Spoilers for the mid-season finale "Chosen" – you've been warned.

I meant to return to my original writing but that finale hooked me and … man. Can I just say that as much trouble as the town's now in, I'm thrilled Nathan & Audrey got a little relief at least. Finales are always brutal on them, and I didn't expect this one to be the exception.

This is unpolished and my tenses are a mess but I needed to get it out of my head before I could sleep.

They're on their feet for almost thirty-six more hours, what with the state of the town and ... Duke. It's absolute chaos, so it's no shock when they pull an all-nighter. By the end of the second day Dwight's threatening to confiscate their guns if they don't take a break. Audrey just rolls her eyes, but when Charlotte grabs her arm and softly advises she get some rest she actually considers it, which is downright weird. The woman is not her mother –and yet. It's not bad advice. She's been energized ever since the merger, just so damn glad she can no longer feel herself falling apart. But Nathan is starting to drag beside her. Even if he can't exactly feel it she can see it in the slump of his shoulders and the shadows under his eyes. So she gives in and they go home.

She knows they need sleep; they've got six hours—if they're lucky—and then they need to be back on the streets. But she's feeling pretty lucky today, so she pounces on Nathan as soon as they get to her apartment. She cups one hand against the back of his neck while the other works its way under his shirt and he gasps and presses closer to her. And her world is suddenly right again. Sure, the town's going to hell and she needs to find a way to save Duke—and she will. But she's missed this –desperately—and she'd resigned herself to never feeling it again. She'd resigned herself to that a long time ago.

Because they'd made love since the split but it hadn't been the same. She'd kicked herself for not noticing those first three times. Because he was attentive and loving and she had to give the guy credit for having one hell of an imagination—but the passion was gone. They'd always sizzled together, even when they pretended they were platonic, and truth be told she liked the power she held over him. It didn't feel right to get off when she knew he was pretending. And he never said anything—didn't complain or draw any attention to it—but he didn't shudder under her caress or lose himself in her arms and that only made her more convinced that she wasn't real.

Turns out she hadn't been – not really. But she was now.

"God, Audrey," he moaned as she sucked on his neck while she worked on his belt buckle. He'd torn the buttons off her shirt and she certainly wasn't cold anymore.

He tried to slow them down once she pushed him onto the bed but he had much less control now that he could feel her again. "Don't have time for slow," she growled. He couldn't argue with her with her hands dancing across his skin. He was sparking all her nerves too, and she wondered if this was how she made him feel – so gloriously alive.

Afterwards she whispered, "I love you, Nathan," into his neck so she wouldn't mistake her haste for anything untoward. She didn't say it nearly enough. She felt it all the time, to an embarrassingly sappy degree. If she had the time she could write sonnets about this man, who was stoic and stubborn and flawed and so unfathomably devoted to her. He believed in her so much more than she believed in herself.

Maybe that's why it was so hard to say. She was always on the cusp of leaving, and she wanted him to be all right when she was gone. Pushing him away didn't make him give up on her – she'd tried that – but pulling him toward her might bind them even tighter.

She needed him to be okay if she was gone. Not crazy like Vince. Not bitter like Garland. He deserved the life she'd seen in the Trouble-free Haven, with a wife and a daughter and a white picket fence.

Maybe she really could stay. Maybe she could give him that.

He pushed her hair out of her face, his fingers tangling in the strands. He was graceless in bed, not used to feeling his limbs or having them close enough to another person to matter. She didn't care. She appreciated how frenzied she made him. How she was the one to stir his blood and wake his flesh.

"You're okay. You're you." His voice was hoarse and low, weighted with exhaustion, but she could hear the relief in it, and that sparked joy deep inside her. He dropped his forehead against hers and a laugh welled up from deep inside her.

"I'm real again." Just knowing that made it seem like she could go another two days without rest.

He rolled to his side but kept one hand splayed against her back. She traced patterns on his chest, felt his heart pound under her palm.

"You wanted to give up."

So he was mad at her then. "I did," she admitted. Ever since the split she'd been weak and afraid – so unlike herself – and that had been terrifying. She didn't need a doctor to tell her that her cells were degenerating to know she was dying, because long before the diagnosis she'd felt parts of her personality fall away—her strength and her sass and her perseverance. She'd known she wasn't real, not really. Truthfully she'd wanted someone to validate that, because she wasn't sure she wanted to live a whole life as the person she'd become, even if that person got to tease Nathan about his socks and then spend all night pretending he felt anything when he made love to her.

It was all back now. The only scary part was admitting that it had come from Mara.

"I was so tired. I could feel my body failing. But it was worse than that. There were parts of me missing. I couldn't go on as the person I'd become, even if Charlotte could stop the degeneration."

"You were real. You were you," he insisted.

"That's only partially true." He was so handsome and he deserved so much more than life had ever given him, and she knew she should just let him go to sleep. But she'd been running from him since the split and she didn't want to run anymore. "After the split I was only Audrey. But I wasn't me—not entirely. Because some of the parts of me—they come from Mara."

She waited for him to turn away from her. Instead he grabbed the hand that was wandering across his chest, linked their fingers together, and pressed them against his heart. "Charlotte said Mara was good once."

He'd always forgiven her far more readily than she forgives herself. "She created the Troubles. She damned this whole town. I damned this town. We're the same now. Can you live with that? Sleeping with the enemy?"

"I damned this town. More than once. Because I couldn't let go of you. Not going to start now."

"She shot you and left you for dead. She seduced Duke and then turned him into a Trouble bomb."

"Because you weren't there to stop her." He squeezed her hand. "You've got all Mara's best qualities and a conscience to keep them in check. I can live with that."

"You're too good for me." That was true when she was just Audrey Parker. Not Audrey/Mara the psychopathic Trouble creator. She wanted to pay him back for his faith in her. She wanted to fix him. It was back now, the need to fix these people, though it was never quite as desperate as her need to make him whole. That had been missing after the split as well. Because a normal person would feel empathy for the Troubled with a hefty dose of fear and anxiety. Mara had been fascinated, because Mara had done this. Five hundred years of penance through sublimated personalities had fueled that fascination with guilt, turning the desire to experiment into a desire to heal. Audrey had wanted to help but she hadn't had a knack for it. She'd lost Mara's knowledge and her methods of thinking.

She'd be able to figure the Troubles out again. She'd be able to figure out a way to save Duke, if she could just get some sleep and clear her mind.

"Brilliant, beautiful woman puts up with me all day and then takes me to bed. Think I'm the lucky one."

She yawned, and exhaustion hit her like a truck. All the heat Nathan was radiating made everything a little fuzzy. She blamed that for the next words that come out of her mouth. "I'm pretty lucky myself."

"No more giving up on yourself."

"I promise." She meant it. She was full of fight again, the thought of leaving this place and this man who needed her absolutely unfathomable. "You're stuck with me."

"We should make it official."

Her eyes had drifted shut, but she opened them and stared up at his guileless face. "You're proposing now?"

"Guess I am." He pushed himself into a sitting position and unclasped the chain from his neck. "I don't want this to be something we hold onto when we don't want to say goodbye. No more waiting for the other shoe to fall. Come what may, I want to face it as your husband."

This type of distraction is probably exactly why partners are not supposed to get involved. But she can't fathom a world where she'd deny him this – not even whatever bits of Mara are still swirling inside her have an objection.

"You're really gonna give me the ring Lucy gave to your father?"

He pulled a face. "Want me to give you the ring Sarah gave to Vince instead?"

She laughed, sitting up enough that she can pull him down into a quick kiss. "Fair point."

"Speaking of, why did Sarah and Lucy both have different rings? You had to get yours from Vince, but Charlotte said Mara had one. There a ring factory in the barn or something?"

She laughed. "That is so far down on my list of questions to ask. And we've got to get some sleep. We've got a long day ahead of us."

"But you'll marry me?"

She'd learn how to erase that doubt. His faith in who she was and his love for her never faltered. But he was not quite as certain that his feelings were reciprocated.

She'd teach him.

"Of course." She graced him with a smile and a toe curling kiss, but they had neither the time or the energy for round two. She pulled away and wiggled her hand at him. He captured it softly, sliding the ring down her finger and then raising her hand to his lips for a kiss. She swore there was a rush that came over her as the band fell into place but it faded quickly. The euphoria lasted longer.

"Duke has to be your best man though, so we better fix him fast if we don't want a lengthy engagement."

"Real fast," he agreed, too tired to make up an argument about Duke not being his friend. He reached out to turn off the bedside lamp. "Love you Parker," he said into the darkness.

She'd gotten used to leaving some distance between them as they slept, not wanting to remind him of what he lost, afraid it ate at him the way it did her. She was tired of the distance. So she curled herself around him and he gathered her in his arms and she felt the relief melt off him.

It's the first time since they've gone to bed together that she really, truly thinks they're going to be okay.

"Love you too."

So, this is my very off the cuff explanation of Audrey's behavior this season. I could be off the mark, and this is probably way more optimistic than the rest of the season will go, but anyone who's read any of my other work knows that I like the fluff.

Also, apparently whatever we learn about the Troubles I think they can be fixed by Nathan and Audrey getting married.

I am super excited the rings are coming into play again, even if logically they still don't make any sense.

Does anyone know when the second half of the season starts?