I'm seriously in love with this universe. The characters are rich and fun to play with. This is a follow-up to "And Then She Jumped Him" but you don't need to read that one first to understand what's going on here. Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer: They're totally not mine, which is sad, but completely understandable. :)
Audrey has never seen so many stars in her life. The skies in Boston were too blanketed by streetlights to show off the twinkling specs of light and since she's spent most of her existence – or supposed existence, as she's recently started referring to it in her head – in the city, she's never known just how vast and infinite the night sky is.
"That's a lot of stars," she says, her whispered voice loud in the quiet of the Bluffs. Beside her, Nathan shifts and his jacket rustles against the blanket beneath them. She turns her head and finds him looking at her, which immediately makes her cheeks flush. She does that more often now, blushes when he looks at her.
"This is the best place to see them," he says, a half smile on his lips. He turns his head back towards the sky and lifts his arm, points at a constellation just above them. "Cassiopeia," he says and she follows his long finger as it traces the outline of the Muse. His finger moves to the west a little and he draws a familiar shape in the sky.
"The Big Dipper," Audrey says, shifting a little to see the constellation. She watches his hand waver and realizes their shoulders are touching. It makes her smile to know she has that effect on him, that she makes him stop and catch his breath just by brushing against him. She's never in her life had that effect on a man and she's never been affected by a man quite like she is by Nathan.
She nudges his shoulder. "Please continue, Professor."
He outlines two others, ones she doesn't recognize, and whispers their names in her ear. "Virgo and Orion," he says, his breath warm on her chilled skin. She feels goose bumps rise on her arms, even under the layers of thermal cotton and fleece and wool. It's early November in Maine – they're crazy for even being outside after dark, much less lying on the frozen ground, even with the pad underneath them. She understands now why Nathan handed her the thermos and pulled three heavy blankets from the back of the truck – she'll be lucky if her joints ever thaw out.
But she doesn't want to go inside, not yet, no matter how cold she may be. Times like this with Nathan are no longer rare in her life, but she feels like they're important on a level she doesn't understand yet. So she'll stay outside, in the frigid Maine seacoast air, lying next to him simply because she can.
"Are they always this bright?" she asks. She feels like her brain is on autopilot. They've been working non-stop for six days on a particularly troubling case of the Troubles and this is the first stretch of downtime they've had that didn't involve speed showering and grabbing a sandwich on the go. As a result, Nathan's body heat, combined with her own exhaustion, is luring her into a foggy state. She wants to curl up into his side and stay there forever, to sleep fitted into the curve of his chest and arm.
"There isn't any light to interfere with them, so yeah, they're always this bright." He looks at her, reaches out and brushes a curl away from her cheek. His hand is surprisingly warm. "You're freezing," he says.
"It's November and we're lying outside on a blanket," she says with a smile. She yawns suddenly. "I'm tired, too, apparently."
"Been a long week." He raises his arm above his head and before Audrey can object, she finds herself cradled in the crook of his arm. Her body instinctively turns towards his.
"You make an excellent electric blanket," she says and she feels him smile into the wool of her hat.
"I'll bet you say that to all the boys," he says. She laughs into his chest and he pulls her closer. They stay that way, watching the sky above them in silent contemplation for a few minutes longer before Nathan breaks the quiet. "I couldn't give up the stars," he says.
It's the very definition of a non sequitor. She tilts her head back to look at him. "I think your brain is frozen," she says. "You're not making sense."
He grins. "You asked me once, why I came back to Haven after college. It's because I couldn't give up the stars."
They still don't know everything about each other, but they're trying. They share pieces of their pasts like crumbs from a shared cookie. It's an equal trade, always this for that, and over the last three months they've learned countless small things. It started that night in his kitchen, when she jumped him and showed him what a real kiss was, and it's been a series of little adventures ever since. She asked him, after they'd slept together for the first time and Nathan had founded a new religion called the Audreyism, if it counted as a relationship because she had a toothbrush at his place and he'd left a couple of sweaters at hers and he hadn't answered her directly, but the smile on his lips and the hand that's always on the small of her back tell her what she needs to know.
"I never really saw the stars until I came to Haven," she says, her face turned towards his chest, her words mumbled against his heart. "Who knows if that's because I didn't exist before this place, but I can't remember them ever being this bright, this tangible."
His arm tightens around her. It's become a reflex, she thinks, for him to hold her closer when she mentions the idea of her own existence. It's like a reminder she's real, though she still has moments when she wonders what would happen if they got in his truck and drove away, if she'd disappear into thin air the minute they crossed the town line.
"You're real," he says, his voice quiet and close. His words flutter against her skin. He says them each night before she closes her eyes, says them even when he isn't with her.
"As real as those stars?" she asks.
He rolls her onto her back, covers her body with his. She's instantly warm, made even warmer when he pulls the blankets over them. She's surrounded by scents: the bergamot in his cologne, the wool of his sweater, the woods around them. Her collar bone is exposed and he kisses it, his lips cold against her skin.
"Those stars," he says, his breath a hot whisper against her skin, "are already dead and gone. The light we're seeing is their swan song, their fading breath." He kisses along her jaw. "You're more alive, more real, than those stars." He hovers above her, smiles. "What do you have to say to that, Officer Parker?"
She wraps her arms around his neck, pulls him flush against her. "Shut up and kiss me, Officer Wurnous."
When he does, Audrey feels her heart speed up, feels desire pool in her belly, feels him – and she knows that at least in this moment, with Nathan, she's absolutely real.