I woke up hours later in a tangle of my blanket and the duvet cover of the bed beneath me, hair flagged across my face and the pillow under me, to the sound of game show buzzers ringing. When my eyes finally cracked open, sunlight was beaming into my room, making the beige wallpaper almost glow in the yellow light. I sat up with a groan and rubbed my eyes with both hands like a child would. Even after a sleep like that, I still felt sluggish in my bed, and it was almost impossible to genuinely get up. When I finally did, there was only one thing on my mind:


Before I could reward myself, however, I needed to call my parents and let them know I was okay. God knew that if I didn't, they'd send out some kind of search party to make sure that I wasn't dead in a ditch at the state line. It was a teary call that took nearly half an hour, consisting mostly of me reassuring my parents that I was okay and safe, and I told them where I was staying, right down to my room number. I didn't dare leave them in the dark about where I was: they deserved better than that. I wanted them to be able to talk to me if they ever needed me. I may have been terrible at being there for other people, but I refused to let down the people that literally gave me life.

Once I'd hung up, I hauled myself out of bed and shut off the television, forcing myself to put on something decent and even put on a bit of makeup. I didn't have a whole lot of drive to do any of that, but I had the fleeting hope that if I forced it out of me, maybe I'd be rewarded with a job later in the day. If I was lucky, at least.

I brushed my hair out and pinned some of it back out of my face, letting the rest of it fall in waves down my back. I looked far and away from my sluggish self last night; I was sure I'd likely resembled some exhausted, sad-looking goblin at that point. And that poor officer still dealt with me.

Oh, shit. Steve.

In my morning haze, I'd forgotten all about Steve, and the moment I recalled his name from sheer impulse, the events of the evening came rushing back, and all I could somehow think of was how incredibly kind he had been. Logic told me to forget about it, told me that he was a cop and that it's his job to guide people in his town. However, impulse, the stronger and more aggressive portion of my psyche, demanded that I repay him somehow. Then my mind poked me just once more:

Coffee. Coffee is always a good payment method.

I grabbed my keys, room key and all, and left for the best coffee I could manage to find in the little town.

I settled on something local that was flooded with bleary-eyed young adults like myself trying to get a fix to wake them up. I could relate on an almost molecular level, the way their post-adolescent bodies trudged and dragged as they left the shop, some immediately downing their drinks and others taking out cigarettes to pair with their coffee. I couldn't smoke; sure, I'd probably feel quite a lot less anxiety from just one long drag, but I knew it was terrible for my voice. High school theatre taught me a lot about my assets and how to take care of them, and I knew for a fact that my voice was one of them. I'd heard before that cutting out dairy and coffee and alcohol would help keep my voice in better shape, but I had a feeling that none of those would be leaving my diet any time soon.

I held both coffees stacked in one hand as I drove, the other hand flat against the steering wheel as I glanced at the card between my fingers and narrowed my eyes down at each street sign, before I was finally able to pull into the small lot of the sheriff's department, in front of a sign that said VISITORS ONLY. I let myself in the best I could with no free hands, and leaned against the front desk, behind which an older woman sat doing paperwork. I glanced at the name placard on her desk and smiled.

"Hi, Florence... is, uh... is Officer Harrington around?" I asked gently, suddenly far too aware of how childlike I sounded, asking for someone at the front desk by name. It brought me back to the times I would visit my father at work sometimes. It was bizarre, both off-putting but with a sense of normalcy behind it.

She didn't look up at me, and it was almost as if she was somewhat dismissive of me for a moment. "If you have a crime or incident you'd like to report, we need to fill out the appropriate paperwork before an officer is involved."

I paused for a moment and shook my head. "N-no, I'm... I don't have anything I need to report, I just-" I cut myself off for a moment, realizing how frantic I was suddenly beginning to sound, and Florence looked up at me finally, eyes gazing at me over thick, round glasses. "I was in a bit of a jam and he was... really kind to me last night, I just... my name is Lucy, I... just... wanted to repay him." I punctuated the end by raising a cup of coffee, and for some reason, this seemed to earn a somewhat amused grin from her.

"You do know that we make hot coffee here, right, sweetheart?" she asked me gently, and I panned, knowing my face probably went blank for a moment.

"...I mean, I know that now," I replied after a short pause. Her grin widened a little bit as she came out from behind the desk, pulling me aside somewhat and gently holding my arm.

"I'm sure he'll appreciate the gesture," she reassured me as she led me past the reception area. "You must be his pretty little damsel in distress he was talking about."

My face warmed a bit as she led me. "He said I was pretty?" I hated the way my words came out, like some fawning schoolgirl, but this only seemed to amuse Florence more. She placed a hand on the center of my back, ushering me to go past the doorway where a few officers' desk filled.

"Steve, honey," she said, just slightly behind me, and I could hear the grin in her voice, "you have another visitor."

As Florence walked back to her desk, I saw Steve seated at his own desk, feet up on the surface and elbows rested on the arms of his chair, hair tousled from however many passes his hands had to have made through it over the course of the day; however he wasn't alone. At the end of his desk, somewhat next to him, sat a round-faced boy of maybe thirteen, wearing a trucker hat and a brown jacket, his backpack sitting open at his feet as his homework lays strewn about Steve's desk. The boy looks from me to Steve, before his round face bursts into an uncontrollable and infectious grin.

"Is that the girl from last night?" he teased Steve, a lisp in his voice, and I glanced a surprised grin at Steve, whose face flushed, shooting a look at the boy.

"Alright, Henderson, beat it, or else you're walking home from the arcade tonight," Steve shot back, although the smile that his face lacked was crystal clear in his voice, causing the boy to laugh as he collected his things up and running past me.

"Bye, Steve!" he called, before adding: "Bye, Steve's Girlfriend!"

I watched the boy run to his bike out front, before I turned back to Steve, who now stood at his desk, face still a little red as he placed his hands on his hips loosely. "So... you tell a lot of people about me, Officer?" I mused, walking over to his desk, and he replied with a somewhat sheepish laugh.

"Flo called you my Damsel-"

"Damsel in distress, yeah," I finished with him, both of us laughing somewhat. "And... was that your little brother...?"

He paused, shrugging a bit. "Sort of. I kind of... look out for some of the... less popular kids in town. Make sure they're okay and stuff."

I gave him a small smile. "Pretty noble of you," I said softly, and he gave me a gentle smile, like what I said really brought a smile to his face and heart. I stuck a hand out and handed him one of the coffees. "I, uh... thought I'd get you a coffee. Y'know, pay you back for your nobility."

He replied with a faint laugh as he took the coffee. "You know we have coffee here, right?" I waved my hand.

"Yeah, yeah, next time I'll get you a cruller or something, hush," I mused back, and he laughed a little.

"Either way. Thank you. You didn't have to," he said gently as he sat back down, and I took the cue to sit where the round-faced boy had once sat, somewhat close to him. "You look cute today," he added, almost quickly like he didn't mean to say it out loud. He affirmed this sentiment by stuttering, and somewhat trying to explain himself. "Not that you didn't look cute last night, just... you were tired... I mean, you're dressed nice and stuff- wow, okay, Harrington, that's enough." He took a long drink of his coffee, and I couldn't help but laugh a little, face warm.

"Thank you." I said softly, smiling somewhat shyly. "I figured it'd be easier to get a job if I looked halfway decent."

Steve hummed as he set his coffee down. "Mm- have you checked anywhere yet? Noticed any hiring signs anyplace?" he asked with a somewhat hopeful lilt in his voice, but I shook my head.

"Not yet. Not exactly sure where to start, I guess."

"Well, what are you good at?" he asked with a hint of interest, like he was almost asking for himself rather than to think of places for me. I offered a lazy shrug as I sat back and crossed my legs.

"I dunno. Theatre was what I mostly did in highschool," I confessed, looking away somewhat. Steve clicked his tongue.

"Yeah, you came to the wrong town if you're looking for any real theatre," he said, as if he thought he was going to break my heart by telling me that. Seconds later, however, he grinned up at me. "But hey, if you wanna put those pipes to work, I know a restaurant a few blocks up that's looking for a new lounge singer."

I paused for a moment. Something like that wasn't an option back home, but here... I could maybe make it work. "Really? I could totally do that..."

"I mean, I don't know what it pays or anything, but they've needed someone for a while," he said with a shrug. "Worth checking out."

"Yeah, totally..." I said softly, before giving him a smile. "Thanks. For everything, y'know."

He chuckled a bit, his ever-adorable brown eyes finding mine as if he'd been waiting on permission to look at me. "Hey, don't sweat it. Sworn Oath and all that shit." I laugh a little, and the moment is quiet and pleasant for another few perfect moments before hard footsteps come into the open office area, and I turn to see the chief of police somewhat hovering in the doorway, red in the face, not from panic but rather annoyance, as his eyes fell on Steve, who suddenly looked up at his chief with somewhat wide eyes, the way a child looks at their teacher. The image was both hilarious and adorable.

"Sorry to interrupt, Miss Damsel, but I gotta steal your knight," he said, his voice somewhat gruff, but with an undertone of kindness and sincerity. Regardless of the tone, Steve just about choked on his coffee, his face going red again as he caught his breath. "Harrington, I'm gonna need your help, we have another Eleanor Gillepsie situation."

Steve bobbed his head a bit, a wave of tousled brown hair moving with him. "You got it, I'll be right out, Hop," Steve reassured him through a couple more coughs, before I watched him nod and head back outside to his car to wait. I looked back at Steve with an amused grin, biting my lip.

"Is there anyone you haven't told about me?" I asked, my grin beginning to grow into a smirk, and he exhaled a somewhat nervous laugh.

"Well, I haven't seen the janitor yet today," he joked, and I laughed gently as he stood, grabbing his jacket and taking his coffee with him as he headed for the door. "You should let me know if that restaurant comes through for you. I still fully intend on hearing you sing again."

All I could manage to do as he grinned and waved to me while he left was smile as I finished my coffee.