Spoilers: Spoilers for the entire first season, including 1x13, Spiral.
Summary: "Who am I, Nathan?" Audrey and Nathan on a road trip.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything Haven-related. If I did, I wouldn't impose another year on people until they can find out what's what. That's just cruel and unusual.
Note: This just sort of sprang out of nowhere after watching the season finale.
"Are we stopping?"
Nathan pulls into a dilapidated gas station and parks at the far corner. "We're a little low on gas. There won't be another stop until Portland."
"Okay." In the passenger seat, Audrey looks smaller somehow, unsettlingly and incongruently fragile. There's an ache somewhere within him, and he wonders if he feels it more acutely than anything else because this is Audrey.
"You haven't eaten all day," he reminds her. "I can pick up something if you want."
She manages a smile which only deepens that ache in his chest. "I'm fine, Nathan."
He nods and doesn't dispute her answer. After filling up the tank, he picks up a sandwich and two cups of coffee anyway. A bored clerk behind the counter takes his sweet time, and by the time Nathan returns to the truck, Audrey has fallen asleep, curled up and folded in the seat.
Nathan allows himself a moment to study her face. There's no hint of her bright, easy smile; in its stead is a tired frown that he desperately wants to smooth away. He takes off his jacket, tucks her in with it, and waits.
Only when she's deeply asleep enough not to be jostled awake, he starts up the truck again.
He chooses a longer, more scenic route because he knows she needs the time. She's staring out the window at the endless grey beaches and the dark, imposing ocean, her eyes clearly unseeing. He has never been good with words, and they don't come easily to him, at least not the right ones.
And what could he say now? He has no answers to give, only questions.
When they pass by Arcadia National Park, he offers, "I ran away once when I was twelve. This is where I ended up."
There is a short pause before she turns to him. "Really?"
"Yep. I was convinced that I was better off on my own and hitchhiked all the way down here. Spent two days camping out at this very beach."
Her smile feels more genuine now. "So hard to believe - Nathan Wuornos a teenage rebel. What happened?"
He shrugs. "What you'd expect to happen. The Chief found me and grounded me for the rest of the year."
Nathan remembers the look on Dad's face when he first saw Nathan at the Portland police station, the relief fleeting across his face before it once again settled into the more familiar one of stern reprimand. His hands on the wheel turn into tight fists. Nathan's never wanted to see through that pain, that grumpy, stubborn reticence. He's never tried to.
Nathan supposes he's paying for that willful blindness now.
There's sudden warmth on his hand. Her hand covers his, gentle and incisive, and he swallows the lump in his throat. Sometimes there is no need for words.
The warmth of her hand seeps into his and he can breathe again.
"You know what's surprising, Nathan? I haven't actually turned back into a pumpkin."
They've stopped at Cape Ann for breakfast. She's finally acquiesced to his insistent request that she eat something - but with the condition that he eats with her, too. He puts down a piece of pancake back on the plate and waits for her to explain her apparent non-sequitur.
"Like Cinderella's chariot," Audrey elaborates, as expected. "We're miles and miles away from Haven and I haven't, you know, gone poof."
He watches her over the rim of his coffee mug and raises an eyebrow.
"C'mon, Nathan. You can't be seriously telling me you haven't thought of that possibility."
"That you're actually a pumpkin? No, I confess that possibility hasn't occurred to me."
She reaches over to punch him lightly on the arm. "That I'm some sort of a, I don't know, shadow of Lucy Ripley. Some projection that Haven conjured up and somehow merged with the memories of Audrey Parker, maybe. It won't be the strangest thing we've seen," she says, her voice kept light and cheerful with strained effort. She points at him with her fork. "Maybe you made me up."
"I'm not that imaginative," he tells her.
It's true - he's never been that imaginative. Less than a month ago, there was a time when he thought she was dead, that she was gone from his life as brutally and suddenly as she'd whirled into it. And even with that first-hand experience, he still cannot imagine what it would be like to lose her again.
She watches him quietly, uncertain of herself, uncertain of everything else. He reflexively reaches out and touches her arm. "You're here." She's been a steady force that grounded him when everything else has failed; she's his friend, his partner, and someone more real to him than anyone else. "You're right here." And real. He'll never believe otherwise.
"All right," she says softly, after a long moment. "I believe you."
"And," he adds a little later, when they're both back to devoting themselves to their breakfast, "you're selling yourself short. You're at least Cinderella."
She looks up at him, raising an eyebrow and mirroring his habitual gesture. "And you're what, the fairy godmother? I bet you'd look great in a pink tutu."
Her good humor, even when it's feigned for his benefit, is infectious. He snorts. "I'll let Duke have that pleasure."
"Nah, Duke can be one of those mice, wearing that three-piece suit thing. Oh, there's still the prince yet to be cast if you're interested."
"I think I've seen a glass slipper lying around somewhere."
She shoots him a mock glare. "You know I don't wear heels."
"Right, what was I thinking? A pair of utilitarian boots, then."
"Now you're talking, Detective Wuornos."
In truth, she'll be better cast as the knight in the shining armor, he thinks, wielding a gun and a badge instead of a sword and a shield, bravely marching into Haven to save the troubled souls - and him. "Eat your pancakes," he says instead.
She grins brightly at him, for the moment free of the burden she must be feeling, and he carefully saves it in his memory. They're both trying to prolong this precious moment - precious, because it won't last, because they're both waiting for the inevitable.
Her coffee cup is empty, so he orders more. She drinks hers black, dark and strong, and no sugar.
An hour later, they're in Boston.
Special Agent Audrey Parker wanted her coffee black, dark and strong, no sugar. Nathan watched her absently spin the mug in her hand. It held a faint echo of the same gesture that he'd seen dozens of times in the last few months whenever he looked up at the other desk across from his own.
Except now, those fingers belonged to someone who was utterly unfamiliar.
Or, maybe too much so, given he'd never seen her before today.
He couldn't watch anymore, so he excused himself and left the waiting room. His feet led him to where he wanted to be. When he entered his office, Audrey turned away from the window and toward him.
She was holding herself tightly, he saw, arms crossed her chest and her every muscle pulled taut. "Her story checks out, doesn't it?" It wasn't a question.
"Yes," he admitted, at length. "She has all the correct supporting documents to prove who she says she is."
Agent Audrey Parker had the same badge number, the same current address, and the same name for her first college roommate as his Audrey Parker had.
None of this was within his understanding. Or hers. Audrey turned on her cell and tried again to reach Agent Howard, her boss who had sent her out here in Haven.
Agent Audrey Parker's boss was also Agent Howard, just not the man Nathan had met.
"Still nothing?" he asked when she snapped the cell closed with a look of frustration.
She shook her head. Her eyes turned to the fax machine which slowly came to life.
He shifted closer. "What is it?"
"I asked Marlene to fax the FBI for the recent photographs of Agent Audrey Parker."
It was a good idea, except it would finalize things, maybe even answer a few questions. He wasn't sure if she was ready for them; he didn't think he was.
But Audrey Parker never flinched away from the answers, however unpleasant they might be. She braced herself visibly before taking the printouts from the tray. He watched her fingers tighten over the papers and knew what he would find there, even without looking.
After a long moment, she dropped them onto the desk and walked out of the office.
He found her by her car on the street outside. Her hand untangling the key was shaking. Without a word, Nathan took the keys from her hand.
Audrey looked up, and he nodded toward his truck. "We're taking the truck."
She stared at him over the roof of the car. He didn't need to explain he wouldn't let her do this by herself, just like she didn't need to tell him where she was headed, because he already knew.
She slipped into the passenger seat of the truck and he turned on the ignition.
"Take left at the next light."
He's been to Boston more than a few times, so he can find his ways without too much difficulty. Once they get to the downtown proper, however, he follows her directions.
As they close in on her address, she holds onto the bare-threaded calm with seemingly every bit of strength she has left. Her effort is only bellied by the occasional tremor that goes through her hands, and once they reach her apartment, he holds her hands briefly before letting them go.
Her key to the apartment does not work. Flustered, she tries to fish out a key from underneath a pot of flowers when the door to the next apartment opens and someone pokes his head out.
"Hey, what are you guys doing, man?"
At the sight of her neighbor, Audrey suddenly grows quiescent. After a glance at her pale face, Nathan takes a step forward and flashes his ID. "I'm Detective Wuornos and this is my partner."
The kid looks at the ID with bleary eyes and blinks a few times. "What're the cops from Maine doing in Boston?"
"We're following a lead on a case," Nathan says as vaguely as possible and points at Audrey's apartment. "Do you know the woman living here?"
"Yeah, sure, Audrey, she's pretty cool. She's an FBI agent, you know. Whenever she's away on business, she asks me to keep an eye on her apartment." The kid then does a double take. "Wait, has something happened to her?"
The kid is looking directly at him and Audrey when he asks that question. Audrey abruptly turns on her heels and walks out. No more needs to be asked, so Nathan thanks the kid for his time and follows her out.
She's waiting for him by the truck. "His name is Jesse," she tells him when he reaches her side. "Goes to Harvard. He's renting out the apartment because he couldn't reserve the dorm room for this year. He likes to listen to some random British rock bands at night. One night I almost shot his stereo through the wall."
He doesn't know what to say, so he stands at her side, his listless hands hidden in his pockets, and leans against the truck just as she does.
A moment later, she curls up her hands into determined fists and says, "Let's go."
After several more of the same conversations, and after examining her own faded photo albums that hold Agent Audrey Parker's smiling faces instead of her own, Audrey takes him to a bench hidden away at one corner of Boston Harbor.
Nathan feels calmer at the sight of the vast open space and the water in front of them, and he imagines she does, too. The sun is slowly setting; they watch the flickering light on the lighthouse of Little Brewster Island.
"I grew up around here," she tells him, her eyes still on the harbor. "Probably around the time you were haunting Arcadia Park, I would've been out here, wondering about who I am. I have those memories, sitting on this spot, wondering if I ever had a mom, or a dad, out there looking for me. So, I know I grew up here. Or did I?"
He turns to her, watches her profile, and cannot form the right answer.
"The real Audrey Parker thinks I'm some sort of an imposter. She thinks I've been lying to you all this time," she says matter-of-factly, with not nearly enough bitterness that such statements would usually warrant. "How can you even sit here by my side, Nathan? How can you trust me, when I can't even trust myself?"
This question, he knows the answer to. "Because I know who you are."
"That makes one of us."
"No, no, I'm not Audrey Parker, according to everyone and everything. Everything except my memories that apparently don't even belong to me." She turns to him, then. Her eyes hold fear, desperation, and many other things he couldn't even name and couldn't help erase. "Who am I, Nathan? What am I?"
"You're my friend. Whether you're Audrey or Lucy, whatever your name is or isn't, changes nothing. Not for me."
She abruptly turns her eyes away from his. If there are tears in her eyes, he doesn't let himself notice. "You're the only one I trust, and I -" She breaks into incredulous laughter. "Here I am, such a mess, and I'm considering something so selfish I can't even bring myself to say it out loud."
"We don't have to go back," he tells her gently, and realizes it's the truth. "Not if you don't want to."
She turns to him in surprise - whether it's because he's read her correctly, or because of what he's said, he isn't sure. "No," she shakes her head, and it's more to herself than to him. "Haven needs you."
"And I need you," he says simply, freed from the weight of his answer because the weight of this, all this is even greater. If it makes him selfish, so be it.
She watches him for a long moment. Even with the space between them, he can feel her tremble.
"Can we -"
"Yeah," he answers.
He holds her in his arms until the shiver bleeds out from her, little by little, until she can breathe steadily again.
For the first time in a long time, he feels his own heartbeat in his chest.
He wakes to the caress of her touch.
He feels her fingers on his forehead, brushing away a lock of his hair, and sits up immediately in the seat. They're back in the truck. Outside, the harbor is set in dark indigo, the horizon tinged with the amber grow and the promise of the coming sunrise.
"Sorry," he says, his voice still thick with sleep. "How long was I out?"
"Not long. I'm sorry - I didn't mean to wake you. It's just, your hair."
There is a trace of a giggle in her voice, and for the first time in history, he feels grateful that he cannot feel the flush rising on his face. He reaches up to straighten out his unruly hair but mostly manages to make it worse. Her fingers, entwined with his, daftly brush it out of his eyes.
"The answer isn't here, is it?" she asks, meeting his eyes. Her hand is warm against his cheek. "Not in Boston."
"No," he agrees quietly, "I don't think it is."
She studies his face. "You knew I would want to go back."
"I know you." Not everything, but everything that really matters. "You never hide from the truth."
"I wanted to. I still do."
"We all do, sometimes, but whatever this is, you'll figure it out. And I'll be there with you." He then adds tentatively, "If you want me to be."
Instead of answering, she leans in and kisses him, feather-light on his lips.
And, after she breaks the kiss, she promptly smacks him on the arm, hard enough to be felt.
"Ow," Nathan says automatically and catches himself. It's an actual pain that he feels, also for the first time in a long time, and it's oddly enough not entirely unwelcome. "What was that for?"
She tilts her head up. "For being a dense idiot. I'll always want you there with me."
He feels a sheepish grin on his face. "Fair enough."
She settles into his arms and they wait for the sunrise. The cacophony of lights in the harbor glitters in silence even as it slowly fades into the morning sunlight.
"Ready?" she asks, just when there is no trace of darkness left in the sky.
There's a quirk of an eyebrow. "Are you afraid, Wuornos?"
"Faced with certain uncertainties, in over our heads with craziness that is my hometown, and you? That's a resounding yes."
She smiles suddenly. "Business as usual, then."
He returns the smile. "Yes, it is."
He watches her turn on the ignition and wait for the truck to come alive again. When it does, she breathes in and gathers herself.
"Let's go find that answer, Nathan."