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: This story idea would not leave me alone until I committed pixels to screen. It is decidedly AU from about episode 2.1 onward. Spoilers for season 1 may be sprinkled freely within, so be warned.

And if anyone is wondering about Phoenix Rising, I promise I have not abandoned it. I have been working diligently on it in the last few days, along with this one. This story will not be quite so lengthy or complex as PR, comprising only about four parts.

Part One: Past/Present

Audrey Parker was in a good mood. Other than being called to the Grey Gull to handle an unruly customer who was disturbing the peace, the day had been mostly quiet, a much welcomed respite from what had become the standard crisis-of-the-day holding pattern.

Not that Duke Crocker needed too much help breaking up the commotion. As she had arrived, Audrey watched with disdain as he head butted (and subsequently knocked out) the man who had shown up higher than a kite and threatening to unleash the powers of darkness on all those who dared eat shrimp.

With the man safely carted away in an ambulance, the incident certainly gave the restaurant-goers something to talk about. Granted, it wasn't quite as remarkable as Harold Miller's sow, which had given birth the week before to a piglet that truly did have what appeared to be tiny wings. When pigs fly, indeed.

So with the crisis at the Gull averted, Audrey scolded Duke into getting checked out by the paramedics, gathered statements from the witnesses on the scene, and arranged a police guard at the med center for the assailant until which time he could be taken into police custody.

After questioning some of the customers and employees, Audrey went to the outer deck of the restaurant, which boasted a gorgeous view of the Atlantic, and saw Duke sitting on the edge of a bench being checked over and looking generally annoyed.

"Not a great way to spend a birthday," she commented.

"How did you…?" Duke began as a paramedic removed a blood pressure gauge. Audrey merely raised her eyebrows. "Right. Detective Parker."

"You've got a real jerk of a boss to make you work on your birthday."

"Yes, he's a cruel, cruel man. Charmingly handsome but cruel."

"Is he going to live?" Audrey sardonically asked the paramedic whose name she knew she had heard half a dozen times and still struggled to remember. Was it Rusty or Dusty?

"Vitals check out strong." The paramedic looked directly at Duke. "If you experience nausea or dizziness, seek medical attention immediately. And no more using your head as a weapon."

"Got you, Dusty," Duke replied.

Dusty. That's it.

Duke slid off the bench, and Dusty began to pack his belongings.

"Seriously, Duke? Head butting him?" Audrey's arms were folded in a stance that suggested a firm scolding, but the slightest hint of amusement was all he needed to feel emboldened.

"I had to improvise," he replied nonchalantly.

"Yeah, improvising is when you're out in the middle of nowhere and you get a flat and don't have a spare, so you stuff your tires with straw. Or it's when you're, oh, I don't know, hijacked on a boat and can't get a cell signal, so you put your phone in a bottle. But head butting a guy?"

"You think he's Troubled?" Duke asked, attempting to steer the conversation in a different direction. The aching in his head was reminder enough that his method left much to be desired.

Audrey shrugged. "That or tripping on bath salts. Either way, not good. Tox screen at the med center will give us a better idea of what we're dealing with. Do you know this guy?"

"I've seen him around a few times. Don't know his name."

"So you're telling me that this incident is in no way associated with your, ahem, side business?"

"The man came in rambling about shrimp. Tracey misunderstood and started telling him all the ways we could prepare it for him. Guy lost it when she mentioned the special of the day."

"And so you naturally decided to head butt him."

"Are you going to let this go anytime soon?" Duke asked. "I'd almost rather deal with Nathan than this…this…"


"Something like that. Speaking of ol' Nathan, how's that separation anxiety coming along?"

"Duke…" Audrey's tone warned. But Duke's jab did have a ring of truth to it, though she would never admit it to him, or even to Nathan, for that matter.

She had grown so accustomed to having Nathan by her side from pretty early on in the day until sometimes late at night. He was, without question, her best friend. Not that she ever got all sentimental about it because, really, who has time to sit around and spew emotional crap? But with his dad gone, Nathan had stepped into some rather large shoes and discovered being the chief of police made him part politician, part delegator, part investigator, part budgeter, part plumber, part you-name-it all rolled into one. He was burning the midnight oil—which wasn't unusual for either of them-but their oil was no longer quite so shared.

She missed the camaraderie. She missed him.

"Fine, fine. Guess you're not in the mood for a little ribbing at his expense."

"Or here's a thought. Maybe you two should learn to get along and like each other."

Duke seemed to consider her suggestion. "Nah. That's okay."

"Why not?"

"It just…isn't going to happen. Hey, it's my birthday, right? Don't I get a free pass with the questions and the scoldings?"

"You get—," Audrey hesitated, not fully certain what offer. "So what does a girl get for the smuggler who has—or can get—everything?"

"Smuggler? That has such an ugly ring to it. I prefer entrepreneur."

"And I'd prefer you not break laws, but we don't always get what we want."

"But you find me irresistible anyway."

"How hard did you say you hit your head?" Audrey asked with a smile. "Seriously, what do you want for your birthday?"

"Would it help to ask for a get-out-of-jail-free card with no expiration date?"

"I'm pretty sure Chief Wuornos isn't going for that."

"Since when are you so formal with Nathan?"

"I'm not formal with Nathan. I'm formal with the Chief. Though I'm guessing Nathan wouldn't like the idea either." Audrey paused, realizing the distinction she had made was similar to the one Nathan had made about his father/Chief when they first met. Wow. It was one thing to be friends with a guy, but to start sounding like him?

"When we were growing up, I never thought I'd live to see the day that Nathan Wuornos was the Chief of Police. It's kind of a worst-case scenario for me, you know? Did he ever tell you about the time he let that greased pig loose in the high school?"

"What? Nathan?"

"Yeah, it was pretty funny until I got blamed for it."

"Well, it does sound more your speed."

"It's my reputation. Gets me into all sorts of trouble."

"No," Audrey corrected, "you have a reputation because you get into trouble."

"Birthday boy's prerogative. You know, I can't really think of anything I want for my birthday."

"You're going to make me work for it, aren't you?"

Duke shrugged.

"You know I'm not good at this kind of thing, right? I'm not thoughtful or creative with that stuff."

"Fine. I'd like to spend my birthday with my good friend Audrey. Dinner on the boat. Just the two of us. No cancellations. No emergencies. I'll cook."

"You do realize I can't plan emergencies, right? That's why they're emergencies," Audrey hedged.

"Then you can turn your phone off, or throw away your stringed cans, or cut the apron strings with Nathan or whatever."

"Oh, so this is about Nathan."

"No, this is about you."

"C'mon, Duke. You'd love to throw this in his face."

Duke chuckled.

"What?" Audrey demanded.

"I feel like the chicken. You know, the one who crossed the road."

"What are you talking about?" Audrey asked with a laugh.

"Everyone always asks why the chicken crossed the road. But me? I long for a better world where chickens can cross the road and not have their motives questioned."

"Fine. Dinner. As friends."

"Beneficial friends?"

"Don't push it."

"But that's not a no. You're softening toward me."

"Right. Keep telling yourself that." Audrey glanced at her wristwatch. "Look, I need to get back to the station. File a report on this incident."

"And the guy?"

"Can't really do anything about him until he gets checked out at the hospital. You could speed things up for me. Come down to the station. Give your statement to Stan."

"Why Stan?"

"Would you prefer Nathan?"

"I'd prefer you."

"If I'm going to get everything done that I need to do before it's crazy late…"

"Right. You driving?"

The short drive to Haven PD was relatively non-eventful. Audrey tried unsuccessfully to extract more information from Duke about Nathan and the greased pig incident, but he simply grinned and shook his head.

After pulling into the small parking lot adjacent to the station, Audrey was mildly annoyed to find no parking spots. "Seriously?" she muttered.

"Haven's finest hard at work rounding up the bad seeds?" Duke smirked.

"More like there is an advisory board meeting, and the aldermen don't seem to think the POLICE PARKING ONLY signs apply to them."

"You could go all meter maid on their asses," Duke suggested.

"Right. But then Nathan would have to put out the fire, and he has enough on his plate." Audrey pulled back out of the lot and parallel parked two blocks over instead.

The two began the short walk to the large brick building.

"Can't believe I'm going in here willingly," Duke groused lightly.

Audrey was about to respond when she saw Reverend Driscoll walk out of the Haven Police Department. His customary black attire gave the man an even more slight appearance, bordering on skeletal. A frown was deeply etched in his features. No doubt the town advisory board meeting had not gone according to his wishes. She wondered if Nathan would be in a much better mood. Probably not if he'd spent the last couple of hours dealing with the Rev.

Without realizing it, she had slowed her pace to a near crawl. Duke slowed his speed to match hers.

"The man always looks so cheerful," Duke commented, still out of earshot of the evangelist. "I wonder what his secret is."

Audrey nearly snorted at Duke's sarcasm. "He's only happy when he's talking about fire and brimstone."

"I see you've been to one of his services."

"Just one. It was enough."

"Now you know why I'm Buddhist."

"Who's that coming up and talking to him?" Audrey asked, referring to a short, squat man.


Audrey glanced sideways at Duke and realized that his attention was no longer on Reverend Driscoll.

Duke tore his eyes away from willowy blonde coming from the opposite direction toward Driscoll and his companion on the sidewalk. "Oh, that's William Netherton."

Audrey surveyed their surroundings to see what had preoccupied her companion and rolled her eyes when she realized the source of his distraction. "And you were wanting to make me dinner?"

"I…it's not what you think," Duke quickly defended turning his attention to Audrey. "Just, don't you think she looks familiar somehow?" He looked back at the other woman.

"Maybe you've already 'entertained' her at some point," Audrey replied beginning to walk toward the station again.

"Come on. I'm not a douche. Seriously. Look at her. Doesn't she look like someone?"

"We all look like someone," Audrey scoffed. "Some look like Satan."

"You think I look Satanic? That's great. Just great."

Audrey laughed. "Not you. Driscoll. Geesh. Besides, I've always thought you had more of an Errol Flynn thing going on." She glanced again at the woman Duke indicated. There was something about her that seemed oddly familiar, though it wasn't something Audrey could pinpoint. The woman slowed her gait and appeared to be studying the Rev. "Hmmmm."

"Who do you think she is?"

"She's not from here?"

Duke studied her appraisingly. "Her…I would remember."

"Down, birthday boy. She's too young for you."

"She's probably a tourist."

"Oh crap," Audrey replied drawing her weapon from her holster.

"Tourists aren't that bad," Duke protested.

But Audrey wasn't listening. She had taken off running across the street toward the woman, 9 MM in hand. "Police! Drop it now, or I'll drop you."

The blond woman, only a few feet away from Reverend Driscoll, dropped the blade she was brandishing as she heard the gun cock. The man—Netherton was what Duke had called him—pulled the older minister further away from the young woman. The two looked on in horror.

"Turn around, hands up where I can see them," Audrey commanded, her voice even and clear.

The younger woman exhaled loudly as she turned to face Audrey. Her blue eyes narrowed as she studied the policewoman. "My mom always said not to take a knife into a gunfight."

"Did she also tell you not to conceal a knife with the intent of assault?"

"How do you know my intent?" the young woman challenged.

"Against the wall." Audrey reached behind herself and withdrew her handcuffs from under the jacket she wore.

Duke, who had caught up with his companion, arched an eyebrow. Where had she been keeping those? There was something saucy about seeing Audrey in action.

"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?"

"You're such a hard-ass." Strange. Audrey thought she heard a hint of admiration in the other woman's tone.

"What's going on here?" Driscoll demanded of Audrey.

"Looks like you dodged a bullet."

"A blade," the woman corrected.

"It's called a figure of speech." Audrey then directed her attention to Reverend Driscoll. "Any idea why you're being targeted by Switchblade Barbie here?"

"I don't know this girl," Driscoll replied swallowing hard. His blue eyes fell on the young woman, who was barely out of her teens. "Child, you must repent."

"Repent?" the girl spat out. "No, the world will be better when you're not around to spew your poison. This isn't over Rev. I will come back for you, time and time again until I get it right."

Duke, who had remained merely an observer up until that point, commented, "That would probably qualify for the whole 'getting used against you' part."

The young woman turned her head, smiled at Duke, and winked.

"Audrey, did you see that?" Duke asked dumbfounded.

Reverend Driscoll interjected, "An attempted assault right in from of the police station? Chief Wuornos will hear about this."

Audrey surveyed him coolly. "Yeah, the Chief will probably tell you what I'm about to say. Say thank you and stay out of the way."

"Come on, Rev. We'll look into this later."

Audrey turned the younger woman around. The stranger studied Audrey, seeming to take in every detail.

Something in her look sent a chill down Audrey's spine. It wasn't menacing. Hardly. It was familiar. Was it possible she knew this stranger somehow? Audrey tried to push aside the thoughts. "Stop staring and start walking. I have a few questions for you."

"I wouldn't have expected less, Mom."

To be continued...