god-awful handwriting and, frankly, she was afraid to open it. She'd avoided it this long, she could put it off a little longer, right?

No, she thought to herself. No, you can't. You're a grown ass woman who can read a stupid letter.

She took a deep breath and tore the top. Slowly she felt the piece of notebook paper and pulled it out.

Evelyn,

You're my best friend, the original, the coolest of cool, I could go on. I'm hoping to give you this when you visit my sorry ass on Christmas, but just in case, Merry Christmas from your favorite ghost. I don't think I'll make it that long.

You truly are wild. But we're wild together. I just want you to know I appreciate that. I appreciate that you sneaked out of your house to come drop LSD with me even thought your parents would have killed you. You did it just so I wouldn't do it alone because, to quote you, that's depressing as all shit. You were the first person I ever told I was gay and then you came out to me. I'm getting nostalgic writing this because I don't think we'll be able to talk like this in person. Plus, I think I'd bawl my eyes out like I am right now and that's not a good look for me. Nobody wants to see that. Plus, I've got to keep my pretty boy reputation up.

I love you to death and I want to thank you for making my 38 years pretty damn wild. And I know I've made yours just as wild. But thank you for being by my side when my family wasn't, letting me crash on your couch (well, your bed when both of us were just plain lonely) when my rent was due but I couldn't get a job in Hawkins, eventually getting me that "internship" in the juvenile detention center, everything. I'd literally be dead if not for you (ha ha, get it? We all fuckin' bite that bullet eventually). 

Remember that time your brother called me a queer and you beat the shit out of him when we were kids? God, that was good. Revenge isn't always right but man it tastes good. Say hey to him for me.

Tell your sister that I miss her and her shitty puns. Those were actually kind of funny but I didn't want her to get too big of a head. Tell her husband I say hi and I'll haunt his sorry ass too if he breaks her heart. Doesn't matter than I'm like her younger brother and we've never properly met. I hope her kids are doing okay; I know I don't know them but with her as a mom? They're set for life. She literally drove me home whenever I got sick at school ("sick")  and got her friends to leave me alone. Damn, I forgot she was one of those popular girls but not a total bitch.

I don't know if you still talk to your dad. If you do, tell him to kiss me pale, gay ass. If not, don't sweat it. Probably better for your blood pressure.

As for your mom... I don't know if I believe in Heaven or Hell or whatever. I'll try to send you a sign if either one is real. If not, you're not getting jack shit. 'Cause I'll be dead. But hey, if I see your mom in Heaven or whatever, I'll give her a big fat kiss for you (I'm probably going to Hell though). Then I can really take the 'I just got done fucking your mom' jokes to a whole new level. Please laugh at that, it made me laugh so hard that I vomited.

I don't know, I'm rambling. I guess I wanna say that I miss you already and I'll see your half-gay ass when you get here. Hopefully not for a while, though. I'd appreciate that. Give it a good, like, 40 years at least. You'd be 77 or something, which is just old enough to be a crotchety old cat lady but not so old that you're miserable. Also don't have a funeral for me. Don't do all that tacky shit like put flowers around a picture of me in a frame and then you each throw a single rose into my grave or whatever. Just roll my ashes up into a blunt and smoke em or something. I really don't care. It's not like I'll notice.

And don't feel bad, please. There's nothing you could've done to stop any of this. Except maybe cut my dick off while you had the chance. Well--actually that wouldn't have worked. I like to get it up the ass, so having a dick has nothing to do with it. Was that a little too graphic? Maybe. I don't know, who cares anymore. Life is a bunch of made up bullshit rules we follow. Who cares anymore, right? Fuck what old people think. You're just as gross as me--if not grosser. I don't sleep with Captain Brickhead or whatever I called him the other day.

Speaking of Hopper, tell him that I'm gonna kick his ass if he breaks your heart. That being after you murder him for whatever he did. You're a catch--tell him that I said, objectively as a gay guy, you're a catch and if you had a penis I'd be on you in a heartbeat. (Okay, maybe not. Long hair isn't my type. And I like tall guys. No offense.)

I'm rambling now because I'm waiting for some lab results to come back. They're probably bad, whatever they're testing. I feel awful. I'll let you stop stressing your wet eyes (I'll admit, this was a real tear-jerker of a letter for me) and you can go slam a bottle of vodka and smoke a bowl. Speaking of bowls--break into my house for me, please? Take all my drug stuff. I don't want the cops or someone coming to make sure homeless kids aren't living there and find them all on dope. Let the homeless kids live there, please? Convince Hopper and the cops not to kick 'em out.

I think that's it. I don't know, I'd go on forever if I could. But my handwriting is so bad and my knuckles hurt and you're illiterate so you're probably making someone read this to you. Har-har.

Don't lost your sense of humor, man, and keep giving people shit. Especially the cops. Fuck them, right? Just kidding, but keep being the bitch you are because bitches get things done.

Love you to pieces,

Steven.

Evelyn folded up the letter and threw it down on the table. Before wiping some tears away she lit a cigarette.

"I got you another glass of whiskey. This one's on the house. You look like you need it," one of the bartenders said quietly and set a drink down. She quietly thanked him and downed it in two separate gulps.

"Hey, are you okay?" 

Evelyn looked up at the woman in front of her. She didn't look familiar but looked at her like Evelyn was a friend.

"I'm fine--thanks. It's just--it's been a rough week, you know?"

"I get it. Can I sit?"

"Yeah, that's fine," Evelyn motioned to the other side of the booth. "I'm sorry, what was your name?"

"I'm Sandy."

"Evelyn."

"Nice to meet you. Sorry if this is weird, you just looked like you could use some company."

"Yeah, that's an understatement. Sorry, it's just been rough. I had a friend from high school die and then my longest best friend died. He left me this crazy depressing letter and it's just been rough."

"You keep saying that. It's gotta be hard." Evelyn nodded in agreement. "How'd they die?"

"Sorry?"

"How'd they die? Your friends. It seems weird you had two people die close to each other around here."

"I guess I'm not sure about the first, but... my friend that left me the letter died of AIDS. He's gay--was gay, I guess. He didn't have family so i just have his ashes at my house."

"That's grim. I'm sorry about that."

"Thanks, I appreciate it."

"Your husband do that to you?"

"What?"

"That gnarly welt on your face. Did your husband do that?"

"No, my brother. I don't have a husband or anything."

"Are you...?"

Evelyn snapped her head up. "No. I'm not gay."

"Oh," the woman bit the inside of her lip and looked at the table.

This was risky.

"I'm bisexual, I mean. What was your name again?"

"Sandy. And I'm gay. It's okay, you can relax a little."

"Sandy the fellow non-straight," Evelyn looked at the table with a sad smile.

The two looked at each other for a moment. This smelled like trouble from eight miles away, but Evelyn was too wrapped up in her own mind to see it coming.

Sandy quickly leaned over the table and grabbed either side of the other woman's face, kissing her. It wasn't one that would lead any further--both knew that. It was more of a comforting, you're-not-alone type. Then she thought about Hopper. She pulled away and wiped her eyes faster than she'd ever moved in a non-emergency.

"I've got to go," she murmured quickly and pulled some bills out of her pocket. It was plenty for the bill plus a nice tip, she just hoped this lady wouldn't steal it. "It was nice meeting you, Cindy."

"Sandy!" the woman called after her.

"It doesn't matter," Evelyn muttered to herself as she lit a cigarette on the way to her car. It was a dick thing to do, but she didn't have the energy not to be a dick right now.

She decided to drive her car where her and Hopper normally park and leaned her seat back to where she was nearly lying down. And Evelyn just thought. She rubbed her eyes--which was a mistake, she realized once she accidentally put too much pressure on her bruise. 

"Son of a bitch," she groaned, put her seat up, and reached into the glove box. Quickly and skillfully she packed a little clear bowl, pulled out her lighter, and started smoking. After she finished, she dumped the ashes into her palm, sprinkled them onto the floor of her truck, and put the bowl back. She wasn't sure how long she just sat there trying not to think about... everything. Yeah, it was cold and late December but that was fine with her. And she may have mindlessly smoked a few cigarettes. She had just bought a new pack that morning.

She jumped when there was a knock on the window next to her head. "Roll your window down," Hopper said loudly so she could hear. When she did he turned away for a moment. "Jesus Christ, Evelyn, how much pot did you smoke?"

"Not enough, that's for sure," she coughed into her elbow and leaned her head back. "Do you have a cigarette?"

"You already smoked all of yours?"

"I'm not asking for judgement I'm asking for tobacco."

"It's 3 in the afternoon. You had only smoked a couple before you left the station."

"Well, shit happens, Jim!" she shouted at him. "Shit happens. Your friends die and leave you with a fucking letter and you keep his ashes because what the hell else are you supposed to do?" Evelyn looked up at him, finally having reached her breaking point. It was time for her to break down for a minute. "He writes you a super depressing letter that you got days before Christmas and now it's almost the new year and you just read it. And your brother is probably going to die using cheap black tar heroin or of AIDS that he gets from sharing needles with barely legal girls. So my life is pretty fucked right now, Jim, and I smoked some pot and some cigarettes to help me not kill myself right now, alright? So lay off and give me your cigarettes."

Hopper and the woman stared at each other for a moment before Hopper handed her a cigarette. He noticed her eyes were puffy and red and she looked like hell.

"If it's only three, why are you here already?"

"I figured I'd check on you. It had been a few hours." Evelyn took a drag from the cigarette and stared out the windshield. "You said he left you a letter?"

"Yeah. A real sad one. He said if you break my heart he'll kick your ass. In the letter. In the hospital he said he'd haunt you forever if you hurt me."

She heard Hopper snort.

"It's not like I can. Not emotionally, I mean. Physically I could beat the shit out of you. But you're too closed off. Except for El, she's the one you really open up around."

"Yeah, because I know not to with most people."

"You're safe with me, you know. You do know that, right?"

"Yeah, sure," Evelyn sighed and handed him her unfinished cigarette. 

"No, really," he took it and made her look at him. He was careful not to hit the bruise. "You're safe with me."

"Yes. I know. I just need some time to process all this shit, alright? That's all."

"Yeah, I get it."

"Thank you."

"Yeah."

Evelyn sighed and looked up from the ground at him. In a split second decision he put a hand under her chin and kissed her. In any other circumstance it would probably lead to him suggesting driving to one of their places or the back of his truck, even. But this... this was different. It was just a kiss. One to explain everything he couldn't with words. They both knew how bad he was with words and this just helped.

Hopper looked up at the sky in a moment of realization that this either be good or very bad for them. Then he looked back down she looked defeated. Exhausted, defeated, and way worse than he'd ever seen.

"We should get inside," she wiped her nose on her sleeve and opened the door. "Fuck, I'm sorry," she exhaled when the door slammed into his thighs.

"You're fine, it's only a five minute walk," he teased. "Seriously, you're fine.You smell like pot, though," He took her and as she got out of the car.

"Yeah, I know."

"El's gotta learn eventually."

"Shut up. I'm showering when we get inside."

"Are you not effected at all by that shit?" he asked.

"It wasn't very strong. And this is kid shit. I seriously did LSD every weekend through high school starting my sophomore year."

"Good God, how are you alive?"

"Good question, buddy," she sighed and knocked six times. When she got in she said hi to El and hit the shower instantly. It was extra long, too. At some point she heard the door open and close but assumed it was just Hopper looking for something.

The curtain whipped back and Evelyn screamed n shock.

"Hungry."

Evelyn put a hand over her heart and let the hot water run down her face.

"El, can you go ask Hopper? I'm in the shower. We gotta teach you privacy."

"Privacy?"

"Yes, go ask Hopper. Please."

"Okay," she furrowed her eyebrows and left. 

"El, close the door!"

 

"Hey, chief," one of the guys in the station greeted.

"Mornin'."

"Hey, Chief," a younger guy--Monroe, Hopper thought was his name-- started. "Is it true that Carpenter's a dyke?"

"What?" he looked at the man with a cup of coffee halfway to his mouth.

"Carpenter. Is she a dyke? Lesbian? A carpet muncher?"

"Where'd you hear that?"

"So you're  not going to answer?"

It's dangerous... echoed around in his head. Did he grow up completely accepting of gay people? Not exactly. But when you like a person who isn't straight and she's been your best friend for years, you get used to it.

Did he seriously just use the term 'like' as if he was in high school again? Jesus.

"No, she's not. Now tell me where you heard that. It's dangerous to spread rumors like that around here."

"Other than it being spray painted on the side of her house? Heard she hooked up with a chick in the next town over."

"When?" Hopper acted incredulous.

"I don't know, recently."

"Well it's not true."

"Are you fucking her?"

"No. And if I was it'd be none of your business."

"Damn," Callahan chuckled. "You don't fuck with him today."

"It's more just respecting her as a person."

"What was up with that nasty ass bruise on her face yesterday?" Powell propped his feet up on his desk.

"Yeah, what was that all about? She was like that when I walked in the house and she couldn't hear. Did that girl hit her or something?"

"Yeah, she did. What happened to her?"

"She got processed and got taken to the jail. She was crazy high."

"Wait," he looked at the first cop from the day, "what'd you say about her house?"

"I said that it's spray painted on her house that she'd a dyke."

"Ah, shit," Hopper groaned and moved to his office. He sat down to grab his radio when the phone rang on his desk. "Yeah?"

"Hey, are you alone?"

"Yeah, what's up?"

"Can you radio El and tell her that I won't be home for a while?"

"Yeah, what's going on?"

"Nothing. I just gotta... do a little cleaning at my house. Reorganizing, whatever. Just tell her I'll be late. My code is five dashes."

"Okay, I will," he confirmed with a heavy exhale. "Ev, are you sure you don't need help?"

"It'd be stupid for you to take off work to help me clean up my house."

Hopper hummed in fake-agreement. "Alright, I'll signal to El."

"Thank you."

 

"Just cleaning, huh?"

Evelyn refused to look over her shoulder from where she was on the ladder against her house. She had been scrubbing the light blue paneling vigorously but had only removed the top corner of the 'D'. 

"I didn't want you to know," she rolled her eyes.

"Yeah, has already flown around the station."

"Great," she took a deep breath before resuming cleaning.

"I'll protect you, don't worry about that."

"I don't need you to protect me, I can handle this myself."

"Can you?"

"Yeah, I can," she shook her head and finally looked at him.

The two stared at each other for a moment before Evelyn scoffed and went back to scrubbing.

"What are you doing?" she called out when he reached the front door. "Hello?" she yelled when he opened it and walked in. "Hopper!"

"I'm helping your sorry ass, where's another ladder?" he yelled from inside the house.

"Why would I have two ladders?"

"Jesus, Evelyn!"

"What?"

"You've still got all that smack in here?"

"I'm not gonna just throw it away. God!" she yelled back in frustration.

"Hey!" she heard someone from the next house over yell. "Shut the hell up over there, why're you yelling?"

"Sorry, Rosaline!" Evelyn waved and forced a smile.

"Don't hurt yourself, Butch," the old woman said just loud enough for Evelyn to hear before walking back into her house.

"Fuck you too, lady," she sighed and hung her head.

"Hey," Hopper knocked on the ladder. "Get off'a there. My turn."

"Go back to work. I took today off, remember?"

"There's nothin' to do. And I don't want to talk to those dipshits."

"Ah, fuck," Evelyn bit her lip and leaned her forehead against the house. "They all know?"

"Pretty much, yeah. Your house is on the way for almost anyone. Get your ass down here."

Evelyn gave up and climbed down, leaning against the house.

"This is awesome, you know? This is great."

"It'll all blow over. Just give it time," Hopper exhaled and ascended the ladder. 

"Oh, yeah, okay," Evelyn mocked his voice. "Get real, Hop. No one wants a lesbian handling their kids' cases."

"Good thing you're not a lesbian then, huh?"

"To them I am."

"I'll fix this, Evelyn. Just keep your head on."

"Oh, yeah. You'll fix this. Alright, how?"

"I just--give me a minute. Jesus. Let me think."

"How will you possibly fix this?"

"I need to think!"

"Don't hurt yourself."

"You're being a dick."

"Yeah, well," she shrugged and looked at the sky.

"Why are you being like this?"

Evelyn pointed a hand at her house.

"Yeah, obviously," Hopper shook his head and scrubbed harder. "I meant to me. I told you I'm going to fix this."

"How?" she demanded.

"I don't know yet, I just know I'll fix it!"

"I don't think you can," Evelyn said lowly and started pacing in the yard. "I'll be honest, you can lecture and yell and punch all you want, but nothing changes hate. Nothing you can say will change their minds. You can't fix this!"

"What if we convince them you're straight?" Hopper grunted and reached to another area of the first letter.

"What?"

"I said, what if you just convince them you're straight?"

"No, you said we."

"If you knew, why'd you ask?"

"What did you mean by we?"

"I've got power over the town, and you're pretty close to next in line. If we just put an end to it..." he shrugged.

"I mean, yeah. I guess. I don't know how, though."

"I'll figure it out, alright? Just give me a night or two. if it doesn't blow over we'll fix it."

"I'm just scared," Evelyn took a deep breath.

"I'm not going to let anything happen to you," Hopper stopped and looked down at her. He threw the rag over his shoulder and climbed to the ground and making Evelyn look up at him. "Ev, I will not let anything happen to you, alright? You're already staying at the cabin where no one can find us. Everyone thinks you live here. I'll make sure you're fine."

Evelyn took a shaky breath and nodded.

"Remember that night at your house when you asked if I ever felt cursed?" Hopper chuckled and looked at the ground. "This is definitely one of those times. The only thing good that's happened this week is we made El happy and she's come out of her shell a lot. Otherwise, life has thrown me to the ground and had been beating the shit out of me."

Hopper nodded in understanding. "Go inside and chill out for a bit. I'll work on this."

"Hop, just let me. It's my house--"

"Just go inside, alright? I'll let you do some of it, I promise."

"Fine," she gave up and slammed the front door behind her. Eventually, closer to lunch, Hopper handed over the scrubbing duty to Evelyn and headed to the police station. 

"Hey, Hopper," Flo greeted without looking up from her notepad. "I've got some messages that were left for you."

"Just give 'em to me. I'll read over them."

"Hey, Chief," Callahan took a bite of one of the doughnuts on the counter. "You really gonna keep Carpenter here after all this has come out about her?"

"Yeah," Hopper poured a cup of coffee. "Yeah, I am. Is that an issue to you?"

"I just think it's a bad look for the station, y'know..."

"Alright, let's get one thing straight. You will all treat Carpenter the same as you have before all of this shit. Understood?"

"But, Chief--" one of the guys started.

"Do you understand?" Hopper shot him a look.

The guys all agreed--some more reluctantly than others. 

 

"Morning, Evelyn," Flo smiled at the woman who was taking her coat off the next morning.

"Morning, Flo," she smiled back and hung hers over Hopper's. "Is Hop in yet? I gotta talk to him."

"Yeah, he's in his office."

"Great, thank you," she smiled and moved to the coffee machine.

"Hey, Carpenter," Powell monotonously greeted from his desk.

"Morning," she gave him a half-smile and found a mug.

"Hey, Carp," one of the guys got her attention. She knew the guy: mid 20's, whitest in the office, tall, just like every other douchey guy.

"What do you want, Bell? 'Cause I don't have the time--"

"What turned you?"

"What?"

"Hey, man--" Callahan tried to stop the guy.

"What turned you lesbian? Was is all those time you fucked the chief to get your job?"

Evelyn bit the inside of her cheek and lifted the caffeinated beverage to her mouth.

"No, why? Did you hear something?" She turned to him.

"Even better, I've got proof."

"Proof that I've been banging Jim," she scoffed at him.

"That you're a fag."

The woman rolled her eyes and went to leave before he grabbed her arm and put a fully developed picture into her hand. Evelyn regretted getting out of bed that morning the moment she looked at it. It was a picture of her and what's-her-name at that bar sharing a kiss.

"Not a great look to be a fag in uniform," the man clicked his tongue.

"Where'd you find this?"

"You're the detective, you figure it out," he snatched the picture away from her.

"Hey, give me that," she growled and reached out. The man held it slightly above his head. "I said, give it to me!" she yelled at him.

"Come on man, don't be an ass," Callahan approached the two.

"What the hell's going on out here?" Hopper called and turned the corner into the room. He was met with about four people trying to yell over each other like middle schoolers. "Hey, one at a time, I can't understand all of you at once! Bell, go."

"I'll let this do the talking," he sneered a the shorter woman and handed the picture over to Hopper. "You're sure this ain't just a rumor?"

Hopper rolled his eyes and looked to Evelyn.

"I wanna know what jackass was following me around the other day to take pictures of me grieving over a friend!"

"A friend who is also a fag," the man raised his hands in defense. "A man who died a fag."

"You need to shut the fuck up about my friend. You don't know anything--"

"But you're not denying the lesbian stuff."

"Hey," Hopper tried to intervene.

"Why should I? Even if I was, there are a lot worse things I could be."

"Yeah? Like what?"

"Hey!" Hopper tried to get their attention again.

"Like a douchebag named Bell."

"Well this douchebag isn't going to hell."

"If Heaven is gonna be filled with assholes like you, you can sign me up for the barbecue, buddy."

"Come on!" Callahan stepped between them to separate them. "That's enough, you need to stop."

"You two need to get away from each other," Hopper agreed and put a hand on the woman's shoulder.

"So are you?" the antagonistic man cocked an eyebrow to Evelyn.

"You don't have to answer that," Hopper pointed.

"So she is," he laughed. "Get out the Lysol spray, everyone, so you don't catch Gay Cancer!"

"Enough!" Hopper yelled at him. "Ev, come on."

Evelyn didn't move and continued to stare at the guy. In a split-second decision she turned on her heels, almost running into Hopper behind her. She reached up and put her hands around the back of his neck, stepped up onto her toes and pulled him down to her reach.

The room went silent with different reactions from different people. Powell was smirking from behind the playing cards in his hand, Callahan was straight-up shocked, Bell and Monroe were both looking almost disgusted.

"There's your fucking answer," Evelyn turned to the room and extended her arms on either side. "Now give me that picture," she grumbled and took the picture from Hopper, slamming her office door behind her and leaving the room silent.

"I told you not to bring it up to her," Flo tutted from her seat.

Chapter Text

Hopper stood there dumbfounded for a moment. Each of the guys looked at him with wide eyes. The man looked at them, bit the inside of his cheeks and considered saying something. But nothing came out. "Yeah," he concluded rather awkwardly and turned on his heels. When he sat at his desk Hopper put his head in his hands. So the two of them were public now? Were they ever not? Neither of them were particularly affectionate people, especially in public.

"Chief!" Bell called and bounded around the corner into the room. Hopper had his head resting on his hands that were linked together and supported by his elbows on the desk. "Chief, that doesn't prove anything. I mean--what? Are you two together? Are--"

"Jesus, it's like you're in high school!" hopper cut him off. "None of this is any of your business, dude. Now get out of my office."

"But--"

"If you don't get out, I know some officers from the next town over who'd like to pick up some extra hours."

With that, the man was gone. Hopper took a deep breath and busied himself with paperwork to order new tires for some of the patrol cars and whatever else in the office that needed reordering. When he finally left his office he stopped near Flo, "has Ev come out of her office yet?"

"No, not yet. She's locked herself in there."

"Alright. I'll be right back. I've got my radio if you need anything."

"Chief, where you going?" Callahan called.

"Lunch."

"Mind if I go with ya?"

"Yes. I'm going alone."

When Hopper got back he had a paper bag in hand and knocked on Evelyn's office door.

"Unless there is a child in danger, leave me alone."

Hopper slowly pushed the heavy door open and sat across the desk from her.

"I said I don't want to talk," she watched him light a cigarette.

"Alright," he murmured and grabbed the paper bag. "I guess I'll just--"

"Wait," he was stopped by a smaller hand covering his. "What is it?"

"A meatball sub that I'd be willing to split."

"Alright. You can stay," she pursed her lips. Hopper smiled in victory and sat back down.

"You're crazy, you know that?" Hopper watched her bite into her half.

"That, out there? That wasn't crazy. You've seen me get crazy."

"Oh, I definitely have. They haven't though."

"Well, they're about to if they keep all this up."

"I'm not gonna see anything."

Evelyn smiled at him and laugh lightly. "I think I'll end up just leaving here a little early and going to the center to talk to kids, see how they're doing. See if they need any help."

"Want me to go with you?"

"No. The kids don't like you."

"Thanks."

"It's true. you're the guy that arrested them, they're children. They hold grudges."

"Yeah, you're right," Hopper admitted.

"I usually am."

Hopper playfully rolled his eyes as the two ate. "El really wants to see Mike."

"I know. I feel bad but it's just too dangerous. Oh, speaking of Mike--" she wiped her mouth with a napkin and set the remaining food down. "I talked to Joyce yesterday when you forced me inside for a bit. I'm taking Will to dinner tonight."

Hopper raised an eyebrow. "Should I be concerned?"

"Shut up. I'm taking him and the other three boys to dinner for a bit."

"Any specific reason?"

"Well, yes and no. Really I wanted to talk to Will about how he's doing. That upside down place was freaky, I can't imagine being 12 and stuck there for god-knows how long. I want to see if he's okay. But it's also hard to be one of his friends trying to support him and deal with everything that happened. So I thought I'd go take them to eat. I just got paid so I have a little bit of extra money for it. And research shows with kids group therapy really works well. Not that it's therapy but..."

"It's therapeutic, I get it. You're don't have the degree to be a therapist but I think you're the most qualified person in town to do this."

"Thanks," she pressed a smile to him. "I offered to take Jonathan and Nancy, too, but Jonathan's working and I think Nancy is just being a teenager."

"Yeah, not long and the other kids will be too."

"I know," she rolled her eyes. "So will El."

"I don't know. I think she's going to be a little different. She hasn't been socialized like a normal kid."

"That's not exactly a good thing, Hop." Hopper nodded. "Listen, something to consider--and I'm talking far out, like a year from now--is that Mike wanted to take her to that cheesy dance the middle school does every year. The Snowball, do you remember those?"

"I'm old, but I'm not that old."

"I'm just saying. We might want to consider letting her go with Mike. Get her out of the damn house."

"I don't know. We'll have to see then. Hopefully it won't be so dangerous for her to be seen."

"She'll look totally different. I'm just saying. It's something to think about."

"I know. I hear you. God, that kid is going to be pissed when he finds out we've been lying about her."

"We don't have another option. Don't be getting soft on me, Hop," Evelyn teased and threw the crumpled up wrapper that once contained a sub at him. He flinched when it hit him in the face.

"Please, you know me. I'm not getting soft. If anything, you have the soft spot for kids."

"That is 100% a lie."

"How? You work with them."

"Which means I can see them in shitty situations. I have had to watch kids go through withdrawal in a holding cell and be there to help them, raid houses that abuse kids, keep them from legitimately killing each other," she listed and counted on her fingers, "would you like me to keep going?"

"No, I'm good," Hopper put a hand out and gave her a skeptical look.

"All I'm saying is that I can watch kids go through hell and back and still show them that their actions have consequences. Sorry to break to to you, but I know that you're a big baby underneath your shell. I don't think you're a disciplinarian."

"I'm the Chief of Police."

"Yeah, but you don't deal with kids too seriously. I mean, what, you give kids over to a judge for breaking into a store? Big deal."

"Listen, I am not sensitive," Hopper narrowed his eyes and stood.

"Uh-huh," Evelyn agreed sarcastically and chewed on the end of a pen. "Go be not-sensitive somewhere else then."

"I'm not sensitive!"

"Alright, alright. Go be not-sensitive in your office, man-baby. I have work to do."

Hopper tried to sputter out a response but couldn't think of anything witty. Evelyn smiled in victory. "Dammit!" he hissed before heading back to his office. Evelyn giggled after him and propped her feet on the desk.

Hopper would agree he's a lot of things. Sensitive is not one of them.

 

"Get whatever you want, dinner is on me."

"Daaaamn," Lucas looked at the woman across from him, "moneybags Carpenter over here."

"Funny. Just read your damn menu."

"Man, you are, like, the coolest adult I know," Dustin told her.

"Yeah? Why?"

"Because you don't treat us like babies," Mike started.

"And you swear around us," Will nodded.

"I'm glad I meet your standards as a cool adult," the woman mused and lit a cigarette.

"Would you let us smoke, too?" Lucas asked a little too eagerly.

"No!"

"You knew she wasn't gonna, dude."

"It was worth a shot. Hey, what happened to your face?"

"Did you get hurt working and doing something bad-ass?" Mike's eyes got wide.

"Did Hopper hit you?" Dustin asked seriously.

"'Cause if he did, we'll go beat him up," Will put a hand on her shoulder. Evelyn laughed.

"No, Hopper didn't hit me. No I wasn't working. My brother hit me pretty hard. Don't beat up your siblings, alright?"

The boys each murmured a 'yeah, obviously,' as the waitress took their drink orders and eventually their food.

"Hey, guys," she quieted them at some point after their food got there. "How're you all doing?"

Each gave a response saying they're good, fine, etc.

"Because you know you can talk to me, right? You can ask me anything and tell me anything. I'm not going to tell anyone and I'm here to help you."

"It kinda sucks my mom won't let me go anywhere alone anymore," Will spoke up. "I miss riding my bike with you guys."

"We miss having you, too," Dustin comforted.

"She's just scared because of what happened. And it's pretty recent, so you just need to give her time. She'll come around. Your mom just wants you to be safe, you know? She was worried sick while you were gone."

"I know. It's just... I don't know. I'm worried about going places alone, too. Like, what if it happens again?"

"You went through a traumatic experience, this is normal. You'll feel better about this stuff eventually, I promise. and it's not going to happen again. It's crazy that it happened here once, there's no way it'll happen a second time. You're safe here. There's a whole team of us to make sure."

"And we've always got your back," Mike looked at him. "You know that now that we know what happened, we'll make sure it never happens again."

"See? You've got some really good friends. And some really good adults looking after you. You're not alone, Will. You're never going to be alone."

"Thanks," he smiled up at her.

"Hey, Evelyn," Dustin got her attention. "You said we can ask you anything, right?"

"Do not make me regret saying that," she gave him a stern look.

"Are you really gay?"

"Oh, and are you dating Hopper?" Will asked excitedly.

"Are you ever going to have kids?" Lucas questioned.

"Are you going to have kids with Hopper?" Mike's eyes went wide like he'd cracked some code.

"Woah, woah, woah!" Evelyn laughed and got them to quiet down. "Alright. First of all, I'm not having kids, which means I'm not having kids with Hopper, alright?"

"Don't you specialize your work with kids?"

"I like helping them, doesn't mean I want to raise them."

"So are you gay or dating Hopper? Because you can't be both," Dustin clarified like she didn't know.

"I am not gay--"

"So she's dating Hopper!" Will cried like they'd won something.

"That does not mean that!"

"Well are you?"

Evelyn put her head in her hands momentarily. "It's... complicated."

"What's that mean? Aren't you either together or not together?" Lucas interrogated.

"Listen, dating as an adult is weird, alright? And I'm weird. And so is Hopper."

"That's an understatement," Mike murmured under his breath.

"So, I guess, technically we are dating. But we just hang out like friends, we don't go on dates or anything. I mean, come on. I gotta see his dumb face at work every day anyway."

"We got an answer!" The boys all cried and high-fived.

"I think my mom's dating someone," Will told the adult. "His name is Bob."

"Do you know his last name?" Evelyn asked and took a bite of her burger.

"It starts with 'new.' I don't know though. He's kinda dorky."

"Nothin' wrong with that," Evelyn informed them and encouraged them to keep eating. "Hey, where'd you hear I was gay?"

"We saw it on the way to the arcade one day," Dustin nodded.

"You know, whatever person painted 'dyke' on the side of your house?"

"Yeah, I remember," she bit her lip. Dammit.

"So we were just curious," Lucas completed like they all shared one consecutive thought. "It'd totally be cool if you were, though," he added quickly.

"Yeah," Will finally chimed in. "I think it's actually kind of cool to different. Everyone around here is so much like everyone else. I think it's pretty cool."

"Yeah, it is," Evelyn gave him a lopsided smile and continued eating. The pre-teenage boys then launched into some other conversation and ate. The radio on the table gave five long signals which caught the attention of the boys. "That's just the station," she clarified. "I'm going to go outside so I can respond, it's too loud in here," she lied and then went for the exit. She sat a few feet away from the diner and hit the button on the side five times. Then she waited to decode the message.

"UPSET MIKE"

"WITH BOYS TELL HER SOON"

"BETTER" came back after a few moments. Evelyn sighed in relief and leaned her head back against the brick wall. After a moment she walked back into the diner.

"Hey, do you guys really want to go home yet, or do you wanna go to my house? I did tell Mike and Nancy that one day I'd show them pictures of me in my hippie days."

"Really?" The four cried.

 

"All of the photo albums are in the living room," Evelyn pointed and started to move the backpack sitting on the kitchen table. She really didn't need Karen Wheeler finding out her son was in the same house as a shit load of heroin. After she laid on the floor next to the group and looked at pictures with them.

"Don't ever tell Hopper I showed you this..." Evelyn warned and pointed at a picture.

"You look like a baby!"

"That's Hopper?!"

"Yeah, see the Hawkins High sign in the background?" she pointed out. "This was his last day of school before he graduated. I was a freshman. And that's my sister," she pointed to another picture.

"You two look so similar," Dustin commented.

"We've got the same parents, you know."

"Who's this?" Will pointed to another picture.

"That's my friend Joan. We met in Washington."

"DC?" the boys looked at her.

"Uh-huh."

"When did you go to Washington DC?"

"I mean, a lot of times. That time, though, was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. I managed to drive down there with some friends and be in the march."

"Rad," Dustin grinned as the boys stared at the picture.

"Wait, did you meet Martin Luther King Jr.?" Lucas asked with wide eyes.

"Not that time, no. But I did meet him and talk to him in Chicago once."

"Seriously?" Mike popped his head up.

"Yeah, seriously. He was really nice."

"Why are you standing in front of a trash can on fire?" Mike pointed to a picture. Evelyn laughed.

"That was at a draft card burning."

"What?"

"Wasn't that illegal?"

"Yeah," Evelyn grinned as the boys all exclaimed how crazy that was. "I would take the draft cards for people who couldn't make it or couldn't risk being seen doing it and I'd burn them. That way, when they called your draft number you wouldn't know it's yours."

"Did you ever go to jail?"

"Not for that."

"But you have gone to jail?"

"So many times," she laughed at their reaction.

"Tell us more!" Will urged.

"What do you mean? I went to jail during protests, I once got arrested for possession of drugs. They let me go that time before."

"What's the longest you've ever been?"

"I only ever stayed, like, a week at a time."

"Holy shit..." Dustin looked at his friends.

"Is this Hopper again?" Will pointed to a picture of the young Evelyn hugging a young man in fatigues.

"Yeah, that's the day he was being shipped out for basics. Chrissy drove me to the airport and we met his family there. That was the last time I actually saw him until..." she thought for a moment, "it wasn't until, like '70, you know? I went to New York for..." she swallowed hard and stopped herself, "I just went to New York for a trip and found him. I ended up crashing at his place so I didn't have to find a skeezy hotel."

"What'd you do in New York?"

"Did you see a Broadway show?" Dustin asked eagerly.

"Yeah, I did. I saw Hair, funny enough."

"Did you meet any of the cast?"

Evelyn pointed a picture of her with someone in the cast.

"What'd you do in New York?" Mike pushed.

Evelyn exhaled heavily. "You can't tell anyone. Promise?"

"Promise."

"I was at Gay Liberation Day in New York City to celebrate gay pride."

"I thought you weren't gay?"

The woman nervously wiped her palms on her jeans. "I'm not. I like both, though. I like men and I like women."

"Woah."

"Wicked."

"Wait, really?"

"I didn't even know that was a thing!"

"Now you know. Please don't tell anyone. It's just not something I want everyone to know."

"Totally."

"Where'd you take this picture?" Lucas pointed to one.

"That? Uh," she thought for a moment. "That was the fall of '62, I think. It's me and my brother at my sister's wedding."

"You looked really pretty," Mike smiled at her. "In the picture, I mean--you're still pretty--"

"It's okay Mike. Thanks," she laughed a little as her attention got drawn to the ringing phone in the corner. "I'll be right back," she smiled and went to grab it. She picked up the receiver and paced the hallway as she talked.

"Hello?"

"Hey, it's me."

"I don't want to talk to you, Jimmy."

"Yeah, I don't want to talk to you either. I just have a question."

"I have kids in my house, I do not want to do this right now--"

"Are you queer?"

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me. It's yes or no."

"Lose my number, asshole," the woman almost spat venom through the phone and hung up. It immediately rang again. She yanked the cord out of the wall.

"Are you okay?" Will asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Why?"

"You sounded upset. I wasn't listening, I just--it's a small house."

"I'm fine, thank you though," she ruffled his hair and checked her watch. "All right. How about I get you kids home?" They groaned in protest. "Hey, hey, hey, we can all get together again soon. But I have work in the morning and I can't imagine your parents are happy for you to be our late."

Chapter Text

"Mike."

"Huh?" Hopper turned his head toward the girl that he swore was engrossed in the food in front of her. Evelyn wasn't there, so he just made her one of those microwave TV dinners. It's not like he knew how to cook and make the food edible.

"Mike."

"Yeah, what about him?"

"See him," El said slowly, thinking about each syllable.

"You can't. Not right now."

"Why?"

"It's not safe."

"Why?"

"The bad men are out there."

"When?"

"I don't know."

"When?" she asked. Hopper heard an empty can he'd left out collapse behind him.

 "I don't know!"

"I need to see him," she said quite forcefully albeit pretty slow.

"Seeing him will only put you and him in danger."

"I don't care!" she yelled and suddenly Hopper felt her plate slide into his torso hard. "I want to see him."

"What he hell?" he looked at her.

"Take me to see him."

"No."

El stood quickly, knocking her chair over and moving behind the couch. "Where is he?"

"I don't know."

"Where?"

"I don't know!"

"School?"

"El, I don't know."

"Home?"

"I don't know."

"Friends don't lie!" she yelled at him as the bookshelf full of books and board games came crashing down behind her. Hopper muttered something along the lines of 'Jesus Christ' and moved to the radio on the counter. She watched him hit the button five times. "Why?"

Hopper ignored her and listened to the radio.

The table behind him crashed to the floor and Hopper flinched.

"Why can't I see him?"

"Because it's not safe. If you go out there, you will get hurt. I will get hurt, Evelyn will get hurt. Mike will get hurt. Do you want Mike to get hurt?"

"I won't hurt him."

"The bad men will."

"I will protect him."

"You can't even control yourself, have you seen this place? You've trashed it in five minutes. You've got to learn how to control yourself before you can leave, alright?" Hopper exhaled and listened to the radio for a moment. "Listen, you will see Mike soon. I promise, soon."

He turned and looked at Eleven. "El? Do you hear me?"

She looked at the floor and took a deep breath. It was obvious she was trying not to let frustrated tears fall out of her eyes.

"Alright, good," he nodded and turned back to the radio. He had just finished ending the conversation in code when there was a yell behind him and a light bulb above his head shattered into a million pieces.

"What the fuck?" he turned to the child fully expecting to have to reprimand her. What he was met with was Eleven weakly taking a step forward before falling. Hopper took two large steps to catch her. He lifted her, dropping any and all anger he'd had and laying her in her bed to rest

 

"Woah?" Evelyn quietly shut the door.

"El kinda... freaked out."

"Freaked out? What's that mean?"

"She didn't do anything on purpose. She was upset because she wanted to see Mike--you know that. When she was upset... I don't know. Her powers must've been triggered by her emotions. Because it didn't happen all at once, either. Here, let me show you."

Hopper grabbed a piece of notebook paper and drew something that resembled a wavelength. "Look, so if this is where she was when she started, these peaks are where shit happened. This first peak, the can on the counter was crushed. It only kept getting worse. She threw her whole plate of food at me, knocked over the bookshelf, completely flipped the table, I'm in the process of replacing half the light bulbs in the house..." Hopper looked at the floor then Evelyn. "I don't know what to do."

"What do you mean?" she asked and started to set the furniture upright.

"Do we punish her for trashing the house?"

"She didn't trash the house."

"She broke half the lights."

"She's frustrated, Hop. And she's never been taught to control them like this. I mean, she's never been frustrated like this before. Don't you remember what it's like to be almost 13 living in your parents' house?"

"Yeah but I never acted like this."

"You were taught like a normal kid. Put yourself in her shoes. You finally escape from a lab where you're kept in solitary your whole life. You meet other kids, make friends. Then you're stuck back inside, confined to a house."

"It's for her protection."

"You think I don't know that? I'm just explaining her side. It's okay for her to be frustrated--hell, it's a good thing. She's not this apathetic lab rat they made, she's a kid. We just need to teach her coping skills."

"Coping skills?"

"Jesus Christ, Jim. Ways for her to channel her anger."

Evelyn was baffled that he'd never been taught those things. She moved to the fridge to grab a drink. When Hopper looked a little like deer in headlights she picked up an apple and sighed. "I will teach both of you coping skills. Since apparently you never learned what those are. Where is she, anyway?"

"I think using her powers drained her. She was crying and exhausted. I put her to bed."

"Jesus, she was that upset?"

"Well kids also melt down when they're overtired. I spent a good three years trying to wrestle Sara to bed before she got overtired."

"El is older, though."

"She's mentally younger right now. We gotta get her caught up. But yeah kids will do it forever. I've met some adults that do it."

"Hm," Evelyn nodded and sipped from her can.

"Do you work tomorrow?"

"No, it's Saturday."

"Dammit," Hopper sighed and moved to the fridge. "I'm covering for Callahan. It's going to be boring as hell."

"Sucks to be you," Evelyn found some pajamas to change into.

"You know, you could come keep me entertained..." he murmured shyly from right behind her.

"No," she laughed and shook her head and tied the string on her shorts. "No. You will be working and I will be here with El."

Hopper sighed and rested his hands on her hips and his chin in top of her head.

"You should take the bed tonight."

"I had it last night. And the night before."

"You have a concussion."

"That doesn't mean I should be babied."

"I'm not babying you. It's called being considerate, jackass," he mumbled and poked her in the side. She jumped and let out a yelp.

"You're an ass," she pretended to pout and moved away behind the couch so he couldn't poke her again.

"That's not news, Hun."

"I'm gonna get you back, you know."

"What's that mean?"

Evelyn took a bite out of the apple in her hand. "It means you better watch your back."

"Yeah, I'm real scared."

Evelyn hummed. "You should be."

"How's your head doing?" he knelt on the couch cushion opposite of her to be eye-level.

"Fine."

"Yeah?" he asked and shined his flashlight in her eyes.

"Aw, come on!" she hissed so that she wouldn't wake up the child in the next room. "Bro, that fucking hurt."

"Let me see, bro," he said quickly (and mockingly) and grabbed her on either side of her face.

"Ow!" she cried out.

"You're good. Your pupils responded normally."

"Yeah, dipshit, I know!"

"Alright, alright," Hopper raised his hands in surrender. "I'll leave you alone. Your bruise is looking better, though."

"Good, means it's healing. It hurts like a bitch when I talk."

"Thank God. Maybe I'll get a few days of quiet before it heals."

"Fuck off," the woman giggled and sat on the couch.Hopper took her beer to take a drink of it. She fiddled with the remote until she found a show. "You seriously couldn't take a twelve year old without my help?" she teased and lit a cigarette.

"I had it under control."

"Did you, now?" she raised an eyebrow at him.

"Yes. I did. I was just trying to get her to calm down and thought you'd want to be involved."

"I handle shit when you're not here, you are more than welcome to when I'm not."

"I handle shit when you're not here.

"I'm just saying--"

"And I'm just saying that this was something new. I thought we should be on the same page when parenting our kid, you know. I mean, it wouldn't--"

"Wait, back up." Hopper cocked an eyebrow. "Our kid? We're we now?"

"Ev, even if we don't work, we're both her parents now. I gave you the opportunity to walk away and you didn't, so you're stuck here now. You're her mom and I'm her dad. Even if she doesn't call us that."

Evelyn blinked a few times and set her apple core on the coffee table. She only then realized how ironic she must have looked. An apple in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

"Remember how I was adamant I'd never have kids?"

"You mean three months ago? Yeah. And it's not kids. It's kid."

"You're an idiot," Evelyn laughed and offered him the cigarette. He took it and handed her beer back when she realized he hadn't moved yet. "You enjoy sitting like that? on your knees?" Hopper winked and moved to a more comfortable sitting position, causing Evelyn to stifle a laugh into a snort. "You're right, by the way."

"Fuckin' finally," Hopper scoffed and handed her cigarette back.

"Yeah, laugh it up. I meant with us being parents. I just... listen. No matter what happens between... us... we can't let it affect El. She's had so much shit, let's not give her a broken home on top of it. Right?"

"Right. I agree." There was a small comfortable silence. "You're really good at being a mom, you know. Seriously," he added when she rolled her eyes and took one last drag off the cigarette. Hopper put a hand on her knee. "Seriously, you're amazing with El. I was a baby and asked for help and you knew what to do right away."

"Yeah, because--"

"Don't give me that degree bullshit. You can pay all the money in the world and you won't learn how to be a parent. You've got a soft spot for her."

"You're the soft one here."

"Yeah, alright, maybe. But somewhere in that cold dead heart is a soft spot."

"You're getting all mushy with feelings," she looked up at him with a soft smile.

"I thought I'd give it a try. It won't happen again for another year, so cherish it."

"No thank you," she joked. Hopper's eye glanced down to her lips then back to her eyes. Evelyn closed the space between them and placed a hand on the side of his face. "Thank you," she whispered when they pulled away but remained barely centimeters from each other. She leaned her forehead against his. "Thank you for everything."

 

"Dating."

Evelyn's eyes opened with El standing above her.

"Dating?"

"What?"

She felt someone poke her back, alerting her that she was laying against Hopper at a relatively awkward angle. Hopper was half slouched and half laying down with his head against the arm rest. Evelyn had been laying against him with her head on his chest.

"Dating," Eleven said slowly as if she was worried about mispronouncing the word.

"Uh--yeah," Evelyn nodded. "Yeah, we are I guess."

Eleven nodded slowly as Evelyn stood. "Your hair is crazy in the morning," Hopper told the child.

"Don't you have work?" Evelyn kicked his foot hanging off the couch.

"Yeah, don't you have work?" Eleven asked with a grin. Evelyn laughed and moved to make some pancakes for breakfast. Normally she would've had the urge to dropkick a kid imitating her, but El was learning so she was actually pretty proud.

"Ah, shit," Hopper groaned when he saw the time. Evelyn had never seen him move quite that fast as he grabbed clothes and dashed to the bathroom.

Eleven looked at Evelyn to laugh with her as she sat at the table. Once she woke up and had something to eat, the woman went to unlock the door. 

"Leaving?"

"What?" Evelyn raised an eyebrow. Eleven thought for a second.

"Are you leaving?"

"No, come with me. And grab a coat, it's cold."

"Not allowed. Daylight."

"It's allowed. The rule is you can't go out alone. I'll be with you. And we're not leaving we're just coming outside."

Eleven quickly grabbed her too-big coat and followed Evelyn. "I want to work with you on your powers."

"My powers?"

"Yeah. Help you learn how to control them. Hopper told me what happened last night. It's okay to be frustrated," the woman explained while they walked to an area leading into even thicker woods. "You just need to learn how to control how you release the frustration."

"How?"

"Well, that's what I'm trying to figure out. Step one is controlling your powers. See this ball?" Evelyn asked and waited for El to nod. She wedged the small, blue, rubber ball in the crook of where a branch met a tree and stepped back. "Get the ball."

"What?"

"Get the ball. You can do it, you just need to focus."

Eleven blinked a few times before staring at it. The two saw it move a little but not fall.

"Can't."

"Yes, you can. You destroyed a whole monster months ago but you can't move a ball?"

Eleven sighed and tried again but failed.

"Can't."

Evelyn sucked on her teeth for a second.

"What makes you mad?"

"What?"

"What makes you mad? Me? Hop? The house? What is it?"

Eleven thought carefully. "Stuck."

"Being stuck where?"

"The house."

"Why?"

"Want to go."

"Why?" Evelyn egged her on.

"Mike!" Eleven yelled at her. Evelyn pointed at the ball and leaned against the tree.

"Why?"

"I like him."

"That sucks, doesn't it? How's it make you feel?"

"Mad."

"What's your word of the day?"

"Frustrated."

"What's that mean?"

Eleven closed her eyes and exhaled slowly.

"No, don't calm down. Keep your anger. What's frustrated mean?"

"Annoyed."

"Am I annoying you?"

"Yes!"

"Then move the ball. Use that to push or pull. Because we're not going back into the house until you do. And I know you can do it."

Evelyn watched as the girl put her hand out, yelled, and suddenly there was a light plop in the snow behind the tree. Eleven wiped her nose on the jacket and looked at the adult. "Good?"

"Good," Evelyn confirmed. "You did good."

Eleven smiled gently with the praise. She wasn't used to this--it felt good. Even though she'd been getting it when she did something right around the house, this felt different. She was tired, but it felt good. "Watch out," Evelyn announced.

El put her hands out and stopped the ball that was heading toward her face. "Why?" she she demanded as the small blue ball floated in front of her.

"Because you can use them. You know how, it's just not obvious. You use them more when you're frustrated or scared. So you need to channel that feeling. Remember it. If you can remember it and how you use it, you can use your powers for anything."

"Anything?"

"Yeah." Eleven dropped the ball into the snow and picked it up. "Alright, enough training. Let's play."

"Play?"

"P-lay. It means have fun. We play board games together. Catch this without powers."

She tossed the ball toward the child who clumsily caught it. "Good?"

"Good," Evelyn confirmed again. "Now you throw it back to me." The child gave a bad, lopsided throw. "Alright, we'll work on that. See, you have the ball in your hand," she moved behind the girl and set the ball in her small palm. "You wind up, hold it, then throw straight. You have to keep your wrist and arm straight, though, otherwise it just goes to the ground. It might be better to practice with Hopper here so we can both help. I'll ask him to get some baseballs on his way home."

"Baseball?"

"Base-ball," Evelyn repeated. "It's a sport. A different kind of game. You have these baseball bats that are like big, long, sticks. Someone throws the ball at you and you have to hit it. Depending on how far you hit it, you run to a base. There are three of them before you get home and get a point. I'll have to have you watch a game with me and Hop when it starts."

"That sounds nice," Eleven smiled.

"It will be. Let's go inside, you're freezing. Try locking the door with your powers," Evelyn encouraged once they were inside. Twenty minutes later the task was accomplished. "Just... see what you can do when you're doing little chores around the house. I think you'll be surprised with what you can do."

"Do you know?" Eleven asked quietly. Evelyn raised an eyebrow. "What can I do?"

"No, not necessarily. What I do know is that you are capable of some amazing things. Hell, you've already done some incredible shit. I mean, you save your friends' lives."

"Incredible," Eleven murmured to herself. Not at a question, though. More like she was telling herself it was true.

"Hey," she turned the faucet off and dried her hands. "I've got an idea. Maybe you can see Mike."

"How?"

"Come here," Evelyn motioned and grabbed a clean hand towel. "Will this be dark enough to cover your eyes?"

Eleven nodded and followed the woman to the TV. She played with the channels until she found one that was static. "Try to find him like you tried to find Will and all that. We don't have the water and all that, but I don't think you need it anymore . Just practice. Even if you only find him for a minute."

 

"Hey, kid," Hopper ruffled the child's hair. He grabbed the remote and turned the TV off. "C'mon, Ev is making dinner."

"Outside today," Eleven told Hopper once she sat down.

"What?" he asked and set his holster with the gun in it on the counter next to a sleeve of baseballs. He moved to get a beer.

"Went outside. Today. With Ev."

"When it was light out?" Eleven nodded. "It's one of our rules. You don't go outside. Especially in the light."

"Ev said..."

"Hop, it was fine."

"No, it's not okay to do that! What if someone saw you?"

"We were in the yard, it was fine," Evelyn rolled her eyes and started dishing the stir fry onto three plates.

"This isn't okay. People hunt around here, what if they found you?"

"You said bad men don't come here," Eleven looked at him warily.

"They don't!"

"Why did you say that?" Eleven looked at him confused.

"Yeah, why would you say that if it's not true?" Evelyn pursed her lips and pushed him closer to the edge of breaking and blowing up.

"Friends don't lie," Eleven told him.

"I know--I," Hopper paused and took a deep breath, "I don't know why I said that, alright? I just don't want anyone to know you're here so you stay safe."

"Hopper, we were okay. We were playing catch."

"You can play catch in the house."

"Working on powers," Eleven added.

"What?"

"Worked on my powers."

"You shouldn't be using those."

"Why?"

"Because--" Hopper exhaled slowly and tried to stay calm. "Because you're a kid and it's dangerous."

"Not if I control," Eleven retorted.

"You can't control them, that's the point!"

"I work on it!"

"That's enough," Evelyn shouted over the two and brought their plates over. "We can talk about this later, alright?" she said to Hopper.

"Right," he murmured and stared at him plate a moment before eating.

"Okay?" Eleven asked slowly and took a bite.

"Don't talk with your mouth full," Hopper chastised.

"Everything's fine, sweetie," Evelyn gave her a reassuring smile. "You haven't done anything wrong, I promise. You were just doing what I asked you to."

"Did you do wrong?"

Evelyn smiled at how far she'd come with her English.

"No. I don't think so, at least. But you don't need to worry about me. Why don't you tell Hop what your word of the day was?"

Hopper perked his head up and listened. "Frustrated. Annoyed or mad."

"That's a good word to know," Hopper nodded. "What else you do today?"

"Read," she pointed to the stack of children's books on the counter.

"Make sure you put those away after you eat. And not shoved wherever under your bed. Where they belong on the bookshelf.

Eleven nodded. "Saw Mike today."

Hopper's silverware dropped to his plate. "You did?"

"Yes. In my head."

"'In your head' what's that mean?"

"Like seeing Will. Or Barbara."

Hopper chewed on his lip and stared at the woman sitting next to him. She gave him a look and mouthed 'be supportive.' "You did, that's cool," he forced a smile.

Evelyn diverted the topic to something else that let the little makeshift family eat in peace.

 

"You took her outside?"

Hopper turned the tv off and watched Evelyn light a cigarette. Eleven was in her room listening to something Evelyn shoved into a Walkman with headphones attached.

"Yeah, I did," Evelyn took a drag and let the smoke out of her lungs. "I don't get why you're freaking out about this."

"Because you took her outside! That is beyond dangerous, it's just stupid. Stupid, idiotic, careless--"

"Yeah, because you know me, I'm such a stupid, idiotic, careless risk taker."

"I didn't think that but now, apparently."

"What are the three rules?"

"Seriously? You know--"

"Read me the rules," she demanded and handed him a notebook.

Hopper grit his teeth for a moment before opening the cover. "1. Always keep the curtains drawn."

"That was done."

"2. Only open the door if you hear my secret knock."

"Check. And what was that third one?"

"3. Never ever go outside alone. Especially not in daylight."

Hopper tossed the notebook down on the coffee table.

"That rule was also followed," Evelyn said with a snarky and sarcastic smile.

"You know what I meant when I wrote that--"

"Then you should've written it. And I would've stopped you because that's unreasonable bullshit. You can't expect her to stay locked up like a vampire all day every day!"

"I'm trying to keep her from being found, Evelyn. Jesus Christ."

"Well I'm trying to help her work on her powers."

"A, we never agreed to that. B, you can do that inside."

Evelyn stubbed our her cigarette and stood up. It didn't do much except make her look nearly straight up at him.

"Can? Yeah. Doesn't mean I will. And we don't' have to agree on everything. God, if we have to run every decision by each other--"

"We do! We're not parenting a normal kid--"

"Keep your voice down," Evelyn growled at him.

"We're not parenting a normal kid," he said at a more quiet volume. "We are parenting a kid with mental abilities that are dangerous."

"Oh, our daughter is dangerous?"

"I never said that. Don't put words in my mouth!" Hopper raised his voice in frustration. Finally he sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Evelyn, we aren't parenting a normal kid. Normal kids don't need this kind of parenting, so we have to do it a little differently. We need to be on the same page. And what the fuck? You taught her how to see Mike in her head?"

"No, I didn't."

"You're shitting me, she literally told me--"

"I gave her a towel to cover her eyes. That's it. She did the rest herself. You should have her show you so she knows you care about her seeing one of the only friends she has."

"I do care--"

"Then show it. Every time she tried to tell you something today you picked it apart because you didn't like it."

"That's not true--"

"I guess you were okay with her reading. But anything else was bad to you."

"Because I worry."

"Yeah, that's good. But too much isn't normal. I mean, why can't she use her powers to do stuff like change the channel, unlock the door, everything else. It'll keep her from using it during a meltdown or whatever happened last night."

"Because if she ever wants to be part of society, she can't use them."

"Which is why she needs to be able to control them. If she can't control them, she'll never be a kid. She'll be scared she'll hurt someone or break shit. She needs to control it."

"God dammit," Hopper muttered and turned away. He went to the counter overlooking the kitchen and shook his head. "I would've been okay with it if you would've just talked to me--"

"No you wouldn't have."

"No, I wouldn't have. But I might've been able to warm up to the idea instead of you doing it behind my back!" hew cried and turned to face her

"I didn't do this behind your back, it wasn't a secret!"

"Normally I wouldn't care. If it was just going to affect you I'd say do what you want, you're you. But I can't let you put her in danger like this again!"

"You honestly think that if I thought this put her in more danger I would do it? Your opinion of me is real low."

"I don't think you meant to put her in danger. But no matter what, you did. If someone saw her--"

"No one did."

"Is someone saw you two we'd have to move. We'd have to move to, like, Michigan or something. Up near Canada in the middle of nowhere. I sure as hell hate this shithole because it's small, but you know what in the upper peninsula of that state? Fuck all. There's nothin'. And I don't want to move us until I have to."

"Yeah, dumb-ass, no one likes Michigan. And I thought we were supposed to make decisions together or whatever. But apparently you rule the house and whatever you say goes."

"I'm not afraid to take El and leave if she's in danger." Hopper shook his head again andgot closer to his girlfriend.

"Yeah, me neither," she spat and stepped up so they were inches away. "I'm not saying El is going to take over Hawkins with her powers or anything. i'm just saying she needs to be able to stay in control when she's upset."

"Fuck, evelyn," Hopper sighed and scrubbed his face with his hands. "It's like circles with you, I don't get it."

"Why? Because I don't just do as you say and do as you want?"

"That's not--"

"'Cause that's bullshit, and El will be raised to know that thinking is bullshit too."

"I never said--I just want what's best for El!"

"Yeah, me too. This shouldn't be a fight!"

"Then don't make it one."

"Yeah, because I started this," Evelyn scoffed and leaned against the fridge.

"You did. This would've blown over if you'd just waited."

"Keep blaming me, that's fine."

"I sure as hell didn't do anything here!"

"Yeah, that's the point."

"Oh, come on!" he groaned as she moved to light another cigarette.

"Look, we obviously aren't getting anywhere with this, so why don't we drop it for right now? We can talk about it another time when both of us aren't ready to kill each other. I can't imagine El loves hearing us argue."

"Where else are we gonna do it?"

"I'm just saying I can't imagine she loves it right now. Fuck, you don't need to make everything into an argument."

"Oh, I make everything into an argument."

 "Yes."

"How?"

"Jesus, Jim. By doing this! I say let's stop talking and you're like 'well what's that mean?'"

"I do not!"

"I'm not doing this."

"Where are you going?" Hopper rubbed his forehead as Evelyn put some boots on.

"To check my mail and answering machine," she replied simply.

"You can't just walk away!"

"I'm not. I'm just taking a breather and letting you cool the fuck off."

"Jesus," he groaned and shook his head.

"El?" Evelyn knocked on the bedroom door softly.

"Come in," the small voice came.

"Hey," Evelyn smiled at her. "I'm going to my house real quick so I can make a phone call. I'll be right back, alright?"

"Okay," she smiled as Evelyn shut the door again.

"Move," she gave the man a stern look when he stood in front of the door.

"No, you don't get to leave."

"You don't control me. I'm not leaving, I'm going to maintain my house and make sure no one else has vandalized it. God, I can not stand you sometimes," she scoffed and shouldered past him.

She clicked the door shut and Hopper silently fumed for a minute. Eventually he realized standing there like an idiot wasn't doing anything and went to change out of his uniform. He decided on settling on the couch and leaned his head back with a hand over his eyes. After a minute he could just barely feel the other end of the couch dip as a child sat.

"Moving?" El asked slowly and quietly.

"What?" he pulled his hand away to look at her.

"You said... moving. To..." she struggled to remember the name he'd said, "mission? Mission-in?"

Hopper stared for a moment before it clicked. "No. We're not moving. It's Michigan, it's another state. But no, I was just trying to make a point to Ev. I wasn't serious."

"Friends don't lie."

"I didn't lie to her. I... it's complicated, alright? It's okay, though. You're staying here, we all are." The girl nodded in recognition. "Hey, why don't you show me how you saw Mike today? It sounds really cool."