Thank you for reading! This will follow canon, on- and offscreen scenes, through post-season 3 (and hopefully season 4!). I do take suggestions, so if there are scenes you want to see, feel free to let me know.

"Time After Time"
If you're lost, you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall, I will catch you, I will be waiting
Time after time

- Cyndi Lauper

"Drivin' My Life Away"
Ooh, I'm drivin' my life away
Lookin' for a better way for me
- Eddie Rabbitt

The windshield wipers really were slapping out a tempo, Jim Hopper reflected, but it was less than a perfect rhythm with the song on the radio. He reached out a hand, twisting the dial, not in the mood for Eddie Rabbitt, even in a more upbeat mood.

The next station was playing Patsy Cline. Hopper was feeling so lonely, she had that right, but it wasn't crazy. It was the only thing that made any damn sense.

He twisted the dial again. He wasn't in the mood for music, but driving in silence with nothing to listen to but his thoughts would have him driving off a bridge long before he got back to the god-forsaken burg of Hawkins, Indiana.

Irony: that he, Hawkins's least-favorite son, should be fleeing back to it as a safe harbor to take over its police force. How some of the old-time cops would laugh at that. He hoped to hell all of them had retired long ago, or this new job would suck even worse than it already promised to.

Picking up the beer can he held snugged between his thighs, Hopper drained it and threw it out the open window.

At least nothing ever happened in Hawkins. Youthful indiscretions like his own had been the worst the tiny Hawkins police force had had to deal with in his memory, and he couldn't imagine much had changed. On the one hand, he had always hated that bucolic bliss and was pretty sure he was going to be bored out of his mind. On the other hand … he didn't have it in him to be a real cop anymore. He had looked too hard into the abyss to feel anything but sympathy for those who were lost in it. And if he couldn't solve his own problems, how the hell was he supposed to be out there working for the good of others?

A memory flashed through his mind, of Sara giggling, holding his badge up above her head, running off with it, as he chased after her, annoyed because he was late for work. The idea that he could ever have been annoyed with her sickened him. He wasn't worthy of being a father. Or a husband, apparently. Not that he blamed Diane. She wanted to heal, to move forward with her life, to have another child someday, and Hopper was too frozen and terrified and lost to do any more than stand still. And even that was too much to ask some days.

He twisted the dial again, from the Righteous Brothers to the Rolling Stones. Keith Richards' screams should have been enough to take his mind off things, but they sounded too much like the screams in Hopper's head. More dial-twisting. A commercial now, for some local insurance company. Like insurance helped. Oh, sure, it saved you a little money on the funeral, but it didn't make the person you loved any less dead, and it didn't dig your heart up out of the coffin where it lay next to her.

Mile after mile of farm rolled by outside his window, bringing him inevitably closer to Hawkins. He didn't know why he had called Hawkins Police that day, the day he knew for sure that he couldn't go on being a New York City cop, that Diane wasn't going to let him go on being her husband, and that he didn't know if he was even a person any more. He'd been sitting at his desk, contemplating taking his gun to some dark recess of Central Park and ending it all for good, when before he'd been aware of what he was doing, he found himself with the phone in his hand, dialing directory assistance. Why Hawkins, instead of some random town in some random state where no one knew him? Nothing drew him back there. His parents were long gone, his mother of the cancer not long after Hopper had left to join the army, and his father packed up and gone as soon as she was decently in the ground. Hopper didn't know where he'd gone, and he couldn't say he cared that much. The old bastard hadn't been much of a father to begin with. Granddad had been the one to teach Jim everything that mattered, and he was gone, too, before Jim even entered high school.

As for friends—well, he hadn't had that many. Oh, he'd screwed a fair number of girls, and he bet most of them were still in town, which was likely to be awkward mostly and entertaining occasionally. And he'd hung out with a bunch of losers who were probably boring bean-counters now, married with a gaggle of kids.

There was only one person he really wanted to see. It was probably stupid, thinking someone who had never left Hawkins could understand what he had gone through, but Joyce had always listened back in high school, sitting there bumming his smokes and letting him talk about how much he hated his life and how bad he wanted to get out of Hawkins and never look back.

He knew she was still there—after he'd gotten the job as chief of police, he'd looked her up. Not Horowitz anymore, but Byers. She'd gone and married Lonnie Byers, the idiot. Hopper couldn't imagine that being a happy marriage. Lonnie had only ever been interested in himself and what he could get out of someone. It still pissed Hopper off that she'd chosen Lonnie, and it pissed him off even more that he still remembered the exact shape and color of her big brown eyes.

And what did he think, anyway, that he was going to sit down with her and spill his guts about Sara and Diane and the war and everything that had happened since the last time they'd seen each other and she was going to magically make it all go away?

"Don't be a chump, Hopper," he muttered. He didn't know the song on the radio, but he spun the dial anyway, savagely. Static.

Finally, something on the radio that reflected what was inside him.

Popping open another can of beer, he pressed his foot down harder on the gas pedal. Might as well get there faster. Whatever lay ahead of him in Hawkins, it had to be better than the demons he was carrying with him.