Post Case Routine
Nathan, Audrey
Rating: K+
Words: 2,107
Author's Note: Some post "Sparks and Recreation" Nathan and Audrey fluff. Nathan and Audrey have a post case routine, and sometimes the conversations take a turn that neither expect.

There was a post case routine between Nathan and Audrey. It usually involved drinks at the Gull, but since Audrey had moved into the small apartment above it, they had their drinks on the wrap around balcony on the floor above the Gull. They could listen to the music and even order food if they felt so inclined, but the beers came from Audrey's fridge – they could at least save a bit by supplying their own booze – and they weren't overwhelmed by the throngs of partying tourists or forced to shout at each other over the music to have a conversation.

Sitting on a couple of Adirondack chairs, Nathan and Audrey sipped their beers and peered out at the water, listening to the sounds of revelry below them.

"Does it get annoying?" Nathan asked out of nowhere.

"Does what get annoying?" Audrey asked back, wondering if her partner had suddenly lost it.

"Living above the Gull, it has to get noisy," Nathan clarified.

Audrey chuckled. "Only on Friday and Saturday nights." She took a swig of her beer, and then sighed. "The worst part is that my apartment always smells delicious. Always."

Nathan laughed at that as he stretched out his legs and crossed his ankles. "So that's why you're always hungry."

"Yeah, so?" she mumbled before setting to drain the rest of her beer.

They sat in silence for a few minutes more before Nathan spoke again, just as Audrey was taking a drink. "So when are you and Brody going out?"

Audrey coughed and sputtered and after catching her breath, she glared at Nathan. "Excuse me?"

Completely unfazed by Audrey's choking fit, Nathan shrugged. "He likes you and I'm guessing he asked you out."

Eyebrows up as far as they could physically go, Audrey goggled at her partner. "What?" she nearly screeched.

"I know I'm dense when it comes to my love life, but I'm actually fairly astute when it comes to others," he calmly pointed out.

"And tell me, how is it that you couldn't realize that Jess was hitting on you, but immediately figured out that Chris Brody asked me out?" she asked him in an incredulous tone.

"You called him on his behavior. Guys find that sexy," Nathan informed her before he took another swig of his beer.

"How is me calling him a raging jerk-ass sexy?" Audrey asked, completely mystified. And guys said women were complex. "If anything, it should be a major turn off. Most guys don't like being told that they're acting like jerk-asses; something about bruising their egos."

Nathan started laughing. "First of all, guys have this weird reverse psychology thing going for them. Call him a jerk and to him it sounds like, 'I'm madly in love with you and I want to have your babies."

"They do not."

"Yeah, they do. It's the thrill of the hunt. The more you resist their charms, the more they pursue because they have to prove that they're attractive. Even insensitive jerk-asses like Chris Brody," Nathan explained. "And you do find him attractive, even if he is acting like a raging jerk-ass."

"Yeah, right," Audrey replied, rolling her eyes and swirling her beer bottle absentmindedly.

"You are especially attractive to him because you're the only one who isn't tripping all over themselves in order to impress him. You can call him on his jerk-ass behavior because his trouble isn't clouding your perception of him," Nathan continued. "He finds that…" Nathan paused for a moment and then continued, "…attractive, really attractive. It's a powerful thing, to find that one person who doesn't see your trouble but sees you instead."

There was an odd tone to Nathan's voice, distant and yet so very close. Audrey turned her head so she could study her partner. Nathan's gaze was still fixed on the water beyond the deck railing, allowing her to study his profile. He was handsome, she could admit that much. Really, he was the kind of guy that she could go for, granted she didn't have other, more pressing issues to deal with – like what her true identity was. It suddenly occurred to her that maybe he wasn't speculating about how Chris felt about her, but that he knew because he felt the same way.

"Hey, Nathan?"

Her partner turned to look at her, his eyes glittering in the low light of her porch light. "What?"

"Is that how you see me?" she asked quietly. "Do you think that I'm attractive because I don't let your trouble bother me?"

His eyebrows went up slightly, but his mouth was still in a straight line. "What are you talking about, Parker?"

"I'm asking if you think more of me than you should because…because you can feel me." She averted her gaze in a sudden fit of shyness.

"That's crazy."

"Is it?" she challenged, her fire suddenly back.

"Parker, you're talking crazy now," he grunted before taking another swig of beer, only to find the bottle empty. He glared at the bottle for a moment before setting down next to the chair and reaching for the ice filled bucket between the chairs and the cold beers contained within. Twisting off the cap, he put it on the armrest and took a swig, obviously avoiding Audrey's intense gaze.

"Am I?" she asked. "I have noticed how you flinch every time we end up touching. It's not like you've been burned, but like you've been shocked." She stared him down. "Your breath hitches every time, Nathan, every time."

"So?" he grunted.

"Nathan…" she said, her tone tired and warning and a million things that Nathan either chose not to identify or chose to ignore.

"It's not professional, Parker. You're my partner and yes, you are my best friend," he said slowly, as only Nathan could. "But for me to feel anything but friendship towards you…?"

"Okay, okay, fine, I got it," she answered, deciding that it wasn't worth it to try and fight him on the issue. Nathan wasn't talkative by nature, and while she had built up a rapport with him, clearly some things were still off limits.

Like their non-relationship.

"It's terrifying, isn't it?"

Casting her partner a confused sidelong glance, Audrey held her tongue and waited for her partner to elaborate.

"Jumping back into the dating pool, I mean."

Ah ha.

"It's weird, I'll admit to that," Audrey replied. "I haven't been on a real date in a long time."

"I suppose that dinner with Duke that you blew off was going to be your first date in a while, then?" Nathan deduced.

"Yeah, and I spent that night working instead, and Duke hooked up with BeeBee," Audrey answered, one side of her mouth quirking up in a smile.

"Which is weird, but apparently Helena's gorgeous," Nathan shrugged.

"She makes me feel like a toad, if that gives any sort of indication," Audrey told him. "God, it's been so long since I've been on a date, I'm not even sure if I remember how to properly do it."

"There's a proper way to date?" Nathan asked in amusement. "Do you mean him coming to your door and picking you up, and then taking you for a drive somewhere, then get out and walk while holding hands, sharing a milkshake and all that?"

"Oh my God, Nathan, this isn't Pleasantville," Audrey groaned in exasperation.

"Trust me, Haven is kind of old fashioned. Those are perfectly acceptable dating techniques," he laughed.

"Please tell me that you're teasing me," Audrey sighed.

Nathan chuckled. "I am," he answered, snickering softly at Audrey's sigh of relief. "I'm also kind of serious, too."

"I think that's the most horrifying thing I've heard since I've arrived here, and I've heard some pretty horrifying things," she noted.

"If it makes you feel any better, I doubt that Brody will take you on the perfect date straight from the fifties," Nathan offered helpfully, eliciting a chuckle from his partner. "I'm sure you two will have fun."

"Do you even know what fun is? Is that what decoupage is for you?"

"I am never going to live that down, am I?"

"Never. Be glad I've said nothing to Duke. I like you too much to do that."

There was silence and then, "Good to know."

"I'm serious, though, Nathan. I don't even know how I'm supposed to behave on this date," she whined. Obviously this was serious, as Audrey wasn't one to whine. About anything.

"Just go and be yourself. I know it sounds cheesy, but it's the best advice I can give. Obviously you being yourself was enough to get him to ask you out," Nathan pointed out. "You'll be fine."

"Was that how you felt with Jess?"

Instead of answering, Nathan took a drink of his beer. Truth be told, he had no idea what he was doing with Jess. He was trying something, but he wasn't sure dating was the right word. Yes, he did like Jess. Yes, he found her attractive. Yes, he enjoyed the time he spent with her. But there had always been something lacking in their interactions. Sure, something about him had attracted Jess to him, but even now, several months later, Nathan had no idea what is was. He was never sure that being himself was enough for her, because being himself meant being broken, and that was something he was barely comfortable with.

"Oh, Nathan, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought her up," Audrey said, breaking the odd silence between them. Not that it was silent; the clinking of glasses and the scraping of silverware on the plates along with the cacophony of the chatter from the Gull's patrons and employees, but there was a palpable silence between the two partners.

"It's okay. To be honest I have no idea if you can call what Jess and I did 'dating' or if we were just two people who spent time together," Nathan sighed.

Audrey opened her mouth to say something but quickly shut it when she realized that first, Nathan probably would dodge any questions she asked and second, that she probably didn't want answers anyway. For some reason Audrey had been bothered by Nathan and Jess's relationship, despite her initial pleasure for her lonely friend. At the time Audrey had dismissed it as jealousy for the lonely nights she spent in her hotel room, but now she wasn't sure. She still felt a small flare of resentment towards the woman, but she could never tell if it was because of how she had just up and left or if it was because she had done things with Nathan that Audrey had only dreamed of.

And good Lord, where had that thought come from?

Blinking a few times and shaking her head, Audrey shrugged. "I guess I'll just roll with the punches, then."

"You're pretty good at that, for what it's worth," Nathan noted as he absentmindedly fiddled with the bottle cap on his arm rest.

"Hey, are you hungry? I might have some food in my apartment, or I can get something from the Gull. Duke doesn't care if I eat up here, so long as I return the dirty dishes by tomorrow morning," Audrey said as she rose from her Adirondack chair.

"Yeah, food would be good. How about the appetizer platter? I'll pay, though, since you provided the beer," he said as he fished out his wallet from his back pocket.

"Just an appetizer platter?" Audrey asked as she took the offered bills from Nathan's hand.

"And some lobster rolls?"

"And some lobster rolls. I'll be back," Audrey said as she headed for the stairs.

Once her blond head disappeared from Nathan's line of sight, he slouched into his chair and sighed. Something about Audrey going on a date with Chris Brody bothered him. If Chris had asked Audrey out right in front of him, Nathan would have been powerless to stop him, he would have immediately started to push Audrey to accept and that really bothered him.

Of course, as her partner, there were certain limitations that were expected of him. And while it wasn't uncommon for co-workers to date in Haven given the town's small size, there was an unspoken rule about dating your work partner, especially if the job was a dangerous one. Once feelings beyond friendship were involved, things got ugly. Partners were not to date; it had been one of the Chiefs tried and true rules for as long as Nathan could remember and he meant to stick to it as well.

Biting his lip, but being unaware of it, Nathan sighed. It shouldn't bother him that someone else was dating Audrey. She was just his partner, so why should he even care? She was a pretty and brilliant young woman and any guy would be lucky to have her, and Nathan felt like he should be happy that she was dating someone, after struggling to put down roots in Haven. However the dull ache in his heart told him a cold truth that he was trying so desperately trying to ignore.

He was in love with her, and he didn't want to share her with anyone.

I believe that Chris Brody is going to make Nathan reconsider his relationship with Audrey. Should prove interesting to see how it all plays out.

Than you to my lovely readers. I less than three all of you.