AN: This story was written and posted on a late night dare. The rules were that it had to be an in-character slash story about two characters in canon Dog River, which meant I couldn't take the easy way out by pairing Davis with an OC. Besides this pairing, the only other one I could think of was Fitzy and Wes. Maybe some other time.

Lacey heard the glass door of the Ruby open. She had once had a bell above it, but hearing its cute little tinkle over and over and over again in the run of the day had nearly driven her up the wall, and her customers were more than willing to do that themselves. Now she could merely recognize the squeak of skin on glass, or in winter the scratch of a glove on it (why did no one ever push on the metal part?), and the slight thump of the bottom corner against the long-suffering base board.

She knew she should have saved the wall, which was beginning to crack in the plaster, but she had a feeling that if she ever installed one of the silly springs designed to preserve the paint job, Hank would have a new way to annoy her.

So it was the squeak (it being August) and the thump that alerted her to the late-night visitor.

The woman had not only come to know the sound of the door but the footsteps of her regulars. She had never noticed the sound of footsteps in Toronto, where on a busy street you could barely hear yourself think and kids tried to keep their sanity a little while longer by plugging their ears with headphones and meditating on their feet to rock and techno and rap that would probably damage their hearing later in life.

There had been one boy, probably fifteen, who had always rode the subway with her. He had always looked so smart in his school uniform, and she had so often heard some inane cross between techno and opera emitting from his curiously pink iPod. Once, when his battery had been dead, she had asked him with great hesitation why he played it so loud.

He had told her, to drown out the sound of the world. It's an ugly sound now, he had said. At least now it is.

She often wondered what had happened to that boy, and if he would have found the sound of Dog River more pleasant than that of the city subways.

Even though she had her head inside the cupboard taking inventory of the cans of mushroom soup base, she could recognize the clipped step of the police uniform shoes, and was able to distinguish that they were too light and soft to be Davis's.

"Karen, hey," she smiled, straightening and whacking her head none too gently off of the top of the cupboard. She was dazed for a moment and when she finally looked out through the cook's window she saw the blonde police officer sitting on the stool closest to the antique cash register. "Don't rush to help me or anything."

"I wasn't planning to," quipped Karen though her face remained quite serious. It was rare to see her anything less than bright, perky, and at attention, but at the moment she looked downright tired. Her French braid was starting to come out a bit and the stray blonde hairs looked out of place in the usually immaculate style. Her eyes, while open, held weariness that was foreign to her.

"Rough day?" the other woman asked. She showed sympathy even though Karen had showed none for her. Her ears were still ringing.

"No, I'm just getting coffee at ten to eleven for no good reason."

"You're really, really bad at sarcasm," sighed Lacey, reaching for the well used and much abused pot. "I'm afraid it's not very fresh..."

"No problem. I'll take what I can get."

"Oscar giving you a lot of problems today?" She selected one of the mugs from under the counter, putting back one that had a chip. Not big enough to discard the cup, but Karen looked like one more thing might drive her to drink.

"It wasn't Oscar." She took three packets of sugar and dumped them into the black coffee, mixing in only one skim creamer before taking a gulp. If it scorched her mouth, she gave no indication that it did.

It was then that Lacey knew something was really wrong. There was a reason she looked so burnt out, and she was willing to bet that it was the same reason three sugars had been used when she usually took her coffee with two milk. The Dog River police force usually dealt with fender benders, light vandalism, and Brent's father's shenanigans. But this was something more. And for once, the big city girl was at a complete loss for words.

There was silence as the police officer drained about half her cup, her eyes on the mural of clouds when she finally spoke again. "Lacey...? Remember when you were hitting on me a year or two ago, and I told you I didn't like women?"

She put a hand to her hip. "Karen, I was not hitting on you." Though in Toronto she had been known to dance rather close with some girls as well as some boys, that instant had been in pure intentions.

"Yeah, whatever." Her eyes were still on the clouds. The one that sort of looked like a propane tank if you squinted and tilted your head a little to the left. "Thing is, I sort of lied."

"I really don't want to make light of your heart-wrenching confession, but is there a particular reason you're telling me this now?"

"Me and Davis went out at about eight-thirty tonight, someone called in a report of some kids getting into a scrap. Some poor girl from around here got roughed up by a bunch of punks from Pitt Creek. She... There were a lot of rumours that she was gay. I guess she told off somebody one time for calling someone else a fag and it blew around town for a while until someone from the county over thought they wanted to do something about it."

Lacey's mouth felt like it had been stuffed with cotton balls. "But... Her... Why!"

"Because it's a small town, and people around here don't like that kind of stuff," she sighed, eyes shifting quickly from the propane paint cloud to her coffee which was becoming cold.

"Did you at least catch them?"

"Two of them were milling around when we came, the Pitt Creek cops took them. They'll get a slap on the wrist, maybe a night behind bars. Davis said he'll stun 'em if they ever come back here, but..." She shrugged within her too-large uniform. She had been a last minute replacement for a man twice her size, and Davis had lost the receipt for the of shirts. She had shrunk them the best she could, but they still hid her form. It wasn't much of a form anyway.

Lacey gave the already clean counter a slow, aimless swipe with the dry dishcloth. "Sometimes I really regret I moved here, Karen."

The blonde took a sip of her coffee, lukewarm by now. "Couldn't help but notice you didn't have a meltdown when I told you I'm..." She couldn't speak the taboo word, not even in the solitude of the coffee shop where so many dastardly plans had been hatched that had seemed so important at the time but meant next to nothing on the grand scale.

"I'm from Toronto, stuff like that... Well, if it bothers you, the city's not the place for you. Besides... I've been known to pinch hit for both teams on occasion."

This made her look up. "Really...? Didn't think you'd be the type."

She narrowed her eyes. "There is no type."

"Come on, Lacey. I'm a cop, I was a semi-professional athlete... Stereotypes have to start somewhere."

"Point taken," she sighed, shaking her head. "Was the girl alright?"

"If you call two broken ribs, a bruised trachea, and a shattered wrist alright. She'll live, but I don't think she's going to be marching in a Pride parade anytime soon. She's a smart kid, probably going to boot it for Toronto when she graduates and never come back if she's smart."

"Probably..." sighed Lacey.

Maybe iPod boy had been right. Maybe the world did sound ugly. It felt ugly sometimes, even in Dog River, away from all, the noise and the smog and the crime there was that slimy hand that gripped your stomach and wouldn't let go, that feeling that told you that everything wasn't going to be alright. That the shadows on your wall were really monsters and puppies never went to farms to live, they were always scraped off the road or shot behind the shed.

But as she looked out past the windows and to the night sky, her view unhindered by buildings or pollution, and she saw the stars shining like someone had put pinpricks in a massive sheet of black construction paper and put a light behind it, those monsters began to look a little more like shadows and that hand backed off just a little bit.

Out there was the great unknown, even if a person did know that it was nothing more than big balls of gas in a seemingly endless vacuum. It didn't make sense, it only raised more questions, but they were questions that were never unpleasant to ask or to answer.

"Karen...?" she asked softly, leaning on the counter. "Do you ever look at the stars at night and wonder if we're all alone in the universe?"

"Sometimes," replied the blonde, still vastly focused on her nearly empty coffee cup. "But then Davis usually starts to snore, and sound really echoes in those squad cars."

Lacey rolled her eyes. "You're so unlike Davis in every way."

"I usually take that as a compliment," she retorted with a wearly smirk, rising without bothering to drain the last thin layer of coffee at the bottom of the mug. She reached into her pocket for change but Lacey's raised hand was enough. It always happened like that; Karen would offer to pay and Lacey wound never let her. Davis never offered, and Lacey never asked. She was on her way and about to open the door when she turned slightly at the sound of her voice.

"Karen...?" Her tone was hesitating, almost shy. "I've... Never really said anything before, but..."

"Yeah...?"

"Your shirt, I really like it."

"This?" She picked a bit at a loose thread. "It's uniform."

"Yes, but it's big on you. I like it, it's... quirky."

"Oh..." she blinked. "Thanks, I guess. I like your hair thing, too. Very new age. I think."

"Hair thing...?" Lacey put a hand to her head and came back with the rag that had been sitting on top of the counter that she had hit her head on earlier. "That was there the whole time, wasn't it?"

"Sure was." There was a genuine smile on her face. It was weak, but it was there. "Night, uptown girl."

"Drive safe, back street guy."

Lacey was humming the Billy Joel song the entire time she finished inventory and locked up. The world seemed a little less ugly that way.