This takes place between "The Trial of Audrey Parker" and "Resolutions". Audrey isn't aware that Nathan can touch her...yet.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Dammit...
She quits the FBI, goes home with the intention of taking a shower and going to bed, and instead walks to Nathan's.
It isn't too far from the cottage she's renting, so she throws on a sweater over her tank top and jeans and treks up town a few blocks to the little bungalow her partner bought with the money he saved during high school and college. He'd told her that story a few weeks earlier, over pancakes (of course) at the diner, about how he'd been dead set on not spending a moment longer with his father when he graduated college so he'd saved from the moment he was old enough to deposit money in the bank. He bought the bungalow outright, in cash, and fixes it up when he has time. She's helped him once before, but was so terrible with a hammer he'd begged her to go away, the whole time laughing while she pretended to pout in mock hurt.
She knocks on the green front door, teeth chattering, and he answers in an instant. He doesn't even look surprised to see her. Instead, he immediately moves to the side and she steps into the warm house. She follows him into the kitchen and he rummages through the fridge for a couple beers, offering her a choice of a lager or a stout and because she's freezing and mildly upset she takes the higher alcohol content.
They stand in the kitchen, silent, drinking their beers and she starts to feel her toes warm up.
"I need thicker socks," she says quietly.
"Callie, up on Dockside Avenue. She'll knit you whatever you like and your feet will thank you."
She smiles, says thanks, and goes back to brooding over her (delicious) oatmeal stout.
"I quit," she says eventually.
The pause in his drinking is barely perceptible, but Audrey sees it. She also sees him staring at her while he finishes taking a drink of his lager. She knows his expressions almost as well as her own at this point, knows that he's trying to figure out which question to ask first.
He settles on the vaguest one he can think of. "You okay?"
"I'm cold," she says, a vague answer to an equally vague question.
"Come on," he says and takes her elbow. "I'd just built a fire before you showed up." He steers her towards the living room and she follows willingly. Nathan's hand on her elbow is warm and comforting and she almost says that he's better than any fire anyone could build, but she keeps it to herself, locks it away with the other things she thinks about Nathan but doesn't say.
They sit on an old Persian rug in front of his stone fireplace and she leans in towards the warmth. He takes her hands in his, frowns for a moment, and begins to rub them.
"Your hands are freezing," he says softly.
Her head tilts to the side and she stares at him, feels herself beginning to smile. "Aha," she says and he stills, looks up at her. When he moves to take his hands away, she grabs them, hangs on. "It's helping, Nathan," she says and they stare at each other a few seconds longer before he begins rubbing warmth back into her hands once again.
"So you quit," he says eventually. They both ignore the fact that while her hands are pleasantly warm now Nathan keeps them sandwiched in his. She can't complain – it's keeping her grounded. "I hope you mean you quit the FBI."
She laughs a little. "Yes, Nathan. I quit the FBI." He squeezes her hands and pulls away. She feels lost suddenly without the contact. He stands and she looks up at him with a question.
"You should have led with that when you arrived," he says. "This is a conversation that needs something stronger than beer." She smiles at him and he disappears back into the kitchen.
She leans on the stone ledge of the hearth while he's gone, the fire warm against her still chilled skin. She closes her eyes and listens to the dull thump of cabinet doors being opened and closed, the clink of ice in glasses. The part of her that's always yearned for family, for that feeling of being safe in a familiar place, wants to plant roots in the floor of Nathan's bungalow and never leave. The other part of her, the part that scares easily, makes her sit up a little straighter and take a deep breath.
Nathan arrives a moment later with two glasses full of ice and a bottle of Glenlivet. He settles back onto the rug, places the glasses on the stone ledge and pours them each a healthy dose of scotch.
"So you quit the FBI," he begins again, which makes Audrey smile in spite of it. He raises his glass in a toast and she follows suit. "To smart decisions." The glasses clink and they each take a sip.
She leans on the ledge, lets her head fall to her folded arms. He mimics her posture and they stare at the fire together. She thinks that the firelight makes Nathan look younger from this angle, less weathered. She closes her eyes. The scotch has hit her limbs and she feels warm and numb. She feels fingertips on her forehead, sweeping hair away from her face, and she thinks for just a moment about what her life would be like anywhere else in the world. Recently, whenever she's thought about leaving this place, leaving Nathan, she's been hit with a pang of homesickness at the idea.
"The Chief offered me a job," she says, opening her eyes. Nathan is closer than he was when she closed them and his eyes light up with a spark of hope. She smiles. "I told him I'd think about it."
He sips his scotch, thoughtful. "What's there to think about?" he asks.
She's spent the last three hours thinking and thinking, every consideration and idea and thought rattling around her brain like lost marbles colliding. There are a million and one reasons to stay in Haven and they all come back to the newspaper clipping in her back pocket and the man sitting next to her.
"Ask yourself, Audrey, does it feel like home?"
She's never felt so safe in her life, never felt so comfortable. Haven has lived up to its name, as far as Audrey Parker is concerned. She smiles sleepily at her partner – her best friend – and he returns it with a simple one of his own.
"More so than anywhere I've ever landed," she says.
"Guess that's your answer, then," he says. He gets to his feet and holds out his hand. She makes no move to take it, but instead looks at him. He sighs. "It's midnight, Parker, and we have a shift in seven hours. It's bedtime."
She lifts her head up and stares at him long enough a blush rises in his cheeks, separate from the warm flush the fire had given him earlier. She grins and takes his hand.
"So these are your moves, then?" she asks as he hauls her to her feet.
"Trust me, Audrey," he says as he pushes her to the guest room, his hands comfortable weights on her shoulders. He gently pushes her into the small room. She turns around to say good night and realizes he's closer than she thought. He's hanging off the doorframe, his face inches from hers, and her breath catches in anticipation of…something. "You'll know my moves when I finally make them."
He winks and she's done for. Before she can get her wits back under her, he's said goodnight and has closed the door, leaving her alone in the cute little guest room. She stares at the door and finally remembers to breathe.
She slips out of the house near dawn, practically running home to stave off the cold. She takes a hot shower and changes into work clothes. She's just closing up the door when his truck appears at the end of the walkway and Nathan grins at her from the driver's seat.
"You snuck out of my house at the crack of dawn," he says and she can't help but blush. She blames it on the cold.
"I had to get home and get ready," she says, walking towards the truck. "And since you're always early..."
His grin widens. "I brought you something," he says. "But you have to get in first."
"Is it a donut?" she asks as she opens the door. He points to the seat and she sees a shiny new Haven Police Department badge and a standard issue weapon sitting there. There's also a white bag with a chocolate cruller inside it. "You brought me a donut and a high caliber weapon?"
She climbs into the truck and smiles at him. "Marry me, Nathan."
He laughs as they pull away from the curb and she offers him half of the donut (pumpkin spice, her favorite, which makes her think her marriage proposal may not have been too bad an idea). They ride out to the point in silence, but later, as they're making their way up a small hill to the washed up ship, he finally speaks.
"I'm glad you decided to stay," he whispers.
She's embarrassed and he knows it, so she rolls her eyes and casually bumps his shoulder. And because he knows she's glad, too, he lets her get away with it.