For livii in the fandom_stocking fest.
At 8:17 AM, travel mugs of coffee in hand, Karen and Davis pulled up to the Dog River police station. Davis was droning on about Star Wars, and Karen only wished to get inside so that she could pretend to embroil herself in paperwork and, hopefully, make him shut up.
Neither of them paid any attention to the bundle on the steps of the police station until Davis practically tripped over it. The bundle let out a wail.
Peering wide-eyed down at the very unhappy baby lying on their front steps, Karen spoke for both of them. "Uh-oh."
"Someone left a baby at our door," Davis said, sounding more surprised than he usually did.
"Yeah, I got that from the baby lying at our door," Karen replied, leaning down to get a closer look at the wailing child. "Hey, there's a note." She lifted aside the dirty pink blanket wrapped around the child to get a better look at its chest. The "note" was actually a "HELLO, My Name Is..." nametag, on which "Katie" had been written in large block print. "Well, that's a start, I guess," Karen murmured, removing the blanket entirely to make sure no other note of explanation might have been tucked into its folds. The child—Katie—continued to wail.
Seeing that Karen was obviously occupied with investigating, Davis set his travel mug down on the stoop and leaned over to pick up the baby. She was heavier than she looked, and wiggly. And picking her up hadn't gotten her to stop crying, which had been his objective in the first place.
Karen had finished shaking out the blanket, and turned to look at her partner. "Davis!" she cried, reaching for the child. "You're holding her all wrong! Here, give her to me." She scooped the baby out of his arms, cradling her close to her chest. "You have to support the head, like this."
The wailing wound down to a mild whimpering, and finally to silence. Davis looked at the pair admiringly. "You're real good with kids, Karen."
She shrugged. "I have three younger brothers. Come on, let's get her inside."
Davis held the door for them, and remembered to pick up her travel mug from where she'd left it on the steps. Once they were inside, he asked, "Now what do we do?"
Karen thought for a moment. "I guess we should call Children's and Family Services. It's either that or make 'Found Baby' posters to hang around town."
She noticed that Davis had stopped listening, and now was absorbed in trying to get the baby to grab on to his finger. Unfortunately for him, Katie took his finger-waving as an invitation to bite the digit in question.
"Ow!" Davis yelped, pulling his hand back.
While he was shaking off the pain, Karen looked approvingly at her little charge. "Good one, kid," she murmured.
When Davis had sufficiently recovered, she handed him the baby. He tried to protest; she brooked no argument. "Remember to support her head," she admonished before turning to dig through her desk drawers for a phone book.
By the end of her conversation with a worker at CFS—after she had managed to convince the woman that she was not making a prank call, and yes, really, a baby had been dropped off at the front door of the Dog River Police Station—she had secured a promise that a social worker would be there to collect the baby by mid-afternoon. They just had to deal with her until then. And dealing with her meant...Karen glanced at Davis, who looked as if he had smelled something foul.
"What has she been eating?" he asked, looking as if he was attempting to pinch his nose shut without having a free hand to do so.
"There was a diaper folded into her blanket," Karen said, picking it up from her desk. "We're going to need more, though, before CFS gets here this afternoon. Some formula and a bottle, too. I can go to—"
Davis, she failed to notice, had latched on to the idea with a glee that made kids on Christmas morning look restrained. She suddenly found her arms full of the baby. "I'll go!" Davis exclaimed. He was halfway out the door before she could object.
She looked down at Katie, who burbled happily, all pink cheeks and big blue eyes. She might have posed on a baby food jar. Karen, whose brothers had burnt any nascent maternal instinct out of her long ago, narrowed her eyes. "You may be cute now, but wait until you're turning blue in the face from a tantrum in a couple years. Or when puberty hits, and you're all awkward and catty like those girls in grade seven. Then we'll see how loveable you are."
In response, Katie drooled on her sleeve.
Carrying the baby, Karen headed for the Ruby. If she was going to be stuck caring for the kid while Davis bought baby supplies, she definitely needed more coffee.
"Whoa!" Karen cringed at the voice that assaulted her ears. Only Hank could make this day worse. "You never told us you had a kid!" he exclaimed, getting much too far into her personal space in order to get a closer look at Katie.
How did the man function? Karen wondered as she said, "What? No! This is...this was Davis's idea."
Hank looked at her, wide-eyed. "You and Davis have a kid? Really?" He glanced back and forth between her and Katie. "She must take more after you."
"No!" Karen held the baby closer to her chest as Hank reached out a hand to touch her. "The baby was left at the police station this morning. Davis and I are just taking care of her until Children and Family Services gets here. And I'm sure they'll be here any minute now." (1)
"Whoa," Hank said, thankfully returning his undoubtedly-dirty hands to his side. "Somebody just left her there? All alone?" His face crumpled. "The poor kid. I know what it's like, being left all alone. My mother left me in a department store in the city for almost a week once. I had to boil shoes on one of the model stoves for food. Well, okay, there was a grocery store across the street, but I didn't notice it until a few hours before she came to get me."
Karen considered it very big of her that she didn't tell Hank she wished his mother had left him in that department store forever instead of bringing him back to Dog River.
Luckily, Katie started fussing, and she had the perfect excuse to get away from Hank and continue on to the Ruby.
As soon as she walked in the door, the entire diner fell silent. As usual, half of Dog River was there getting their morning coffee or other caffeinated concoction, and she felt their eyes on her like lasers, or at least like sixty-watt light bulbs. "She's not mine!" she said before anyone could get any ideas. "Davis and I found her in front of the police station half an hour ago." Karen realized that this might be a good place to start investigating where the baby had come from. "Uh, does anyone know anything about that?" She adjusted Katie in her arms so that everyone could see her. The girl giggled charmingly, as if on cue.
As one, the other customers shook their heads. Karen slumped slightly. Well, it had been worth a shot.
She took a seat at the counter and asked Lacey to fill up her travel mug. "Anything for the baby?" Lacey asked.
"I don't think she's old enough for solid food yet," Karen replied. "And I gave coffee to my youngest brother once. We didn't get him off the ceiling for three hours. He climbed the drapes and wouldn't come down."
Lacey had leaned over the counter and started tickling Katie under the chin. "Who's a cute little baby?" she cooed.
Katie's eyes teared up and her face turned red. She opened her mouth, took a deep breath, and set up a wail that made the cruiser's siren sound like the feeble cheeping of a bird in comparison. It pierced eardrums. It rattled dishes. It set dogs to howling all the way to Wullerton. (2)
Lacey backed away, looking chagrined. "I'll just get your coffee," she said over the din, and scurried back into the kitchen.
On her way out, Emma Leroy patted Karen's shoulder sympathetically. "A little whiskey in the bottle," she suggested. "It doesn't have to be the good stuff. Puts them right out. It did Brent, anyway."
Karen decided that this explained much about Brent.
Oscar, close behind his wife, fairly yelled in her ear. "My taxes pay your salary! I'm not paying for you to work out any maternal urges you can't fulfill on your own with a surrogate baby!" He pointed at Katie. "I bet that's not even a real baby. It's one of them robot babies, like they use in the high schools now for sex ed."
"Oh, Oscar," Emma grumped before Karen had time to come up with a response to that one. "Come on. We'll be late for the rummage sale, and I promised to help set up."
"What? Oh, the rummage sale. Hey, are they selling underwear again this year?"
Emma and Oscar left the Ruby, and Lacey thankfully brought out the coffee. Karen all but ran out the door.
When she got back to the station, Karen marched past the pile of shopping bags beside the door and dumped Katie into Davis's arms. The wail was finally starting to wind down, but she'd had about as much as she could take. "Here," she said. "Watch her for a while while I go somewhere quiet, like next to a lawnmower. She's probably hungry; you should give her some...oh." She had finally noticed the loot piled by the door. "Uh, Davis?"
"Yes?" he asked.
"Do you remember me saying that the social worker would be here this afternoon?" The pile included a sixty-four-ounce can of infant formula, some thirty jars of baby food, eight packs of diapers, several outfits, most of them frilly and pink, and..."Davis, we are not putting her in the cruiser. She doesn't need a carseat!"
Davis looked crestfallen. "But what if we have to a respond to a crime? We can't just leave her here!"
Karen pinched the bridge of her nose. "The social worker will be here in a few more hours. (3) We aren't going to need to respond to a call before CFS takes her."
He looked as if he were going to argue, or possibly to cry at the thought of CFS taking the child, but Karen forestalled it, or at least escaped it, by announcing that she was going somewhere with no babies, and left him alone with the kid.
Shortly after feeding and diapering Katie (he'd bought and read the relevant sections of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Babies, the title of which he found slightly insulting, but the pictures were helpful), Davis decided to test out the car seat and take her on a drive. Unfortunately, Karen had taken the cruiser, as well as his keys. So he decided to take her on a walk instead.
A pink diaper bag slung over his shoulder, he took her all over town. They saw the surveillance bush, visited Wes at the liquor and insurance store, dropped in at the Dog River Hotel, and even went to see Fitzy, who wanted to have his picture taken while he kissed Katie so he could use it on his campaign materials. Davis refused to let him, because the book had said babies were very vulnerable to germs.
Finally, he headed to Corner Gas, partly to introduce Katie to Brent and Wanda, and partly because he was craving snack food (that was not, importantly, doughnuts; Davis was not a stereotypical cop, no sir).
They had heard about the baby from Karen's visit to the Ruby earlier that morning. "Finding a baby on the stoop...that's rather Dickensian," Wanda commented. "You sure her name isn't Oliver?"
"It's a girl," Davis replied, bemused. "Oliver is a boy's name."
She grimaced. "Never mind."
"So how long are you going to be looking after her?" Brent asked.
"Just until this afternoon. That's what Karen said, anyway." Davis smiled as Katie reached for his shiny police badge. "But she's a cute little bugger. I'd like to keep her."
"And hug her and squeeze her and call her George?" Wanda asked.
He frowned at her. "I told you, she's a girl. What's with you and the boy names?"
Davis did just that.
A couple hours later, Karen and Davis (and Katie) were just finishing their lunch at the Ruby when a woman suddenly flew into the cafe, dragging a small boy behind her. Her eyes wide, she stared around the room, seemingly unaware of everyone staring back at her. Her eyes lighted on Karen and Davis's table, and she cried, "Katie!" She fairly swooped down to grab the baby out of Karen's arms.
"Are you the mother?" Davis asked.
"Looks like it," Karen said, since the woman was busy kissing her child and exclaiming about how worried she'd been.
A dozen kisses later, Katie's mother finally returned her attention to them. "Thank you for taking care of her." She began haranguing the little boy next to her, promising epic punishment. Apparently he'd been the one to leave his sister at the police station that morning, complete with nametag, blanket, and diaper so that whoever found her would be all set to take care of her forever.
"I should introduce that kid to Tanner," Wanda murmured to Brent. "He hasn't plotted anything in a while. It's starting to worry me."
When the woman had finished berating her son, Davis gave her a stern look. "Ma'am, I'm going to need to see some ID before I let you take the child, and then maybe a blood test. We've got to be sure she's really yours."
She looked at Karen. "He's not serious, is he?"
"Oh, he's serious," she said. "But I wouldn't let that stop you."
"Karen!" he cried. "We can't just give her up without checking her credentials. She could be a kidnapper!"
"She's not a kidnapper."
While they argued, the woman took a napkin from a stack on the counter, wrote a note on it, and left it, along with a couple of bills, on their table. By the time Davis and Karen had come to an agreement that they would get her personal details and call to check on the baby now and then, she and her children were gone.
Karen picked up the note. "'Thanks again for watching her,'" she read. "'Here's something for your trouble. It's my usual rate for babysitting.' Hey, we made forty bucks!"
"Isn't that unethical? Holding on to lost kids is kind of in your job description. It's what we pay you for," Brent said. Then he blanched. "I just turned into my father for a moment. I have to go lie down now."
Karen and Davis ignored him, chortling gleefully over the money. Now that the orphan child was back with her family, life began to go back to something resembling normal (or as normal as life ever got) in Dog River.
With one exception. When Davis and Karen returned to the police station, the pile of recently-purchased baby gear met their eyes. Karen nodded toward it. "I guess you'll have to take all that stuff back."
He looked rather mournful at the thought. "I'm going to miss her," he said. "I'd just started to understand what it was like to be a father." He sighed, then looked at Karen. "You know, we could—"
"Just a thought."
Around five o'clock that evening, the social worker assigned to pick up Katie arrived in town, covered in chicken feathers from the ride he'd hitched to Dog River after his car had been incapacitated by buffalo. All things considered, he took the fact that the whole journey had been for nothing rather well. He only beat his head against the wall nine times before vowing to tell his supervisor to never accept a call from Dog River ever again.
1. At the moment, the social worker assigned to the case was honking his horn impatiently as a herd of buffalo crossed the road at a pace that made snails look speedy.
3. The social worker continued honking his horn. A buffalo sat on the hood of his car. Slowly, the front end tipped toward the pavement.