This is for Doks, who suggested I rewrite "Reclaimed" from Nathan's point of view.
Soundtrack of choice is Train's "Bulletproof Picasso."
Am I made of paper
Cause I tear so easily
Am I made of vapor
Because I disappear
Do I have to have a reason
For anything I feel
Just be glad I'm real
Glad I'm real
Am I real
He watches her fade before his eyes.
He hates the hacking cough that almost constantly rattles through her now, as if he can hear the cells in her body shaking apart. He'd spent all of last night listening as she convulsed eighteen inches away in self-imposed distance. He'd wanted to gather her in his arms. Didn't matter if he didn't feel it—she would. But he knew she wouldn't allow it.
She was pushing him away. Just like she always did before she had to leave.
Even before the cough there was a spark lacking—in her voice when she talked about a case.
On his skin when she touched him.
He doesn't know what to do.
He doesn't care that he can't feel her but it's a sign that something's wrong. He's tried to deny that for so long but he can't any more.
And then she tells him Charlotte's plan and all the hope he's stored up in the past couple of weeks since the split crumbles to ash.
She's not going to listen to him. He can never make her listen. There's no time to be annoyed by that when the devastation is so all encompassing. Is it too much to ask that he can hold on to this woman for more than a month, when all he wants to do is love her and live by her side?
Of course he loves her. So he'll do what she asks. Of course she'll sacrifice herself for this town. It's the Barn all over again, but somehow this seems more final. There's no consolation that she'll be back in twenty-seven years. What terrifies him the most is how she argues that she won't be able to fight Mara. He's always been in awe of Parker's ability to fight. Before he met her he'd just succumbed to the inevitable. But she's never shied from what's hard, as long as it's right. He can't believe she's giving up now. Doesn't she realize she has something to fight for? He wants to give her a life so much better than any she's known.
So he makes her swear.
She gives her word, and he knows neither of them believes her.
But he believes in her, always has. He will not give up on her. He will not let this be the end.
"When all this is over, I'm gonna get you back," he promises, holding her tightly, pretending he can feel her tears on his neck.
"I'm gonna get you back."
Are you made of lead paint
A bulletproof Picasso
All the virgin saints
Put you here to care for me
I don't need a reason
For anything I feel
Just be glad I say what I mean
And mean what I say to you
He'd hoped to see her one last – one more – time. But he wastes too much time talking to Duke – typical. As power ripples through the air and tosses him to the ground he knows he's too late.
He will not crumble. This can't be a repeat of the Barn. He'd lost himself in his grief and that hadn't helped anyone.
He will be strong, and brave, and smart, all the things she admires, and he will find a way to fix this.
He will get her back.
His jacket lies abandoned on the ground and he can't escape the parallels. She'd been wearing his jacket when she ran into the Barn. He'd wrapped her in his jacket this morning to stave off the cold.
The jacket is empty. She's gone.
"Mara," he says to the woman curled into Charlotte's side. He will do this right this time. No more handcuffs and mind games. He will trust that Audrey's influence will ward off Mara's more psychotic tendencies. But he will never give up on Audrey. Never stop looking for the cue that can bring her back.
He will get her back. Someday.
The woman stands. Turns. She's wearing Mara's clothes but has Audrey's hair. Audrey's eyes. Audrey's smile.
"It's me." Audrey's voice.
He doesn't understand what's happened. Maybe this is a mirage. He'd seen Audrey all the time when he was on the run after the Barn. She'd never been there.
Maybe he'd hit his head during the power blast. This was just a concussion like the ones the bikers had given him.
But he can't help himself. "Audrey."
"Parker," she answers. Mara's voice is always harsh, as if the only tone she is capable of is sneering.
Parker hasn't sounded this relieved in a long time.
Charlotte has some explanation about rescuing her daughter by changing her into Audrey. He's not sure a parent would do that. But he doesn't think a parent would strip away her daughter's personality over and over as some bizarre punishment. Obviously that other side has a different standard of morality.
It still doesn't compute. This is not how life goes for him, not lately. There's never a reprieve. There used to be. He'd find her locked in a trunk or creeping around an inn. He wouldn't be brave enough to tell her how scared he'd been, but she'd be safe. Now that she knows how deep his feelings run she disappears, and he needs to live through hell for the chance to see her again.
But this time she's running towards him, and when she throws her arms around him the relief is sweeter than maple syrup. He still half expects to hear the click of his handcuffs or a mocking laugh in his ear. He's been fooled by Mara before. Instead she whispers "Nathan" into his neck. Her relief is so raw and sincere that his doubts dissolve. There was no way Mara could sound like that. He's convinced she's never loved anyone, and she's not that good of an actress. His arms tighten around Parker as he breaths her in. He feels every movement her hands make across his back. The way her face presses into his neck and her hair tickles his skin. This is real. So amazingly unbelievably real.
He still doesn't know what is happening.
"I can feel you again, Parker." This time he tells her immediately. From the way her fingers are playing with his he suspects she already knows. There's more color under her skin than has been there for days. Maybe weeks. She is vibrant. So damn beautiful.
"Good." There's something both devilish and angelic in her smile.
He really wishes they didn't have an audience.
Did you ever see the waves break
Into a million pieces
Or stay awake
With someone who was dying
You don't need to tell me
Anything at all
I'm just glad you're here
Glad you're real
Are you real
Duke ruins everything, of course. By exploding.
It's Mara's fault, he knows that. Doesn't stop him from cursing the smuggler as Audrey slips immediately into Haven-saver mode.
Truth be told he's worried. Duke's alive, and that was more than they expected. But he's devastated by the catastrophe he's wrought, and Nathan recognizes the signs of being terrified out of his mind.
Within five minutes Dwight calls, panicked. The station has got seven disturbance calls already.
Charlotte agrees to take Duke back to the hospital to look for a way to reverse the damage. While Duke argues she was the one who caused it in the first place Nathan pulls Audrey towards the Bronco. Her arm's solid beneath his hand, and she's the proper amount of annoyed.
"Nathan, my car's over there. We should drive separately. This many Troubles, we're gonna have to split up."
"Just come here, Parker."
"What's going on with you?"
He cuts her off with his mouth, pushing her back gently against the cab of his truck. She makes a small gasp of surprise and he takes the opportunity to deepen the kiss. He can feel her lips open beneath his and her tongue fight him for control and it's perfect. It had been nearly impossible to kiss her properly relying on taste alone. Her fingers slide into his hair and it's his turn to moan as she drags her nails across his scalp. He keeps kissing her until he can feel his lungs start to burn.
"Told you I'd get you back." He watches her eyes flutter open and braces himself for a smart aleck comment that he fully deserves.
She drops her hands to his shoulders, one thumb stretching up to wander across his neck.
"That you did." Instead of fighting him she's full out grinning, and he mustn't hide his shock very well.
"What?" she asks, in that amused, exasperated tone he loves.
That tone always brings out something playful in him he can never muster without her.
"Town's gone to hell. Duke's the cause of it. But you're smiling."
"Am I making you nervous, Wuornos?"
Realization hits him suddenly. Mara.
There has always been something just a little bit dangerous about Audrey Parker—a challenge he can't bring himself to turn down.
Mara all along.
Except these past few weeks.
But it has never bothered him before. Wasn't going to now.
"Hey lovebirds. In case you haven't noticed I just gave everyone in town a Trouble. Maybe you should stop making out and do something about it."
Nathan pulls away. Of course Duke would be the one to ruin the moment. But he isn't wrong.
"We'll finish this later," he promises.
Am I made of timber
Cause I'm on fire
Will you remember
Tonight for very long
You don't need to sell me
On anything at all
Just say what you mean
And mean what you say to me
Turns out Mara had overestimated how apocalyptic Duke's explosion would be. This new generation of Troubles is certainly creative, but not particularly fatal – at least not the first wave. The problem is there's so many of them. Dwight gets twelve calls in the first hour, and they keep coming. Even with everyone splitting up there's not enough informed detectives to investigate every case. The first day is a haze of constant reprioritization, everyone's focus so split it's hard to make any progress.
That first night he and Parker reconnect for forty-five minutes in his office, swapping insights. She tests his coffee and he compliments her theories, and they make more progress in half an hour than they have all day.
If they spend the next fifteen minutes making out – well, they've earned a break.
She is in her element, tracing origins and talking people down like her old self. He'd missed her confidence. It's sexy as all hell, and it's absolutely essential with the state the town's in. He wished things were calmer so they could investigate together. Instead they're relegated to crossing paths at the station.
She texts him frequently though, to keep him appraised of every victory.
He calls her once. It's been hours since he heard from her and he needs to know she's still here.
Another day dawns without sight of a solution. He knows how many hours he can be awake without being impaired, and it's ten hours after that before Dwight gets on their case about getting some rest.
Somehow it's Charlotte that gets Audrey to capitulate. Nathan's doubly grateful to the woman now.
They'll be on the clock again before they know it. Nathan isn't expecting anything more than to collapse by Audrey's side and fall asleep to the sound of her smooth, steady breathing. Maybe reach an arm out far enough that he can feel her body heat.
Instead she tackles him as soon as they get through her front door.
Her mouth is urgent against his and her hands are suddenly everywhere – stroking his neck and pulling his shirt from his pants to run up the small of his back. It is so much and so good that coherent thought abandons him. The buttons on her blouse are like multivariable calculus so he just rips them open – it was Mara's shirt anyway. She makes a mewling sound into his mouth when he spreads his hand across her stomach, taunt muscles twitching under impossibly soft skin. For days he's listened to her complain about being cold but it feels like she's burning now.
He's on fire, her mouth and tongue and fingers igniting him. He hadn't let himself dwell on how much he missed this. Having sex with her without feeling it was like watching his favorite movie without the sound – between familiarity and reading lips he knew what was going on, and it was still his favorite, but it wasn't the same. His other sharpened senses certainly appreciated having her in bed with him. But having all of that plus her touch was nirvana.
It was even more than all that, this time. He thought he'd lost her again, but here she was.
If there was one thing to be said about this pattern they'd fallen into, the reunion sex was pretty outstanding.
He wants to savor every inch of her but she's in a hurry. "Don't have time for slow," she growls into his neck, flush and open beneath him, and he is powerless to defy her.
She is often bossy in bed, but he doesn't mind. She always makes it worth his while.
The orgasm crashes through him, every nerve in his body firing simultaneously. For a few blissful moments he is a normal man again.
Then she whispers "I love you" into his neck and he is gripped by a different sort of high.
Once he regains his wits he looks down at her. She's gazing up at him with a satisfied smirk. He's sure she didn't want him to notice, but whenever they made love after he told her he couldn't feel her there was always a second where she looked at him like he was wounded, and that bothered him more than the lack of feeling.
He reaches down to push a few sweat-soaked strands of hair out of her face. The smirk softens into a smile, bright like when she'd proclaimed her identity.
"You're okay. You're really you." He can feel the exhaustion now, with so many of his muscles pressed against hers. But the ache doesn't matter. He'd stay up for two more days as long as she was back with him. He drops his forehead against hers, breathing her in.
She laughs, and it's so light. Like sunshine glinting off the ocean. "I'm real again."
He rolls off her because he doesn't trust his arms to keep him from crushing her, but he keeps one hand splayed across her back. He's not ready to be ungrounded yet.
He doesn't have the energy to fight with her, but he can't forget that just two days ago she had cried in his arms, making excuses. "You wanted to give up."
"I did," she admitts. "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 insists. It's force of habit. He'd told her that countless times since the split because he'd needed her to hold on. It was their pattern. Whenever she doubted herself he reminded her that he believed in her implicitly. But the way she's looking at him now is not the way the woman he'd been sleeping with for weeks looked at him.
"That's only partially true. 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 says it like some shameful secret, but he'd already worked that out. All the bits that were consistent through the ages – like Sarah's boldness and Lexie's spunk – were aspects of Mara shining through. After the split Audrey had all the memories of Agent Parker and all the best aspects of Mara. But she'd been missing certain elements – elements that had attracted Nathan to her in the first place. Daring fearlessness. Bottomless sass. The ability to solve any Trouble thrown her way.
He'd noticed something was off. His Parker was never weak – physically or emotionally. But her identity crisis was the one thing that had thrown her before. He chalked it up to that at the beginning. Even if she was different, he'd never abandon her. Compared to Mara's sneering, venomous monster, Audrey was a saint.
That was one thing she'd never been before. Parker bent rules if they got in her way. Wasn't afraid to make the hard choice for the greater good. She could be brusque and impatient and bitingly sarcastic.
He'll take his girl over the saint any day.
He links their fingers together, wanting to allay her fears. He will never abandon her. He's not afraid of where she comes from. Not anymore. "Charlotte said Mara was good once."
For some reason that agitates her. "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?"
The enemy had shot him point blank – but hadn't been able to finish the job. He'd faced her cruelest self and the woman in bed with him certainly wasn't her. "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'll probably never understand how this works, exactly—advanced beings from another place and layers upon layers of stolen memories and fractured personalities. But he's seen the worst parts of her and he's intimately familiar with the best, and he's always known which half is stronger. Even her mother could see it. He squeezes 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."
He cannot believe that she thinks that. It's not true by any stretch of the imagination. He's just stubborn enough to hold on to the best thing that will ever happen to him.
"Brilliant, beautiful woman puts up with me all day and then takes me to bed. Think I'm the lucky one."
She blushes and ducks her head away. "I'm pretty lucky myself," she mumbles.
"No more giving up on yourself," he said sternly, but he runs his hand up her ribs to take the sting out of his words.
She molds against him. "I promise. You're stuck with me." Her voice is sleepy but sincere. He watches her drift off, overcome by the fact that he wants to be stuck with her forever.
"We should make it official."
He eyes snap open and she twists a bit so she can see him properly. She looks absolutely shocked and he has to bite back a grin. He's always loved knocking her off balance.
"You're proposing now?"
"Guess I am." It's not particularly romantic, he knows. He also knows, life they lead, they don't have much time for romance. They've discussed marriage and houses as some foregone conclusion if they can make it through the trials at hand. But he doesn't want to just presume that she'll be his wife someday. He wants to make it official. Make the most of every day they're given.
He knows what Haven's like whenever the Troubles are gone. An idyllic seaside town. Baseball games, fall festival, countless quaint traditions. A perfect place to raise a family. He wants to be by her side as she experiences every simple pleasure. She deserves to know this place at its best, not just its worst.
Mara's proven that she's never been happy, and he wants to give her that. They'd had a taste of it, those few days after the split while Dwight was gone. They'd spent an entire day in her apartment, and after they'd had their fill of sex they'd lounged around her couch in their pajamas, watching old movies and playing board games. It's when she'd discovered he needed new socks and he'd discovered how much she loved Katherine Hepburn.
She'll never be some demure housewife. She'd go crazy with too much time off. He doesn't want to change her. He just wants to be with every side of her. And he doesn't want to wait any longer.
He sits up and unclasps the chain from his neck. When he found the ring on the beach he'd known, somehow, that is was meant for her. He'd worn it around his neck the entire time she was gone like an unfulfilled promise. "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. Whatever happens, I want to face it as your husband."
She looks too skeptical for his liking. "You're really gonna give me the ring Lucy gave to your father?"
He scowls at her. That's what she's focusing on? "Want me to give you the ring Sarah gave to Vince instead?"
She surges upwards with a laugh, brushing her lips against his. "Fair point."
If she's going to argue semantics, he has a few questions of his own. "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?"
"That is so far down on my list of questions to ask mommy dearest. First we've got to get some sleep. We've got a long day ahead of us."
She hasn't answered his question, and the possibility that she will turn him down paralyzes him.
She doesn't owe him anything, but he can't go on without her.
"But you'll marry me?"
"Of course." Her answer is immediate and then she's kissing him so thoroughly he doesn't know how he could doubt her intentions. When she pulls away she wiggles her hand at him. He slides the ring down her finger, letting the chain fall to the bed. It fits perfectly.
It should. It's hers after all.
He kisses her hand, right on top of the ring, and then he catches her gaze.
Her eyes are bright. But she looks like a kid on Christmas morning, and he feels that same anticipation buzzing through him.
"Duke has to be your best man, so we better fix him fast if we don't want a lengthy engagement."
"Real fast," he agrees. They need sleep if they're going to have enough strength to do that. As much as he'd like to make love to her again he turns off the bedside lamp and sinks down into his pillow. "Love you Parker," he says into the darkness.
She's never been much of a cuddler. Ever since she found out he couldn't feel her she's kept extra distance between them, which he thinks is supposed to be for his own benefit. So many times he wanted to tell her he liked having her near whether he could feel her or not. Tonight's not the night to have that conversation. He's thrilled when she rolls into him on her own, molding her body to his. He can feel her smile against his chest.
"Love you too."
We don't need a reason
For anything we feel
We don't need a reason
Picasso's at the wheel
So roll that top down, hell with this town
Leave our bags behind
We don't need a reason
Cause I got you, and you got me tonight
When his phone wakes him a few hours later his arm stays asleep. Audrey is smashed against him, and he doesn't mind that his arm's gone numb because so much of the rest of him is alive. He reaches over her as carefully as he can to silence the phone. She presses further into him, and he marvels at the pressure and softness and heat. That she is here with him, fully alive and fully herself. It's the first time it's exactly right. Her hair is blond and her skin is magic.
He'd sworn that he was going to get her back. He never expected it to happen so soon.
"We have to get up, don't we?" she mumbles, her eyes still closed. Her warm breath puffs against his skin.
"Sorry." He'd rather stay like this forever. He knows they can't.
"It's okay." She opens her eyes and blinks up at him. "This is what we do."
He leans down and kisses her chastely, unable to help himself.
She watches him when he pulls back, something serious crossing her face. "Mara wanted to feel safe. Five hundred years and all those personalities and she could never manage it. But I know I'm safe whenever I'm with you."
Pride swells at the thought that he is different from all the people she's known through the centuries. But it also makes him sad to think of all she suffered alone. He knows firsthand that loneliness can hurt worse than pain. It makes Mara's maliciousness a bit more understandable.
He can tell she finds this monumental, but he doesn't know what to say. The only important thing to him about her identity crises is that he loves her no matter what. "Audrey."
She runs a hand across his chest and settles it over his heart so they can both feel it pounding. Her engagement ring catches the light.
He will love this woman forever. Perhaps the universe will even let him.
"Let's go solve some Troubles."
Amber waves of grain
Fly by highway lanes
Waited for this change
Seems like my entire life
If only the good die young
We'll outlast everyone
For some of the things we've done
And we've just begun