Author's Note: So, work's been crazy busy and there's a whole lot more of The Return to be written, but I recently rewatched Business as Usual and I got all nostalgic for the end of season 2, when I really thought Nathan and Audrey were going to get together … and then season 3 happened and all we got was angst and bad choices.
And so this little AU was born, which starts at the end of Business as Usual and then ignores everything else that happens in canon. Here's hoping for some actual fluff in season 4!
Title is taken from the song Dela by Johnny Clegg & Savuka. Also known as the fireside dancing song in George of the Jungle. I should probably be ashamed how much I've loved that song ever since I was a kid. But really, youtube it if you don't know what I'm talking about.
One day I looked up and there you were,
like a simple question looking for an answer.
Now I am the whale listening to some inner call,
swimming blindly to throw myself upon your shore.
What if I don't find you when I have landed?
Will you leave me here to die on your shore stranded?
I think I know why the dog howls at the moon.
I think I know why the dog howls at the moon.
Audrey was wired when she showed up at Nathan's place. It was almost midnight and they had work in the morning, but she needed to process everything she'd just learned and she couldn't think of anywhere else to go. He'd said he'd hoped she'd tell him any answers she found. He'd just have to deal with the fact that she wanted to tell him now.
"You would not believe the night I just had," she said by way of greeting as he opened the door.
He blinked at her as if he couldn't quite believe she was there. She had been to his house before, but not often. It was more typical for them to end up at hers. The fact there was a restaurant under her apartment seemed to make it a more acceptable hangout for two colleagues. They rarely started their evenings downstairs at the Gull, but they could have.
But maybe it was just the fact that he'd been asleep. His hair stuck up in the back, and she had to fight an itch to pat it down.
Or maybe run her hand through it and mess it up more.
"Are you going to let me in or am I going to have to tell you the whole story out here in the cold?"
She poked him in the arm. Her touch seemed to startle him out of his daze. "Yeah. Sorry," he stammered, stepping aside.
She breezed past him, traveling the dark hallway to his living room with ease. She'd only been inside a few times, but she remembered the way. Nathan's house was a lot like him. Neat. Solid. Nothing flashy, but it exuded a comforting warmth. Its minimal decorations did make it seem a bit like a mancave. If she had her way she'd add some color. Maybe some curtains.
She did not let herself contemplate where such thoughts came from.
"Make yourself at home," he quipped after she had settled on his couch.
She rolled her eyes at him and pictured a soft blue blanket draped over the sofa and a couple of throw pillows.
He smirked back. "Want a beer?"
"Might as well."
He returned with two bottles and handed her one as he sat on the couch beside her.
"Thanks," she said softly, finally fully appreciating the fact that she'd woke him up in the middle of the night. She'd be grousing at him if he'd done the same to her, but she couldn't read the way he was looking at her. He didn't seem to be annoyed.
"What happened?" he prompted.
She took a long swig of the beer, and then she told him about Lucy Ripley, and how they didn't look anything alike but there was still something familiar about her, as if all of Lucy's mannerisms and memories were just beneath the surface of her mind, ready to burst forth like the melodies she sometimes played at night. She'd asked Lucy if she played the piano, and the woman had told her she'd taken lessons since she was six and minored in music at Northeastern. She'd had an irrational desire to ask Lucy if they could play a duet, to see if they could be as effortlessly in sync as she'd been with the real Audrey when they spoke of memories they'd shared and experiences it turned out she'd never lived. But she hadn't asked. She wasn't sure she wanted to remember being two people and then she'd gotten too wrapped up in the details of Lucy's fear of being erased. She told Nathan how she'd spent the whole drive back thinking about Simon Crocker and then found Duke minutes after discovering a chest of weapons his father had left him. She recounted Dwight's attempt to steal them, Duke's strange reaction as he tried to get them back, and the directive spelled out in his father's familiar handwriting.
He swore under his breath, every muscle seeming to tense as he straightened and dropped his empty bottle to the coffee table. "You need to stay away from Duke!"
"He's not going to kill me," she dismissed easily, not sure if she was pleased or exasperated by Nathan's protective demeanor, which seemed to be coming out in full force lately.
"Damn straight he's not." She'd never heard such ferocity in her partner's voice, and she was a little concerned that he'd storm out and put a preemptive bullet in Duke. Without thinking, she reached out to cover his hand with her own to calm him down.
"He wouldn't kill me even if you weren't determined to get in the middle. You didn't see his face. He was just as freaked out by the whole thing as I was."
She expected an immediate rebuttal. When she didn't get one she realized he was staring at their hands.
Feeling silly and foolish, she snatched hers away.
The thing with Nathan's Trouble was sometimes she forgot.
She couldn't fathom not being able to feel anything, not heat or pressure or pain or your very own skin. His was such an isolating affliction, not as devastating as many they'd come across, maybe, but cruel nonetheless. She didn't like to think of him suffering through it, so she didn't. He acted so normal most of the time that she rarely thought about how he was different, so sometimes when he made a comment about how he didn't know what the weather was like it would throw her just for a second. The fact that she was the only thing he could feel was another issue entirely, and one they addressed even less often. He hadn't wanted her to be freaked out about it, and ignoring it seemed to be the easiest way to avoid freaking out. But sometimes she was so good at not freaking out that she forgot and reached out like she would to any normal person, not realizing until she had touched him that it could seem fraught with hidden meaning.
It was only occasionally that she touched him and knew exactly what she was doing.
Nathan recovered from the awkwardness first, snapping back to the issue at hand. "Just because he was surprised doesn't mean he won't do it." His voice had lost most of its vehemence, though, and Duke seemed out of immediate danger.
"He won't. He promised me."
"A promise from Duke means nothing."
She refused to believe that. There had been something in Duke's expression when he read his father's message in that ledger that reminded her how she'd felt when she'd realized that she was Lucy Ripley – like your whole life was crumbling under some incomprehensible revelation. Duke was a lot of things, but he wasn't a killer. And if he had a list of people he wouldn't kill even if he had good reason, she was willing to bet she was near the top of that list.
"How'd the meeting go?" she challenged. Nathan was a good person to run theories by about Lucy, but he'd never be objective when it came to Duke and she'd had too long a day to have that argument with him now.
"Damn it, Audrey! We're not done talking about this."
"We are. I'll be careful. But I'm not worried that Duke's going to hurt me. If you want to fight about that then I'm going to leave. But I'd rather stay and hear about the meeting."
As they stared each other down Audrey couldn't help but notice how blue his eyes were, and her breath caught and she wasn't sure why.
He caved first, but she was only a moment behind.
"How did you know I went to the meeting?"
She smiled and leaned back against the couch. "Had a feeling. How did it go?"
He told her about the fear and uncertainty, the people whose Trouble had already been triggered and those with a family history just waiting for the inevitable. They talked of organizing to protect themselves, and he'd sworn the Haven PD would protect everyone in town, whether they were Troubled or not.
Then he rolled up his shirt sleeve and showed her the tattoo on his forearm.
"Nathan!" This time aware of what it would do to him and not caring, she grabbed his arm and started prodding at the raised flesh.
"Ow. You know it didn't hurt until you started doing that."
"Serves you right! All the time we've spent looking for this tattoo, I can't believe you went and got one. What does it mean?"
"It's a symbol for those who are Troubled. Means they'll stand together."
She stared at the now familiar pattern, trying to decide how she felt about it being inked into his skin. "Thought it wasn't smart for the Chief of Police to pick a side," she said softly. Her fingers slid along his arm, away from the inflamed area, as if of their own accord, and for some reason she didn't stop them.
"Someone made me realize I need to worry more about what I believe, not what the town thinks."
The tenderness in his voice made her breath hitch as if he was the one touching her. Something had shifted, and suddenly all she could think of was what had transpired the last time she'd seen him. Perhaps it was the way he was staring at her lips.
"Well, you're certainly going to freak Duke out," she said, attempting to defuse the situation.
His lips twitched into a smile. "Good."
She knew she should drop his arm and put some distance between them, but she didn't want to stop touching him. The hairs on his arm had raised, the cadence of his breathing had changed, and his skin was so soft under her fingers.
He cleared his throat and her hand stilled, but she didn't pull away. "You caught me off guard earlier," he said.
"Hmmmm?" she asked. Her overactive mind had wondered what it would feel like if he ran his fingers along her arm, and coherency had decided to abandon her.
"The kiss. If I'd seen it coming, I would have kissed you back."
"Oh." They were at a crossroads, and whatever she did next was sure to redefine their relationship – or lock it firmly into the mold it had always followed. The hug had been sheer gratitude. She'd been so overwhelmed by the trouble he'd gone to for her she hadn't even realized that he hadn't felt anyone's arms around him for years until he'd paused for just a second, savoring it. But when she'd turned back to kiss him she'd known exactly what she was doing. It had been impulse, surely, but that impulse had been driven by months of steadily building attraction. She'd noticed from day one that Nathan Wuornos was a handsome guy. The fact that he was kind and thoughtful with a quick, dry wit only made him more desirable. But by the time she realized she was staying in town he'd meant too much to her to muddy their partnership with anything physical. The attraction never went away – and if she was honest with herself there were moments when she knew he felt it too – but it was just one more thing they never talked about, like his birth father or his dead mother or the fact that Audrey Parker was really a brunette living in Boston.
She could keep it that way. Make some joke, brush him off – and he wouldn't push her. He never did. They could keep being partners – not just partners, maybe, but not more than friends, either.
But it had been a long, long day and the only constant through it and every other day was this man beside her and his inexplicable interest in the cosmic joke that was her life. She was still floored by the fact that he'd found Lucy Ripley for her. He'd spent who knows how much money to hire a PI and done his own digging and came up with leads she'd never even thought of and he hadn't expected anything in return. He'd just wanted to help her. She rarely took the time to stop and think about what she wanted – it was always solve the case, find her mother, help the Troubled – but in that moment all she wanted was him.
So she took the road less traveled.
"Why don't you show me then."
Suddenly his hands were cradling her face and he was kissing her with the intensity of a wave crashing against the shore. This time she was the one caught off guard, and all she could manage was to part her lips and let him do as he willed.
When he pulled away, lips swollen and eyes bright the only thing she could think to say was, "Um, wow."
Then he was kissing her again and this time her brain caught up with the situation and she kissed him back with everything she had inside her. Her hand finally made it into that glorious hair of his and as she dragged her nails across his scalp he pulled her toward him. Then they were pressed fully against each other and she wondered if he could feel it. She hoped so. Because this was incredible, better than any daydream or fantasy. Nathan was a reserved man, but he kissed her now as if some great passion had been building inside him for years, just waiting for an outlet, and every touch was electrifying. Every time their skin made contact his breath caught, so she snuck her hand under his shirt to reach the warm expanse of his back, extremely pleased by the way it made him sigh like she'd just given him some amazing gift.
Soon he was pushing her back against the couch, his lips doing heavenly things down the column of her throat while his hand fumbled at her bra strap and as she gasped out his name she had a sudden moment of clarity.
She was going to have sex with Nathan.
She was going to have sex with Nathan.
The ramifications of that cut through her arousal like being caught in the act, and she freed her hands and pushed lightly on his chest.
"We need to stop." But her voice was so thick and he was so distracted she had to say it again before he got the message. She used his confusion to slide out from under him and scurry across the room, needing to put some distance between them.
"You don't want this?" He looked like she had slapped him, and the fear in his eyes made her feel like she had. She wanted to reach out to reassure him, but she knew keeping her distance would be pivotal to maintaining her resolve.
"This is so not about not wanting. What I want is to jump your bones. Right now."
As she hoped, the fear melted away into a lopsided grin. "Do people still say that?"
She huffed out a laugh. "Maybe your Trouble isn't the reason it's been so long since you've gotten laid. A girl says she wants to have sex with you, and you want to argue vernacular."
"Sorry." But he didn't sound sorry, and God she wasn't either. "If you want to jump my bones, why are you standing over there?"
As soon as she heard him say it, she knew why he'd found it funny. And she just wanted to rush toward him, hold on tight and not let go, but she couldn't. This wasn't some random attractive man. This was Nathan.
She crossed her arms and tried to articulate what was swirling through her mind. "Because we can't do this now. I jumped into bed with Chris and that was a disaster."
Nathan scowled. "I'm not Chris Brody."
She was nominating that for Understatement of the Year. "Exactly. I didn't care about Chris. I didn't know Chris, really. All we had was sex. And I messed that up, and he left, and it was fine because he didn't mean anything to me. But you're my best friend. I can't lose you."
She could almost see the wheels spinning in his head. "So we're not going to do this," he said slowly. "Because our friendship is too important."
His disappointment almost sent her stumbling toward him, logic by damned. But she stayed put. "Stop putting words in my mouth. After what just happened on that couch, I think it's safe to say that our platonic friendship is pretty much over." There was no way she'd ever be able to forget the force of his lips, the sound he'd made in the back of his throat when their tongues met, the soft patch of skin at the nape of his neck. "But I want to do this right. Take things slow."
"Slow?" He was still dazed and it was kind of funny, except for the way it made it hard to remember why she was doing this to both of them.
"Ask me out to dinner."
He narrowed his eyes, nodding. "You and I should have dinner. Together."
"That wasn't a question, you know. But I'll take it. Tomorrow at seven?"
"Yeah." He let out a long, labored breath, but it ended with a smile.
She smiled back, but looked away before things got too intense. "I should go."
There was a good deal of fondness in her exasperation. "Do you not remember the conversation we just had?"
He blushed. "Not for – that."
Teasing him was instinctual, and that hadn't changed. "You can say sex, Nathan. We're both adults."
He rubbed the back of his neck but didn't challenge her on that.
"It's not safe at the Gull."
"Don't start that again. I'm not going to give up my home because of something Duke's dead father wrote."
He changed tactics quickly. "It's late, and your place is all the way across town."
That argument was more compelling. She was tired. But the drive would give her a chance to clear her head, while staying here … wouldn't.
"I'll be fine."
"I want you to stay."
His unaccustomed vulnerability caught her off guard. He wasn't offering her his guest room. And staying here with Nathan after she'd decided sex was off the agenda somehow felt more dangerous than giving into a night of passion. She'd never been comfortable with anything like that, and Nathan being Nathan added layers of complications. Part of her wanted to run out of there and write this all off as some hallucination.
But the way he was looking at her, like he'd just ripped his heart out of his chest and was waiting for her to crush it, stilled her restless feet. She couldn't do that to him.
Heart hammering all the way, she followed him into his bedroom. He pulled a t-shirt and sweats from his dresser for her and she spent a lot of time in the bathroom splashing water on her face, trying to calm her nerves and banish the arousal that was still swirling through her. She was determined to do this right, to build a proper relationship instead of jumping right to the sex, but she honestly wasn't sure her resolve was going to last the night.
He was already in bed when she emerged. She was grateful but also disappointed that he'd changed into a t-shirt instead of foregoing one entirely. She crawled under the covers, keeping a respectable distance between them, and he switched off the light.
But the pillows were unfamiliar and the sheets smelled like him and she was afraid to shift because she didn't want to brush against him accidentally. For countless minutes she laid awake, not sure how to rectify the situation, and then she glanced over at Nathan.
He was rigid as a board and his eyes were open as he stared at the ceiling.
She pushed herself upright, already trying to remember where she'd left her car keys. "I should go."
"Don't!" She wasn't used to hearing him sound so desperate. His hand reached out to grab her arm, his grip surprisingly firm.
"This is ridiculous. You're not going to sleep a wink. You'll be useless in the morning. Look, I get it, but–"
"You don't." His gravity gave her pause. He let go of her arm, but rested his hand just inches from her leg on the bed. "I haven't been able to feel for years. And when you're lying so close to me – I can feel your body heat. You're so warm. And it's amazing. But I would never touch you without your permission. I swear, Audrey, that isn't what this is about. But if I fall asleep …"
"You can't guarantee you won't take advantage of the situation," she finished so he wouldn't have to. He nodded, looking guilty and slightly miserable.
"Well, I've felt plenty of things these past few years, but after our make out session I can't guarantee I won't take advantage of the situation once I'm asleep, so at least you're in good company."
His laughter loosened something in her chest.
"How about this? We both get carte blanche on whatever happens tonight. No awkwardness in the morning. But let me tell you something." She leaned close enough that she was sure he could feel her breath on his ear. "We'll enjoy it more if we're both awake."
She flopped down beside him while he was still processing that and reached out to lace one of his hands with her own.
"Sweet dreams," she chirped, knowing full well hers were likely to be naughty.
It turned out that Nathan was a gentleman even in his sleep. But he had been right about not being able to keep his hands off her. Audrey woke with her head resting in the crook of his shoulder, his arms tight around her waist and their legs tangled together. It took a few minutes to get acclimated – his shoulder wasn't exactly soft like a pillow and she wasn't used to being restricted. But he was certainly warm, and there was something soothing about his steady breath behind her. She shifted slightly, determined not to wake him, and caught a look at his face, which was so peaceful and untroubled she couldn't believe it. All the worries and responsibilities that constantly plagued him in this crazy town seemed to have faded away.
As soon as he woke up he'd stammer and apologize, but after discovering she'd been the one to make him look so young and hopeful, Audrey realized she didn't mind at all.
Dating in a small town was awkward, especially when he was the Chief of Police and she was the current town pariah and his subordinate and former partner. It didn't help that Dave and Vince caught them on their very first date, so the cat was out of the bag before they'd even paid the check. Still, it seemed like every resident in town made it a point to share their opinions of the couple to their faces. Audrey was certain they had a schedule, because it was apparently too much to ask to take a day or two and get it all over with at once. No – the opinion giving lasted weeks, and sometimes witnesses would interrupt their investigations to say they thought it inappropriate for the police chief to date another officer – even though Audrey was proud of her impeccable professionalism at work.
It was particularly awkward when Laverne shoved a relationship disclosure notice at them fourteen hours after their first date and scolded them like children for not taking care of the paperwork first. In front of the entire station.
Laverne had a protective streak toward Nathan, though, which actually turned her into one of the relationship's biggest fans once she realized Audrey was good for him. Which somehow ended up being more uncomfortable than her disapproval when she started offering Audrey suggestions on how to keep the Chief satisfied.
There were definitely days in Haven when Audrey thought her head might explode.
"We can never break up," Audrey told him once as they climbed back into the Bronco. "I'm not sure I can handle the commentary."
Nathan somehow managed to get his hand caught in the door in response, even though she'd just been kidding. Sometimes she got the impression he had been considering this "not just partners" thing a lot longer and more seriously than she had.
But intrusive town gossip aside, she'd never had a relationship feel this effortless. He took her to all the local town haunts. Fishing off the bluff. Bowling at the old six lane. The beach where they sometimes busted teens for making out. He had a certain patient nostalgia about him when he told her about coastal Maine living, and even though she'd never before had any inclination to bait a hook or cast a rig she liked being his pupil. He was so proud of her progress, and her competitive nature turned everything into a game. He was better at bowling but she was better at mini golf. He was obviously a more experienced fisherman, but the day she caught a bigger fish than he did felt like a personal victory. She liked when he took her out on the water, and the world consisted of only the two of them and miles of quiet ocean concealing a whole other world she couldn't see.
She'd never done much of note growing up poor and parentless in Ohio, and all her big city amusements were unavailable here, so she told him stories instead. Tales of the other kids she had known, and the foster families that had shaped her into Audrey Parker. Most weren't particularly happy stories – and her war stories from the FBI were even worse – but there was a catharsis in the telling that she'd never experienced before. One evening she told him about her foster father and the Mickey Mouse scissors and the terrible, bloody moment she'd decided she was going to be a cop. He hadn't pitied her or told her he was sorry she had to go through something so horrible. He'd just kissed her on the forehead and whispered he was glad she'd become an agent so she could one day drive into town and turn his life right side up.
Sometimes she'd invite him over and she'd play him songs that she heard in her sleep. It was all she had of Lucy Ripley, beside a few photographs, and she wasn't sure she wanted much more, honestly, but she was grateful to have someone to share it with. He knew Chopsticks – his mother had taught him – and it was such a cliché but sometimes they would play it together. He knew a few other songs as well, simple melodies with folksy lyrics, and she liked sitting side by side with him on the piano bench, thighs and shoulders touching, hands moving in sync doing something she couldn't explain.
After a few weeks her honesty started to prompt his own. He told her about his mother – soft-spoken, sweet, and dead in a car accident by the time he was twelve. Family traditions when both of his parents were alive, and the way they fell apart once it was just him and the chief. And later, as they grew more comfortable with each other, his history with Duke. The young boy who was at turns his tormentor and his best friend. The young man who high-tailed it out of town with less than reputable intentions and returned with an olive branch that turned out to be a cargo of smuggled goods he needed hidden. When he told her it had been a fight with Duke that had reactivated his Trouble she didn't make excuses for the conman. She just listened silently to the pain pouring from Nathan and rested a hand on his thigh so he'd remember he didn't have to be numb anymore.
This relationship stuff, she'd quickly learned, was emotionally exhausting. But she'd never so cherished being weary.
"I love you," he declared one evening in the parking lot of a dinner theater in Derry. He'd taken her out to a murder mystery show, and just as expected they'd excelled at it, working out the killer by the end of the first act and spending the second half pointing out every clue and misdirection. They investigated in tandem, whispering theories over the table like they were back at the station, except they never laughed so hard at work, when the solemnity of real murders and unreal Troubles made that inappropriate. They were awarded a couple of commemorative mugs for their sleuthing prowess, and one of the actors remarked that no one else had ever solved the mystery so quickly.
And then they were standing outside of the Bronco and he was declaring his love for her and it shouldn't have shocked her after the past four weeks but it did.
She knew what he expected her to say, but the words stuck in her throat. She could not lie to this man. Not about something like this. She looked down at the pavement, unable to watch as she disappointed him. "I don't even know what that means," she admitted. No one had ever loved Audrey Parker. If anyone had ever loved the strange woman who cycled through the years helping the Troubled then she had forgotten that with the rest of her past.
After a few moments she felt his hand on her chin, lifting gently until she had no choice but to look at him. He wasn't devastated, though she couldn't understand why he was smiling at her. But it made her heart flip in her chest as he reached out and brushed her hair behind her ear. His fingers lingered on her face. Demanding nothing. Promising so much she couldn't fathom. "I'll teach you."
She didn't understand, yet, but she believed him.
They spent that night pressed together in her bed. "It's not pity," she'd assured him when she invited him up. "You're warm and you smell nice," she'd said. What she meant was, you deserve so much better than me, and I wish I knew how to make you happy, and I don't want to say goodbye tonight.
It had to mean something that there was no awkwardness this time. They hadn't shared a bed since that night after Lucy, when everything had shifted. But she remembered where to lay her head and how his arms felt around her and it was impossible to miss his relief as she settled against him. She figured if this was all she could give him at least it was one hell of a consolation prize.
She pressed a kiss to the hollow of his throat and silently wished him a lifetime of good things.
He kissed her goodnight on the deck above the Gull after their first date, just a quick peck on the lips that left her wanting. He always kissed her after dates, and she couldn't help but wonder if that was some small town rule. But aside from that one expected kiss he let her set the pace of their physical relationship. It didn't take too many chaste goodnight kisses until she was pushing him against the doorframe and soon she was inviting him in to escape from prying eyes that were likely to bring their (still non-existent) sex life up at inappropriate moments. Sometimes they made out on her couch or his, and even though she cherished the things she could do to him, the way she could restore his normalcy with her touch, she never let it go too far. He kept all the passion he'd shown that first night locked away, and she was mindful of the fact that in this one area it wasn't fair to tease him.
That was a fine line to walk. She very much appreciated her new freedom to touch him, and often she took advantage. She understood now the compulsion he'd had to touch her when he first realized his Trouble was susceptible to her. She deliberately brushed her fingers against his when she handed him folders, ran her hand across his arm as she walked past, and held his hand whenever they were off duty and could get away with it. He'd practically jumped out of his skin the first time she'd come up behind him and dropped her hands to his shoulders, but he'd been practically purring by the time she was done rubbing the stress out of them.
It wasn't enough, she contemplated one day as she watched him make dinner. He'd insisted she didn't have to come over until it was ready, but staying late at the station without him was no fun and there was no appeal to sitting alone in her empty apartment for a few hours. Nathan was a fantastic cook. Audrey was proficient enough–she was fully capable of following recipes, and she had no inclination to set her kitchen on fire just as long as she didn't get distracted. But Nathan's numbed touch had led him to compensate with his other senses. To supplement his sense of taste he added something unexpected to every recipe, and the results were always delightful. Today he was making chicken parm, and she watched carefully to see what he was mixing into the breadcrumbs.
Except she kept getting distracted by his forearms. He'd rolled up his sleeves, and she wanted to smooth her arms over the skin the fabric had covered. Find the pulse at his wrist with her tongue. Watch his eyes flutter closed as she overwhelmed him with sensation.
Lately she spent an embarrassing amount of time fantasizing about sexing up her partner.
The impulse was there since that very first night that he'd kissed her, but nearly two months later it was now a constant ache. She dreamed of him, and every day it was getting harder and harder not to turn those dreams into a reality. She hadn't been in a relationship this long without sex since she was fifteen.
She'd been so sure, in the beginning, that it would be better for the both of them to wait. But her reasoning seemed murky now.
She'd needed to know this wasn't just because she might be the only one he could have sex with; certainly the only person with whom he'd really enjoy it. But Nathan apparently had the patience of a saint, and if he was just interested in sex he could have gotten her to cave weeks ago without much convincing. He'd promised her that wasn't it, and her gut had told her as much long before they were in a place to broach the subject. She trusted him completely, and this wasn't about using her.
She'd thought they needed time to get to know each other before sex got in the way. It turned out she'd already known more about him than anyone else she'd ever dated – how he took his coffee and what he did to blow off steam and how he was constantly trying to live up to the personal and professional expectations of his dead father. They certainly learned more through the dating process, like how to be open and honest and the fact he was a great teacher and that she really could forget about work for awhile as long as he provided a suitable distraction. But probably she'd pay more attention if she wasn't constantly distracted by the need to feel his hands and his lips all over her, the desire to storm past his bashful modesty and remind him of the feel of a woman's body – and his own.
Probably it was the fact that every relationship she'd ever been in had started to go downhill after the sex started. She'd known from that first night when she'd almost slept with Nathan that having Nathan in her life was far more important than having Nathan in her bed. As good as the sex would feel, as much as it might calm the both of them, she couldn't do it if it would lead them down a path of ruin. Because without Nathan she'd have to leave Haven, helping the Troubled and deciphering her past be damned, because there was no way she could face this town without him.
She'd never needed another person in that particular way before.
And as she watched him move about his kitchen, so handsome and self-assured and strangely domesticated, she realized maybe that was exactly why they could do this.
It wasn't like her other relationships had exactly been going uphill before the sex.
But she and Nathan were fantastic. They'd had enough fights as partners that they knew how to deal with that, with some space and an eventual apology and possibly a bribe – some pancakes for him or some cupcakes for her. So many of her other relationship had fallen apart because she simply hadn't cared enough to hold them together. But she'd cling on to Nathan for as long as he could handle her. She thought of the moment he'd told her he loved her, and figured that was sure to be a very long time.
So why was she torturing them both?
"I think we should have sex."
A utensil clattered to the counter and he spun to face her so quickly it was like he was staring in a cartoon. "Right now?"
She grinned at the boyish, hopeful look on his face. "Yeah."
He crossed the room in four strides and pulled her out of the chair and into his arms. The hunger in his kiss made her shiver.
This was finally happening.
"We can have dinner first, if you want," she teased as soon as she could catch her breath.
His hands stilled, and the look he fixed her with was so incredulous she couldn't hold a straight face. "I really don't."
It was messy and graceless as they stumbled toward the bedroom, shedding clothes along the way. Those rolled up sleeves didn't come off easily, and he couldn't feel the clasps of her bra to get it off without help. But he was setting her on fire in the very best way, and she was sparking his dead nerves to life, and this was Nathan and that was all that mattered.
"Are you going to be okay?" she asked once as she felt his heart galloping under her hand.
"Don't care," he growled.
He looked her in the eye and realized how sincerely she meant that. Desperate to lighten the moment, she launched into a tangent. "Don't want you passing out on me. Can you imagine the 911 call? 'I was just having sex with the police chief and I don't know what happened.' My luck Laverne would answer—"
He cut her off with a kiss, and they both realized they'd found a new favorite way to get her to stop talking.
They were about to discover a whole lot of new favorite things.
When he finally pushed inside her his whole body seized, and for a second she really was afraid she'd have to call someone. But he relaxed slightly and she arched up toward him.
His hand clamped around her arm. "Give me a second," he ground out between clenched teeth, his eyes closed as he tried to focus on breathing.
She gave him a couple, but nothing seemed to change. "One Mississippi," she finally said, as irreverent as she could manage when she was so desperate for him to move. His eyes snapped open and his shock at her gall was so amusing she couldn't help but laugh.
Until he grabbed her hips and pulled her closer and suddenly everything was wonderful and nothing was funny and there wasn't anything but bliss.
Afterwards he rolled away and she counted to ten, waiting for the inevitable boredom, the shame, or the desire to rush back to her apartment or off to work. But the euphoria passed, and all she wanted was to lay there beside him until they had the energy to do that again.
She turned her head to look at him, his chest still heaving. She'd never thought of him as less than a man. But he seemed more than one now, the layer of sweat on his skin making him somehow resplendent. The fact she could see all his well toned muscles didn't hurt either.
The noble effect was slightly ruined by the wide eyed look on his face, equal parts dazed and satisfied. Unable to help herself, she started to laugh.
"Always what a guy wants to hear."
His dry tone only made her laugh harder, but she shifted a little closer so their shoulders brushed and she latched onto his hand. He squeezed back gently, and she decided she'd gladly be his anchor for the rest of their lives.
"I'm sorry. The look on your face." She kind of loved it though, the fact that she'd done that to him. This wasn't about fixing his Trouble, this was about them, but the fact that she could make him feel again in the process was an amazing perk.
"I can't believe we could have been doing that for months," she said when she finally calmed down a bit. "I feel like I owe us both an apology for holding out."
"You don't," he said, so serious in contrast to the giddiness that was bubbling inside her. "Mighta been better this way. We had to earn it."
She rolled on her side so it was easier to watch him. "Nathan Wuornos, philosopher," she intoned fondly.
"My mother used to say we rarely appreciate good things that just fall into our lap. It's what we have to work for that we cherish the most."
His words did something funny to her stomach, because she probably would have discounted such sentimental nonsense in Boston but here in bed with him she felt like she understood.
"Smart woman, your mom." She had to have been, Audrey figured, to raise a man like this despite all the obstacles he would face.
"I seem to have made a habit of finding smart women to teach me things."
She wanted him to smile at her like that, always. Off put by how much of a sap that made her, she tried to frown, and couldn't manage it. "Well, this smart woman is going to work on teaching you some less cheesy lines, but I suppose that'll do for now."
Her stomach chose that moment to grumble, and she clutched it and groaned in embarrassment. "I'm going to be starving in the morning," she remarked.
"I can go make us something."
She shook her head, her literal hunger low on her priority list despite her stomach's protests. "I am not leaving this bed until morning."
"I can bring it to you."
"You're not leaving this bed either."
She watched the blush rise in his cheeks as he caught her meaning, and she determined to break him of the habit, no matter how long it took.
"I'll make us pancakes in the morning. Best you ever tasted."
"Better make sure I'm famished, then," she purred, giving him her best come hither stare.
Nathan rolled back on top of her almost quicker than she could process it "Think I can help with that," he promised, pushing her hair back and finding the pulse point on her neck.
Round two was less frantic and more thorough, and afterwards Audrey abandoned all pretense of wanting to maintain any distance between them. She laid with her head on his chest. One arm looped loosely around her while the other was threaded through her hair, the pad of his thumb poking at the ends as if it was the most fascinating sensation in the universe. She'd seen him make similar gestures to test himself before, and she wondered if he was even aware he was doing it.
His arm was loose enough around her that she could break away if she wanted, but she realized she had absolutely no inclination to do so. And the words which had stuck in her throat back in Derry rolled freely through her mind now. She loved Nathan. Her gut told her she was certain of that. And she wasn't afraid of what that meant anymore.
She wouldn't tell him quite yet, because she didn't want him to think it was the sex that had convinced her. Because it wasn't the sex – though God, the sex – it was this, the intimacy that had come after that she no longer wanted to shy from. The fact that she had absolutely no desire to run off or be alone or go back to work. She just wanted him, beside her, always. She'd lay down her life for him if she had to and she'd do anything to make him smile and if there were any mysteries in his life she'd launch her own full scale investigation – and perhaps she should look into the real story about Max Hansen.
But for now she'd just bask in it and she'd come up with a suitable way to tell him soon enough.
She tilted her head up to look at him and his dopey, love sick grin prompted one of her own. "So what happens next?" she asked, for once in her life no longer afraid of the answer. Just needing to hear him say it in his familiar, reassuring voice.
"We get some sleep. In the morning I'll make pancakes. Then we'll go back to the station and keep helping the Troubled, like we've always done."
"Partners," she declared, because even if that word was insufficient now it was still what had brought them to this perfect, glorious point.
"Not just partners." She knew he was thinking of awkward declarations and those first lessons in the benefits of honesty.
"Nope. Partners who are a heck of a lot less tense because of all the mind blowing sex they're having when they're not at the station."
He laughed, but she'd bet he was thinking about love and labels and a whole lot of serious future thinking that she wasn't quite ready for – but soon.
"For the record, you make me feel too, you know. And you never have to say nevermind."
His joy was dazzling. And it was enough. For right now, it was so much more than enough.
I've been waiting for you all my life, hoping for a miracle,
I've been waiting day and night, day and night.
I've been waiting for you all my life, waiting for redemption,
I've been waiting day and night, I burn for you.
I'd really love to know what you think about this! And if you're looking for something longer to get you through the hiatus, feel free to check out my other story "The Return" where Audrey comes back and I basically attempt to repair the damage of season 3. More angst, more mythology, still a healthy amount of fluff. And because I'm a workaholic like Audrey there probably won't be another chapter of that for two weeks, but I promise it's not abandoned.
Happy Memorial Day, everyone! And to all the veterans out there, thank you for your service!