Author's Note: I know, I know, I'm supposed to be working on the next chapter of The Return, which is plenty fluffy – but then this happened. Because all the could-have-beens of the end of the second season grabbed hold and wouldn't let me go. This is a sequel to my other fic I Think I Know Why the Dog Howls at the Moon but it probably mostly makes sense on its own as long as you remember my universe begins at the end of "Business as Usual" and veers AU from there.

The chapters are chronological and build on each other somewhat, but each scenes is a different way Audrey could tell Nathan she loves him for the first time.

This could also be titled: "Snippets of a Less Aggravating Season Three." Because wouldn't we all have loved to see that!

Optional soundtrack can be found at the end of each chapter.

Enjoy, and please let me know what you think.

- one -

The pancakes are divine.

Okay, so maybe she isn't an impartial judge, and she might still be giddy from the most incredible night of her life, but she'd still swear under oath that Nathan's pancakes are by far the best she's ever tasted.

Audrey suddenly understands why he's so fixated on the breakfast staple – though if he can cook like this it must be a letdown every time he orders them.

Apparently this man knows his way away a kitchen like he knows his way around a woman's body – neither of which she would have guessed when she first met him.

Seems life has a few pleasant surprises mixed in with all the fiascos.

It's the look on his face that gets her. He'd spent half the night worshiping her body and then served her heaven on a platter, but now he's looking at her like a puppy whose entire self-worth hinges on her approval of his pancake making skills. Affection surges through her, and even though she'd intended to wait to tell him she finds she can't contain herself. She wants to make him as happy as he's made her.

"I love you," she admits. It's the first time she's ever said those words to anyone, and it isn't as terrifying as she imagined. In fact it's somehow liberating. The weight that's been settled in her chest for so long she can't remember being without it dissolves.

His smile widens, but not quite as much as she expected. "It's my mother's recipe. There's a secret ingredient."

She's pretty sure she tastes cinnamon, but that's too ordinary. There must be something else. She does want to know what, eventually, but in that moment she couldn't care less.

She'd bared her soul to him, and he'd been too distracted by breakfast to notice.

She huffs in fond exasperation. It's a little bewildering that after everything he did to her last night right now she finds him adorable. "Not the pancakes, silly. You."

It takes a few seconds for that to sink in. But as soon as it does it's like the sun bursting over the horizon. He beams at her, and she's never been so aware of how devastatingly handsome he is.

"Say it again."

She's more than happy to oblige, the words bubbling out of her. "I love you."

He crosses to her side of the kitchen island and pulls her off her stool. Suddenly the world starts spinning as he swings her around like she's a child. "Nathan!" she shrieks as she latches her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist, but he laughs as he spins her and his joy is infectious. Soon she drops her head onto his shoulder and laughs with him, feeling young and glorious and invincible.

Her laughter is cut off by his lips, warm and insistent. He tastes like maple syrup.

She lets herself enjoy it for awhile, but when he tries to tug her blouse out of her jeans reality intervenes.

"We have to be at the station in half an hour," she reminds him. She glances down and is shocked by how far off the ground she is. Sometimes she forgets that Nathan is tall.

Undeterred, he nips at her earlobe. "We can be fast."

"Oh no." She shakes away from his wandering mouth and tries to figure out how to get down. "With this kind of news, I want us to be slow."

She feels the shiver that goes through him as she draws the last word out. It distracts him enough that she unlatches her legs and stumbles loose.

"Just not right now. If we're late everyone at the station will know why, and then Laverne will want to talk about it and I may be so emotionally scarred afterwards I'll never be able to sleep with you again. So it's really better for the both of us if we wait until after our shift."

"Don't want to," he pouts. She doesn't either, really, but they've got to put some boundaries on this thing if they're going to keep being partners, and if she drags him to bed right now the whole day will be lost, hands down.

"What did your mom always say?" she asks from the safety of a few feet away. "Good things come to those who wait?"

"Something like that," he answers reluctantly.

"Well, Wuornos, time to practice that patience. I promise it'll be worth your while."

"I think you're trying to kill me," he groans, but there's a vibrancy about him that belies his words. It's as if her touch has made him more alive, somehow. As if the effects of the stimulation linger even after her skin leaves his.

"Only in a Shakespearean sense," she says with a smirk as she picks up her fork again. "Now go take a shower. I want to finish my pancakes. I love them too, by the way."

you're so delicious
you're so soft
sweet on the tip of my tongue
you taste like sunlight
and strawberry bubble gum

you bite my lip
you spike my blood
you make my heart beat faster

own me, you own
you rattle my bones
you turn me over and over
'till I can't control myself
make me a liar
one big disaster
you make my heart beat faster

Faster, Matt Nathanson