Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Note: I was so excited to read that Haven has been renewed for season 4. Yes! I'm also thrilled that Nathan and Audrey seem to be getting back on track. It was so painful to watch their friendship-not even the burgeoning romance but their friendship-be so strained.
I have about a million theories as to what is being led up to for the end of the season. Can't wait to see if I'm right.
In the meantime, I should mention that this story is so AU by now it's just ridiculous. Thanks for hanging in there with me as I delve into my own little version of Haven.
Chapter Twenty-One: "Needing Partners"
When Nathan entered the Grey Gull, he scanned the crowd for Audrey. He quickly spotted her sitting alone at a table; her blond hair, which was pulled back in a haphazard ponytail, provided an easy focus for his eyes in the dim lighting. 'Ambience,' Duke called it. Nathan thought the darkness of the restaurant had more to do with keeping the electric bill down.
And he wasn't quite sure what he was in for. Audrey's body language seemed off. Her posture was tense; her lips were pressed tightly in a frown. This was so different from how she had seemed earlier when they'd kissed.
Nathan still couldn't quite believe it. After so long—what felt like months of circling around one another—she kissed him. And it had been…everything. Sweet. Raw. Intense. He had practically drowned in the moment.
At first he thought he had just forgotten what kissing was like, but he had quickly realized that kissing had never been like that. So attuned. Physically, he craved her. Even just remembering it had him wishing it was only the two of them in the room and that the rest of the world would simply melt away.
But it wasn't as simple as that.
She'd walked out on him.
Okay, so it wasn't the kiss that had her walking out on him. Nathan could acknowledge that to himself, which was one point in his favor. It was what happened after. He wasn't sure if it was what his dad said or what he, himself, wouldn't say to his dad. He wished he could get inside her head, but that was typical Audrey. She played very close to the vest.
He'd been trying to get in touch with her for the better part of the night, not that he entirely knew what he was going to say to her, just that he knew he needed to say something.
It was only after three unanswered phone calls that she finally returned his calls, only to ask him to come down to the Gull. And fast.
Taking a deep breath, Nathan crossed the restaurant.
"Glad you called me back," he began when he reached her. He thought he saw her sink in her chair slightly. He hadn't meant his words as an indictment. For the first time, he wished his Trouble extended to mind reading. He took the seat opposite her. "About what happened earlier with my dad—"
Audrey shook her head slightly, guilt creeping in as she looked at Nathan. She shouldn't have ignored him. Julia had already given her hell for it, but none of that could compare to how disgusted she was with herself when she saw the agonized look in his eyes. She would make it up to him. She would. But for now she needed her partner.
"I didn't call you to talk about that." Her voice lowered. "Something weird is going on."
"Surprising," he replied flatly. He sought her eyes, and she met his gaze, but she was all business.
"Ephraim Brand was here."
And just like that, Nathan found himself suspicious. "Doesn't seem to be his scene."
"It gets better. He was here with Sally Harrington."
Audrey watched as Nathan took in this information. His surprise played across his features as he shook his head slightly and furrowed his brows.
"His housekeeper? Wouldn't have pegged him as the type to socialize with his employees." Nathan tried to picture the middle-aged woman he had seen earlier, the one who had seemed so skittish when she saw Audrey, with the self-assured, smooth voiced enigmatic scion of the Brand family. It didn't compute. Of course, neither did the fact that Sally was Walt Yeater's sister and yet had devoted her entire adulthood to the Brands.
"I mean, he was with her," Audrey emphasized.
"Odd couple." Nathan leaned back in his seat, studying Audrey. She seemed distracted at best, befuddled at worst. But this had to go beyond seeing Brand with his housekeeper. There was no law against that, even if it somehow seemed contrary to everything he would have expected from the man, particularly in light of how attentive Brand had been where Audrey was concerned.
"That's what I thought."
"They around still?" Nathan gave the establishment a once-over again.
Audrey shook her head. "I saw them leave together."
"They live in the same house," Nathan rationalized.
"It was more than that."
"And this bothers you?"
Audrey didn't have the chance to answer, as Julia approached the partners.
"I see you're wearing your sling like a good boy," Julia murmured with a sly smile. She stood next to the chair Nathan occupied. He quickly rose, relinquishing the chair to the doctor. "And such a gentleman, too."
Audrey continued, "Here's the thing. Julia and I—we didn't see the same thing. She saw Brand's companion as a young woman. Dark haired."
"I think Audrey here has had too much to drink," Julia chimed in as she slid into the vacated chair. "She needs a friend to make sure she gets home safely."
"I've not had too much to drink," Audrey objected.
Nathan narrowed his eyes. "So…."
"We're having a disagreement about the identity of the woman," Julia offered. "Audrey thinks it was Sally Harrington. I say the woman was far too young."
"Are you both drunk?" he asked.
"I'm serious, Nathan. Something strange is going on here."
"We've been told to let this Brand thing go," Nathan reminded Audrey.
"Since when do you listen to the Chief?" Audrey asked sharply. "Look, I know it sounds crazy, or counterintuitive, or…something…but Brand was here cozying up to his housekeeper."
"So you recognized her as Sally Harrington," Nathan reiterated. He turned to Julia. "Did you know the woman?"
"No," Julia replied nonchalantly, her coolness in direct contrast with Audrey's demeanor, "but I've mostly been gone for years."
Audrey tapped her fingers on the table. "She gave me a look."
"A look?" Nathan echoed.
"Yes, a look." Exasperation began to creep into Audrey's tone.
"Maybe because you were staring at her date?" Nathan suggested.
"No. It was more of an 'I know you know'."
Julia crossed her arms. "Seriously, Nathan. Take her home."
"I'm not imagining this!" Audrey insisted.
"Maybe the lighting in here is playing tricks on you? Optical illusion, that type of thing?" Julia suggested.
With his free hand, Nathan squeezed the bridge of his nose, considering his next move. "Let me go talk to the bartender. See if he noticed anything…unusual."
When Nathan walked away, Audrey turned to her friend. "What are you trying to do? 'Take Audrey home'."
"You should be thanking me," Julia countered. "Somebody has to get you and Nathan to admit your feelings. Act on them. Whatever."
"Right. Because nothing is more appealing to a man than thinking a woman is drunk or hallucinating."
"Heh. Some of the guys I've known would prefer it." Audrey grimaced at Julia's words. "Seriously, let him take care of you."
"You are in so much trouble."
"Tell me about it," Julia replied with a smile before taking another sip of her Painkiller.
Within minutes, Nathan returned to the two women. "Spoke with Sam."
"He saw Brand with a woman. Young. Brunette. Very attractive." Definitely not a description of Sally Harrington, though at one point years ago, she may have been those things.
"Told you," Julia gloated mildly.
"I was so sure," Audrey replied, deflated.
Nathan continued, "Sam did say he'd never seen her before. That she was the type of woman he'd remember. And that she left with Brand."
Audrey shook her head. Eyes squeezed closed, she could almost see the earlier images flash before her eyes. Not of Ephraim Brand and Sally Harrington, but of herself with Ephraim Brand, his body covering hers, his hands cradling her with tenderness.
Maybe she was cracking up. "This doesn't make sense."
Nathan watched Audrey's reaction, his gut telling him to trust her instincts, despite evidence to the contrary. "No, it doesn't."
Audrey's eyes flew open. "Look, I think I'm going to head home."
"Do you want a ride?"
"No. I'm fine. Julia can't drink me under the table."
"You didn't give me long enough to try," came the doctor's reply.
"You sure you're okay?" Nathan's blue eyes sought hers.
She was once again struck by how handsome Nathan was, that it was his face she wanted to see when she closed her eyes, not Ephraim Brand's. "Yeah. Why wouldn't I be?"
Audrey was toweling her hair dry when she heard a knock on the door of her room at the Over the Way Bed and Breakfast. She padded to the door and peered through the peephole. Nathan.
"Just a minute," she called through the door. She scurried to dress, pulling on a tank top and yoga pants—her typical sleepwear.
When she opened the door, a burst of cold air greeted her, along with Nathan's tall frame.
His eyes fell on her, taking in her appearance. Her sculpted shoulders were bare. The neckline of her tank top dipped tantalizingly low over her small breasts, while her pants hugged her slender curves. Her unbrushed blond hair, darker because of its dampness, had a somewhat wild quality. Her face was scrubbed clean of every last trace of makeup. She was, without a doubt, the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. Nathan found himself gaping.
"Wanted to make sure you got home okay. Peace offering?" he asked, producing a package of cupcakes from Rosemary's Bakery.
"You are so fighting dirty." She stepped aside, inviting him into her rented room. He walked in, and she closed the door behind him. "I should be buying you cupcakes. Or pancakes. Maybe funnel cakes."
The room suddenly felt very small and Audrey, very self-conscious. "Do you want something to drink?" She grabbed a sweatshirt from the back of a nearby chair. Nathan's U-Maine.
He shook his head ever so slightly. "It's okay."
Audrey pulled the too-big shirt over her head and pushed up the sleeves to her elbows. "One of these days I'll do laundry and give this back to you."
"No rush." Nathan's eyes went to the pile of clothes in the corner of the room. A light pink brassiere sat atop the heap. His lips quirked as Audrey walked to the pile, grabbed the piece of lingerie, and buried it under a sweater.
"Ignore the mess."
Her cheeks looked flushed, he thought. It was alluring. "'Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain'."
She chuckled, taking his words as a friendly challenge. "You'd better be good to me. I know about your Lego collection."
"Point taken." He handed the box of cupcakes to her and watched as she sat on the bed, drawing her legs up pretzel-style. "You could bring 'em over to my house. Do laundry there."
"May have to – or else buy all new clothes before going to Ohio."
Not exactly the most romantic of all destinations, but the thought of being away with him made her stomach do somersaults. They would be away from the prying eyes of everyone in Haven.
One room or two? The thought jarred her.
Was it too soon? All she knew was their earlier kiss had complicated everything, deliciously so. She was a bundle of nerves, branching out, feeling everything at once. Trepidation. Curiosity. Yearning.
And he could feel her. Only her.
She tried to imagine what it was like for him, but she couldn't quite wrap her mind around it. All she could comprehend was her own pleasure when his fingers had brushed against her skin, sending shivers of delight through her, a prelude to what could be.
Nathan sat on the edge of the bed. Her eyes devoured him as her heart slammed in her chest. He was close.
Not close enough.
"Nathan, I don't think…" Her voice trailed off and she took a deep breath. "Never mind. Cupcakes go a long way toward making everything seem so much better." She opened the package and held it out for him to take one.
"Bought them for you," he replied, his way of declining the confectionary. "Are we okay?"
Audrey nodded as she set aside the box. "Of course. I just…I need to know. Why didn't you tell your dad when he asked?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
As Nathan recalled, the Chief didn't exactly ask. When Garland Wuornos had blurted out, 'You felt that,' it was more of an accusation. Typical.
"He didn't need to know."
"You make it sound so simple, so cut and dry."
"It is," Nathan affirmed. He tilted his head, considering his next words. "You didn't exactly tell him everything, either, did you?"
The mild accusation perplexed her. "What are you talking about?"
"Our suspicions about the apples…or the connection between the Brand family and Sally Harrington's brother…or how Vince Teagues and Charlie Thornhill both seemed shaken by Brand…"
"And say what exactly?" Audrey asked leaning toward him. "We don't know anything concrete."
"Never stopped you before." Nathan exhaled loudly, acutely aware of her proximity. Amazing how such a petite woman could loom so largely in his sphere of consciousness. Of course, the fact that they were on her bed may have had something to do with that. "Why'd you run out?"
"I didn't run out. I left. Abruptly." Her words sounded ridiculous in her own ears. "I needed space."
"From me?" She sure as hell wasn't acting like a woman who wanted space. Much more, and they'd have no space between them at all.
"You can feel me, Nathan. That's a big deal."
Didn't he know it.
"You don't have to feel embarrassed about your dad knowing."
"You thought I was embarrassed?" Nathan asked incredulously.
"He's your dad. Don't you think he'd want to know?"
"But not because you told him," she persisted.
"Yeah, I got that."
"Parker, he and I don't see eye-to-eye on much of anything. He's been stonewalling me at every turn, every time I ask a question about Lucy, about my mom…" Nathan squeezed the bridge of his nose, an old habit, as he gathered his thoughts. "When I discovered I could feel you, I didn't know what it meant. Still don't. You only just found out a few days ago. So, no, I didn't tell my dad."
When he laid out the matter that way, Audrey felt regret twist within her. "I'm sorry I ran out on you."
"You just left," he replied with nonchalance. "Abruptly." That drew a small smile from her. "I'm sorry I made you feel awkward about things. That's the last thing I wanted to do."
"Your dad is not happy that you can feel me. He's worried," Audrey observed.
"Did he say why?"
Nathan looked pained.
"Tell me," Audrey insisted.
"He said it's not good for partners to be in a relationship. Leads to complications."
"By the book. He's right, you know. This isn't a good idea."
Nathan looked squarely at Audrey. "Pandora's Box has already been opened."
"We can close it."
"You want to?"
"I want a lot of things, but I wouldn't undo what's going on with us. But your dad's right to be worried. Not just for professional reasons."
"Don't let my dad's reaction make you…"
"It's not just that. I don't know who or…or what I am. Does either of us know what we're really getting into?"
"Does anyone ever?" he replied.
What she said at the Gull to Julia played over in her mind. What man wants to be with a woman who hallucinates? The one thing Audrey had always taken pride in was being in control. For all the things in her life she had no control over—her upbringing being prime among them—as an adult, she had carefully weighed her decisions, thought through her career moves, even her scant relationships. But ever since being in Haven, she felt as though her life was spinning further and further out of control.
The vision of her with Ephraim Brand was a key example. The last thing she wanted was another complication. It was one thing to envision herself with Nathan. He was her best friend; they shared a common sense of humor, a mutual goal of helping the town get through the Troubles. They shared an attraction and trust. But Ephraim Brand was nothing to her but a riddle. A riddle wrapped in a shiny package, but an unknown variable, nonetheless. The flash had jarred her.
Was it right to drag Nathan further into the craziness her life had become?
"But Nathan, what we might find out about my past—"
"I know everything I need to know." He eyed the box next to her, eager for a change in topic. "So did you finally reach the cupcake tipping point?"
She didn't follow the shift in conversation at first. "What's that?"
"You know, where you've had so many cupcakes that if you never see another one, it'll be too soon."
"You tired of pancakes yet?" Audrey reached for the bakery box, took a cupcake, and began to peel back the paper liner. She took a bite of the treat—chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. Her eyes widened. "This is unreal. You've got to try it." She held out the treat.
With some hesitation, Nathan reached for her arm, his fingers running lightly against her skin. Cradling her wrist, he brought her cupcake to his mouth and took a bite. His eyes never left her face. "Perfect."
Something in his look made her feel as though her very breath had been stolen from her. Did he know what he was doing to her, that it was taking every ounce of her willpower to not absolutely pounce on him?
"Sure I can't tempt you?" Audrey asked holding out the package to him.
Oh, she could tempt him all right, Nathan decided as he stood to get some distance from her before he lost his self-control. "Bite's enough for now."
Audrey placed the partially eaten cupcake back into the package.
"I should go. It's getting late."
Yes, he should. She needed to process everything.
Nathan. The churning feelings of lust and caring, of want and need.
Brand. The uneasiness, the questions, the eerie connection they seemed to have that she could not fathom.
Her own sanity. Why was she having these flashes? And why had she seen Brand's date as Sally Harrington?
So, yes. He should go. Audrey agreed with that. Logically. But when it came down to it, she just wasn't ready to see him go yet.
"I can't let you go. Not like that."
"We're fine. Right?"
"Yeah, but you have icing on your…" She stood and closed the distance between them. Nathan was frozen in place as Audrey ran her thumb over his bottom lip and then licked the icing from her thumb. "Better."
"What are you doing, Audrey?" His voice came out low, rough.
What was she doing? Above all else, Nathan was her friend. She had no right to essentially send mixed signals. The touches were unfair, now that she had some idea of what they did to him considering what his touches did to her…
Commit. One way or the other. Either you want him or you don't.
"I don't know." It was honest, as honest as she could be. She didn't know where her head was, though it was becoming clearer to her all the time where her heart was.
"I do." Nathan rested his hand on her hip, drawing her closer still. His fingers found their way under the hem of the sweatshirt and tank top.
Silky smoothness. Warmth.
He looked to see if she would protest, shrink away from his touch. Instead, her fingers coiled around his hand, encouraging his exploration of her skin.
He leaned down, his forehead against hers. "When you kissed me earlier, I couldn't…I couldn't believe it."
"It was a long time in coming."
And then his lips were on hers. Words were replaced by actions, gentle touches that made her crave more from him. It felt as though her whole world was made up of him. Just him. His taste. His scent. His warmth.
This was real.
This was real.
This was real.
"Dammit," she heard him utter. He pulled away briefly, shedding the sling he wore in favor of better mobility.
"You've got to be careful," she gently admonished. "I need you to not hurt yourself. Worse," she added.
"Deal," he replied with a lopsided smile.
Her hands dipped between them, Audrey unbuttoned Nathan's shirt. She pushed the fabric from his shoulders, and he shook off the material.
Her eyes locked onto his chest. She was once again struck by the thought that clothing did him no justice. But the bandage that covered his wounds served as a visible reminder that she would have to be careful, as well.
She began a tentative exploration, charting every dip, every line, every exposed morsel of his skin. She grazed her fingertips along his jaw, smiled at the stubble, nuzzled him even as her hands found their way to his hair, gently scratching his scalp with her fingernails.
His eyes fluttered.
With one hand, he began a voyage of discovery of his own, making tiny circles with his thumb along the small of her back. The other hand he rested on the nape of her neck, bringing her lips against his own.
Warmth, wetness. He nibbled at her bottom lip, sending tremors through her body. Pleasure pooled in her stomach as she felt his hands move more boldly, exploring along her ribcage and finally stroking the underside of her breasts. She gasped lightly but protested as he backed away, looking down at her to gauge her reaction. Is this okay? He seemed to be asking wordlessly.
He was hesitant, playing it safe.
She didn't want to play it safe. Not anymore. In answer, Audrey peeled off the sweatshirt and tank top, and stood exposed before him. Nathan drank her in, as though memorizing her form with his eyes before he began to memorize her with his hands and his mouth. Her skin was creamy. Her small breasts perfectly formed. A freckle dotted the skin above her belly button.
He went to his knees, regarding her with absolute adoration before the combination of his soft lips and rough cheeks along her skin had her squeezing her eyes shut in a futile attempt to steady her quivering limbs. She wanted him everywhere at once, but more than anything, she wanted his skin against hers.
She moved out of his reach and toward the bed. He looked at her questioningly, but she held out her hand to him, an invitation to join her. He took it and sank onto the mattress with her as she lay back.
His lips found her neck, even as his thumbs brushed over her nipples. His kisses—his beautiful kisses—left her feeling filled and starved all at once. She wanted this. She wanted more. She moved against him, cognizant of her own sensation overload as she urged him atop her and spread her legs to cradle him against herself, instinctively wanting to feel that intimate closeness, despite the articles of clothing they still wore.
"Audrey," he hissed as he felt her nails lightly rake down his back. He broke their kiss and gazed down at her, a look that had her heart pounding heavily as she saw just how stormy with want Nathan's eyes were. "You are so beautiful." His lips brushed against hers again. "You are so beautiful," he murmured.
Her hands went to his belt, working it open. She needed this. She needed him. To alleviate her ache within. To show him what he had come to mean to her when her words just wouldn't form, when words weren't adequate expressions.
And then the room seemed to be off-balance. That was the first thought that entered her mind before the popcorn-textured white ceiling suddenly seemed to swirl, only to be replaced by a canopy of trees.
Sunlight shone through the trees, diluted into streaming rays. But the colors were off. The air was sweet around them.
This felt wrong somehow.
But she suddenly couldn't remember why anymore as the man who hovered above her began to push her dress up her thighs with his hands. She could feel his fingers graze her inner thighs as he tugged at her panties.
"I'll never tire of this," he smiled. "I want to be with you. My eternal love. Now. Always."
"Of course. Always."
His hands moved beneath her head, cradling her. She was overwhelmed by his tenderness, even as his body pressed against her insistently.
"We'll always be connected." His green eyes penetrated her. Sometimes she swore he could look into her very soul. And sometimes it was too much. She looked beyond him, to the blue sky peeking through the umbrella of trees. She loved that shade of blue.
He brought her eyes back to his, and she touched his face, caressing it. "Always."
"I mean it. I will never let you go. Time. Space. They mean nothing to us."
"Audrey?!" Nathan's voice sounded two shades shy of panic. "Audrey? Come back to me."
She blinked. "Nathan." She was back in her familiar rented room. And Nathan—Nathan was with her on her bed.
"You were somewhere else. Blacked out again." He stroked her hair.
Audrey felt sickened, for the memories that had swarmed upon her were so contrary to what she wanted, who she wanted. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," he sighed against her. He wiped away tears she didn't even realize she had been shedding. "I'm going to call Julia."
"Don't." She pushed against him gently. He moved next to her, and she sat up. "It's not—it's not something she can help me with. I saw it earlier tonight and just now." Her words came out as little more than a harsh whisper.
"Okay. The flashes." Nathan frowned. They seemed to be coming more frequently, and this one had Audrey panicky. "The blood again?"
"No. I just—" She held up her hand, as though to put the conversation on hold, before sliding off the bed and retrieving the sweatshirt. She pulled it on, feeling the need to cover herself, though the fabric seemed ineffective compared to how bare she felt.
"Was it us? That part isn't so bad, is it? And we were getting…closer."
"Not you. I saw someone else."
The words were harsh. They hung in the air.
"Someone from Lucy's past?"
"No. I—no." She turned away from him, but she could feel his approach. He stood behind her, his hands gently resting on her shoulders.
"What aren't you saying?"
"You aren't going to like it. I don't like it, and I have no idea what it means."
With his hands, he coaxed her around to face him. "Tell me, Audrey."
This was not a conversation she wanted to have. When the images came at the Gull, it had happened so quickly. She had almost talked herself into thinking it didn't matter, that it had no relevance to anything. But she couldn't ignore it. Not anymore.
"I need my partner, Nathan. Not my…" What should she even call him? He wasn't her boyfriend. He wasn't her lover. She let her sentence drop.
"Tell me, Parker." Nathan replied crisply, letting her go.
"I saw Ephraim Brand. I was with him."
Sally Harrington rolled over on her stomach and looked at the man sitting on the edge of her bed. The design on his well-muscled back caught her eye, and she reached out to run her fingers over it. Almost as quickly as she touched him, he stood, pulled his pants around his trim waist, and fastened them.
"Where are you going?" she asked. "It's late."
Ephraim Brand regarded the woman with little interest. "To my room."
"I thought you might stay with me." She tried to keep her words casual, but the pleading tone with which she spoke betrayed her.
"As pleasurable an interlude as this was—and I do thank you for it—I won't be staying."
Sally sat up. "I did everything you asked of me."
"Yes, you did. And you've been roundly compensated." Ephraim pulled on his shirt, though he did not button it. "You do look lovely."
It wasn't enough. Sally choked back a sob even as she looked at her youthful skin. "How is this even possible?"
"Don't ask too many questions, Sally. You won't like the answers."
To be continued...